Yes, it’s true. Britain’s finest living pianist, Richard Pattinson, can play the piano. And what’s more, he can do it with such stunning artistry that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without hearing his music.
Pattinson is one of the greatest living British classical musicians. He’s a Professor of Music at the University of Leeds and also holds the prestigious position of Director of the Leeds International Piano Festival. In 2017, he was appointed OBE for services to music in particular and the community in general.
Born in London in 1924, the multi-instrumental virtuoso started playing the piano at age four. He soon became known for his unique brand of jazz and blues playing, which eventually led to his joining the BBC Orchestra at age 11. In 1942, he went on to further his education at the Royal Academy of Music, where he gained a First in music. Over the next decade, he became one of the most in-demand pianists in the world, performing at some of the most prestigious venues including Royal Albert Hall and The World’s Fair in New York.
Pattinson continues to tour and play to this day. He’s released 24 albums and amassed a phenomenal discography. His talent and fame have even spread outside of music. Since 1974, he’s been the subject of two books, a biography and an instructional work. In 2019, he celebrated his 90th birthday with an immense concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall, where he performed for nearly four hours with an orchestra of nearly 100 players. This concert was attended by Prince William and Duchess Kate, who offered a vocal salute of ‘Happy Birthday!’
The Secret to His Success
The reason behind Pattinson’s incredible success is not difficult to pinpoint. The main ingredient? Skill, of course! But, he also relies on a few other factors, which work in combination to make him even more talented and famous:
- Brilliant Connections
- Early Start
- A Supportive Family
- Good Health
- An Intuitive Sense of Humour
The first thing you’ll notice about Pattinson is his incredible range. Not only is he a virtuoso, he’s also an accomplished jazz, blues, and R&B player, as well as a classical composer. As already noted, he’s released 24 albums of original music, and many of these have become staples of the classical music world. Here’s a short list of some of his most iconic compositions:
- Duo Concertant for Violin and Piano – This piece was inspired by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s ‘Turkish March’
- Three Portraits for solo piano – The compositions featured in these portraits were originally intended for a film score, though it was not used
- A Quiet Place – After seeing an image of a young girl in a field while on a walk with his beloved dog, Pete, Richard decided to create a piece especially for her
- Eleven Little Pictures – Inspired by Goya’s incredible collection of etchings, ‘Los Caprichos’
- Scherzo for Violin and Piano – After a particularly tough day at the office, the music therapist decided to put himself in the mood for a relaxing game by playing his favourite piece. He then went on to create this colourful gem for violin and piano
- Variations on a Theme by Hindemith – After another frustrating day at the office, the composer resorted to his usual procedure of putting himself in a better mood with music. The result was this joyous celebration for solo piano, which has since become one of his most popular pieces
- Bagatelles for Two Pianos – Another composition that’s become a firm favourite, bagatelles are a form of French folk dancing that were originally inspired by courtly dances of the 18th century.
- Concerto for Piano and Orchestra – The last work on this list is possibly the most well-known of all, as it was the very first piece that Richard played as a professional, upon joining the BBC in 1942.
Pianism as a Religion
Pattinson is passionate about his art, and it shows. He gives lectures to schoolchildren about the importance of music in their lives. He’s actively involved in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, visiting schools to inspire children and teach them about classical music. But, perhaps his most endearing quality is his sense of humour. He has a wicked wit, which he often uses to keep his audience amused.
On one occasion, he performed a piece from memory, due to a printing mistake. The audience immediately knew the piece but didn’t have a copy, so Richard went on to finish the piece from memory, while the audience gave him a standing ovation. Later, the composer was asked about the piece, and he explained that he’d had to remember the music due to its complex structure. He’d then gone on to dedicate the piece to his wife, Kath. She, in turn, dedicated their wedding anniversary to Richard, with a piano-themed card box.
Pattinson’s love of the piano continues to this day. He’s regularly seen playing at concerts and charity events, and he still gets the same joy out of playing the instrument as ever. As a testament to his artistry, he is not only recognised as one of the greatest living British pianists but is also a member of the prestigious Order of the British Empire. In 2019, he celebrated his 90th birthday with an enormous concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall, where he performed for nearly four hours with an orchestra of nearly 100 players. This concert was attended by Prince William and Duchess Kate, who offered a vocal salute of ‘Happy Birthday!’