Perivale broadcasts in the pandemic – a questionnaire survey – May 2021


We have now broadcast 128 concerts from an empty St Mary’s Perivale in less than a year, since June 2020. They have provided performing opportunities and financial support for musicians through the lockdown, and have enabled St Mary’s Perivale to remain an active concert venue through these unprecedented times. This has only been possible because of the superb video broadcasting system installed by our excellent technical team, led by Simon Shute, and comprising George Auckland, Andrew Whadcoat, Rob Jenkins and Truus Bos, ably supported by Roger Nellist, Andrew Goodhart and Richard Norris. More information on the events of the past year is available here. After so many concerts we need feedback from our viewers, so this short questionnaire was distributed by email to about 1480 people on 14 May 2021, and replies were received from 190 people. Although this is an indifferent response rate, the survey gives a useful qualitative assessment from some of our keenest supporters.


What do you particularly LIKE about our broadcasts ?

The most frequent response, from 63 people, was the consistently superb quality of the musicians, and (from 45) the excellent choice and variety of the music. Twenty one liked the ‘live’ nature of our broadcasts, and 7 also mentioned the option to watch the concerts later on. Twenty mentioned the informal ambience and conviviality of the concerts, and 12 the beautiful setting. Seventeen praised the sound and vision quality of the broadcasts, and 7 mentioned the interesting camera angles, particularly for pianists’ hands. Fourteen mentioned our support for young musicians. In other responses, 5 liked being able to enjoy the concerts from home, 5 liked ‘everything’, 4 thought the concerts were a good length, 4 enjoyed hearing performers talk about their repertoire, and 3 appreciated the 4 pm timing of the broadcasts.

It is gratifying that the amazing quality of our musicians and the variety and quality of music on offer are rated so highly, and we are pleased that our informal and relaxed ambience transmits so well through the ether. The positive remarks about our sound and vision, and camera angles, are a tribute to our superb technical team. It is interesting that our viewers enjoy watching ‘live’ events rather than the millions of recorded events available to view instead.

Is there anything you do NOT like about our broadcasts ?

76 respondents declared that there was nothing they took exception to. The most common fault was the occasionally ‘flaky’ internet, with ‘glitches’ in the live transmission, mentioned by 21 (16%) respondents, although some noted that these were becoming less frequent. 12 stated that the sound quality was indifferent, at least on some occasion, and 4 complained of the relatively poor visual quality of the livestream broadcasts. Other points raised by more than one respondent included criticism of the quality of our piano (3), the strangeness of having no audience (3), the inconvenience of live broadcasts at 4 pm (3), too many piano recitals (2) and too much standard repertoire (2).

The occasional internet problems relate to our old telephone line which extends over a golf course, and cannot cope with high definition broadcasts. British Telecom are currently installing a fibre connection which should solve these problems in the near future. And we are installing more microphones and sophisticated audio software to improve the sound quality of our broadcasts.

How often do you watch them ?

50.8% less than once per week

41% once or twice per week

8.2% 3 or more times per week

Do you watch them LIVE at 4 pm or later ?

30% LIVE

41% both

29% Later

Comment: We upload a better quality (high definition or HD) version of each concert later, but obviously there is a special ‘frisson’ in watching a LIVE event as it happens, from 4 to 5 pm, even with slightly inferior visual quality, with all the uncertainty which that can provide

Do you watch them on a TV, a computer or a phone ?

Desktop 23.5%

TV 25.1%

Laptop 29.4%

Tablet 17.1%

Phone 4.8%

Comment: This is important information for our technical team, since the quality (particularly the sound) on most laptops, tablets and phones is sub-optimal and we will to adjust our system to cope with the various different devices.

Have you any suggestions re the choice of musicians and music ?

63 respondents declared that they were happy with the current balance of music and musicians. 10 emphasized the need to maintain the current variety in our programming. 10 were enjoying the jazz concerts. 8 wanted more chamber ensembles (trios, quartets etc) whereas 5 wanted more solo piano recitals. 7 suggested some vocal items, 4 wanted more 20 th century music, 3 requested more unusual instruments, 3 more lectures and 2 more wind music.

Comment: The varied responses seem to support the current mixture of music and musicians. Viewing figures are significantly higher for piano recitals and lower for big chamber ensembles, so we have tended to increase the proportion of piano music, but we will maintain the variety (including jazz concerts) and include some unusual instruments and occasional lectures, as requested, as well as some more adventurous repertoire.

We hope to resume concerts with an audience in the Autumn, depending on the Covid regulations. If so are you likely to come to them ?

Yes definitely 48.1%

Possibly 38.6%

No 12.7%

If you replied ‘Yes definitely’ or ‘Possibly’ would you still come if you had to wear a face mask during the concert ?

Yes definitely 63.1%

Possibly 26.8%

No 8.9%

Comment : This is a heartening response, and important information in planning the next few months. Most of those replying ‘no’ will be respondents living too far away to travel to the church. The wearing of face masks during the concert doesn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of our local supporters. It is too early to plan our re-opening in detail, since it depends on the Covid situation and the regulations in force later in the year, but we will be addressing these issues over the summer.

Have you any other comments or suggestions on our concerts ?

There were many kind and generous comments from viewers which are very gratifying for our team. A typical one is thus – Apologies for not coming to the concerts but I am a bed bound 92 yr old and you have my heartfelt gratitude for letting me hear such glorious music making! 12 emphasized that we must continue the broadcasts after we have resumed concerts with an audience, and 19 stated that they lived too far away to attend in person. 5 expressed some reservations re the Covid situation in the Autumn, and 2 mentioned concerns about inadequate ventilation in the church.

Comment : We are very grateful for the tremendous support conveyed in so many warm messages. We will indeed keep the broadcasts going indefinitely, and we are investing considerable resources to optimize their quality. Future concerts, whenever life returns to ‘normal’ will be aimed at both the audience in the church and our virtual audience around the world. As for the Covid risk, we will adhere to the regulations re social distancing and masks etc, and it will then be for everyone to assess any residual risk in coming to the church. This is likely to be vanishingly small in a vaccinated person, but no-one can predict whether this might alter over the summer. 

Conclusions : We are grateful for all the positive responses and kind messages of support from our viewers, particularly re the quality of music and musicians. The occasional problems with the internet connection and sub-optimal sound are being actively addressed at the moment. When BT have completed the fibre link to the church, our broadcast quality will be markedly improved, and the extra microphones and audio software will produce improved sound quality. Otherwise our concerts will continue as before until the summer. Later in the year, we hope to re-admit our local supporters to the church, but it is too early to be dogmatic about this, because of the changing Covid situation and regulations. Ultimately it will be everyone’s personal decision as to whether they wish to attend a concert in person, rather than watching the broadcast at home. In any case, our broadcasts will continue as before, with at least 3 concerts per week planned throughout the Autumn.

