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This varied collection of conversations with pianists of different ages and career achievements includes telling portraits of Malcolm Bilson, Alexander Gavrylyuk, Maria João Pires, Boris Giltburg, Benjamin Grosvenor, Claire Huangci, Conrad Tao, Jonathan Plowright and dozens of others.

Few are more opinionated than the Austrian Jörg Demus (b 1928), who in 2015 explains that as a young artist, he appeared on the doorstep of Yves Nat, demanding lessons. Later, when Demus asked Nat why he had been accepted as a pupil, the mystifying response was: ‘I really liked your nose.’ Demus also slates the Canadian Glenn Gould as a ‘distorter, and in music a distorter is worse than someone that plays badly.’

In a chat from 2017, an altogether jollier Arcadi Volodos notes: ‘My favorite pianist of all time, Vladimir Sofronitsky, once made a joke about programme choice: “Deciding on a programme is harder than playing it”.’

Many interviews, especially of youthful performers, are self-serious, career-minded accounts. A few glints of humour do emerge, as when John Lill explains that at age 18, he performed Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto with Adrian Boult. Lill was ‘also playing timpani with the college orchestra, and when I first arrived for the rehearsal, Boult thought I was just the percussionist. It was the fashion at the time for conductors to be rude to orchestral players and treat soloists much more respectfully, and Boult was shouting at me for doing the timpani for the Beethoven Ninth – he got red in the face and was quite rude. Then when I came back the next day as piano soloist, he was quite surprised, since he had thought I was only the percussionist. He was suddenly polite, and the contrast was quite amusing.’

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