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The Real Pianola - January 2002 at the Barbican, London

The Barbican Centre in London hosted a weekend (18-20 January 2002) devoted to the music of the American composer, John Adams, the man who wrote Grand Pianola Music, not for Pianola, and the piano concerto Century Rolls without rolls!!  Andrew Clements, writing in the London Guardian, claims that Adams had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he wrote Grand Pianola Music, but to pursue the theme to a second work does seem extraordinary.

It was, therefore, only right and proper that a real pianola should make its appearance during this series of events, and who better to be in charge than Rex Lawson? The foyer concert, from 6pm to 7pm on Saturday 19 January attracted a large audience, all happy to stand or sit on the floor, many remaining for the whole hour.

After the concert, everyone wants to know how it works!

Lawson's well-balanced programme ranged from solo piano works, through orchestral transcriptions, to modern works specially composed for the instrument. What a pity that Adams had not been invited to listen to at least part of Lawson's real Pianola playing. He would surely have enjoyed it - and it might even have inspired him to write a work for the genuine article.

As has become pretty much a tradition, at the end of the concert, an eager group engaged Rex in a good half hour's discussion on the whys and wherefores of the Pianola. And so another group of music lovers went away more aware of Pianola music - Grand or otherwise!

88-note rolls of the following works played at this concert may be purchased from Wolfgang Heisig at www.heisigrollen.de. Please quote reference BC1

  • Shepherd's Hey (specially arranged for the Pianola) Grainger
  • Vltava (Ma Vlast) Smetana
  • Duettino Concertante (Finale of Piano Concerto, K459) Mozart/Busoni
  • Toccata for Mechanical Piano Hindemith

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