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Paul Lewis and Beethoven's "Emperor," with the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Paul Lewis sits in front of a charcoal background in a blue button-up. He rests his head on his palm and looks at the camera, smoldering. He has dark blue eyes and curly, black hair.
Kaupo Kikkas
Paul Lewis

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Andris Nelsons leads the BSO in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 with soloist Paul Lewis. This heroic piece is paired with Hannah Kendall’s The Spark Catchers, a new work inspired by imagery from Lemn Sissay’s poem by the same name, and James Lee III’s Freedom’s Genuine Dawn, a BSO co-commission with texts by the 19th-century African-American orator and activist Frederick Douglass read by narrator Thomas Warfield.

Andris Nelsons, conductor 
Paul Lewis, piano
Thomas Warfield, narrator

Hannah KENDALL The Spark Catchers
James LEE III Freedom’s Genuine Dawn, for narrator and orchestra (BSO co-commission)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor

This concert is no longer available on demand.

Read Lemn Sissay's 2017 poem "The Spark Catchers" here.

Read the entire text of "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" from PBS and learn more about the speech from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Using the tabs below, you can hear composer James Lee III describe the genesis of Freedom's Genuine Dawn as well as Paul Lewis describe the journey of performing all five of Beethoven's Piano Concertos. Transcripts included below.

James Lee III Interview
BSO broadcast interview - James Lee III - Oct. 18, 2023


Brian McCreath I'm Brian McCreath from WCRB with James Lee III who is back in Boston for the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the second time. James, thanks for your time today. I appreciate it.

James Lee III Oh it's good to be here. You're welcome. Thank you.

Brian McCreath "Freedom’s Genuine Dawn," a piece that was commissioned—well, it started with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, but now also co-commissioned by the Boston Symphony and I believe the Rochester Philharmonic. And I'm curious about the origin of the commission itself and whether there was a sort of specific kind of piece you were asked to write or whether this was one of those opportunities to sort of do whatever you want.

James Lee III Sure. Well actually, I was asked to write a piece specifically using this text by Frederick Douglass, and the administrator for artistic planning in Baltimore at the time thought it would be nice to have something that would be kind of a companion piece or similar or reminiscent of the Copland, "Lincoln's Portrait." And that's why, particularly in the last part of the work, actually, it kind of hinted to a prominent rhythmic figure from the piece by Copeland "Lincoln's Portrait" in the brass especially.

Brian McCreath Right, right. Okay so that's really interesting that this was so specific, what you were being asked to do. And so this piece of Frederick Douglass that we're talking about, a speech that he made, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July," I think that's the right title...

James Lee III That's right. Mm-hmm.

Brian McCreath And what was your level of familiarity with that particular text already when this topic came up, when you were asked to write this piece?

James Lee III You know, I hadn't really read the speech before and actually is a quite lengthy speech.

Brian McCreath It's very long. Exactly.

James Lee III It is. So when I was collaborating with Wordsmith, who is one of the artistic collaborators there at the Baltimore Symphony, he and I read through the speech and then have to kind of adapt and figure out which parts we want to include in the work. So I actually spent some time one afternoon and read through the entire speech, and then I kind of thought about certain aspects and how I could enhance it with the orchestra, especially writing some kind of cadences in terms of the cadence of his speaking itself. And I listened to a couple of people, but there was one—I forgot his name. I think his first name was Oscar, an African American actor. I forget his last name—but he was very convincing in his delivery of the speech. So that helped me in terms of my own inspiration for composing this work.

Brian McCreath Tell me about your initial reaction, because the text is unflinching and especially what you and Wordsmith consolidated for this piece of music, it is difficult language, difficult to hear. I wonder what your initial reaction was to encountering this text.

James Lee III Sure. That's interesting, because [in] my own output of my own compositions, that was not necessarily a subject matter that I pursued necessarily. But when asked to write this—and it came at a time when there were certain other commissions and organizations commissioning similar type pieces—at first I was kind of taken aback from it. I wasn't sure if I really wanted to pursue this. But then I listened to the narration of this and thought about it a little bit more, and then I began to embrace it a little bit more because I could see that, even though there are some difficult text there and difficult aspects of the tragedy in Frederick Douglass's own life and his experience there in Baltimore, that he really was very hopeful near the end of the piece. So with all that he said, he's encouraging, like, he wanted to reaffirm his love for the United States and his real hope. And of course we know, historically, he really wished and kind of prodded President Lincoln to do a little bit more.

