In this article PH Magazine discusses the PH Grand Piano with Composer, Pianist and PH Pianos Brand Ambassador Alice Thompson.
PH Magazine: Alice, you are a contemporary classical composer making solo piano music. Tell us about how you first discovered the Poul Henningsen designed PH Piano…
AT: Rather like Søren (CEO, PH Pianos), the first time I encountered the PH Piano it was completely unexpected. At the end of 2013, I remember visiting the Blüthner showroom in London to find a piano for a music video I was making – I needed to source a piano that would look great in the video and captivate the imagination of my audience. Among the sea of beautifully crafted pianos in the Blüthner shop there was one piano that immediately caught my attention: a piano unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was, of course, the PH Grand Piano.
As a writer and performer of solo piano music, the piano itself is the only tool I use in recording and performance to tell a musical story and convey all of the required emotional nuances. The piano that I play is more than just an instrument: I use the piano how an opera singer uses their voice. The piano becomes an extension of my body: together, the piano and I are ‘as one’. So for me, selecting a piano is to choose a vital part of my artistic identity.
Looking back, I think I was drawn to the PH Grand Piano because it’s appearance and design reflects who I am as an artist . I am not a rigid in my artistic ideas or performance. When I am making new music, often I look at the way ‘things have always been done’ and then I purposely do something very different, as it’s a good method of finding the starting point of the journey towards positive creative innovation.
There is still so much wonderful progressive music yet to be created using just the simple eighty-eight keyed piano. The fluid lines and open construction of the PH Grand Piano are in synergy with the type of piano music I create and my artistic processes: it is a piano design that is freely different.
PH Magazine: Since 2014 you have spent many hours playing the PH Grand Piano in a number of performance environments. What is your opinion on how the PH Grand Piano differs from more traditionally designed grand pianos?
AT: I believe that one of the most wonderful things about being an artist and a musician is having the opportunity to connect with people through music and to create a musical ‘experience’ that brings something life-enhancing to my listeners. The real joy of using the PH Grand Piano in a performance setting is that it’s very design assists with breaking down the barrier between the ‘pianist’ and the ‘audience’. When I play the PH Grand Piano I am sitting behind a piano that is aesthetically minimal beyond the essentials of keyboard, action, strings and soundboard, so it’s physical presence is subtle, as well as of refined and exquisite beauty. Through the transparent lid of the PH Piano I have full visibility of the audience while playing the instrument – I am able to make eye contact with the people anywhere around the piano and my listeners can also see me without restriction, wherever they are seated. I find that with the PH Piano I am able to create a sense of intimacy and ‘togetherness’ between myself and my audience incredibly easily.
PH Magazine: You consider that some of your best performances have taken place when you have played the PH Grand Piano? Why is this?
AT: For me, everything in relation to the production of my art is driven by emotion. My piano recordings and performance are about a reflection of experiences, thoughts and feelings and of making something beautiful from them that has the capacity to move listeners emotionally in some way: to achieve this effectively requires a piano that performs with precision. The PH Grand Piano has a wonderfully responsive action that makes it possible to deliver a really measured, sensitive performance that means I am completely in control of how the piano is going to sound.
The piano as an instrument has been on of the great loves of my life since I was a small child and I now consider it to be an indelible, fundamental component of my identity…there is a relationship and an intimacy with the piano that continues to inspire me as I evolve as an artist: the piano is my true muse. I have always felt that art, entertainment and music are part of ‘the good stuff of life’ and for me, my ability to entertain is inextricably intertwined with the musical instrument I play. To be a composer and musician professionally and to soundtrack the lives of my listeners is a privilege and responsibility: I want to give my audience the most wonderful musical experience I am capable of and an instrument of the quality of the PH Grand Piano is fundamental to achieving this. Through the open, minimal design and superior engineering of the PH Grand Piano it is possible to create a vivid experience of piano music that is of sonic and visual excellence – I consider the PH Grand Piano to be the embodiment of the finest ‘true’ music.’
Part 2: A Fine Thing: Piano For Everyone