Pianist / Conductor  Philippe  Entremont

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


Philippe Entremont was born in Reims on June 7, 1934, to musical parents, his mother being a Grand Prix pianist and his father an operatic conductor. Philippe first received piano lessons from his mother at the age of six. His father introduced him to the world of chamber and orchestral music. He studied in Paris with Marguerite Long, and entered the Conservatoire de Paris. He won prizes in sight-reading at age 12, chamber-music aged 14, and piano at 15. He became Laureat at the international Long-Thibaud Competition at the age of 16.

His international career began at the age of eighteen when he came to attention with his great success at New York’s Carnegie Hall playing Jolivet’s Piano Concerto and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Since then, he has pursued a top international career as a pianist, and for the last 30 years, on the podium as well. I


--  Biography (text only) excerpted from Columbia Artists Website  
--  Names which are links in this box and below refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website.  BD  


See my interview with Lang Lang

Though Philippe Entremont had performed with the Chicago Symphony on a few occasions (concerts conducted by Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, and Mario Bernardi), it turned out to be convenient for both of us to meet when he was playing and conducting the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in October of 1997.  The program consisted of the Overture to L
’Italiana in Algeri of Rossini, the Mozart Symphony #39, and the Beethoven Triple Concerto, with Frank Almond, violin, Kim Scholes, cello, and Entremont conducting from the piano.  (Almond and Scholes were the concertmaster and principal cello of the orchestra.)

After a pleasant ninety-mile drive north from Chicago to Milwaukee, we settled in for a conversation.  While I was setting up the cassette recorder, we chatted about some of his many recordings, so that is where we began . . . . . .  . .

Bruce Duffie:   Since we are talking about recordings, do you play the same in the studio as you do in the live concert?

Philippe Entremont:   Oh, certainly.  I have learned over the years not to panic in front of a mike.  It can be very distracting.  First of all, when you have a microphone there, it’s going to be something that is going to be forever.  This is the reflection of one moment which is going to last forever, and it can be pretty disturbing.  Also, in a recording studio you miss the excitement of the live audience.  I’m absolutely convinced that some of the live recordings are very exciting.  I like that very much, and of course, due to economics, more and more recordings are made like that.  But I have learned over the years to treat the microphone more as a friend than an enemy.

BD:   When you’re in the studio, and you can make a few takes, and get just the right one.  Does it get to be too perfect?

entremont PE:   If you start to think that it must be perfect, you are in for big trouble.  It dries out the performance.  You lack any spontaneity.  It no longer artistry.  Just the idea of being perfect is awful.  This is the only way to make wrong notes!  [Laughs]  That’s it.  You have to forget about it.  You have to forget about it, and to play the way you feel.  Let me tell you about the latest ones I have done, all the Beethoven Piano Concertos.  It was amazing.  It was not done bar by bar.  At least half of them were done in a complete take.

BD:   It will surprise people to see that there are six Beethoven concertos when we are so used to five.  The sixth one is the arrangement of the Violin Concerto.  Has Beethoven done a good job of changing a single-lined string instrument into a two-handed piano?  [Notice that the cover illustration of the CD box-set at right shows a hand with six fingers!]

PE:   It’s very difficult for Beethoven to do a bad job in the first place!  [Both laugh]  This is definitely a violin concerto, and it’s sounds marvelously well on the violin.  That we have to admit, but the piano version is very interesting, and we have nothing to fear by playing it.  I liked it very much, and we have a big plus, which is the most extraordinary cadenza that has ever been written.  It is better than that which was written for the Violin Concerto.  It is wonderful for the Piano Concerto.

BD:   So it’s brand new?

PE:   Yes, and this is absolutely fabulous.  Also, the dialogue between the solo piano part and the timpani is absolutely out of this world.

BD:   [With a gentle nudge]  Do you find any violinists trying to hit you over the head for stealing their concerto?

PE:   Yes, of course!  [Gales of laughter]  But my instrument is bigger!  [More laughter]  I can fight back!  No, no, it’s okay.  This is certainly not what we call a repertoire piece for the pianist, but it’s quite interesting to have all the concertos in one box.  That’s for sure.

BD:   Have you played the Choral Fantasy?

PE:   Many times, of course.  It’s really nice, and I always enjoyed doing it very much.

BD:   Talking about your keyboard artistry for a moment, how do you divide your time between performances with orchestra and solo performances in recital?

