Watch an exclusive video interview with Paul Crossley.
Listen to an audio version.
Read a synopsis of the interview (below):
Paul talks about his home life. His father was an amateur musician, and started to foster his son's skills from an early age, enrolling him in piano lessons when he was four. Unfortunately his father died suddenly from a heart attack soon after he had begun the lessons, so never realized his son's full potential.
Throughout his schooling life Paul continued to learn and play the piano, but had no ambition to become a professional pianist. No one in his family or at school knew anything about the music world, so had he wanted to be a musician, it would have been like 'wanting to go to the moon'.
Up to the age of 20, Paul was really only interested in contemporary and twentieth century music. Whilst he had learnt the sonatas of Mozart and Haydn as part of his technical development, he had no real interest in them.
His first 'real' teacher never encouraged him to consider a career as a concert pianist. She would always say it was far too "precarious" an ambition for boys, but was fine for girls, as they could always get married if they weren't successful! Paul now admits that this may have been a healthy perspective because it meant he felt no pressure, and therefore always enjoyed his playing.
After completing his schooling, Paul attended Oxford University where he undertook a degree in English, and although he had achieved a high standrd on piano, he chose to maintain his interest in music on the side.
BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL PIANIST…
In the final year of his degree a music festival was held at the University, and Messiaen was the featured composer. This was a turning point in Paul's life, and he discusses his extraordinary meeting with Messiaen and his wife, Yvonne Loriod.
The end result was Paul being invited to study with them in Paris. Whilst he primarily took lessons with Loriod, Messiaen frequently sat in on his lessons.
Over the years, Paul developed a close relationship with Michael Tippett. In many ways he was the closest thing he had to a father figure, and there were few days that passed without the two engaging in conversation, music or otherwise.
He talks about the first work he commissioned from Tippett, and its successful debut in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London - a debut that heralded his rise to fame, resulted in a recording contract, and firmly secured his name on the international stage.
Whilst Tippett made a great impression on Paul, it was a reciprocal relationship, and Paul describes the discussions he had with Tippett on the resonant qualities of the piano, and gives examples of how this may have directly influenced Tippett's compositional style.
Paul practices from 9am to 1pm each day, believing this to be as much as the ear can cope with - fingers can go on forever! When preparing a new work he prefers to play it through end to end, as this gives him some idea of the real shape and architecture of the piece.
As he gets older he feels his technique gets better, and finds that pieces that used to be hard are not so difficult any more.
There is a noticeable difference in his choice of repertoire for the concert hall and for the recording studio, and this is mainly due to the limitations placed on him by orchestras.
In the past, concert hall repertoire was largely dependent on the orchestra's capabilities, coupled with the fact that many symphony orchestras had very tight rehearsal schedules. Paul talks about the evolving standards of orchestras, and how he has had to wait for them to reach a certain level in order to perform modern repertoire in the concert hall.
Paul also discusses the concept of the 'authentic' performance, and the many aspects that make this impossible to achieve - primarily the differing perspectives of the composer, performer, and the listener. He also talks about the changing musical appetites of audiences of today.
ON LEARNING MUSIC…
Crossely believes that every child should be given the opportunity to learn an instrument. The school curriculum requires students to be numerate and be able to read, so too he feels that one ought also be musically literate.
The basis of this thought lies in his reasoning that 'to be able to play a piece of music is endlessly more enjoyable than listening to someone else do it'.