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04 July 2014
James Rhodes has no formal academic musical education or dedicated mentoring. The title of the debut album “Razor Blades Little Pills and Big Pianos”, hints at the suffering that dogged Rhodes’s childhood and early adult life. Classical music became his solace and key to his survival. It was Bach, Beethoven and Chopin, not Faith Hope and Charity, that offered comfort.
In 1993, mental health issues stopped him taking up a scholarship to the Guildhall. A chance meeting, 10 years later, with Franco Panozzo, agent to Russian concert pianist virtuoso, Grigori Sokolov. Panozzo arranged for James to have a brief tutorage by the renowned piano teacher Edoardo Strabbioli in Verona Italy.
Suffering further setbacks due to health issues it was not until 2008, when Rhodes met his present manager, Denis Blais, that he was encouraged to record his first CD. This enabled him to bare his soul and put many of the ghosts of the past to rest.
With Blais, Rhodes also created a distinctive and unique approach to how the classical piano repertoire should be presented. Uncomfortable with the austere and traditional ‘white tie and tails’ recital they decided it was time for the performer to communicate directly with the audience. Rhodes was going to introduce his own programme notes and share what it takes to perform these works of art using fascinating anecdotes about the composers and his own life experience. Delivered in his unique trademark stand-up style he creates an immersive experience that has won him and classical music a dedicated new following.
2008/2009 saw his profile go from complete unknown to rising star, attracting celebrity followers such as Stephen Fry, Derren Brown and Sir David Tang. Having performed in non-traditional classical venues such as the 100 Club, the Tabernacle and Proud Galleries, James built on this new revolutionary performance approach. The pinnacle performance being at London’s historical Roundhouse where he was the first classical pianist to perform since it’s reopening. His debut CD Razor Blades Little Pills and Big Pianos also went to number one on the iTunes chart.
In October 2009 James appeared in his first documentary on BBC Four’s CHOPIN: THE WOMEN BEHIND THE MUSIC. He also released his second album “Will all Freudians please stand aside”, which also made it to No1 on the iTunes chart.
In March 2010, Rhodes became the first core classical pianist to be signed to the world’s largest rock label Warner Bros Records. His 1st album with Warner Bros, “Bullets & Lullabies” became his 3rd No1 iTunes album. That summer he was also the first solo classical pianist to play the Latitude Festival sharing stages with international stars such as Florence the Machine and The National.
Within three years of his debut, James presented and performed in his very own television series JAMES RHODES: PIANO MAN on Sky Arts which first aired in December 2010 – January 2011.
In September 2011 he performed alongside Stephen Fry in A CLASSICAL AFFAIR at the Barbican Centre. Then in October 2011 James performed an 11 date tour of Australia which kicked off at the Melbourne Festival to a sell out audience.
Returning back to his original label Signum Classics, Rhodes released his 4th album “JIMMY: James Rhodes recorded live at The Old Market Brighton” in May 2012.
In September 2012 he has his debut performance in the US at the International Beethoven Festival in Chicago.
2013, James performed in Hong Kong, Vienna, the Barber Institute in Birmingham, Royal Albert Hall, Cheltenham Music Festival, Waterfront stage at Latitude Festival and a series at Soho Theatre in London. He also presented and performed in the acclaimed television documentary NOTES FROM THE INSIDE which aired in August 2013 on Channel 4 in the UK.
2014 was a very busy year for James, releasing his 5th studio album “Five” in the summer and launching his new label, Instrumental Records. A live in concert DVD, “Love In London”, recorded at the Arts Theatre in London’s West End was also released this year.
James filmed a new series for Channel 4 called DON’T STOP THE MUSIC that aired in September 2015 in the UK. James is passionate about the power of music to change lives and is shocked at the state of music education in the UK. This two-part documentary followed James’ attempt to give schoolchildren the chance to learn a musical instrument by calling for an ‘instrument amnesty’ – a mission to collect unused musical instruments from around the country. James’ campaign managed to provide schools all over the UK with over £1million worth of instruments.
James also presented and performed in Channel 4’s PIANO NIGHT, interviewing celebrities including Benedict Cumberbatch, Alan Rusbridger and Derren Brown at the piano.
His Sunday Times and international bestselling memoir, Instrumental, published by Canongate is a brutally honest, moving and compelling story that was almost banned until the Supreme Court unanimously overthrew an injunction in May 2015.