PE:   As well as I can.  [Laughs]  I am never far from a piano.  First of all, I like to make things extremely clear.  I am a pianist.  I was a pianist.  I am a pianist.  I will always be a pianist.  It has never been my intention to give up the instrument, and this is why I am resistant so far doing opera... and believe me, I am very tempted.

BD:   [Being helpful]  Maybe do one of the Mozart operas, and play the harpsichord continuo.

PE:   Exactly, and not be heard!  [Both laugh]  But the thing is, I like to keep active playing the piano.  I still play recitals.  I still play concertos, and of course, with my own orchestras, I am my own soloist often, so that I am never far.  Also, when I am a guest conductor
and I am guesting a lotthey always ask me to play a Mozart concerto, or a Beethoven concerto, like here in Milwaukee, where we will play the Triple.  It’s wonderful, and I always say it’s so easy, and it’s good to sit down for part of the program.  [Much laughter]

entremont BD:   Have you had the experience of conducting while someone else is playing the piano?

PE:   My God, yes, many, many times.

BD:   Is this off-putting at all?

PE:   No, no, no, not at all.  I have wonderful relationship with my colleagues.  Two weeks ago, Alicia de Larrocha played the Beethoven First Piano Concerto, and it was wonderful to do music with her.  No, I like to play with my colleagues.

BD:   Is it a special meeting of the minds, being a pianist with another pianist, rather than a pianist with a conductor?

PE:   They like it because at least they expect me to know the piece.  [Laughs]  I have done every piano concerto, and I know what it sounds like.  I am putting myself in the shoes of the pianist who plays, and I always try to give them the best accompaniment I can.

BD:   Are there times when another pianist will bring something to the score you didn’t know was there?

PE:   I remember very well a few years ago, I played a Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto one week, and the following week I led the accompaniment of it with another pianist.  It was black and white.  It was absolutely so different, the culture of what he was doing.

BD:   Did that keep you alert on the podium?

PE:   Yes, and it was very interesting.  I never force the soloist to do it my way.  I am there to make him happy.

BD:   So, it’s the soloist that will dictate the ideas?

PE:   That’s right.  It was very, very interesting, and it was valid.  This just goes to prove that there is not one interpretation of a work.  If everybody was playing the same way, it would be terrible.

BD:   Do any of these performances, then, influence your performance when you get to the keyboard?

PE:   No, I don’t think so.  I am well balanced in that way.

BD:   Does your interpretation of a piece change over the course of a career?

PE:   Certainly.  It is what I call a constant evolution.  I certainly play things differently today from the way I was playing them forty, thirty, twenty, even ten years ago.

BD:   When you come back to a concerto after not touching it for ten or fifteen years, do you get a clean score and start over?

PE:   Even if I have played a concerto three days ago, I always look at the score.  I am very careful with that.  There’s always something to discover to keep everything clean.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   You have this immense repertoire to choose from.  How do you decide which scores you’re going to learn, and put into your fingers, and into your mind?

PE:   I know pretty well two or three years in advance what I’m going to play.

BD:   You must have said yes, you will play this, or no I will not play this.  What goes into making the decision?

entremont PE:   I make the choice myself.  I choose the piece I’m going to play, or the piece I’m going to conduct.  Sometimes people ask me if I am willing to direct it, and I am willing or I am not.

BD:   This is what I’m looking for.  How do you decide yes or no?

PE:   This is something that I don’t analyze.  This is just a normal reaction.

BD:   It hits you in the gut, and then you know instantly?

PE:   Yes, I say no, I don’t want to play that now.

BD:   I assume there are pieces that you turned down years ago that you’re coming to now?

PE:   You’d have to go back a long time ago.  It’s very strange that I am considered today as a Mozartian, because it was totally foreign to me when I was young.  It’s very funny.  I always said very strongly that you don’t learn to play Mozart.  Mozart is choosing you.  One day it will happen, and that’s it.  That cannot be learned.

BD:   You either know it or you don’t?

PE:   That’s it.

BD:   So, there is no secret to it?

PE:   No.  To find and understand how simple it is to play Mozart is difficult, but one day it will happen... or it will never happen.  I was fortunate that it did happen.  The light was there one day.  I was thirty-five, not before.

BD:   Are the solo sonatas of Mozart similar or different from his concertos?

PE:   This is Mozart’s music, let’s put it that way.  If I have to refer to it, it’s very difficult to rate Mozart, of course, but at the top for me are the piano concertos and the operas.  There is no doubt about that.  This is really Mozart at his best.

