Britain's wildest pianist meets its most supercilious curled lip

Britain's wildest pianist meets its most supercilious curled lip


norman lebrecht

September 21, 2011

From the You Couldn’t Make It Up Department comes news of a forthcoming encounter at the Barbican.

Apparently, razor-sharp James Rhodes Click to view Photo

is taking on super-cool Stephen Fry 

in a public wrestling match on the future of classical music. No holds barred.

I just had to tell you first, before Fry tweeted it to the universe.

Press release follows:


James Rhodes joins Stephen Fry for A Classical Affair in a run of typically mould-breaking gigs


26 September 2011 – Barbican


Maverick concert pianist James Rhodes teams up with Stephen Fry for a debate about the relevance of classical music in a busy autumn including three free lunchtime recitals at the Riflemaker Art Gallery and his first Australian tour


Stephen Fry and James Rhodes join forces for what promises to be an entertaining and passionate exploration of current perceptions around classical music. Often performing in T-shirt and jeans and bantering casually and candidly throughout his concerts, James has become known for his engaging, acclaimed and utterly unconventional approach to classical music. The Barbican event on 26 September, moderated by Sir David Tang, sees James both join the debate and illustrate it with performance in what could be an extraordinary evening.


In further unusual concerts in September, James performs the first ever free lunchtime concerts at the understatedly cool Riflemaker Art Gallery in Soho. Housed in an historic Grade 1 listed gunmaker’s workshop off Regent Street and renowned as an innovative gallery, Riflemaker presents an adventurous programme of arts. James’ free piano recital series takes place 14-16 September and includes works by Beethoven, Bach/Busoni and Blumenfeld.


Love Arts Leeds Festival seeks to harness the power of the arts to explore mental health issues. After his own struggle with such problems, James has a strong personal connection to this concert on 6 October. He then returns to the intimate Jazz Café in Camden on 11 October, after his success there at the HMV Next Big Thing Festival earlier this year.


James is also welcomed back to the Cheltenham Festival next month to perform in a one-off collaboration with writer A L Kennedy. Following James’ outstanding, sell-out debut in 2010 during which he performed a memorable encore using his ipad in place of sheet music, this event contains a creative mix of music, stand-up and conversation and will take place at The Salon on October 13.


Also in October, James embarks on his first Australian tour following the success of his debut Warner album Bullets & Lullabies reaching number one in the Australian iTunes download chart. James performs at the Melbourne International Arts Festival and then in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide.


In announcing the tour, Liza McLean of Kay and McLean Productions said: “I saw James perform recently in London and his charm and talent just blew me away! James wipes away the pretension that often surrounds classical music and gives you, no matter who you are, or what your upbringing, unequivocal permission just to sit back and have the music itself engulf you.”


James Rhodes:


  • I saw this advertised a while ago, and I groaned and cringed inwardly. It could be good/amusing, but I suspect it will more likely be dire. What is certain – 2 huge egos on display, and both flagrant self-publicists. One to avoid, I’d say!

    Can someone please explain to me why Stephen Fry is now an expert on music – as well as, apparently, on everything else? I was surprised when he was awarded that Glenn Gould Foundation prize earlier in the year: I can think of more deserving individuals…..