So that's why I ended up considering more how I might make this work powerful, but then yet very warm when it needs to be, and being true to what he wrote in his text. And then really myself, looking forward to a hope where people would really... as the text says, "Freedom's Genuine Dawn," the idea of being really genuine about how you would react to one another and be, not hypocritical, but really... What your words and what you have print and what you actually say is really what you mean and what you intend to act upon.

Brian McCreath That's really fascinating because to hear you describe what this piece is, and for those listeners who haven't yet encountered this piece, it is, as I say, unflinching in its indictment of America and yet also hopeful in the original vision of America that those who were slaves at that time would enjoy their freedom. To Frederick Douglass, that would be, I think, hopefully imminent in his lifetime. For whatever the last, you know, 150 years has proven to be otherwise, it still is his inspirational message. And it makes me think of the music you wrote to go with this narration. Correct me if I'm wrong or if there if this wasn't intended, but there are times when I hear it and the words themselves may be difficult to absorb and, as I say, a harsh indictment. And yet the music, even in those moments, has this essence of hope about it. Was that more or less intentional?

James Lee III I think probably part of my intention in terms of with my musical language was to provide some kind of counterpoint to the text. But then at the same time really working the orchestra or writing for the orchestra in such a way that the density really comes through in terms of the difficult moments of what he's actually talking about. So that there'd be these large moments of dissonance that really, really call for some sort of resolution. And then when you hear that resolution, then it's all the more pleasurable and gratifying when it actually comes. But then there's so many times where you might think it's resolved, but then the language kind of changes again until the very end. Even the very end of the piece, it still leaves a question mark after the ascent of those [notes] F, G, D: freedom's, genuine, dawn. There's still a question mark at the end of that.

Brian McCreath Yeah, yeah. Which I think has to be appropriate for the life of Frederick Douglass, that it wasn't resolved at all by the time of his lifetime being over, but there's still hope. Now, this is not the first time you've written for orchestra and narrator. You've written for spoken text before, and tell me about what that means for you as a composer in terms of what musical language are you going to go into when you do that, as opposed to maybe when you're writing a piece that's meant to be sung? What does a composer do this particular to a text-based piece with narration?

James Lee III Sure. Well, when approaching such a work, I'm thinking a lot about pacing and moments of, like, the space and the actual sound. And there are some challenging moments where we really would have to work on the balance to make sure that the text is really heard. But when working or composing for voice, if it's a sung piece like a song, typically my language is a lot more tame. Like, I am a tonal composer, but I'm not really functional harmony, it's not always sweet smelling [Lee III laughs] in terms of what's written, but there are moments where I have tonal centers and it's still very chromatic. And when I'm working with songs or voice that are sung, it's typically a lot more relaxed in terms of what I'm doing. But this is easier because what we really need to consider is the entrances and the exits of the actual text. So when the orchestra is playing, I'm still treating it very much as an orchestral piece or something that I would write if it were an orchestral suite. But then now I just have to really think about the clarity in the text and when the entrances are there and how how much I need to work on balance and really having a kind of transparency in the orchestration.

Brian McCreath Sure, yeah. Now, you mentioned your collaborator, Wordsmith. Is the term correct to say a spoken word artist?

James Lee III He is, yeah. Mm-hmm.

Brian McCreath So tell me about that collaboration and what his role was when this project began and how that carried through to what we're going to hear now in this weekend.

James Lee III Sure. So Wordsmith—I think he's still there at the Baltimore Symphony. I haven't see him. I'm going to be Composer in Residence there next year so I'm not sure... [Lee III chuckles]

Brian McCreath Oh great!

James Lee III ... exactly, who's there in terms of the artistic parts of their relationship with the orchestra. But when I worked with him, as I said before, we would talk on Zoom conversations, Zoom calls, and go through the text. And then he actually would write adaptations on, like, a narration on the narration. So he would introduce the piece. For example, the work begins with Wordsmith's text in terms of the life and kind of introducing what the work would be about. And then of course, after the narration has completed some of the Frederick Douglass texts, then of course, then Wordsmith returns with his own text, kind of giving some insight into what we were just hearing.

Brian McCreath Yeah, yeah. Okay. Now, this is not the world premiere. The piece has been performed before, and so that gives me the chance to ask you, what have you heard in reaction to this piece, especially from [the] audience, but also maybe musicians? I mean, what is the feedback you've gotten to people who've experienced this piece before?