BD:   Not necessarily rating one above the other, are the sonatas and concertos similar to play, or are they different kinds of pieces?

PE:   No, this is definitely Mozart’s style.

BD:   Do you find this also in the symphonies and the divertimentos?

PE:   Same, absolutely the same.  I have analyzed a lot of things about Mozart, and I am very distressed to see that the old-fashioned way of playing still exists sometimes, and I don’t like it.

BD:   It was too romantic?

PE:   Yes.  The slow movement was played so slowly that it dies on the spot.  There’s no more line.  In the second movement of the 39th Symphony, Mozart says andante con moto

BD:   So it has to move!

PE:   Right.  It has to move!  The introduction of the symphony everybody does in eight, and what you have is a C with a line through it, which means alla breve.  The most important thing in Mozart is to keep the line.  The line and the phrasing have to speak freely.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   When you come to a new instrument, how long does it take before that instrument is yours?

PE:   This is a difficult thing for a pianist who travels.  We find very peculiar instruments, to say the least.  For one excellent instrument, we have at least three or four that I call so-so, and two that are really awful.

BD:   [Surprised]  In major places you’ll have an awful instrument???

PE:   Oh, in major places, yes.  I remember very well in Cleveland, when I was recording the Ravel Concerto for the Left Hand with Pierre Boulez, we had to bring a piano from Chicago.  There was not a single good piano there for years.

entremont BD:   Would that make you turn down another engagement in Cleveland?

PE:   No, but the situation must be corrected.  Today the piano situation is much better than it was a few years ago, that’s no doubt.

BD:   Is that because the pianists have complained to Steinway?

PE:   [Leaning in, as if to say it surreptitiously]  Do you think pianists are listened to?  [Both laugh]

BD:   One would think the piano company would listen to their artists.

PE:   I don’t think so.

BD:   When you come to the piano, is it immediate that it’s yours, or do you have to work at it at bit?

PE:   You have to adjust yourself to the instrument, and you must have a very positive attitude.  It can really destroy your life not having the perfect instrument, and you have to think positive, very positive.  If the instrument is not good, you have to deal with it.

BD:   Just do the best you can?

PE:   The best you can.  What else can you do?  Try to do the best you can, but certainly don’t give up.  Even when the instrument is not good, you can find something that makes it palatable.

BD:   Do you ever wish that you could just fold up your piano from home, put it in your pocket, and bring it with you?

PE:   No, because I don’t have a particularly good piano at home!  [Laughs]  For years I really desperately tried not to have a good piano at home so as not to be disappointed on the road.

BD:   Then, wherever you find the best or the most compatible piano, would you like to carry that with you?

PE:   Yes, and no.  I have traveled with a piano, and I like the instrument in one place, and I wasn’t too happy with the same instrument in another place.  It depends on so many things including the climate and the humidity.  It’s strange, but it is the way it is.

BD:   Do you play differently in a large hall and small hall?

PE:   I’m not crazy about small halls because some of the instruments are really too big for a small hall.  I don’t like a huge hall ever, except for very exceptionally good acoustics, like the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and the Ann Arbor Hall at the University of Michigan.  It’s a huge hall but with a wonderful acoustic.  There’s a wonderful place in Chicago, the Auditorium Theater, which is a huge place but acoustically it’s very good.  That’s a marvelous place.  You can really play a recital very comfortably there.

BD:   [With a gentle nudge]  Is it good for a pianist to be comfortable?

PE:   [With a big grin]  Yes.  I am very sensitive to what is around me, including the ornaments.  If the hall is ugly, let me tell you I don’t feel well.

BD:   [With mock shock]  I trust you don’t play the music in an ugly fashion, then...

PE:   [Smiles]  No, but I don’t feel well.  If the hall is beautiful, it’s okay.

BD:   Are audiences different from city to city and country to country?

PE:   Yes, but a little bit less now than it was years ago.   Audiences have a tendency, as I say, to become ‘Hiltonised’.  [Much laughter]  You go to from Holland to Canada, and you find the same place, but some of the public is still amazingly good.  If I single out one country, it would be Holland, the Netherlands.  There I find a marvelous public, absolutely marvelous.

BD:   Because they’re attentive?

PE:   They like what they hear, and they have very open ears.  They have a wonderful public in Vienna, too, but you have to give them a certain repertoire, a repertoire they know, they like, and they like to hear all the time.