St Mary’s Perivale in the pandemic – an update

A brief resume of the past eventful 12 months.

Hugh Mather

The Covid pandemic has adversely affected every arts organization in the UK. However, at St Mary’s Perivale we have survived by transforming ourselves into a broadcasting centre, using our excellent video facilities and thus have been able to continue supporting musicians and providing solace and entertainment for our many supporters, living both locally in Ealing and around the world. We have now broadcast 100 LIVE concerts and an additional 53 concert recordings in the 12 months of the lockdown. This probably exceeds any other classical music venue in the UK and we seem to be a unique facility supporting classical music in these strange times. We have paid over £27,000 to musicians in the past year. This article explains the service in detail.

St Mary’s Perivale is a tiny, Grade-1 listed medieval church, only 6 miles from Marble Arch, which is redundant and now functions solely as a classical music centre. Our lockdown success has been entirely dependent on the remarkable video system installed in the church over a period of several years by Simon Shute (R), aided by George Auckland (L) shown in the photograph above. Both were friends living in Ealing who had retired from distinguished careers at the BBC. Initially recordings were made to provide musicians with a momento of their performances, in standard definition video. High-definition cameras were installed in 2016, and we now have 7 such cameras, and since 2018 we have live streamed all concerts on Youtube, from our digital broadcasting facility situated in the 15 th century tower. This was regarded as an adjunct to the main focus of the concert, which was the experience of the audience gathered in the church, until the pandemic in March 2020.

During the first total lockdown in April and May 2020, we streamed 53 recordings from our library of about 400 previous concerts since 2016, on successive afternoons. An archive is available here. Few other organizations were streaming concerts at that time, and we found ourselves in competition with the Berlin Philharmonic and the New York Met for our virtual audience. We paid a total of £6500 to musicians whose concerts were broadcast, and asked the viewers to donate towards the cost of paying the musicians.

Following the partial relaxation of restrictions in June 2020, we restarted LIVE concerts in an empty church, with strict adherence to Covid protocols. Since then we have held 100 LIVE concerts in an empty church without an audience, as also detailed in the lockdown archive.. These have included 42 solo piano recitals, 17 violin and piano duos, 8 piano trios, 7 cello and piano duos, 4 jazz piano concerts, 3 string quartets, 3 piano quartets, 3 wind concerts and 2 song recitals. Our musical highlight was the Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival in October, when 32 pianists played all the sonatas over a weekend – one of the few major festivals celebrating the composer’s 250 th anniversary. We have also held lecture recitals by Norma Fisher, Leslie Howard, Mark Viner and Murray McLachlan.

Over 130 musicians have performed at St Mary’s Perivale in the lockdown since June 2020, and they have been paid over £20,000. Each of the concerts has been viewed either on Youtube or Vimeo by an average of 500 viewers, with a peak of over 3000 viewers for the Beethoven Festival, and viewers from over 50 countries. The total views in the past year on Youtube is over 96,000, with many additional views on Vimeo. All concerts have been freely available, with no ‘paywall’, and we have been entirely dependent on donations from viewers, with no external sponsorship or public funding. These have been remarkably generous, and have kept up with our payments to musicians. Our supporters realize that we are a team of unpaid volunteers, so all funds go directly to the musicians or to maintain our historic building rather than providing administrative support or paying salaries.

So our video and streaming facilities, which were developed as an interesting adjunct to our concerts, have unexpectedly proved to be a lifeline for our organization over the past few months, and we have been able to support musicians with performing opportunities and financial help. Instead of physical audiences of around 30-60 local people from Ealing, our concerts have been viewed by thousands of people around the world, and our tiny suburban venue has assumed an important role in providing concert opportunities for many musicians, and cultural entertainment and solace for the viewers.

We are possibly the only organization undertaking such a busy classical music programme in the lockdown, and have achieved this without any public funding, being run entirely by volunteers. The only other centre with so many regular livestreamed classical concerts is the Wigmore Hall, but they have received a grant of £1 million from the Culture Recovery Fund, and they concentrate more on both vocal and baroque concerts, which we purposely avoid. Their concerts are streamed at 7.30 pm or 1.00 pm whereas ours are at 4 pm, so there is no direct clash or competition.

As for the future, we hope to resume concerts with a physical audience in the church later in the year. However, our small venue makes it difficult to comply fully with Covid regulations on a socially distanced audience, so it may be several more months before this happens. Meanwhile, we hope that viewers will continue to enjoy our ‘virtual’ concerts, as a substitute, and that we can continue to provide performing opportunities and financial support for our musicians in these difficult times. We are inundated with requests for concert opportunities, and are booked up until the end of the year. Highlights include a Chopin Festival on July 4 th and a repeat Beethoven Sonata Festival in October, with 32 pianists playing all the sonatas. Huge thanks are due to our technical team, which comprises Simon Shute, George Auckland and Andrew Whadcoat, and to other key members of our organization, notably Roger Nellist and also Andrew Goodhart, Richard Norris, Gill Rowley, Rob Jenkins and Truus Bos. Finally, thanks to all our on-line supporters who have made this possible, and of course to our huge pool of superb musicians.

1000 concerts at St Mary’s Perivale – An overview of 2004 to 2020

Background before 2004: St Mary’s Perivale is a small Grade-I listed building dating back to the 12 th century, and it functioned as an active church until being declared redundant in 1972. In 1976 our charity, the Friends of St Mary’s Perivale, was founded by Alan Gillett and friends, and a 99-year lease was granted by the Church Commissioners in 1979. Thereafter, a varied programme of concerts, exhibitions, plays and social events was held. I first became involved when I gave a piano recital in June 1986, and thereafter gave occasional concerts at the church, as well as running weekly lunchtime concerts at Ealing Hospital, where I was a Consultant Physician. By 2003, audience numbers at Perivale had dwindled alarmingly, and I was asked to help. I initiated the purchase of a new Yahama grand piano, and commenced organizing concerts there in September 2004, taking over as Chairman of the Friends in 2005, and retiring from my medical post in 2006.

