Groupie for Suite No. 6

This is not about a luxurious hotel suite somewhere in a remote, romantic hideaway where I spent a wonderful weekend.

No, this is about Bach and one of his English suites, not the average suite played by a ‘lambda’ pianist. I have always preferred Bach’s English suites over his French suites, not because they are more complex or difficult, but because the musical structure touches me more deeply.

And among the English suites, I have a very special appreciation for No. 6. I have listened to numerous recordings from well-established pianists and my favourite has long been the one by Glenn Gould, until the day I heard Piotr Anderszewski’s – a revelation.

No, I am not going to describe in multiple paragraphs the complexity, colours, delicacy, expressionism or whatever of the execution of the suite. I am not qualified for this particular task, as I am neither a professional music critic nor a journalist.

The only thing I know is that when Piotr plays the No. 6, I can feel butterflies in my tummy!
And I suspect I’m not the only one.

Last month, when Piotr held his first recital in Shanghai, with No. 6 featured on the programme, I knew I could not possibly miss such an important event. I have a reputation for being a die-hard sans gêne groupie, but in Shanghai, I met my match.

The concert took place at the Shanghai Concert Hall. Chinese audiences are still learning when it comes to attending public performances, and although their behaviour has improved tremendously of late, it can still be annoying for performers to hear people talking, moving about, coughing and clapping at the wrong times. Nevertheless, after the concert, the audience was wonderfully enthusiastic and queued up very quickly for the autograph session.

I was hanging around observing the crowd and silently commiserating with Piotr who, after giving his all in a demanding programme consisting of Bach, Schumann and Chopin, still had to undergo an hour of CD-signing and posing for photographs.

In the long queue that had formed before Piotr, my attention became fixed on a girl wearing a Snow White backpack and a Sailor Moon hairdo. When at last she appeared face to face with Piotr, she quietly stood before him, watching him sign his autograph. She stared at Piotr’s hand, touching his fingers, holding them first, then clung to his arm, as if eager not to let the moment end. Piotr then lifted her over the table and placed her on his lap!

The rest of the signing session seemed to glow after that moment between Piotr and Jennifer – yes, that’s her name – who loves taking piano lessons. She is five years old.

This represents the magic of No. 6! No age boundaries, no inhibitions – just love rising from your gut, as best expressed by body language.

And what a wonderful way to approach artists. Jennifer is now my idol.

I think I will adopt her strategy, although I might do without a Snow White backpack and a Sailor Moon hairdo!

Bach: English Suite No. 6, Gavotte I

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  1. Photos were awesome, and so was your astute observation! To me, this episode represents the essence of a live performance : instinctive, non-verbal and non-cerebral connection with one’s audience. Bravo to Piotr and Jennifer!

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