BD:   The Dutch public has a great reputation for new music.

PE:   The Dutch public is absolutely wonderful with new music, absolutely wonderful.  It’s exceptional.  I am a great fan of the Dutch public.

BD:   Are you a great fan of new music?

PE:   Yes!  Oh, yes, and much more now in my later years than when I was young.  Usually this is the contrary, but since I arrived in Amsterdam, I have done a lot of new music, and I like it very much.

BD:   Then, let me come back to the same question I asked before.  Especially with new music this is even more tricky.  How do you decide whether you will spend the time learning this new piece and accept it, or if you will say no, it should by somebody else?

PE:   I choose it myself, and nobody can accuse me of sectarianism.  That means I am open, so I’m not going to say I’m going to play only this kind of music, and I reject everything else.  I consider before completely different style the composing.  I did that in Amsterdam with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra three weeks ago.  On the program were four new works, four world premieres by four composers that were totally different.

The four composers were Jeff Hamburg (born 1956 in Philadelphia, based in the Netherlands since 1978); Joep Straesser (1934-2004), who wrote organ works and chamber works for specialized ensembles; Hans Kox (1930- ), who has written a wide range of instrumental and vocal music; and Robert Zuidam (1954- ), who studied at Tanglewood with Lukas Foss and Oliver Knussen, and won a Koussevitzky composition prize, and was a visiting professor at Harvard.

This is what is interesting because they were from neo-classicists to something very advanced.  But they were four very good pieces, and that was exciting.  It was a Hell of a week for me to put that together, but it was very interesting.

*     *     *     *     *

entremont BD:   Where is music going today?

PE:   [Thinks a moment]  As long as you will find composers who are willing to express themselves
I won’t say in a conventional way, but in a way to make themselves attractive to the audience, attractive to the earsit will be okay.  Please, though, do not rely too much mathematics, or any system.  Since you ask, I truly think the situation is better now.  The worst is dead, at least I hope so.

BD:   What advice do you have for a composer who wants to write for either the orchestra or the keyboard?

PE:   Now, people are writing better for the orchestra than they write for the keyboard.  I am not sure, but we may have reached the limit of the instrument.

BD:   [Genuinely shocked]  Really???

PE:   I can
t do more.  You play with the elbows, you play with all the clusters...

BD:   Reaching in the guts of the piano?

PE:   That’s right.

BD:   You don’t like all of that?

PE:   Even if it is well done, it can be very interesting, that’s for sure, but what else can we do with the piano today?

BD:   Is the instrument itself being improved at all, or have we reached the limit?

PE:   The modern piano as we know has reached the limit.  That’s it.  What’s going to be the next step, I don’t know.

BD:   Digital keyboards?

PE:   The Digital piano is going to play quarter tones, etc., different varieties of sound.  It will be a different instrument, but the piano as we have it now has reached the limits.

BD:   Let us head the other direction.  Have you used harpsichords, or fortepianos, or any of the very old instruments?

PE:   I don’t like fortepianos at all.

BD:   Why not?

PE:   This is a transition instrument that displeases me entirely.  I’m crazy about the harpsichord because it is an instrument, not an experiment.  As a comparison, the fortepiano is like a 1910 airplane compared with the Boeing or the Concorde we are flying today.  [Much laughter]  I don’t find any enjoyment with the fortepiano, absolutely zero!  I am utterly convinced that if the composers like Beethoven or even Chopin could hear their works played on the instrument that we have today, they would find them a joy.

BD:   But music for the harpsichord should be played on a harpsichord?

PE:   Absolutely, because this is an instrument in itself.  The harpsichord was a marvelous instrument, and is still a lovely instrument.  Even some of the composers today write for harpsichord, and that’s very good, very, very good.

BD:   I would think it would be very difficult to go from the touch of the Steinway to the different touch of a harpsichord.

entremont PE:   To play the harpsichord is completely different from playing the piano.  First of all, the keys are smaller, and you have to adjust yourself to the spread of your hand as well.  It’s difficult.  I have played the harpsichord myself, not only for fun but in concerts.  The first time I played the harpsichord was at the Vienna Festival, with the Brandenburg No. 5, and you know how difficult the harpsichord part is.  I practiced the harpsichord like crazy for three months.

BD:   Did that mess you up for your piano concerts during that period?

PE:   No, I could adjust very well to the piano.  For me it was difficult to keep adjusting to the harpsichord, but I loved it, I just loved it.