James Lee III Sure. Well, the orchestra, the orchestral members and conductors usually thank me for the piece for the pure musical side of it. I think it's always very gratifying for me as a composer if those who are performing can really appreciate what you have done and really kind of comment on or positively comment on the architecture of the piece, the actual technical aspects, and the musicality of what's happening.

But I was always concerned, especially the first time at the world premiere in Baltimore, "How would this be received?" And some audience members, you know, they told me, "Thank you, we needed to hear that," you know, "Thank you very much." They really enjoyed the message. I thought I might get a few hisses, [Lee III laughs] not because of the music itself, but because, I tell you, I mean, I'm thinking it's not my text. I set the text, but I'm always going to say, even here in Boston, I'm concerned just a little bit on how it might be received because this is, like what we talked about before, this text is really on the verge. I mean, all the indictments that we hear, one may not want to be prepared to hear that. But that's why near the end of the piece, I really worked on shaping these elements of light and hope, this kind of brilliance that really will pierce through to give us some sort of consolation, some sort of idea of hope and peace.

Brian McCreath Yeah. Well, and for whatever reactions that may have come from this difficult topic, difficult language, I think maybe my own way of looking at that is that that just reinforces the fact that it's important to do that. This message is so important still, I suppose.

James Lee III Yes, definitely.

Brian McCreath Yeah. James Lee III, it's so good to have you back in Boston. I remember the last piece that the BSO did a few years ago of yours and what a great event that was. I'm looking forward to this one as well. Thanks for your time today.

James Lee III Yeah, thank you. It's always good to come back here.

Paul Lewis Interview

[Ed: This interview was recorded at Tanglewood in July 2022, when Paul Lewis performed the five concertos by Beethoven in one weekend. Part of the discussion is about the pairing of the different Beethoven piano concertos, which was different in that series of concerts than in the present Symphony Hall programs.]

BSO broadcast interview - Paul Lewis - July 26, 2022


Brian McCreath I'm Brian McCreath at WCRB with Paul Lewis here at Tanglewood for an extraordinary weekend. Paul, thank you for some of your time today. I appreciate it.

Paul Lewis Thanks for having me.

Brian McCreath I don't know if you have ever done anything like this before. Have you ever played all five Beethoven piano concertos in the space of three days?

Paul Lewis I have. Yes, I've done it several times. I've even done it in the space of two days. There was one venue that suggested maybe I would do it in one day, but I declined that [both laugh] idea. It's possible to do it and to, you know, you do [Piano Concertos Nos.] One and Five and Two, Three, and Four on the other day. But doing it in three days, of course, you know, gives you a little extra space, a little room to breathe. And it's just such a pleasure, really. I really enjoy doing the cycle like this.

Brian McCreath I don't know if you're aware that your mentor, Alfred Brendel, did all five Beethoven concertos here at Tanglewood in 1992.

Paul Lewis Oh, no, I didn't know that! In '92?

Brian McCreath In '92. So here we are—

Paul Lewis 30 years later.

Brian McCreath —exactly 30 years later. Good for you to be doing—he, though, did not do it in one weekend. He played one concert with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, just the Fourth [Piano] Concerto, and then he did a Friday night and a Sunday afternoon with the other four concertos split between those two concerts.

Paul Lewis Aha.

Brian McCreath So not quite the same intensity of what you're taking on here. How does one, then, especially with the experience you've had doing this, how does one take on the preparation of these concertos to be performed in such an intensive period of time?

Paul Lewis I think that changes over time, you know. It sort of changes with the amount of time you've accumulated with these pieces. At the moment, I arrived here last night and this morning I've just been basically playing through everything very, very gently, just on half-power. I had a quick look at the piano just now. That gives me a bit of information as to, you know, how I can prepare for playing on that particular instrument. And of course, the [Koussevitzky Music] Shed here I know and love. Yeah, I mean, I think every time you play in each different venue and each set of circumstances, that affects how you prepare. But I think once rehearsals start tomorrow, then you get a clearer idea of what you need of what you need to do.

Brian McCreath Yeah. Compared, though, to a weekend when, say, you might play one of the Brahms concertos only—I mean, I don't want to diminish that, it's a major achievement all by itself—but three concerts of five concertos is a totally different scale. And I wonder, does it compare more to what you have to take on when you do a solo recital that is, you know, solid 2 hours or so of just you playing? Does it compare to that?

