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Stravinsky's Rite of Spring - March 2004 in Antwerp

Friends of the Pianola Institute, Mort Lipman from San Diego, and Rona Eastwood from London, enjoying a trip to Antwerp for Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

Denis Hall, Rex Lawson, several Friends of the Pianola Institute and two 88-note Pianolas made the journey to Antwerp in Belgium for a seamless performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, at a special Stravinsky day organised by de Singel concert hall. As well as the pianola performance, there were orchestral concerts of Petrushka, Les Noces and many other works, and chamber music recitals throughout the day. Mort Lipman now holds the record for the longest journey made by a Friend of the Pianola Institute in order to attend a music roll concert - San Diego to Antwerp!

As ever after such concerts, Denis Hall explains the mysteries of the Pianola to an inquisitive audience.

A perspiring Rex Lawson does the same, shortly after the intense physical exercise of the Danse Sacrale!

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Royal New Zealand Ballet tour of Great Britain -
April/May 2004

Milagros - Xaver de Frutos' Setting of the Rite of Spring.

In late April and early May 2004, the Royal New Zealand Ballet toured Great Britain with a repertoire of four ballets, including Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, and Milagros, choreographed by Javier de Frutos, and set to Stravinsky's piano roll version of the Rite of Spring. The recording used for the performances was Rex Lawson's 1990 CD, now no longer available, on the Carlton Classics label. Riveting choreography made this a very powerful performance, especially with the high dynamic level of the music.

Paul Usher's Nancarrow Concerto - November 2004 in Cologne

Rex Lawson and Conlon Nancarrow in London in the late 1980s.

On Saturday 13 November 2004, the world premiere of Paul Usher's Nancarrow Concerto for Pianola and Ensemble was given in the concert hall of West German Radio in Cologne. The work was performed by Ensemble Modern, conducted by Kasper de Roo, with Rex Lawson as the pianola soloist.

Conlon Nancarrow, the revolutionary American player-piano composer, met Rex in London in the 1980s and, as a result of the ensuing friendship, decided to write a concerto for player-piano and orchestra. In preparation he composed a series of three new studies for player-piano, numbers 49a, 49b and 49c, and made many sketches for the instrumental accompaniment.

But Nancarrow's health was not the best, and he never finished the project. However, West German Radio (WDR) and Ensemble Modern jointly commissioned the young English composer, Paul Usher, who, with the blessing of Nancarrow's widow, Yoko Nancarrow, completed the work. Usher examined and copied all Nancarrow's surviving sketches at the Paul Sacher-Stiftung in Basel, and, with a judicious sprinkling of his own imagination, created a stunning four movement work entitled Nancarrow Concerto, which goes far beyond any previous keyboard concerto in the complexity of sound and rhythm produced by the piano.

The solo part of the Concerto is contained on five music rolls, prepared by Rex Lawson in London, and perforated by Wolfgang Heisig in Saxony, having travelled the many hundreds of miles in between as email attachments. After the first performance, Nancarrow Concerto was also given at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt.

Rex Lawson, Paul Usher and Kasper de Roo drink a toast to the memory of Conlon Nancarrow, after the successful first performance of Nancarrow Concerto.

As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported, musiclovers surrounded the Pianola at the end of the concert in Frankfurt. Somewhere in here is the pianola player...

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