1000 concerts summary : The first concert of the new era was on September 11 2004. Since then, we have held over 1000 concerts, detailed here.. For the first 10 years we held about 40-50 per year, on Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons. The former were double-concerts, with two contrasting halves to provide more performing opportunities for musicians, and the latter became well-known for the tea and home-made cakes, provided by Caroline Waldes, Rena Stewart, Hilary Swift, and Felicity Light. By September 2016 the total of concerts had reached 500. That year, at the suggestion of Roger Nellist, we introduced weekly piano recitals on Tuesday afternoons, whereupon the annual number of concerts rose to over 100, and thus we are about to reach concert number 1000 on Tuesday November 24, when I will step out of my musical retirement to give a celebratory recital. The list of musicians is here, and includes about 380 pianists and 160 violinists, as well as 40 piano trios and 80 other ensembles. Average attendances in the church before the pandemic were around 50 for many years, so our 1000 concerts represent about 50,000 separate concert attendances. We have always paid our musicians, and we developed our system of free admission and a retiring collection, which with Gift Aid has served us very well. We pride ourselves on never receiving any sponsorship or public funding. We are all unpaid volunteers, and we do not pay rent, so our rather unorthodox financial model has stood us in good stead for over 15 years.

Improvements to the church: Our financial success has enabled us to continually improve the church as an ideal venue for small-scale concerts, building on its innate beauty, superb acoustics and excellent piano. The most crucial improvement was the re-laying of the chancel floor at a single level in 2010, enabling the piano to be moved forward to the front of the chancel. Previously, there was a step in the chancel, leaving the piano permanently marooned at the back, away from the audience. Our architect in 2010, John Hummerston, deserves huge credit for pushing this vital project to conclusion. Other improvements over the years included an improved heating system and electricity supply, cleaning of the wall monuments, regular re-decoration of the church, new carpet and chairs and much else. The churchyard was an unkempt wilderness in 2005 with many vandalized memorials but since then about 40 monuments have been re-erected and it is now a scene of tranquil beauty, thanks to our gardening team, led initially by Camilla Newbegin and now by David Brown.

Video and live-streaming facilities: The other crucial advance has been the installation of high quality audio and video recording and live-streaming facilities. The combination of ‘high-tech’ facilities within a building dating back to the 12 th century might seem rather anachronistic, but has proved to be very fortuitous. In 2006, we introduced a sound-recording system, with high-quality microphones installed by Richard Partridge. Subsequently, Simon Shute became closely involved at the church, and he has, almost single-handedly, transformed our ancient venue into a high-quality broadcasting centre. The first camera was installed in 2007, and the second and third appeared in 2010 and 2011. These produced standard definition recordings on DVDs which were sent to the musicians. From 2009 onwards we started to upload some of the best performances to our YouTube channel for public viewing, organized by George Auckland, who had previously built our website. In 2016 we upgraded all our cameras to High Definition, and we now have 7 such cameras arranged around the church. Since then, high quality digital video recordings have been made of all concerts, and stored in our on-line cloud-based archive. In December 2018 we undertook the first concert live-stream, of a piano recital by Asagi Nakata which was viewed by her parents in Tokyo. Subsequently we have live-streamed most concerts, although until the pandemic this was regarded as an interesting adjunct to the main focus of the concert, namely the live experience of the audience in the church. None of this remarkable progress would have been possible without our superb technical team, led by Simon Shute, and including George Auckland, Andrew Whadcoat and Patrick Magill, Truus Bos and Rob Jenkins. Some had retired from distinguished careers at the BBC, and our organization has profited hugely from their combined technical prowess, always given free of charge.

St Mary’s Perivale in the Pandemic Thus we have been able to continue our activities over the past few months.. During the first lockdown, we broadcast 53 edited recordings of previous concerts (not included in the 1000 total) in April and May. We restarted live concerts, broadcast with no audience present, in June and have subsequently held 39, including a Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival in October, with 32 pianists. In normal times, the concerts would have attracted an audience of around 50-70 local people drawn from a small area around Ealing, but the festival was watched on-line by about 3000 people, and the average number of views of our concert broadcasts is now around 400, and we have supporters in at least 50 countries. Generous donations from viewers have enabled us to pay all our musicians, and we have received countless warm messages from around the world. We haven’t introduced a small socially-distanced audience because it would be practically difficult in such a small venue, and we think that the wearing of masks would negate any enjoyment of a concert. This lack of a physical audience has enabled us to continue, even in the second lockdown. It may be several months, or even years, before we can return to normal, and pack the church with 70 local people in close proximity. In the meanwhile we have become, in effect, a broadcasting studio ! This is less than ideal, and we long for the opportunity to welcome our local supporters back into our beloved building, but at least we are providing performing opportunities and financial support for musicians, and cultural entertainment and solace for our many supporters, and have kept our building alive.

Conclusion So we continue past the 1000 concert mark at St Mary’s Perivale. On a personal level, this is in addition to a further 656 concerts which I organized at St Barnabas Church Ealing between 2007 and 2020, and about 800 organized at Ealing Hospital prior to 2006. When the Perivale concert series started in 2004, I was aged 59, and am now 75. Perhaps we will reach 1500 Perivale concerts by my 80 th birthday. As stated at the beginning of this blog, it has been a joint effort by a large team of volunteers, including all those mentioned above, particularly Roger Nellist, Simon Shute and George Auckland, and also Richard Norris, Andrew Goodhart, Stanley Klar, Sherry White, Eileen Eden, Judith Price, Gill Rowley, David Brown, John Newbegin, Michael Lewis and others – and most of all, my wife, Felicity Light. Our ultimate purpose, laid down in the Trust Deed, is to preserve this wonderful building for future generations to enjoy, and our concerts, whether for an audience in the church or at home throughout the world, are simply a means towards that end. Long may St Mary’s Perivale continue to flourish.

St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival October 2020

The St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday October 3rd and 4th.   32 pianists will play all the sonatas in opus number, from Op 2 no 1 to Op 111, in about 14 hours, and their performances will be LIVE streamed from an empty church.   We are proud of this festival, being one of the few major Beethoven events still taking place in the 250th anniversary year despite the pandemic.   It should be a wonderful treat for all pianophiles.   This article explains the background to this special event.