Paul Lewis In a way, I suppose the amount of music over the five Beethoven [Piano] Concertos is equivalent to two solo recitals. It's about equivalent to that. But somehow, it's different anyway because you're playing with orchestra, so you approach it very, very differently. But somehow, you know, you would think, yeah, like you say, with the Brahms D minor Concerto, that's a mountain in itself, and Beethoven's Fifth [Piano] Concerto can be a mountain in itself, and the Fourth (Piano Concerto), certainly the most difficult, the most unique of the set. But when you play all five together, it's not necessarily five times the mountain. It turns into something else. You know, I struggle to explain exactly what that is, but maybe it's just a different perspective. You come to it with a different frame of mind and, let's say, all the hurdles in each individual piece are not so exaggerated because you're thinking along a much longer span. You're just thinking differently about it.

Brian McCreath Sure. How did you arrive at the particular order you wanted to do these? And it makes a lot of sense to end with the Fifth [Piano Concerto]. But you had a choice really to go with the numerical order or to mix things up a little bit, which is what you did. How did you decide to start with what's called No. 2 and then No. 3 on the first concert, even though No. 2 is the first concerto he wrote? So tell me about your decisions with that.

Paul Lewis Well, the Fifth [Piano] Concerto obviously stands on its own quite easily because it's the biggest in terms of scale and heroic character and all of that. It's the most symphonic. So in terms of which pairs, how you pair the remaining concertos, I thought that the Fourth [Piano Concerto], as I said, is the most unique. It's the most difficult in many ways. It's the least obvious of the five concertos. The first movement has a very unusual and particular kind of structure to it, it's kind of halfway between a sonata form movement and a fantasy. And, you know, I think you need to... for that, to be on the same page with the conductor. It's quite important because, you know, seeing eye to eye is very helpful with this [Lewis chuckles] kind of piece. But it has a sort of—it has a lyricism, the Fourth [Piano] Concerto, that the others don't quite. I think there's something different about the Fourth [Piano Concerto] in that respect. And to pair that with the [Piano Concerto No. 1 in] C major, which is, I mean, to me it's an outgoing piece, also has a kind of lyricism about it, but it's just like a big smile, really. It's such a a good-hearted and good-humored piece. And the [Piano Concerto No. 1 in] C major and the [Piano Concerto No. 4 in] G major are both incredibly good-hearted pieces of music in different ways. And I thought it was nice to to put these two together for that reason.

And then the B-flat and the C minor, the Second [Piano Concerto] and the Third [Piano Concerto], that's more of a complete contrast. So the Second [Piano] Concerto being probably the most chamber like of the set, the smallest scale. Again, it's high spirited, it's playful, but it's not as extroverted as the [Piano Concerto No. 1 in] C major. And then to compare that with the [Piano Concerto No. 3 in ] C minor, which is really a pivotal work in the cycle. It's the first time you get that unmistakable Beethovenian stamp of C minor, of drama, of tension and all that goes with that. And contrast is a huge feature in the [Piano Concerto No. 3 in] C minor itself. So I thought to put that together with the [Piano Concerto No. 2 in] B-flat, which provides another huge contrast to the [Piano Concerto No. 3 in] C minor was a nice idea.

Brian McCreath Yeah! And now that you mention it, the C minor, the Third [Piano] Concerto, when you put that with [Piano Concerto] No. 2, the B-flat, you're dealing with the first piano concerto Beethoven wrote and then, as you say, this pivotal piano concerto that he wrote. And so there is this, maybe to a listener (and I wonder if it's the case for the player) this opportunity to hear this composer trying something out for the first time. And clearly, I think when you kind of really receive especially the opening movement he's coming out of these people before him Mozart and Haydn and trying to do something with what they had already done. And so it has that look backwards. But then the [Piano Concerto No. 3 in] C minor, as you say, completely flips the script now. Now he's going somewhere where where people really hadn't gone before with piano concertos. So does it feel that way to the player? And how does that... what does that mean for the way that you communicate this music in each of those concertos?

Paul Lewis There's definitely an evolution there, to have the [Piano Concerto No. 2 in] B-flat to the [Piano Concerto No. 3 in] C minor and the [Piano Concerto No. 1 in] C major to the [Piano Concerto No. 4 in] G major. In many ways, one of them is—even in the piano writing, you know, you have to be a slightly different pianist. You think you're coming out of that more Mozartian, Haydn-esque playing, way of writing for the piano. Then you get to the [Piano Concerto No. 3 in] C minor, it's completely different. Everything he does is different in scale. It's different in color, in his approach to the way the piano can create a truly symphonic sound. So yeah, you really do feel this progression between those early pieces and the Third [Piano Concerto] and Fourth [Piano Concerto].

