Programme

This event is the brain child of Birmingham Conservatoire Head of Keyboard, John Thwaites. He describes the driving force behind this concept:

I wanted the Greatest Show on Earth: something shocking in its audacity, youthful in its exuberance. In its totality I believe it offers the best night of piano playing anywhere on the planet this year.

Piano-playing means Chopin, All-Nighters need Nocturnes. The Complete Chopin Nocturnes are played in three groups, B flat minor opening proceedings, by Gergely Bogányi, one of the most exceptional pianists of our times. Gergely won the 1996 Franz Liszt Competition in Budapest. In 2002 he was awarded the Cross of Merit of the White Rose of Finland by the President of the Finnish Republic, and in 2004 he received the highest artistic award of Hungary, the Kossuth Prize. Rubinstein used to say that when he played Chopin he felt as though he spoke directly to people’s hearts―no-one today does that better than Gergely Bogányi.

On 1st March 1977 Peter Donohoe gave the British Premiere of Messiaen’s “La Fauvette des Jardins”, having studied it first with the composer and his wife in their apartment in Montmartre. The panoramic “day in the life” of a garden warbler seemed fitting for this event, and Peter is joined by his wife Elaine, who he met for the first time at that first performance.

I confidently expect that we’ll all be knocked sideways as our Mystery Guest walks on stage to play Beethoven’s last three Sonatas. My inspiration was the moment that Ali lit the Olympic Flame in Atlanta.

The inspiration for an All-Nighter comes from the Swinging Sixties, when Birmingham Town Hall regularly hosted All-Night Jazz Festival gigs, pictures of which still adorn the lower bar. Richard Hawley of THSH has been keeping that flame alive ever since, and we include Kapustin by way of tribute.

Our Prize-winning students are showcased throughout, presenting some of the greatest masterpieces for the instrument. Domonkos Csabay, who won the 2016 Amy Brant International Piano Competition, plays Schubert’s last great Sonata in B flat D960. Lauren Zhang, a Birmingham Juniors student who won the 2016 Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists, plays a Transcendental Study by Lyapunov, and Róza Bene, who was joint winner of the 2016 Anthony Lewis Memorial Competition plays Couperin.

In the early hours we add poetry to the mix. We are delighted to welcome Simon Callow in a recitation of the Victorian Melodrama “Enoch Arden”by Tennyson/Strauss. This is followed by the Birmingham Premiere of Rzewski’s “De Profundis” (after Oscar Wilde) for speaking pianist.

Birmingham is increasingly a centre for Historically Informed Performance Practice. In this context Dr. Anna Scott will be performing late Brahms as Brahms himself might have heard Adelina de Lara or Ilona Eibenschütz playing to him. It's more than a little thought-provoking, so prepare to be scandalised, and to further enjoy the playing of Gyorgy Hodozso, a Weingarten Scholar in Birmingham and Dr. Scott's latest prodigy.

An evening of international ambition, but hosted in Central England. A privilege, then, to hear Mark Bebbington play "Sarnia" by John Ireland, the British composer who has left the single greatest body of solo piano music (not to mention the Concerto and Chamber Music piano parts).

Finally we welcome Alistair McGowan, to play Satie and Grieg, and to introduce his good friend, “Olympianist” Anthony Hewitt, who will cycle through the night from his London home to play Ravel’s masterpiece of nocturnal virtuoso pianism “Gaspard de la Nuit”. After that, only the magnificent organ of the Town Hall can provide a fitting close: Messiaen’s “Dieu Parmi Nous”

John Thwaites