Lunchtime Recital Thursday 11 May St Mary’s Bathwick

 

I will be performing a lunchtime piano recital on Thursday 11 May 2017 at St Mary’s Church, Bathwick, Bath. This recital is part of a series of lunchtime recitals arranged to raise funds for the restoration of the 1878 Father Willis organ at St Mary’s Church.

The music will start at 12:30pm and will include the following works:

Chopin: Nocturnes

Schumann: selections from Kinderscenen

Schoenberg: first movement from Klavierstucke

Other works to be played will be announced on the day. Entry is free but the audience are encouraged to give generously to support the organ restoration fund.

The 19th century organ was last restored in 1980 but is now in need of further restoration work. As well as being an example of a well respected British organ manufacturer, Henry Willis & Sons, the organ also boasts another famous connection. In 2001 the rock group Muse recorded the organ for the song Megalomania for their second studio album, Origin of Symmetry.

St Mary’s Church

Darlington Street

Bath BA2 4EB

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Piano Restoration Video

I was very proud to have recently put together a short film about piano restoration work at The Piano Shop Bath. Ever since relocating to Bath some four years ago I have maintained a strong relationship with this great shop that caters for all needs and budgets. ‘Shop’ is a small word for a much bigger business that The Piano Shop Bath represents. In addition to selling pianos they provide piano removals services, piano tuning, event hire, valuations and of course, piano repairs and restoration services. Over four years I have watched the shop develop and expand into a much larger premises, creating a substantial workshop space. This workshop is now the hub through which all pianos are serviced and restored.

Piano Restoration is a job that requires patience and years of experience. I was asked to create a short film that captures the essence of what this work was about, and to convey the craft that is behind every piano repair. I had the pleasure of observing technicians Marc and Steve while filming them about their work. I was amazed by how traditional the repair work still was, even with modern tools to aid them. Applying woollen felts to the dampers is essentially still glueing bits of high quality felt to wooden hammers, but it needs to be precise and the glue needs to be the right type that works naturally with the wood. If you choose to invest in having your piano restored, you are not just investing in your instrument but also investing in the expertise of highly skilled technicians who carry out the work. It is a specialist craft, and pianos simply could not exist without good piano technicians.

You can check out the video below. I composed some original backing music to aid the flow of imagery, using piano based sounds arranged in a contemporary, fresh setting. If you would like to know more about the video or my composition work, then please do get in touch.

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Piano Concerts in Bath

In preparation for my upcoming diploma exam, I will be performing in a few piano recitals in Bath to road test my program to audiences. This is a vital component of any exam preparation, as you really find out what works under pressure, and what doesn’t! Sections of music that you may think you know inside out in the comfort of your rehearsal studio, may suddenly become more tricky. Technically demanding passages (for which there are a few on this program) require a degree of stamina, and a practise recital gives you the chance to see how well you are pacing yourself over the program.

Most importantly, you get the chance to see how well you can sustain the levels of concentration required to execute piece after piece. That in itself is not just a technical exercise, but an emotional one too, where you need to be in that mental space to shape something musically interesting and personal. It is no good simply playing the right notes at the right time, that is the job of a computer!

My program is a musically diverse program spanning some 300 years of writing for the piano, and earlier keyboard instruments. This is also a chance to convey some of the musical developments that have been made over the centuries, from Bach’s highly ordered fugal exercises, to Schoenberg’s atonal soundscapes. And don’t worry if you are clueless who those composers are; I will be there as your guide to introduce each piece and give some background to its composition. There will be something new for everyone, so come along!

The Program

Chopin: 2 études from Op. 10, No.1 in C major and No.3 in E major

JS Bach: Prelude and Fugue in C sharp major, BWV 872

Rachmaninoff: Prelude in G minor, Op. 23 no.5

Schoenberg: Drei Klavierstucke, Op.11

Chopin: Nocturne in D flat major, Op. 27 no.2

Ginastera: Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2

The Venues

Thursday 5 May @ Manvers Street Baptist Church, 12:30pm

Wednesday 15 June @ St Swithin’s Church, 7:30pm

More dates to be added.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch via my contact page.

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Piano Lessons in Bath for 2016

It was a busy end to 2015 and I was heavily involved in a number of tasks which saw me go off the blog radar a bit….. but all for worthy reasons!

Several of my students took piano exams and passed with great marks and comments from the examiner. There is still a wide differing of opinion amongst students, parents and teachers over the benefits of taking piano exams. The truth is, it depends on the individual. All I can say is that those who do commit themselves to taking an exam are giving themselves an opportunity to work towards something and gain valuable experiences from performing under pressure. Passing and getting a good mark has given all my students a renewed sense of confidence and purpose in their playing, which is sometimes easy to lose track of when you turn up to weekly lessons to practise the same three pieces.