The formula of a complete sonata cycle over a weekend is ‘tried and trusted’ because it is the fourth such festival I have organized in Ealing – the others were held at St Barnabas Church in 2009, 2012 and 2014.    We are very fortunate in being able to hold it despite the lack of an audience, because of the superb video and streaming facilities at St Mary’s Perivale.  The format of 32 pianists, each playing a sonata, is more interesting and enjoyable than hearing any single pianist play the whole cycle.  We have a formidable team of superb musicians, of varying age from 20 to 70, and from different pianistic backgrounds.  Their biogs are on our website.   Less than half (14) were born in the UK, and the remainder come from Russia (5), the Ukraine (3), Israel (2), and from the USA, Romania, Italy, China, Jordan, South Africa, Hungary and Kazakhstan.  It is endlessly fascinating to hear the different styles and sonorities produced by so many first-rate pianists on the same instrument, and the standard of performance will be uniformly high throughout the cycle.   Assembling the team of 32 pianists has been remarkably easy.   I have a database of about 160 pianists who have requested a solo recital, and could easily compile another team of pianists to play a parallel cycle.  No doubt there will be a last-minute scramble if/when a pianist becomes ill shortly before the current festival, but on previous occasions we have always found a replacement.

One of the joys of the festival will be to re-hear many of the early and middle-period sonatas which are rarely played in recitals.   Pianists seem to feel that they should offer the late sonatas to show their musicianship and perhaps their ‘gravitas’ rather than play some of the wonderful early works.   In an old analysis of Perivale performances from 2004 to 2015, the most popular sonata was Op 101 (6 performances) followed by 109, 111 and 27 no 2 (‘Moonlight’)(5 performances each), and 10 no 3, 13 (Pathetique), 53 (Waldstein) and 57 (Appassionata) (4 performances).   The most difficult slots to fill in previous cycles have been Op 2 no 2, 10 no 1, 14 no 1, 22 and 31 no 1, so I am hoping the relevant pianists stay fit and well in early October !   Our website also includes some masterly programme notes on each sonata by Julian Jacobson, who has played the entire cycle many times, sometimes on a single day.   These are thoroughly recommended to all.

It may seem slightly strange broadcasting the entire cycle from an empty church, with no applause, but in practice this works surprisingly well.    To fit into the time-frame of about 14 hours music (2-6 pm and 7-10 pm on both days) I have asked pianists to omit exposition repeats in sonata-form movements, but to use their discretion and musical common-sense with other repeats.   We will disinfect the keys between each performance, and allow each pianist a 5 minute warm-up, so the broadcasts will be rather like watching Wimbledon, including the knock-up sessions between matches ! We will utilize our sophisticated video system which comprises 7 high-definition cameras, giving a fascinating range of views of each pianist during their performance.    The livestreams will be posted on Vimeo, Youtube and Facebook, and will remain available for at least 3 weeks after the festival.

We always pay our musicians, on this occasion £100 per sonata, which is good value for some of the shorter ones, but less so for Op 106 !   This will be an expensive weekend, with £3200 in musician fees, as well as regular piano tuning etc, and we are hoping that we can attract a sizeable virtual audience, and that at least some will donate generously via our website.   In contrast to other venues in Central London, we are an organization run entirely by volunteers with no sponsorship from outside sources, so all the funds go directly to support our musicians and our building, rather than supporting other funding streams.   So please make a note in your diary of our big festival – October 3rd and 4th from 2pm to 10 pm –  and come with us on a wonderful journey from early to middle to late Beethoven, over a glorious weekend of superb piano playing.    And if you are able to make a donation during the festival, that would be even better !






1500 Ealing concerts 2004-2019

I think it is appropriate to mark a personal milestone, namely the organization of 1500 Ealing concerts over the past 15 years, at St Mary’s Perivale and St Barnabas.  Here is a brief overview of this period with some relevant details.
I served as a very busy Consultant Physician at Ealing Hospital from 1982 to 2006.  However I have always been a musician ‘at heart’, and over this period I organized about 800 lunchtime concerts for patients and staff at the hospital, and gave many local concerts as a pianist, including several recitals at St Mary’s Perivale, and thus became involved with this wonderful church. It is a tiny 12th-century building which became redundant in 1972 and is now a classical music centre. It is stunningly beautiful, and has a magical ambience and excellent acoustics, and provides the perfect setting for instrumental and chamber music concerts. In 2003 I donated half the cost of a new Yamaha grand piano, and commenced Wednesday evening concerts there in 2004, becoming Chairman of the Friends of St Mary’s Perivale in September 2005, with an excellent and motivated team of friends.  Since then we have held 870 concerts, detailed in the archive section of our website. For many years, we held 38-50 concerts per year on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings, and then in 2016, on the suggestion of Roger Nellist, we commenced additional Tuesday afternoon piano recitals, with the annual total rising to 120.   The average attendance has been around 50, so the total of attendances is over 40,000.  Most of our concerts are now ‘live-streamed’ and so reach a larger audience.

St Barnabas Ealing is a large active church with a magnificent organ and strong choral tradition. In 2007 I bought a Bösendorfer concert grand, previously used by the BBC at Maida Vale Studios, and this fine instrument has been the basis for all the concerts held since then, raising over £230,000 for church funds. I commenced Friday Lunchtime Concerts in September 2007, and these now exceed 530.  There have also been 13 Weekend Festivals and 6 series of Summer Proms, including 3 complete cycles of Beethoven sonatas, played by 32 pianists, as well as festivals devoted to the piano music of Chopin (three times), Liszt and Haydn, and 3 organ festivals, as detailed here . All have involved much support from friends within the St Barnabas community.

Thus the tally of concerts at both venues currently stands at 870 (St Mary’s Perivale) and 630 (St Barnabas) or 1500 in total, with performances by over 400 pianists and 186 violinists etc,  I have  produced 1500 programmes, introduced about 1450 concerts and ‘turned  pages’ for about 800 of them !  It has been a most fulfilling way to spend my retirement.  It remains to be seen whether I can chalk up 2000 concerts in Autumn 2022, assuming my concerts continue with the same frequency as at present.  Organizing 160 concerts per year is quite onerous, since each requires perhaps 6 emails to arrange the  date, repertoire, biography, arrival time and other details, leaving relatively little time for other activities, such as piano and organ playing, and grandparent duties.   However, it is immensely satisfying to act as a catalyst between so many brilliant young musicians based in London who are looking for performing opportunities, and the many people in Ealing who enjoy hearing ‘live’ classical music.   I certainly aim  to continue with these concerts for as long as possible.   None of this would have been remotely possible without a superb and dedicated team of colleagues at St Mary’s Perivale (notably Roger Nellist) and at St Barnabas (notably Peter Haisman and Nick Barnes), and above all the total support of my wife, Dr Felicity Light.   Onwards and upwards, to the 2000 mark….

