Classical pianist passes on his talents in Hampstead

PUBLISHED: 16:24 15 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:12 07 September 2010

A CLASSICAL pianist, who finely tuned his playing with tuition from some of France s greatest talents, has returned to Hampstead to pass on his technique. Michael Stembridge-Montavont, 48, has played in concerts across Europe and accompanied the singer Ta

A CLASSICAL pianist, who finely tuned his playing with tuition from some of France's greatest talents, has returned to Hampstead to pass on his technique.

Michael Stembridge-Montavont, 48, has played in concerts across Europe and accompanied the singer Tania Christova on numerous occasions.

One amusing highlight from his illustrious career included auditioning for the infamous French classical pianist Francois-Rene Duchable.

Duchable instructed him to take a boat across Lake Annecy to a raft where he had installed a free-standing grand piano - and play it. Despite the precarious set, the audition went well and Duchable agreed to teach him.

Stembridge-Montavont pinpoints his success to the eight years he spent in Paris, playing with Jean Micault, who was an assistant to Alfred Cortot.

"I was fortunate enough to learn Cortot's technique from Jean Micault," Stembridge-Montavont, who lived in Stapleton Hall Road, Crouch End, for many years, explains. "Cortot is widely regarded as one of the most influential classical pianists of the 20th century, for his insight into the works of Chopin and Schumann.

"He is renowned for his ravishing, inimitable sound and because he did not play the piano in a percussive or aggressive way."

Cortot is also credited with developing a piano playing method which encouraged pianists to focus on a difficulty in a passage, rather than mindlessly repeating it. His maxim "I think therefore I do" intellectualised piano playing, encouraging musicians to think about their whole technique - from the independence and mobility of the fingers - to the thumb gliding over the keys in arpeggios. For the past 11 years, Stembridge-Montavont has run six-day piano courses in a Normandy chateau for amateur pianists to learn the technique. But now he is set to pass on the method to pianists in Hampstead.

"These are not my ideas," he says. "Cortot's tradition was passed on to me by Jean Micault, I am merely the messenger. But I would like to pass on the technique to future pianists so that it can live on."

o Stembridge-Montavont plans to hold a piano workshop in Craxton Studios, Kidderpore Avenue, Hampstead, on June 6 from 2.30pm to 5.30pm. To find out more, ring 07986 807376. For more on the Normandy piano courses, visit www.normandy pianocourses.com.

Charlotte Newton

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