Yesterday evening, Kaoru Bingham gave a piano recital at Ecclesall parish church, where Sheffield edges into the Pennines. There were perhaps a hundred people, mostly sitting close round the piano. I don’t remember such stillness at a concert before: not a cough or a shuffle. You could have heard a page turn, but there was no need: the programme of Bach, Mozart, Liszt, Satie and Chopin was played from memory.
I met Kaoru late in the process of working on Bread and Salt, so her remarkable story does not figure greatly in the book. (But that’s true in varying degrees of all the artists I spoke to, so rich is particularity of each life. This recital was my first chance to hear her extraordinary gifts as a musician. I’m not competent to give a critic’s account of Kaoru’s performance, but I had a wonderful and memorable evening.
Classical music is not usually associated with what arts policy calls ‘cultural diversity’. But diversity was everywhere last night. Here was a Japanese musician settled in Britain and playing work by composers from Germany, Poland, France and Austria to an audience with evident variations of culture, age, background and so on. We had gathered in a late 18th century building imitating a 13th century style thought suitable for a religion rooted in Palestine and Rome. And we listened, among other pieces, to a Mozart sonata that imitated the musical styles of the Turkish forces that had besieged Vienna a century before its composition.
Diversity was everywhere and completely ordinary, not worth commenting on, even here, except that it is so often made into a problem. But last night, as so often in everyday life, it was what we shared as human beings that brought us together around that piano: a gift and a regular marvel.