Also what he does in the Third [Piano Concerto] for the first time is he puts the climax of the first movement in the cadenza. He doesn't leave the cadenza to be improvized or sort of leave it to you. He wants to take control of that and he takes control of it. And the whole structure of that first movement is really kind of geared towards what happens in the cadenza. So, yeah, you do feel this sense of his evolution as a composer, but also as a pianist. It's all there in the pianism.

Brian McCreath I'm so glad you mentioned that because the way you describe it, you're describing what he does musically and how that affects the piano. But on a purely technical level, on what's easy and what's not easy, what's challenging, what maybe he could do as a pianist and others couldn't do, say more about how that progresses over the course of all five of these concertos.

Paul Lewis Yeah. You know, it's funny because when you look at piano composers like Chopin, like Liszt, what they invented was a way of playing that really has your hands just fitting over the keys. And, you know, we talk about this pianistic way of writing, so music that sounds incredibly difficult can actually be surprisingly comfortable in some ways to play. It's never the case with Beethoven. But Beethoven doesn't care about that. He's so bloody-minded, he just wants to get his idea across no matter what. And of course, he was a great pianist, you know, he was the great pianist of the time. So it's extraordinary in a way that he didn't care about pianistic things.

He writes the most, I mean... there are so many examples of it all through the piano sonatas as well. Like this year I've been playing the Pathétique Sonata which, the first movement is so unpianistic, it's like an orchestral reduction. It's like you hope you're playing an arrangement of a full score. And sometimes you get a feeling of that in the concertos, you know, especially also in the Fifth [Piano Concerto] where there are places where you have to be a second orchestra to the real orchestra. You have to step up with that sound. And pianistic considerations just don't come into that. But it's part of Beethoven's character, I think, as a composer where he really challenges you to get the idea across, no matter what. He's not going to make it easy for you. The struggle is part of the process, and that's important. [both laugh]

Brian McCreath I mean, wow, you can psychoanalyze that, couldn't you?

Paul Lewis Yeah! [both laugh]

Paul Lewis There's a great—I mean, this is slightly off topic, but sort of relevant—In the [Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major], in the exposition of the first movement when the piano has the second theme, there's this question of F natural or F-sharp. I don't know whether you're familiar with this place. Beethoven wrote an F natural at this point. And the reason why he wrote an F natural is because that F natural was the highest note, it was the top note of the piano that he had at the time. But what sounds correct is F-sharp. And then when you get it later in a different key, the same theme, you get the equivalent of what would have been the F-sharp.

But I play the F natural. So many would say that it sounds wrong, but I think it's really important because it tells us something about Beethoven's character. He was, you know, he's definitely a capable composer, and if it was Mozart, he would have found an elegant way around it, you know, he just would have found a sort of plausible way around that issue. But Beethoven chose not to, he chose to be, again, bloody-minded enough to just play that, to just write the top notes on the instrument, whether it sounds wrong or not. And it tells us something about the force of his personality and the unwillingness, total unwillingness to compromise. And so that's kind of relevant too, to the way he writes pianistically. There's no sense of compromise in Beethoven, and there should never be in a performance.

Brian McCreath Wow. Wow. That's a fantastic insight. And while we're talking about that concerto, I just have to say that or just to ask you, I mean, especially the third movement of the [Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major], I can't help but smile when people play this because it's almost funny what he does. And I just wonder how much... whether that resonates with you and your approach to it, like the way that the voice shifts into the left hand. I'm not a pianist, so I'm really going out on a limb here, but you kind of have this very low repetition of this theme, and then you have this sort of like swinging theme that's like an earworm almost. And it's almost like he's playing around with us. It's almost like he's at a party or something. And I just wonder if everything I'm saying, it resonates with how you approach that or if you're thinking of something completely different during those those passages.

Paul Lewis Absolutely. The piece, the whole piece is a smile. Well, the outer movements certainly are. And the last movement. Yeah, like you say with this middle theme, with this kind of swinging thing, with this almost kind of stride bass, people talk about [how] you go to late Beethoven, Opus 111, the last piano sonata, and the boogie woogie variation in the last movement. Well, it's [Lewis laughs] you could say that, I suppose, it's really something else, but Beethoven was certainly ahead of his time when it comes to this kind of thing. It's the humor, I think is the point in the [Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major], because humor plays a huge part in Beethoven's music, but it's often quite brutal. You know, it's the kind of humor where he wants to shock us into laughing. He wants to throw something at us that we don't expect, whereas Haydn creeps up behind us and pokes us in the ribs, it's that kind of mischievous approach. But there's more of that in this particular piece. There's more of Haydn than the brutality of Beethoven's humor as it became later.

