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Roger Woodward

Roger Woodward is one of Australia’s greatest pianists. After decades travelling the world, he finds home when he sits down to play and will be bringing his world-class performance to Darwin this August.  

You’re a classical pianist, but do you play other styles of music? Can you liven up a dinner party with a pop song? 
I toured with Cecil Taylor (New York jazz pianist) and sometimes like to fool around with friends, improvising a kind of music that is created on the margins between recent jazz and experimental classical improvisation. Together with James Morrison and other friends it was fun having a crack at that genre earlier in my career, when I also worked with Frank Zappa at the Hollywood Bowl. I also composed and improvised my own music, which was premiered at the Festival d’Automne à Paris. Apart from such music-making adventures, I was content, however, to stay at home with the classical greats, sharing the great beauty of their timeless melodies. 

When you’ve been playing piano for so long, can you say that you’ve achieved everything that you’d like to in your career?  
There’s a long way to go yet. No sooner do I play a piece which I know well – than it reveals yet another aspect of itself or secret moment about its creative origins, life and vicissitudes. It’s probably impossible to know a work of art so well that you have completed the visit to the galaxy of meaning it holds within itself. 

Musicians have such important connections with the instruments they play – so what’s it like having to adapt to different pianos wherever you play?  
The celebrated Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter was once asked this very same question, and I felt his answer was exactly the one I and many other pianists would also have given – namely, that we take whatever piano is presented to us as fate. The technician who prepares the instrument beforehand has their own responsibilities of course and their commitment has a very big influence on determining the outcome of a concert, but when I sit and first play an instrument I am asking it questions; not imposing myself upon it. I want it to reveal its possibilities including an emotional range extending from intimacy to grandeur and the celestial heights of its existence. I then tune into its possibilities as I tune into myself… and take it from there.  

Tell us about the show audiences can expect in Darwin. 
Well, I want to open the concert by sharing that same feeling I always experience when I come to this beautiful part of the world, where the visual turquoise expanse embraces the timeless, looking towards distant, exotic, cultures. So I want to begin with a work by Debussy (a great friend of Monet), which was composed in 1903. Entitled Estampes (engraved images from wooden or copper plates) it consists of three pieces. ‘Pago-des’ depicts a visit to an ecstatic oriental temple; the second, ‘Evening in Granada’, takes us to the south of Spain. The third, ‘Gardens in the Rain’, depicts a Parisian summer garden before a sudden deluge. Debussy composed Estampes before his symphonic masterpiece La Mer, which is very close to his similar reverence for nature where the sea meets sky in all its various moods.

Thu 2 Aug | 8pm | Darwin Entertainment Centre | See the event listing

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