BD:   Is it at all like moving from a violin to a viola?

PE:   In a way, yes, you’re right.

BD:   As a pianist you have to understand the piano, but when you conduct you have to understand and be sensitive to everything, including the strings and the woodwinds and brass and percussion.

PE:   Of course.  Yes to all that.  Contrary to what people think, it’s not a minus or a plus for a pianist to be a conductor because we have extremes, too.  The range of the piano is so big, and we are not only sensitive to the strings.  We have to be sensitive to every instrument in the orchestra.  Look at the number of pianists who are conductors, or whose main instrument was the piano... it is a lot, except for Toscanini, who was a cellist, and Zubin Mehta, who was a double bassist.

BD:   [Pointing out another of the very few non-pianists]  Gerard Schwarz was a trumpet player.

PE:   Yes.

BD:   Is it good for an instrumentalist to get into conducting?

PE:   If they are talented, yes.  If they are not, they should stay with their instrument because one thing is sure, you don’t learn to be a conductor.

BD:   Really???

PE:   You’re born as one, or forget it.  It’s true!  You have to have to gestate.  You can learn play an instrument because you have an instrument at home.  You spend hours working at the instrument, but you don’t have an orchestra at home just to practice.

BD:   So, you have to come to the orchestration fully formed?

PE:   Absolutely.  You have to have what we call the natural arm.  It’s very difficult.

BD:   Too difficult?

PE:   No, it’s not.  It’s very difficult, and very easy, because this is one thing you don’t learn.

BD:   You either are, or you aren’t.

PE:   That’s right.  [Much laughter]

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   You’ve done some judging of contests.  What do you look for in a young pianist?

PE:   I am very close to young artists, and I try to help them as much as I can.  I hate competitions, but, unfortunately, this is the only way today for a young artist to have the chance to be heard by the critics, or some conductors, or to have their name in the newspaper.  This is the only way you can be known today, and it’s not always the first prize winner that is going to be the star of tomorrow.  But the competitions, for me, are absolutely the pits.

entremont BD:   But when you’ve judged them, what do you look for?

PE:   I’m not a judge, but I have been on a jury in a competition four times in my life.  For me it’s not difficult.  I have done the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition once [as noted in the biography at the top of this webpage, Entremont won this competition at age 16], the Van Cliburn once, and the Santander Competition twice.  That’s all, just four, and I have no plans to do any more in the future.  First of all, I have no time.  It’s very difficult to find the time, and the whole concept doesn’t please me
not only the competitors, but also the jury.  There is a sort of professional jury that always chooses the same people, and also finds the competitors, too.  It’s like the golf circuit.

BD:   Are we turning out too many pianists that are much the same?

PE:   [Thinks a moment]  For a competition, the jury must decide often in a way that is very distressing.  They are looking for the guy who plays very well.  This is the one who is making the fewest wrong notes.  It’s the guy who doesn’t make waves.

BD:   That’s too bad.

PE:   That’s right, and it’s very disturbing.

BD:   I would think you would want the most exciting artist.

PE:   Yes, somebody who has something to say, but very few have something to say.  If you look at the competition to date, the quality of piano playing, or violin playing, or whatever instrument, has gone up tremendously.  Then you look at the number of pianists in a competition who play the Liszt Sonata that you yourself cannot do as well, or they play the Rachmaninov No. 3, and Pictures at an Exhibition.  They always play the same three or four pieces.  They play them to death, and that’s it.  Everybody plays well, but I am looking for more than that.  I am looking for somebody who has something extra to say.  Just this morning, before going to the rehearsal, I was just listening on the radio and heard the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto.  I stopped everything and thought,
It’s so well played!  The artistry was there, and I was so pleased.  When it ended, I found out it was Murray Perahia!  [Both laugh]  But, you know, that’s it!  This is what makes the difference between being a pianist and a being an artist.  I thanked Perahia, and for twenty minutes I was very happy.

BD:   Are you happy when you play?

PE:   That I don’t know.  I hope I make people happy.  Yes, at times I am very happy, because if I feel well and if everything goes well, this is fabulous.  It’s great.  You have to enjoy yourself to communicate.

BD:   I assume you have to enjoy the music, too?

PE:   That’s it.  The music, yourself, all of it.

BD:   Are there times when it all comes together?

PE:   Oh, yes.

BD:   Are there enough of those times?