St Mary’s Perivale Questionnaire Survey October 2017

Most readers will be aware of the concert series held at St Mary’s Perivale.  We currently hold 100 concerts per year, with an average attendance of 56.   Of the 88 concerts so far this year, 24 were held on Sunday afternoons (chamber music or piano recitals), 37 on Tuesday afternoon (our piano recital series), and 27 on Wednesday evenings – mainly chamber music.  Attendances have been good for the Sunday and Tuesday afternoon concerts, but have been falling slightly on Wednesday evenings.  This small qualitative survey was undertaken in October 2017 to ascertain the views of our audience on our concerts, and to ask for suggestions for improvement, in the hope that we can maintain or increase audience size, particularly for  our Wednesday concerts.  The questionnaire was handed out to audience members, and 71 completed at least part of it.  The questions are listed below, with a summary of their responses in black.

  1. What do you like about our concerts ?  The largest number – 46 – referred to the very high standard of the musicians and music-making, described as ‘amazing’, ‘stunning’, and ‘excellent’ etc.   Our beautiful venue, with its own special ambience, was mentioned by 29 respondents.   Twenty six referred to the friendliness and informality of the concerts, described as ‘convivial’ and ‘welcoming’, and the choice and wide variety of programmes was mentioned by 25.  The intimacy of the concerts and proximity of the audience to the musicians was referred to by 15, and 13 praised our excellent acoustics.  Ten respondents referred to its convenient location,  6 to the enthusiasm of the organisers, 3 stated that they liked ‘everything’, 2 mentioned the duration of the  concerts (60 minutes on Tuesday afternoons) and single respondents mentioned the comfortable seating, the affordability of the  concerts and the fact that no prior booking was needed.
  1. What do you NOT like about our concerts ? Half the respondents (36 out of 71) replied ‘ nothing’ or similar words, such as ‘don’t change a thing’ and ‘I like everything’.   A small number referred to specific dislikes.  Three complained that the repertoire was ‘too conservative’ and one that it was ‘too modern’.  This is further considered later in the survey.  Two thought that there was insufficient space for socializing at the end of the concert, two found the chairs to be ‘hard’ and requested cushions. Individual respondents thought that the chairs were too close together, that the piano can be too loud, and were annoyed by people taking photographs during concerts.
  1. How can we improve ?
    The choice of musicians ….  Fifteen thought that the current choice was ‘OK’ or ‘Fine as it is’.    Thirteen requested more string quartets, 11 more solo piano, 11 more vocal items, 8 more piano trios and 6 more wind items.  Conversely, 5 wanted less solo piano. There were individual requests for a brass quintet, for recorders and lutes, for ‘unusual instruments’,for guitar, mandolin and banjo, for less string quartets and less wind.
    The choice of music in general ….Ten respondents thought that the current mix was’fine’, and a further seven wanted more ‘pure classical’ repertoire.  Eighteen wanted more early music and baroque repertoire, whereas 2 requested less early music. Ten  wanted ‘more modern’ repertoire, whereas 10 wanted ‘less modern’.   Two requested jazz.
    The choice of composers …. We want to know which are your favourites.   Please indicate which would make you MORE likely to attend with a TICK, and LESS likely to  attend with a CROSS, leaving ‘neutral’ ones unmarked.
    The following shows the numbers of ticks (‘y’) and crosses (‘x’) received by each composer, arranged in order of popularity
    Beethoven 51y 1x / Mozart 48y 0 x / Chopin 44y 3x / Schubert 43y 1x / Rachmaninov 41y 2x /Brahms 40y 1x / Mendelssohn 40y 2x / Liszt 36y 2x / Bach  34y 4x  / Schumann 31y 1x /Debussy 32y 4x / Ravel 27y 5x / Shostakovich 26y 10 x / Prokofiev 20y 11x / Bartok 16y 13x
    Any other composers you would like to  hear ?  ………….This produced a wide range of responses.   The most commonly mentioned additional composers were Tchaikovsky (9), Vivaldi (7), Handel (6), Grieg, Haydn and Dvorak (5), and Elgar, Faure, Telemann and Vaughan Williams (4).

 The social aspects of our concerts ….  These were rated as ‘fine’ or ‘very good’ by 17 respondents, and six commented favourably on the tea and cakes provided on Sunday afternoons.  Four respondents stated that they were unconcerned by the social aspects.  Two respondents commented that the church was too small and cramped for socializing, and another stressed the need for the chairs to be moved to the side of the church at the end of concerts to provide more space.  Another suggested the use of the chancel for socializing.  One respondent commented that coming alone made it difficult to socialize, and another thought that more introductions could be made to other members of the audience.   Two respondents regretted the absence of red wine, which is never used because of our light-coloured carpets.   One respondent wondered whether a more extended social occasion for the audience might be held.

The practical organisation of our concerts …. Twelve respondents thought the current organisation of the concerts was ‘good’, ‘fine as it is’ or ‘just right’.  Fifteen expressed a preference for Sunday afternoon concerts,  16 for Tuesday afternoons and 6 for Wednesday evenings.  Three stated that the Wednesday evening concerts clashed with other fixed commitments.   Two respondents suggested that the Tuesday afternoon concerts might commence at 1pm rather than 2pm, to give more time to pick up grandchildren from school.  One wondered whether the Tuesday afternoon concerts were taking audience away from those on Wednesday evenings.

  1. What else influences your decision to attend a concert ? Thirty four respondents mentioned their busy lives, with other clashing commitments. Seven referred to the adverse influence of  cold or wet weather.  Other factors mentioned including traffic problems (3), clashes with other concerts (2),  transport problems (2),  and health issues, carer commitments, costs, and the long distance from Perivale, each mentioned by a single respondent.
  1. Publicity – Any thoughts on how can we raise our profile ?There were few comments on this.  Two were concerned that further publicity might lead to problems with over-capacity audiences.   Two suggested advertising in ‘Ealing Today’ (a local on-line news service) and other suggestions included posters, advertising on local radio and on stations, and leaving more leaflets in schools and shops.                                                                                 We produce  leaflets for each season’s concerts.  Do you find them helpful?  64 respondents replied ‘yes’, and 1 replied ‘no’
    Do you use our Text Messaging Service ?   13 respondents replied ‘yes’, and 54 replied ‘no’  If so, is it helpful ?  12 replied ‘yes’  0 replied ‘no’
    Do you use the St Mary’s  website ?   38 respondents replied ‘yes’, and 25 replied ‘no’ If so, is it useful ?   34 replied ‘yes’, 0 replied ‘no’
    Have you seen our publicity material on Facebook ?  10 replied ‘yes’ and 55 replied ‘no’
    Have you seen our publicity material on Twitter ?  5 replied ‘yes’ and 50 replied ‘no’
    Have you viewed our Youtube channel ?   19 replied ‘yes’ and 43 replied ‘no’
  1. Any other comments or suggestions not covered by the above?
    There were many warm comments from respondents, with eight specifically thanking us for the concerts, and others advising us to ‘just keep going’ and stating that they couldn’t see how the concerts could be improved.  Single respondents made various suggestions. These included the purchase of better quality music stands, the inclusion of some lecture recitals, and the reservation of some seats by the entrance for late-comers.     Other ideas from single respondents included more special or anniversary events, the inclusion of programme notes, the shortening of biographical notes, the  consideration of ‘streaming’ some concerts, consultation with an acoustic engineer to see if our acoustics could be improved further, the provision of another toilet, and the erection of a marquee in the churchyard for social occasions,

