John Lill

John Lill, it is truly a great privilege to have you perform alongside the London Octave Wind Soloists at St Martin-in-the-Fields and thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for us and for our St Martin’s audience. I think this is the first time we have the pleasure of welcoming you to our central London flagstones?
Thank you for your kind words. This is the first time that I’ve collaborated with the London Octave Wind Soloists and I’m much looking forward to it. Although the vast majority of my work consists of being a solo performer, it is essential not to neglect the often magnificent chamber music repertoire. 
As an international artist of such standing with a career spanning some fifty years and having performed all over the world in venues both large and small, can you describe how a venue, such as St Martin’s for example, shapes your approach to a performance?

Largely from experience, I have found it almost instinctive to adjust to the acoustic, size and character of the very disparate types of concert venues provided. Some are marvellous – others ar not. It’s a similar thing with pianos – no two are alike but it doesn’t seem to take long to adapt to their quirks, strengths (and weaknesses)!
Your playing was recently described by Classical Source as “Puckish and rambunctious”, will this be your approach to the Quintet for Piano and Wind modestly described by Mozart as his best work?
It’s fine to be described in those terms as long as the music fits the mood. I doubt if my playing would be ‘puckish and rambunctious’ if I were playing a Funeral March! Music is infinitely variable in mood and in my experience, it extends beyond emotion. Thankfully no two moods are or should be the same. Clearly, the Mozart Piano and Wind Quintet crosses a wide spectrum from tragedy to humour. This has to be revealed and vividly realised by the performers.
Actors often talk of having ‘done’ a certain part or genre, or writers of having ‘finished’ with a creative idea, would you say that you have ever reached a point where you have, for want of a better word, ‘done’ a piece of music? You have explored, practised, recorded and performed it as much as you ever will?
No, I am never tired of a piece. One of the wonders of the Art is that new and fresh ideas are continually being revealed, even with pieces that I may have played hundreds of times. If that weren’t the case, I should not be on the stage, as the music would sounds stale and predictable.
Finally, just for fun, if you could perform anything, anywhere, with anyone, what and where and with whom would that be?
Comparisons are really impossible in this case. One idea would be to have played a series of concertos – say a Beethoven cycle – with both Toscanini and Furtwängler. They were both great conductors but totally different. It would have been fascinating to compare the experience and outcome. Re the present day, I’m fortunate enough to play in so many marvellous halls and often with outstanding orchestras and conductors that I’d be spoiled for choice!

Interview thanks to In the Pipeline.

John Lill performs alongside the London Octave Wind Soloists at St Martin-in-the-Fields on Monday 7 May 2012 at 7.30pm. Tickets are available for purchase from the Box Office at St Martin’s 020 7766 1100 Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm or in person. Find out more here.

Share Article