Instrumental recently reached No. 1 in Spain on the ABC non-fiction list. His SoundCloud and YouTube channels have had over 10,000,000 views, and he has over 500,000 listeners per month on Spotify.
In 2016 James headlined some of the most important festivals in Spain, including Sonar by Day (Barcelona), Festival de Verano de San Lorenzo (El Escorial Madrid) and Veranos de la Villa (Madrid). He will also embark on tours to Germany, Italy and South Africa later in 2016.
James has also signed a new two-book deal with Quercus/ Hachette Publishers. The first book was published October 2016, entitled How to Play the Piano. The second, Fire on All Sides, was published in November 2017 and was an instant bestseller. He released his 7th CD, under the same name, also at this time. The CD went straight to Number 1 position on the iTunes classical charts.
In 2017, James had many concert highlights which included sell-out performances at the Teatro Real Madrid, Palau de la Musica Barcelona, and Europe’s most celebrated new performing arts centre the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. James also participated and performed at international book festivals in Argentina, Mexico and Colombia. James ended his Latin American tour with a performance at the National Sawdust Theatre in New York.
James started 2018 with a string of concerts across Spain and Portugal. He also started to appear regularly has a guest/ co-host on Spain’s Cadena SER Radio and the massively popular late time television chat show Late Motif.
This summer James penned an open letter to the President of Spain, demanding his government do more to address a much needed change in the legislature on Child Protection. As a result of this letter and with the support of Save The Children Spain, President Sanchez of Spain has initiated the amendment required to protect more effectively the wellbeing and safekeeping of our children. James hopes that the Spanish amendments will create a template for other governments around the globe to emulate.
If you would open any biography of Franz Liszt, you would probably mostly read about his disquiet life as a piano virtuoso, his passionate love life, and the return to his catholic roots at the end of his life. Although all of this might be true, it only scratches the surface of his comprehensive musical personality. Liszt was a pianist, conductor, teacher and organiser, but above all he was a composer of a voluminous, capricious body of work. Even though his piano works formed his core business, he gave rise to the symphonic poem, got rid of the organ's stuffy appearance, and reinvigorated the oratorio. Moreover, with his piano transciptions of Bach's organ works and Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, he was an advocate of both old and new music.
Together with his son-in-law Richard Wagner, he was in the forefront of the Romantic movement and anticipated the musical revolutions of the early 20th century with his new composition techniques.
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and hundreds of cantatas. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.
Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest in and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.
Christopj Willibald Gluck was born in 1714 in Erasbach, Bavaria. At a young, he was already determined to become a professional musician, but his father, a forester, was against this. So much even that Gluck decided to run away from home to move to Prague. There, he immersed himself into the local music scene and advanced as a self-educated chamber musician to work for the nobility.
His first opera Artaserse (1741) was a major success, which allowed Gluck to travel throughout Europe to work as an independent musician and composer of Italian opera seria. He married to the daughter of a well-established salesman en settled in Vienna in 1752 where he foumd himself in a circle of poets, composers and choreographers led by Count Giacomo Durazzo.
During this period, Gluck started to focus on French opéra comique and ballet. He wrote the music for the revolutionary Don Juan and in 1762, he composed his Orfeo ed Euridice, the first of three operas in which he broke with the conventions of Italian opera seria: the music had to be in the service of the drama, and not of the vain singers. Finally, Gluck was able to give a new impulse to the French tragédie lyrique in Paris (with operas such as his Iphigénie and Tauride). Gluck died in 1787 in Vienna of a stroke. He wasn't a great revolutionary composer, but he surely influenced Mozart, and later even Berlioz and Wagner.
Frédéric Chopin is one of the greatest composers of the Romantic piano tradition. He was a master in making the small form great. His ballades, mazurkas, polonaises, preludes, etudes and nocturnes all belong to the most popular standard works for piano ever written.
As a child prodigy, Chopin grew up in a middle class family, who lived among the literati of Warsaw. When in 1830 the November Uprising broke out in Poland, the twenty year old Chopin stayed in Vienna. He became an exile and never returned to his mother country. He eventually settled in Paris.
He avoided public concerts, but he did like performing in small settings, such as salons and at home for his friends. This way, Chopin built a reputation as an exceptional pianist, teacher and composer.
Chopin brought a unique synthesis between the Viennese bravado and the French/English lyric style. Even though his pieces often are technically very demanding, the focus was always on creating a lyric expression and poetic atmosphere. He invented the instrumental ballade, and brought salongenres to a higher level with his many innovations and refinements.