Discussion :The overall results were overwhelmingly positive, with many gratifying comments.  The most important attribute was deemed to be the consistently high standard of performance.  It was pleasing to have so many mentioning the friendliness and informality of our concerts, which we try to cultivate, in contrast to the perceived rather ‘stuffy’ atmosphere at some Central London venues.  The views on our choice of music and musicians was similar to those in previous surveys, with those wanting more early music balanced out by those wanting more modern, and those wanting more or less solo piano music balancing out as well.   The negative reaction to 20th century composers was slightly less than expected, so perhaps we could afford to be slightly more adventurous with repertoire, but this might well have a negative impact on audience numbers.

There were remarkably few areas of complaint. A couple of people complained about the chairs being unduly hard, and we may obtain a few cushions, although this is a minority view.  One thought that they were positioned too close together, and we have now taken notice, leaving a slight gap between them, and encroaching on the nave aisle.  Some commented on the lack of space to socialize at the end of concerts.  This is particularly relevant on Sunday afternoons, when the audience needs to stay seated while hot tea is served. One way suggested was to make use of the chancel as a social area at the end of concerts, by pushing the piano to the back, and closing it, and removing chairs and stands as appropriate.  This is a good idea, and we will encourage it.  Otherwise, we will work harder at creating more space after concerts in the nave on Wednesday evenings, and to involve everyone in the socializing.

The questions on publicity yielded some useful results.  The seasonal leaflets were universally thought to be useful, and have an important role in addition to the weekly email flyers.   Conversely, over a third didn’t use the website, although almost all would have been viewing the weekly email flyers.    Only a small number used the Text Messaging Service, but they all thought it was useful, so perhaps we need to encourage more people to adopt this service.   Few had seen our material on Facebook and Twitter, but this serves an important role in publicizing our concerts among musicians. Advertising in ‘Ealing Today’ was suggested, and we will pursue this, since it has a large circulation and is free.

As always, some interesting and unexpected points emerged from the questionnaire. One person stated that the weekly email flyers were always diverted to their ‘junk’ folder, despite attempts to change this.  We will discuss with our technical experts to see if there is anything we can do about this.   One person complained about our music stands being ‘wobbly’, and after discussion with our musicians, we will purchase some better quality ones. Two people requested red wine, but we have to maintain our embargo on this, because  of our light-coloured carpet.  We will indeed keep some seats available near the door to accommodate late-comers. The request for a second toilet is rather speculative, since the church didn’t have a single one for the first 800 years of its life !

Despite the enthusiasm of our audience, audience numbers continue to be variable and occasionally disappointing, particularly for Wednesday evening concerts.   From the survey results, this seems to be due mainly to the inevitable clashes with other commitments, and the ‘busy lives’ of our audience, as well as the influence of adverse weather.   Yet when we programme popular classics, played by well-known musicians, we still attract a good audience, almost regardless of the weather, and (presumably) of their busy lives.   Our challenge is to provide concerts which are sufficiently enticing to attract a good audience, regardless of the weather and rival attractions.

Summary: This survey shows that we are providing a popular service for local music-lovers, and in doing so we are raising funds to maintain our beautiful church for future generations to enjoy, as well as providing valuable performing experience to many of the best young musicians in London.   We will take notice of the small points listed above, and otherwise continue our concerts as before.   We hope that this will help us to build up our audience further over the coming months, particularly on our Wednesday evening concerts.








Memorizing piano works and the effect of age

This post is a reflection on my own experience in memorizing piano works, and how this has declined with age.  As a teenager, and in my twenties, I learned a considerable number of the ‘big’ piano works, including the Liszt sonata, several Beethoven sonatas including the ‘Hammerklavier’, Schumann Fantasy, Schubert Wanderer, Brahms Handel variations and many of the Chopin Ballades and Scherzi, and played them all in public.  I never remember thinking specifically about ‘memorizing’ them, as such – because it was totally automatic, and happened without any effort.   There was simply no problem.  Although I was a busy medical student, I could absorb large-scale works in the holidays, rapidly and reliably.  They are still stored away in my brain, and will be for ever.  I suppose it is a sort of ‘finger memory’ although I find it difficult to analyse – it just happens.

However my ability to memorize repertoire started to decline from the age of 25 onwards, as I think it probably does in everyone.   I am now 71, and over the decades, it has become harder and harder (ie virtually impossible) to memorize new pieces.   It requires much more effort, and the pieces feel correspondingly less secure.    This increasing insecurity at the keyboard has resulted in more performance ‘nerves’, and I suspect it is the main reason why pianists tend to become increasingly anxious about giving concerts as they get older.  I have now completely lost my nerve, and have given up recitals.

Memory lapses are indeed every pianist’s worst nightmare.   Odd technical slips are quickly forgotten, but if a pianist grinds to a halt, in the middle of a work, this is simply catastrophic – he/she is ‘dead in the water’ and there is no way back !   I am fairly certain that this dreadful prospect lurks as a dark shadow in the back of most pianists’ minds during recitals, particularly as they get older.   I am surprised how many of the 300+ pianists playing in my concert series, most of whom are under 30, have had minor memory lapses, which may not always be noticed by the audience  (although I usually spot them), but they must be very unsettling for  the performer.  Some manage to extemporise their way out of a disaster, and find their way into the piece again. I have huge admiration for them – it must be absolutely terrifying.  A young pianist recently played a Scarlatti sonata in F minor, and got ‘in a loop’ and ended up quite convincingly in C minor, but no-one in the audience noticed anything awry and applauded enthusiastically.  Of course, there is absolutely no reason why the music shouldn’t be used, as indeed Curzon and Richter always did at the end of their careers, but it would certainly look strange and would probably not be acceptable in younger players.