In addition, the grade system does introduce new technical challenges with every step up, so there is a practical element there to progress your studies. All in all a very worthwhile endeavour for any piano student; I must also emphasise that I had an adult student pass with a great mark, so don’t talk yourself into thinking that piano grades are something you did when you were younger! You may find that your life is now allowing you the time to practise and you yourself are more focussed to practise the technical elements to perfection. It’s never too late 🙂

I was also involved in providing piano accompaniment for a colleague’s students taking flute and clarinet exams. This is extremely rewarding work, as you can take a step back as a teacher and focus on performing with someone. It’s amazing how much progress you see even between the rehearsal a few weeks before the exam, to the actual day itself. As a teacher, it’s easy to spot determination and hard work when it has been applied. It’s also easy to spot the combination of relief and delight, with having played better than your fears were telling you that you would. Personal development like this is, I believe, absolutely fundamental to any child’s education, and by learning a musical instrument you are forced into developing your skills, otherwise the music simply will not happen.

There was also a small matter of purchasing my first house. They say that the most stressful experience you can have in life is purchasing a house, and all I would say in response is that I wholeheartedly agree! But I can least look back on that process as something firmly in the past.

The new place only a few minutes from where I was previously living and easy to get to from London Road in Bath. There is also now a dedicated teaching studio which provides the right environment for practise and study. I still one or two slots available in the evening, plus more availability during the day, so if you are looking for piano lessons in 2016, get in touch with me here.

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Sunset Fan/Sunset Flood Premiere in Bath

I have finally had a chance to write something about the premiere of my new work, Sunset Fan/Sunset Flood, which premiered at the end of August in Bath. It was a magical evening that I will remember for a long time. I have included here an extract of the blog from my composition site, and the live recording from the concert. Enjoy and please take a moment to visit my composition website and read the full blog.

‘Sunset Fan/Sunset Flood is a suite in 4 movements for piano and cello, inspired by the words of writer James Roy Blair Anderson. I have previously collaborated with James on ‘Dust‘, a short choral piece set to the words of his poem of the same title. This time, I took two of James’ poems, ‘Sunset Fan‘ and ‘Sunset Flood‘, and composed a musical depiction of the words.

The final suite can be performed both with or without the words being read in between the movements. In rehearsals for the concert we decided to read the poetry in between each movement, and I think the overall experience was truly heightened.

My musical partner in crime for this was cellist Jonathan Stabler, an experienced musician who revels in the challenges of performing new music. In addition to my new piece, we put together a program of music that included a diverse range of repertoire for cello and piano, with duets and solo pieces respectively.

This program would take the audience on a musical journey from the Baroque period to present day. We had put in a lot of work in rehearsals and of course the admin and promotion that’s required for putting on a concert! We were very lucky to have in Bath St Swithin’s church in Walcott. A 5 minute walk from the centre of town, this beautiful example of Georgian church architecture also happens to have excellent acoustics and a very fine Yamaha G5 grand piano. Simply not having to worry about the hire of a grand piano was a massive relief, and to find that the piano was also very nice to play, takes even more stress off you as a performer.’

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New Work Premiere

I am very pleased to announce that my new piece Sunset Fan/Sunset Flood will be premiered on Thursday 27 August 2015, at St Swithin’s church, Bath.

Sunset Fan/Sunset Flood started as two poems of the same name written by writer James Roy Blair Anderson, whom I have previously collaborated with on Dust.

The piece is a suite for cello and piano in 4 movements, inspired by the words of the poems. The suite can be performed by itself, but it can also be performed alongside the spoken word.

My good friend Jon Stabler will be playing cello, with me on the piano. As you can see from the poster, there will also be performances of pieces from the repertoire, including Martinu’s evocative Variations on a Slovakian Theme. It is shaping up to be a great night!

If you would like tickets, please contact me via my website. The cost is £5, but you can also turn up on the night and pay on the door. Doors open 7:30pm.

For further details, please visit edwardbettella.com

St Swithin's concert poster

St Swithin’s concert poster

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My Favourite Piano

I recently did a blog for The Piano Shop Bath and thought it was worth sharing here. Enjoy!

As a pianist, you will often find yourself trying out any piano you can, whether it be an old upright in a village hall, or the top of the range Steinway in a concert hall (usually with a sign saying ‘please do not play!) The reason? No two pianos are the same and each have their own story to tell. Even the most ‘perfect’ of pianos may in some ways be too much for your situation in life.

