Pianos for Hertford
Julian Clarke (Mathematics, 1967)
We all know that Hertford is a friendly college, from the Principal to the Pussycat, and in between there’s the Development Office too. When the charming girl there asked me to write something about myself and donating I could hardly refuse entirely.
I’m afraid I did everything and nothing at Hertford, being amongst other things captain of the college hockey, chess and bridge teams without being able to concentrate on anything. My most important activity proved to be keeping my hand(s) in on the piano in the Chapel. I had been a pupil of a senior professor of the Royal Academy of Music, who taught me as a hobby on Sundays, and having learnt that I wasn’t destined to be a mathematician I proceeded to play the piano for a living and have done that based in Stuttgart (SW. Germany) for the last 45 years. Accompanying, chamber music and lecture-recitals were my lines, as I couldn’t possibly compete technically with the wizards from the Master Classes. (After a lecture-recital in Austria someone said to me, “We have a Russian here who always gives us a first run of any new programme. You know, technically she can tuck you into her pocket with one hand, but of course musically you are much more worthwhile.”)
There have inevitably been better and worse moments in all the years; it wasn’t wonderful in the Triplex Centre in Manhattan when the massive ventilation, which was still running after the interval, blew my accompaniment off the stand into the blue yonder, but nothing can compare with the day when the Steinway grand piano fell through the stage floor-boards in the Casa Beethoven in Cali, Colombia.
Musicologically I am in the Mozart Studien Vol. 21, 2012 and the Mozart-Jahrbuch 2013 (in German, of course). It’s rather typical (though not 100% my fault) that I have since then been struggling to finish two different larger pieces at the same time. Nil desperandum…
Up till now I have concentrated my donations to the college on pianos for the students to play, as the availability of a real instrument in College was so important to me. But times and needs have changed, and at the moment I leave it to the delightful people in the Office to decide what may be most important for the present and future students. All the best to them!