The most devastating memory lapses occur in concertos, particularly when the ensemble with the orchestra breaks down, as in various debacles shown on Youtube, involving pianists such as Yundi (in Chopin 1 in South Korea) and Schnabel (in a performance of Mozart K488 ).   The one occasion I actually came unstuck in a concert was as a schoolboy, playing the piano solo in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia, a notoriously long and rambling piece.   I missed an entry, and must have had 1000 nightmares about it over the years !  Some concertos are particularly prone to these problems, notably the last movement of the Schumann  concerto, which modulates repeatedly to remote keys, and it is very easy to  get lost.   There is the additional problem of memorizing when to come in, after an orchestral tutti.    One needs to rehearse the variable lengths of  the orchestral tutti, particularly in the Brahms concerti, so that the entries are automatic, because a missed entry will be absolutely catastrophic.

In conclusion, I don’t think that young pianists realize that their ability to learn and memorize new works will inevitably decline markedly in later on in life, and that this process starts to happen from the late 20s onwards.  Alfred Brendel is reported as saying that his slowly developing career meant that he had more time in his 20’s to learn a large number of pieces, whereas those who have a major career early on may not find the time to do so.    It is an incentive for all pianists to commit as much of the core repertoire to memory when still relatively young – ie under 30 – so that it is there to play and work on, over the next few decades.   So if you are a young pianist, and always dream of giving your definitive Beethoven sonata cycle, to rival Schnabel and all the ‘greats’,  later in life, you need to start now, and get the basic notes in your head, rather than leaving it to tackle some of them in middle age.   And perhaps we should become more tolerant to the idea of solo pianists using the music during their recitals.  It doesn’t necessarily imply that they haven’t done sufficient practice !

Tuesday recitals at St Mary’s Perivale – progress report

In a previous blog, written in June, I explained the rationale for establishing a new weekly series of piano recitals for outstanding pianists at St Mary’s Perivale.  In brief, there are so many superb artists seeking concerts around London, yet there are very few venues which have a good piano, an interested audience, a suitable small hall and the ability (or desire) to pay their musicians.    To provide more performing opportunities, we started the Tuesday afternoon recital series in July, and since then we have had 18 recitals, with 17 more planned before the end of April 2017.  Including other concerts on Sundays and Wednesdays, a total of 46 pianists have given, or will give, recitals at St Mary’s Perivale between July 2016 and April 2017.  The full list is included at the end of this blog, and all the recital programmes are published on our website,either in our archive section or in our forthcoming concerts.

The series has been a resounding success.  We were unsure whether we would attract an audience to St Mary’s Perivale at 2 pm on Tuesday afternoons, but the average attendance has been over 40, and has held up well in recent weeks despite the adverse weather.   We have attracted an impressive roster of pianists, and all the recitals have been excellent.   It is still impossible to provide a platform for all the pianists who wish to perform, and I currently have a ‘waiting list’ of about 25 more pianists.   We initially planned to pay our Tuesday pianists a fixed sum of £100, but we were able to increase this to £200 following a generous anonymous donation, in sharp contrast to those central London churches and well-known private recital venues which give no payment whatsoever.  The concerts are ‘free with retiring collection’, and the latter have kept pace with the fees paid to the pianists, so we are in surplus from these concerts.

A few general points are worthy of mention.  Firstly, the format of a short recital, lasting a maximum of 60 minutes including an encore, with no interval, works very well.    I think many concerts, with about 90 minutes music in the traditional two-half format, are too long.   The shorter length corresponds with most people’s attention span, and enables them to return home after 3 pm, before the rush hour. Secondly, holding concerts on a weekday afternoon has also proved very successful. Retired people like a specific focus to give structure to their day, and afternoon concerts, travelling in daylight, with relatively little traffic, are inherently more attractive than evening concerts, driving in the dark with rush-hour congestion.   This obviously excludes attendance by people in work, but that also applies to most other concerts as well.  People with busy jobs and families can rarely afford the time for concerts – but that will be the subject of a further blog.   Thirdly, the sustained audience size, over a series of 17 weekly concerts, shows that they have not become bored with repeated piano recitals.   This reflects the high calibre of our pianists, but we are also careful to ensure that the repertoire is sufficiently accessible to a general audience – ie not exclusively 20th century – and that musicians introduce their pieces.  It is important to remember that even mainstream works such as the Liszt sonata or the Schumann Fantasy, are a tough ‘listen’ for a general audience, and a brief explanation by the pianist can be enormously helpful.

All our concerts are recorded in high-quality video and sound, using our in-built recording system.   This was upgraded from Standard to High Definition cameras in August 2016, and the quality of our recordings since then has been stunning.   There must be few other venues which provide a free broadcast-quality recording for their musicians.  We are very fortunate in having the help and expertise of several former BBC employees who have developed this video recording system. This will also be the subject of a further blog.

Our publicity has been transformed in recent months by the liberal use of Facebook, with excellent photographs taken of most concerts by Roger Nellist and uploaded to our page, and to a lesser extent by the use of Twitter.   St Mary’s Perivale is one of the most visually attractive venues in London, and the many concert photographs are helping to spread that message.  This has certainly helped to raise our profile among musicians, although it remains to be seen whether it will increase our audience size, since few of our audience use social media.

So we seem to have developed a successful formula of short piano recitals, on a weekday afternoon, providing valuable performing opportunities to outstanding pianists, with a reasonable payment and a free high-quality recording, on a good piano in an idyllic setting, and giving much enjoyment to a keen loyal audience.  We hope to continue them indefinitely, and thus help to support all the wonderful pianists living in and around London.

Appendix :
Here is the list of the 35 pianists who have played, or will play in the Tuesday recitals between July 2016 and April 2017.Dinara Klinton, Tamila Salimdjanova, Ashley Fripp, Mark Viner, Kausikan Rajeshkumar, Mei Yi Foo, Ben Schoeman, John Granger Fisher, Mihai Ritivoiu, Florian Mitra, Mengyang Pan, Alexander Ullman, Konstantin Lapshin, Ilya Kondratiev, Artur Haftman, Luka Okros, Pablo Rossi, Richard Uttley, Jianing Kong, Daniel Lebhardt, Marcos Madrigal, Emmanuel Despax, Costanza  Principe, Lara Melda, Yuanfan Yang, Masa Tayama, Iyad Sughayer, Aristo Sham, Alim Beisembayev, Victor Maslov, Vitaly Pisarenko, Julian Trevelyan, Caterina Grewe, Tomasso Carlini.
And here are 11 further pianists who have given or will give recitals at our Sunday or Wednesday concerts in the same time period : Alexander Soares, Charles Economou, Andrew Brownell, Martin Cousin, Viv McLean, Jayson Gillham, Mishka Rushdie Momen, Dario Llanos Javierre, Michal Szymanowksi, Andrew Yiangou, Anna Tsybuleva,
An older list of 318 pianists who have played in my Ealing concerts over the past decade is available here .




