Paul Lewis: “The Energy That an Audience Gives to a Performance Is Unique; It’s Irreplaceable”
Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Purdue University Fort Wayne, Indiana.
This interview with acclaimed pianist Paul Lewis delves into his musical journey, from early memories of a toy organ to formal education at Chetham’s School of Music and the Guildhall School of Music in London. Lewis reflects on pivotal moments, including interactions with master pianist Alfred Brendel, competitions, and the gradual unfolding of his career in the 1990s. The conversation then shifts to the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on his relentless schedule, providing an unexpected opportunity for self-reflection and a reassessment of life priorities.
Lewis discusses the challenges posed by the pandemic, the initial attempts to maintain normalcy, and the subsequent realization of the need for a reset. The interview explores Lewis’s upcoming projects, including performances of Beethoven concerto cycles and Schubert sonata series. As he contemplates the future, Lewis emphasizes the importance of balancing his previous nervous energy for performing with newfound reflections on family and home.
The conversation extends to broader issues affecting musicians, such as the complexities of untangling composers from their compositions and the impact of Brexit on the music scene in the UK. Lewis shares insights into the practical difficulties faced by musicians post-Brexit, shedding light on the bureaucratic challenges and the potential repercussions for the classical music landscape.
Addressing the future of classical music, Lewis expresses optimism grounded in the unique connection between performers and live audiences. He emphasizes the irreplaceable energy and shared experience that live performances offer, despite the challenges posed by an aging classical music audience and the recent shift to online platforms during the pandemic.
The interview concludes with Lewis sharing details about his upcoming projects, including a comprehensive exploration of Schubert’s sonatas, blending the Copland Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and the release of the second volume of his Joseph Haydn — Piano Sonatas album. Lewis offers valuable advice to young musicians, emphasizing the importance of learning extensive repertoire early in their careers and cultivating patience for long-term growth and development.