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Piers Lane is back where it all began

Renowned pianist Piers Lane is a globe trotting classical music superstar and he’s back in his hometown of Brisbane for a very special concert.

 

Jun 19, 2024, updated Jun 19, 2024
Internationally renowned pianist Piers Lane is back home for a concert in Brisbane and to warm up for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville next month

Internationally renowned pianist Piers Lane is back home for a concert in Brisbane and to warm up for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville next month

He’s Brisbane’s classical music rock star and Piers Lane has fans all over the world including plenty in his home town.

On Sunday (June 23) those fans are in for a treat because the London-based expat is home to perform for Medici Concerts in the Concert Hall at QPAC. And he’s sticking around because he’s one of the star turns at this year’s Australian Festival of Chamber Music (AFCM) in Townsville in late July. Lane, 66, served as artistic director of AFCM for 11 years.

He also has a busy concert schedule around the country while he is here. Lane is a popular judge at international piano competitions and is currently artistic director of the Sydney International Piano Competition.

He has performed in more than 40 countries, is a prolific recording artist (much of his oeuvre can now be streamed free on various platforms he tells us), has had standing ovations at Carnegie Hall and elsewhere and is renowned as a bit of an entertainer. Because Piers Lane doesn’t just play, he likes to chat as well and his audiences love him for it.

He has been performing in Brisbane for Medici Concerts International Piano Series (run by long serving director Ann Thompson) for a couple of decades and he always pulls a crowd. The audience is in for a treat this time around too because Lane will be test driving his new silk jacket and those in the know will also be looking a bit lower to check out what colourful socks he will be wearing. The socks are a signature.

“You can rely on my socks,” Lane says when we chat. “I’m looking forward to my Medici Concert. It has been the most consistent piano recital series I know for such a long time. And it’s always wonderful at the stage door afterwards because I get to chat with old friends and people who have been coming for years.”

This year he’ll be playing some Bach, a work by Irish pianist and composer John Field, some Mozart, Glazunov and three pieces by Chopin. Audiences love and even demand Chopin and Lane is an expert.

His concerts are entertaining but also edifying as he likes to background his pieces, tell stories and share amusing anecdotes a bit like Victor Borge used to.

“Some musicians get nervous about talking but I’ve always been happy to chat,’ Lane says.

In Townsville at the AFCM this year he will be hosting a Concert Conversations event with the Goldner String Quartet, long time artists in residence with the AFCM. The famous quartet is disbanding and this will be their Townsville swansong as a group and Lane will be talking to them about that and other musical matters.

He will also be performing at the AFCM Governor’s Gala and has other concert and recital engagements in Townsville. British violinist Jack Liebeck is current artistic director and Lane says Liebeck is working him hard but he doesn’t mind. Lane suggested Liebeck for the job actually and is now happy to be on the other side – playing rather than organising.

“It will be nice just to be playing and this will be my first time back without directing,” Lane says. “I adored being artistic director. It was very satisfying and I was in such a privileged position.”

Though he was brought up in Brisbane, Piers Lane was born in London where  his parents met while auditioning as piano students at the Royal College of Music.

His mother, Enid, was, he points out, from Townsville and he recalls spending family holidays in Innisfail. He confesses that he has a soft spot for North Queensland.

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He is a graduate of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music (now Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University) and he lives in London but travels the world performing to packed concert halls. He loves coming home.

“Before covid I would come home to Australia two or three times a year,” Lane says. “One year I came five times. Then in 2020 I didn’t come at all and since then it has been once a year.”

But it’s an extended stay, playing around the country, visiting family in Brisbane  and this year he’s also attending a 50-year reunion of his senior class at Kelvin Grove State High School.

“I had wonderful school days in Brisbane and a wonderful headmaster who let me off most afternoons for piano lessons,” he recalls.

“I love coming back to Brisbane. Every year more skyscrapers appear  and the volume of traffic changes but it’s still the same in so many ways.”

After the AFCM Lane will fly back to London and then to New York where he will be performing and so it will go until his next visit home.

If you miss him this time there’s always next year but you have a few chances  to catch him between now and August. And Sunday’s Medici Concert will be one of the best because it will be just Piers Lane, his piano, new jacket and colourful socks) and the usual adoring audience in QPAC’s Concert Hall, his home away from home.

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