Pianists – do you ever play ‘for the sheer joy of it’ ?

I am interested in whether professional pianists regularly play the piano for their own enjoyment and satisfaction, for relaxation and fulfilment, rather than as a work-related activity, preparing a small number of works intensively for future public performance.  Most will have spent many happy hours in their youth playing through Mozart and Beethoven sonatas etc, and learning many works by Schumann, Chopin and Liszt, for the sheer pleasure of recreating great masterpieces for themselves.  This is why we all want to become pianists in the first place, and is why we teach and encourage the army of amateur pianists out there.  After all, if the sole purpose of learning the piano were to give public recitals, most piano teachers would be out of work tomorrow !

Yet there is a risk that this love of the piano is lost later on, as pianists become young professionals, and have to put in all those endless hours of hard practice, and begin performing in public.   They may adopt the necessary routine of polishing up a small number of pieces, over and over again – perhaps many thousands of times –  for a big recital or competition, and the innate joy of music-making for its own  sake may be lost.   Some pianists work exclusively on a single recital programme for an entire season, to be taken round prestigious venues, often with repertoire which has been learned many years ago.   Their daily practice consists of making these over-familiar works even ‘safer’ and ‘safer’, to guard against mistakes and the dreaded memory lapses.     This may indeed be necessary to give satisfactory performances under immensely stressful conditions, but this ‘treadmill’ may be extremely stultifying and may be nothing less than mental torture, far removed from the pleasures of playing the piano for its own sake.   I am reminded of Andre Agassi, who has stated that he absolutely hated tennis throughout his career, having practised so intensively in his early life, and I suspect that some famous pianists have the same ‘love-hate’ relationship with their instrument.

It is interesting that so many prominent piano pedagogues stop performing in public in middle-age, while concentrating on developing the  careers of their younger colleagues, after successful careers earlier on.  Obviously they have less time to keep their playing to the necessary standard, but I wonder whether ever they play ‘for fun’, on their own at home, for relaxation and self-fulfillment, after a hard day’s teaching ?  I rather doubt it.  Perhaps they still associate the piano with all that ‘work’ they undertook years ago, rather than ‘pleasure’.    However, I have known some musicians who have managed to keep their initial love of the piano and its literature, throughout long careers.  I met the celebrated pianist Nikita Magaloff at his home in Switzerland, shortly before his death in 1992.  He was actively learning some unfamiliar Schumann piano works for the first time, aged 80, and was totally enthralled by the beauty of the music.  Similarly my old teacher, Jimmy Gibb, was learning new repertoire in his late eighties, when his faculties were failing, and his sheer love of the music shone through everything.   I hope today’s pianists may emulate this, and that the huge pressures of giving public recitals don’t put them off the sheer joy of making music for their own private fulfilment.  To summarize, I hope they continue to love the  piano rather than end up hating it….

Repertoire choices by pianists – why so little Mozart ?

We keep a detailed archive of works performed at St Mary’s Perivale.  I have performed an analysis on piano works played between 2004 and 2015 – a total of over 500 concerts, with over 200 pianists.  I suppose there have been about 200 half or whole-length solo recitals in that time.  The musicians have a free hand in what they choose to play, although I occasionally ask them to change it if it is exclusively 20th century repertoire, as detailed in a previous blog about the tensions between what musicians want to play and what the audience want to hear.

A summary of  the pianists’ repertoire choices is on  and makes for interesting reading.  Top of the list is the ubiquitous Chopin G minor Ballade, studied by virtually all pianists, with 13 performances, although I am not sure that any of them have been entirely satisfactory – but that is a topic for another blog !   After that, the major Chopin piano masterpieces and popular Liszt virtuoso works (Rigoletto paraphrase, B minor sonata, Mephisto Waltz, Spanish Rhapsody etc) feature prominently, with several late Beethoven sonatas (Op 101, 109, 111) being performed more frequently than earlier Beethoven works.   Rachmaninov’s Second sonata and Mussorgsky Pictures are also well-represented.   Lower down the batting order, we find Ravel’s Gaspard, Debussy’s Images Book 2 and L’Isle Joyeuse, Schubert’s Wanderer and a cluster of favourite Schumann works.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of this list is ‘the dog that didn’t bark in the night’ – namely the virtual absence of Mozart.  He makes only one appearance in the list, with the Fantasy K475 being played 3 times. Looking at the data again, it transpires that there were two performances of the ‘Ah vous dirai-je’ variations K265 and single performances of 7 sonatas (K283, 310, 330, 331, 332, 457 and 545,) and of the D minor Fantasy K397, to set against all those performances of Chopin and Liszt.  Why is this ?   I doubt whether it reflects the musical tastes of our pianists, since I don’t know (and wouldn’t understand) any musician who doesn’t worship Mozart.  And most pianists, me included, must have bashed their way through most of the sonatas when aged say 9 -12, so they will know them all.  And I think most of our pianists would jump at the chance of playing any of the great Mozart piano concerti, but steer well clear of performing the solo sonatas in public

No, the explanation is obvious, although it will seem strange to non-musicians.  Mozart’s sonatas sound easy, but are extraordinarily difficult to play well.  By comparison, the big romantic works are much easier to  ‘bring off’.  Everything is so exposed – the phrase ‘walking on eggshells’ comes to mind – and problems of balance between the hands, of ‘inner phrasing’ and articulation in the runs, and handling all the trills and turns deftly and neatly, and achieving that rare spiritual balance between purity, warmth and freedom, may be beyond at least some of the pianists who choose Chopin, love Liszt or revel in  Rachmaninov.  These problems are generally more evident in the  sonatas than the piano concertos, where the orchestral support solves some of the balance problems. There don’t seem to be many ‘Mozart specialists’ among the best young pianists around London at the moment.  Perhaps they don’t get so far in competitions.    If I were holding a piano competition, I would make a Mozart sonata a compulsory choice.  Certainly there are no easy ‘plaudits’ for fine Mozart performances, compared with a rousing Liszt rendition, because the audience will assume it is easy – but never mind !   I am hoping we can encourage more musicians to be brave and play the Mozart (and Haydn) piano sonatas in their recitals in future.