Brian McCreath Do you think that that F natural is part of that? I mean, yes, there was the technical limitation of the instrument that he had, as you explained. But I mean, this F natural sitting there where it's a "wrong note." Do you think that's even part of what's going on there, that he's just sort of, like, almost winking at the audience like, "Haha, look what I'm going to do."

Paul Lewis It's possible. I've never thought of it like that, actually. But it's... yeah, it's quite possible. Anything's possible. [both laugh]

Brian McCreath Okay, that's fair. That's fair. So you came to many people's attention—certainly my own—through your Beethoven sonatas collection from something like 15 years ago, something like that. And then your recording of the Concertos came, I think, relatively quickly thereafter. So Beethoven is clearly, like, foundational to you as an artist. And yet, since those recordings were made, no doubt you've continued to play Beethoven in some form consistently, but you've also done major projects with Schubert and with Haydn especially, along with some other composers along the way. And I just wonder, overall this time, especially engaging with Haydn coming straight before Beethoven and Schubert coming right after Beethoven, whether your deep involvement with those composers had an effect on when you return to Beethoven and especially the concertos. Did anything sound a little different to you after those experiences?

Paul Lewis It always does, yeah. I think, just...even just living your life makes things sound different when you return to them. But of course, yeah, spending time with Haydn in the last few years just before the pandemic... Yeah, everything comes from somewhere else and early beethoven for sure owes a lot to Haydn. I know there was a kind of rejection of that early on, but really there's a foundation, an important part of the foundation that comes from Haydn. And just getting more of an understanding of how that plays into Beethoven, especially in his early pieces, I think was was quite important. But, you know, the thing about any great music is whenever you come back to it, there's always going to be something you didn't see the first time around and you're going to see things in a different balance, you know. I think, "Well, actually, I think this is more important at this point in my life," for whatever reason, you know. It's always a process, it's always changing.

Brian McCreath Yeah, yeah. You mentioned details like this range of the keyboard that he was dealing with and his own sense of humor. It makes me wonder how much, especially—now, again, I'm framing this in the context of three days, five concertos, and how your own orientation has to at least calibrate a little bit differently for each one of these pieces—how much does Beethoven's life and what you know about it and where each of these pieces comes from in his life, how much does that help you in your calibration of when you sit down at the piano and, "Now going to play this or that concerto," what difference does that make to you knowing something about him, or at least being able to speculate something about him as a person?

Paul Lewis I think it's important to know what was happening in his life, you know, because it obviously all relates to to the character that he was and how he reacted to events in his life. In a way, these great works that he produced are in some ways reactions to events in his life, you know, that's where they come from. But when you sit down and if you play two or even three concertos in a concert, I think it has to happen quite organically from one to the next. It's the same as when you play a recital, really. If you've programed well, then there shouldn't be any issue in, you know, sort of changing your character from one thing to another.

Brian McCreath Yeah, yeah. And tell me about playing in this space. This is not a normal concert hall. I mean, there are other open air concert halls, but tell me about the way that any one of these or this body of work, these concertos, what you need to do with them in the Shed and how the Shed affects what you want to do with them?

Paul Lewis Yeah, I think in the moment the feedback you get from the sound is important. So when you're playing in the concert, you're always reacting ]to ]what you're getting back and what you're sensing. I mean, the Shed is incredible place. It has no business to sound as good as it does, really, does it? [both laugh] It sounds remarkably good. And I was just trying the piano in the piano room and the piano I'm gonna play. It's possible to play very softly, you know. It has a wonderful soft pedal. You're thinking, you know, "How much can you afford to to take that right down in the Shed?" But I think you can. There's something about the Shed which, of course, it's an open air venue and it's vast, but it's possible to draw people in in the Shed. I can't explain why, but it's possible.

So I think really it's important not to get too hung up on it being an open air venue and, "I've got to project out all the time. I've got to get this right to the back," because it will. I think, you know, you believe that it will, then it will. The challenge is drawing people in, especially when there are no walls around. So that's what I'm going to be thinking of.

Brian McCreath Wonderful. Well, Paul, it's great to have you back after a few years of, you know, struggling through what's been going on with the pandemic. It's wonderful that you've been able to come here and with such an amazing weekend for—certainly for listeners, I hope for you, too.

Paul Lewis I'm so happy to be back. Thank you.