Pianist Paul Lewis Champions Libraries, 19th-Century Music

Pianist Paul Lewis brings Liszt, Brahms and Schubert to Spivey Hall this Sunday
Pianist Paul Lewis brings Liszt, Brahms and Schubert to Spivey Hall this Sunday
Credit Jack Liebeck
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World-renowned and highly-awarded English pianist Paul Lewis is perhaps the ultimate testimonial for the importance of public libraries.

Growing up, he had no exposure to classical music. At home, there was only what was playing on the local radio and his father’s large collection of John Denver albums.

“There was the local library, which was well stocked with cassettes and LPs … that was my first introduction to classical music,” Lewis said in an interview with Lois Reitzes on “City Lights.”

Lewis lamented, though, that public libraries now do not have the same amount of music available. “Now, [music is] all online … The difference is you have to know what you are looking for. To go into a library and to browse, to take the LPs and just look at them and think, ‘What’s this?’ It’s a different process of discovery.”

Pianists are lucky in that they have a vast and diverse list of repertoire available to them. Lewis, though, always seems to finds himself in the 19th century.

“For me, it really is some of the greatest music that can truly stand repeated reading,” he said. “You think you know it, and you come back to it years later and you realize you don’t … it’s bottomless, really.”

The pianist will be at Spivey Hall this weekend, playing some of that 19th century repertoire. That concert is at 3 p.m. and includes Franz Schubert’s “Sonata in B major,” Johannes Brahm’s ”Four Ballades” and “Three Intermezzi” and Franz Liszt’s “Dante Sonata.”

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