Thomas Trotter rehearsing my Toccata Festiva on the organ of Birmingham Town Hall in March 2012 (with me as page turner). He gave the world premiere later that day.
Here’s the great Victor Borge in a rarely seen routine with the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1986. He is one of my comedy heroes and I was lucky enough to appear with him in a sketch we did back in 1974 for a London Weekend Television special.
A masterclass in comic timing – Jimeoin’s debut on Live at the Apollo.
The forgotten Peggy Cochrane (1902-88), a big star in her day, equally at home on the violin as she was on the piano – and this early electric keyboard.
Is this the funniest TV sketch of all time? No wonder the patient is corpsing all the way through…
This is the great American organist Virgil Fox (1912-80) playing a solo arrangement of the last movement of the Sinfonie Concertante by Joseph Jongen. There are a few smudges and the audio / visual synch is hopelessly out, but this is a sensational performance.
I originally wrote this song in 1980 and have been updating it ever since. This is an arrangement by the marvellous Cantabile…with illustrations.
Here is Jack Gibbons playing the first movement of Alkan’s Concerto for Solo Piano. It’s one of the most technically and physically challenging works ever written for the keyboard and is rarely performed because of that. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but up there with my personal all-time favourite pieces.
The great Teddy Brown (1900-46), all 400 lbs of him!
This is a scene from the 1933 film of The Good Companions. Start the clip at 5:27. John Gielgud (Inigo Jollifant) is doodling at the piano (it really is him playing) when in comes Mr Milbrau, the music rep played by the one and only Max Miller. It’s a wonderful 90 second cameo – a very modern performance in a way. Gielgud knew he didn’t have a chance in this scene and was going to be acted off the screen – and so asked it to be shot entirely from behind. Good call.
I never missed a Cherkassky recital if I could help it. He was a one-off, inimitable, mercurial and unpredictable. Few have dished up such delectable encores. This one is by his teacher, the great Josef Hofmann. ‘Kaleidoscop’ [sic] is the last of his four Charakterskizzen dedicated to his friend Leopold Godowsky.
Judy Garland singing ‘It Never Was You’ from Knickerbocker Holiday, a beautiful song with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson and music by Kurt Weill. The song was recorded and filmed in one take on a movie set made to look like the London Palladium stage. Garland apparently sang this live on the set (accompanied by jazz pianist Dave Lee) in the 1963 film I Could Go On Singing (her last movie).
This is the great Byron Janis (b. 1928) at the height of his powers in the 1960s playing the last movement of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor. The piece was one of Janis’s specialities and this is a truly stunning account up there with Horowitz, Argerich, Van Cliburn and the composer himself. Tragically Janis’s career was curtailed when, in the early 1970s, he suffered increasingly from psoriatic arthritis. He struggled with this painful condition for twelve years before going public after a performance at the White House in February 1985.
Here is Foster Brooks (1912-2001), an American comic who specialised in lovable drunks. Is this the best stage drunk you’ve ever seen?