In Piano Man, James plays the music of his favourite composers, including Bach, Beethoven and Chopin, many of whom have had, like James, troubled lives. In this highly personal collection, James explains how they’ve given him solace in his darkest moments, and why we should all be listening. With stunning solo piano performances and witty insight into the lives of James’s favourites, Piano Man is an exciting and radical new approach to classical music.
With childhood abuse, drug addiction and suicide attempts behind him, James is not your typical concert pianist. But with his passion and rock-star aura, he’s bringing new audiences to classical piano.
Release date:5th May 2014
Rhodes is certainly not your typical concert pianist. He doesn’t dress like one, doesn’t look like one or talk like one. So naturally he put together his own video in which he incorporates the usual “extras” with discs into introduction and discussions about everything in the main video, which he then performs. He also uses clever animation as intros to the various chapters.
Rhodes’ background is also not typical. It includes childhood abuse, drug addictions and suicide attempts. He never thought when he was really down that he would ever be performing these Beethoven and Bach works before audiences and from memory, but that is what he’s doing. The complete Waldstein Sonata of Beethoven is performed, as well as several of the Bach transcriptions by Busoni. Rhodes lives in Britain.
There are extreme closeups of Rhodes’ fingers on the keys, and often he will be seated at an upright while talking about the work and the composer behind it, but then for the complete performance it switches to him playing on a Steinway concert grand—for one selection in the Hall of Fame at Steinway, with a dozen pianos in the same room and photos of some of the top concert artists on the walls. He explains how and why these three favorite composers of his have given him solace in both his bad times and today. He also has little news items come up over the video from time to time. One of them points out that a grand piano has 10,000 moving parts; makes you appreciate why most serious performers still don’t concertize on computerized electronic pianos, however good they may have become.
The sonics are excellent, though not 5.0 lossless surround. The animation and other shots cut in are appropriate and make this more entertaining than your typical piano recital video. Rhodes is very good, but no Martha Argerich. His approach is like some young friend who just happens to be a concert pianist, explaining about some of his favorites and then playing them for you.
Audiophile Audition, John Sunier
- Episode 1, ‘Beeothven: Waldstein’: Piano Sonata No.21, Op.53 ‘Waldstein’, Ludwig Van Beethoven – –
- Episode 2, ‘Uppers and Downers’: Etincelles, Moritz Moszkowski – Prelude in E Minor, Bach-Siloti – Etude for the Left Hand Alone, Felix Blumenfeld – In the Hall of the Mountain King, Grieg, transcribed by Ginzburg – –
- Episode 3, ‘Chopin’: Etude Op.25, No.12, Frederic Chopin – Prelude Op.28, No.4, Frederic Chopin – Fantasie in F Minor, Op.49, Frederic Chopin – –
- Episode 4, ‘Bach-Busoni’: Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C Major, JS Bach, transcribed by Busoni – –
- Episode 5, ‘Mad, Bad & Sad’: Prelude in C-Sharp Minor, Op.3, No.2, Sergei Rachmaninov – Toccata from Le Tombeau de Couperin, Maurice Ravel – Clair de lune, from Suite bergamasque, Claude Debussy – –
- Episode 6, ‘Beethoven’: Sonata No.30 in E, Op.109, Ludwig Van Beethoven – –
- Episode 7, ‘JS Bach’: French Suite No.5 in G Major, Johann Sebastian Bach – –