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Pandemic provides one last chance to see famed pianist

THE PIANO MAN: Pianist Michael Houstoun will give one of his last performances this Sunday at Lawson Field Theatre. Picture supplied

by Jack Marshall

Classical music lovers are in for a treat when piano virtuoso Michael Houstoun performs this Sunday at Lawson Field Theatre.

Labelled “one of New Zealand’s finest pianists”, Houstoun announced his retirement in 2019, with his last show scheduled for December 2020.

One of the few gifts given by Covid-19 to those who thought they had missed the famed pianist, Houstoun’s schedule was pushed out by a year.

“I got to play one concert on the schedule before the virus upended it,” Houstoun wrote on his blog.

“By the end of February I was already rescheduled into 2021 and my retirement was suspended.

“It turned out that, despite the rescheduling and all the other agonies of the virus, 2020 was a rewarding year musically. I got to play to living, breathing human beings in packed halls many times, more perhaps than any of my overseas colleagues, and there was a renewed sense of appreciation.

“The audiences knew how close they had come to losing live concert performances.”

Treating some local living humans to a show, Houstoun will be playing Bach, Ravel, Ping and Chopin in Tairāwhiti on Sunday.

“In the piano repertoire there are a great many works inspired by dancing. Composers have been captivated by the spirit of dance, especially in its romantic and intimate guises.”

Houstoun said that despite the music’s inspiration, people never danced to the music.

Born in Timaru, 1952, Houstoun began piano lessons at the age of five, and by the age of 18 had won all the major piano competitions in New Zealand.

In 1973 at the age of 20, he placed third in the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in the United States, leading to a year of study with Rudolf Serkin at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

After living overseas for six years, he returned to New Zealand in 1981, performing recitals, concertos, and chamber music all over the country.

He has honorary degrees from Massey and Victoria universities, is a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and is a Laureate of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.

This is “possibly the last chance to hear New Zealand’s iconic pianist here in Gisborne,” said organiser Gill Armstrong.

Presented by Musica Viva, tickets for Sunday’s performance can be purchased by contacting Gill at gillco@gisborne.net.nz or 021 170 7641.

Michael Houstoun, Lawson Field Theatre November 14, 2.30pm. Tickets are $50 for adults and $20 for students. No door sales.