The first thing I think about when I wake up is…
How many weeks, days, hours, minutes until we go to press? I like to begin early, so I’m usually at my desk at 8am. This means I can get all those newly arrived emails (I receive around 150 emails a day) dealt with before the phone starts ringing come 9.30am.
Looking at my ‘To do’ list from yesterday, I see I’ve crossed off half the bullet points. Not bad. This means I have the other half to do today, plus several new items. It’s the middle of Pianist’s eight-week production cycle, so one would imagine things are relatively peaceful, but no. I’m already planning the Scores section for the issue after this one. I’m always looking for a really good combination of pieces. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle – finding 40 pages of sheet music for all levels, with different musical styles and techniques. I don’t want to end up with too many French pieces for example, or too many pieces in tricky keys, or even too many in waltz time. I make sure to play all the pieces (it keeps my sight-reading in shape!), as it’s important I know how they feel in the hands.
I liaise constantly with Chenyin Li, the wonderful pianist who records the pieces for Pianist’s covermount album. She’s eager to start learning the pieces, and it’s important that she, too, likes my repertoire choices. Then I need to make sure that I book the recording studio, the sound engineer and the tuner, and send the list of pieces off to the typesetter. Everything is sorted now for the foundation of the next issue’s scores.
Outside the Royal College of Music before a recording session with Chenyin Li
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The process of getting an article ready
Now back to the articles for this issue (119, Feb/March 2021) I’ve just received a Makers & Making article from John Evans. It’s great and there’s very little fact checking to do, but I still have to sub it intricately. I’m extremely proud of the design of Pianist and always push our designer, Nathan Ward, to the limits. Luckily, he is very creative, and he can take even the most mundane of images and turn them into art (let’s face it, there are only so many ways to photograph a piano). There’s a lot of back and forth between my small but loyal team, especially close to deadlines. Ellie Palmer, our online editor, is my second (and very able) pair of eyes: When the pages are laid out, she proofs them with utter dedication.
The phone rings constantly throughout the day. Being interrupted to do something urgent is the name of the game. I often promise myself that I’ll spend the next two hours just writing an article, but that rarely happens. I always think that it’s important to answer the phone; if it’s a reader calling, even better – I like receiving feedback. And emails always keep pouring in: the printers need this, the marketing manager needs that, the Barbican’s head of press needs to know if I can attend the concert of a lifetime next week (it’s Krystian Zimerman performing all five Beethoven Concertos with Rattle and the LSO – sublime!). Melanie Spanswick and Lucy Parham have sent in their articles too, and I need to find the time to read then in a relaxed fashion. It’s no good skimming over copy. I want to look at my huge ideas file too. I have so many ideas for future articles and series.
Oh, and I need to watch Graham Fitch’s latest video lesson.
With Graham Fitch at a recording session at Steinway Hall, London
My Lang Lang interview went very well last month (November 2020). We did it over Zoom – it was so great to see him and he seemed to like my questions. You can check out my interview with him inside issue 117. I’m glad with the way the cover has turned out. Cover images always have to be spot-on and eye-catching.
Backstage with Lang Lang, May 2011
I try to eat healthily during the day, so it’s lots of fruit and salad. I love my sugar, though, and by the afternoon I need a bit of Turkish Delight or some jelly beans to keep going.
Perks of the job
This year has of course been very challenging. Right now, under normal circumstances, I’d be going to the Steinway Christmas party. But alas, social distancing has kept us all apart. It’s important to attend such events, to do the networking. I go to a lot of concerts (one of the perks of the job) and I’ve heard some phenomenal performances. For this alone, I feel so lucky. I’ve met pianists that I could have only dreamt of meeting: Argerich, Barenboim, Sokolov, Brendel, Kissin, Ashkenazy. (I’ve even seen the late Rostropovich in his pyjamas, but that’s another story.) Let’s hope that 2021 will allow me to meet – and hear – them live once more.
With the magnificent Martha Argerich, August 2019
And as I turn the office light out at the end of a busy but thrilling day, what’s the last thing in my mind? DEADLINES!
October 2021 marks 20 years of Pianist Magazine! Download our latest issue (122), our birthday issue, today.
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