For instance, a Steinway Model D concert grand piano has long been a benchmark for concert pianists, and having played a couple I would thoroughly agree. But you would need the funds and the right kind of living space to own one, and even then it’s almost a crime to have such high level instrument for concerts simply locked away in your home. So with that, I have cast my mind back over the years and picked out a few of the pianos I have enjoyed, and in most cases I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing etc….

Danemann grand piano

This was probably a 1970’s baby grand piano in Rosewood finish, and it sat in my old school’s hall. I used to sneak in most lunchtimes to play, and often the dinner ladies in the adjacent canteen were very complimentary of my Debussy repertoire I was learning at the time! The action was quite light, but extremely responsive. It could play the lightest and fastest of runs with delicacy, and immediately go to full on loud chords. The essential tone of the piano was beautifully clear and resonant, with enough British warmth to give depth to any repertoire. The school raised funds for a new grand piano, and whoever picked the new piano simply did not know anything about pianos: it was absolutely awful. Slow action, muddy sound, the list goes on. Luckily the old Danemann remained in the corner, and it continued to inspire me.

Fazioli F183 grand piano

This is a bit of naughty inclusion, as Fazioli’s are hideously expensive and rare. Hand made in Italy, they only manufacture a certain number every year, but that extra attention to detail has led to top artists putting their name to Fazioli, most notable Maurizio Pollini. This model however, was in a piano auction in Red Lion Square, London. The cost was probably half of RRP, but still way above my peanut pay package! I was working in London at the time and every three months when the piano auction came round, I would treat myself to an extended lunch break to salivate over the various pianos. It’s a great auction and has something for everyone, so if you are in London during viewing times, go check it out. The Fazioli was probably the star lot, being as rare as they are. It was a wonderful piano, with quite a resonant tone, but capable of some really soft tones as well. The action was of course superb and made anything I played easy. It goes without say that a top piano will not make you play better, but it will make life easier for you……

Yamaha C7 grand piano

There has often been a stereotype about Yamaha grand pianos being used for pop records because they have a brighter tone, and therefore by insinuation, unsuitable for classical music which needs more depth. All I know is that I have seen many a great classical artist play on Yamaha grand pianos that sounded exquisite. No two pianos are the same. Here at the Piano Shop Bath we have a wonderful Yamaha C7 grand piano as the flagship of our hire piano fleet. At over 7 foot it produces the kind of volumes needed for solo recitals in large halls and work with orchestras. I have been able to play this piano as part of the student recitals I hold for my piano students every 3 months. The action is extremely responsive, and of course you have the power to produce real volume when necessary. The tone is deep and sonorous in the bass, with lovely sparkling trebles. For my students, it was a rare chance to play a piano that had all these qualities at their fingertips. Instruments like this have the power to inspire, and for children learning the piano this is an essential quality over anything else.

Kawai K6 upright piano

It is hard to reconcile with an upright piano, the more you play on grand pianos. The action and the way the sound is produced is inherently different between an upright and a grand piano. You start to really hear the difference on the bass notes, where the strings are longer on a grand piano, giving more resonance and depth. And with the lid open that sound is coming straight at you and through the air around. Now and again however, you do find upright pianos that have exceptionally good tone, and the Kawai K6 has long been a favourite of mine here at the Piano Shop Bath. It is a big cabinet upright, so it has the necessary string height advantage for those bass strings. I feel the overall tone is as close as you are going to get in an upright piano, and with the K6 the bass strings are sumptuous in their depth and warmth. The action is extremely good and responsive, with a good amount of depth to the key depression, allowing for real variety in nuance in your playing.

My upright piano!

This is not the greatest piano in the world, but it is definitely one of my favourites. A Dietmann upright, this was manufactured sometime in the 1980’s/1990’s in South Africa. It was picked by my old piano teacher who taught me most of what I know, and the more I play it, the more I realise how good an ear he had. The overall tone is warm but with depth, the bass notes are quite good, and the trebles are sparkly. With a good medium action that responds well to all kinds of hell that I throw at it now, this piano has seen me through my first few notes to the advanced repertoire I play now. And of course, now I am teaching kids on this piano and so it has gone full circle. I suppose the conclusion of this piano was how a sound investment inspired me for years after. I know eventually I will need to buy a grand piano, but I am still very sentimental about this upright piano. In a way, that is something inexplicable that will differ from person to person. That’s why pianists will spend a lifetime trying out different pianos, even if they already have their ‘favourite’ piano at home.

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