PE:   [With a broad smile]  Oh, come on, yes!  I wouldn’t be here today if there wasn
t.  I wouldn’t be with you today.  I would have done something else.

BD:   Let me ask a really easy question.  What is the purpose of music?

PE:   Music is a fabulous language.  It has no barriers.  It is something that can be enjoyed by anybody in the world.  There is no work.  It’s a sound, and it’s so good for you.  Look at the number of doctors who see the misery or death at hospitals.  They are a basic audience for us.  Music is good for them.  They all say that.  There’s a book called The Mozart Effect.  I don’t know if you have heard about it, but it’s absolutely true.  My son is a doctor, and he always says to me that without music life would be impossible.  It’s good.  It cleans you.  Like anybody, I have headaches, and I’m in a bad mood sometimes... more than sometimes!  [Both laugh]  I might have a dull day, or a bad trip, because our life is not easy.  If you think traveling by air today is better than it was forty years ago, you’re totally mistaken.

BD:   It’s just faster?

PE:   It’s just faster, but we have a lot of trouble.  Generally when I come home
not often unfortunatelyI’ve just had it.  I just sit there and I play something.  That is what is so great.

BD:   Are there times when you have to get away from the music completely?

PE:   Yes, yes.  If you do something very intensely
as when I have two rehearsals in a day, and then practice a little bitafter that I like to close myself to music for an hour.  But I go back in a hurry!

*     *     *     *     *

entremont BD:   You say you’re so busy.  Do you allow yourself enough time for rest, and for family, and to learn new repertoire?

PE:   I am learning new repertoire.  For that I have no choice, especially being a conductor, because I am doing new things, and I am very curious.  It would be awful for me to stay with the same repertoire all the time, that’s for sure.  But other than that, I really try to live the life of a normal guy.  I don’t close myself off to other things.  I know many musicians who just are thinking of music, and speaking only about music.  They even sleep with music!  [Both laugh]  They also marry musicians!  [More laughter]  I’m not like that at all.  When I’m at home, and when I am with family
my son and my daughter and my wifewe talk about everything except music.  I don’t feel the urge to talk about musicexcept like today!  [Even more laughter]

BD:   But this is a professional engagement, of course.

PE:   Yes, but I like this kind of conversation because I’m talking to somebody who knows it very well.  That is when I like to share.

BD:   [Feeling honored]  Thank you.  Where’s home for you?

PE:   Paris.

BD:   Do you get back there enough?

PE:   No, but at least I have no professional activities there.  I don’t have an orchestra there, and by choice I play very little in Paris.  I go to Paris to have peace, and in spite of being a Paris resident, I see Paris with the eyes of somebody who is never there
like a stranger.  It’s the most beautiful city in the world.  It’s wonderful, it’s absolutely wonderful.

BD:   In some of your positions you are Music Director as well as just Conductor.  Do you like the administrative responsibilities of being Music Director?

PE:   No.  I am very fortunate that my main activity is the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, where I have a marvelous staff who really make sure that the only thing I do is music.  When we do the programming, it’s easy.  I work well with the people I have there.  They are the best, and it’s really a joy.  For what you call ‘administrative duties’, I tell them what I want, and they give it to me.  I just do music.

BD:   Are you at the point in your career that you want to be at this age?

PE:   The thing about age is mistaken.  No, I don’t think about that.  I am 63, and so what?  I have always the feeling that life started the day that I am in.  I feel young.

BD:   Good.  Music keeps you young?

PE:   Certainly, there is no doubt.  Curiosity for the scores, and emotionally, ah, it’s wonderful.  We are blessed.  We do something that is a gift from Our Lord upstairs, and it’s wonderful to live with something that we love so much.  It’s not work.  Of course we work a lot, but it’s wonderful.

BD:   When you’re playing the piano, are you sitting at an instrument, or does that instrument become part of you?

PE:   The chair is very important.  [Much laughter]  No, I am not avoiding the question but I have been the victim of so many bad chairs that the piano wasn’t definitely coming to me.  But yes, you’re right
you are part of the instrument.  The piano doesn’t come to you.  You go to the piano.  The piano doesn’t come to you at all.  You have to go to it.

BD:   I assume you wouldn’t have it any other way?

PE:   No, no!  No, no, no, no, no, no!  No way!

BD:   Thank you so very much for the conversation.  I appreciate it.

PE:   It was an immense pleasure.


© 1997 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 15, 1997.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1999.  This transcription was made in 2019, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.