At 11, he was the youngest piano teacher registered for discounts with Denton, Cottier and Daniels. Now, the talented Richard English is 21, studying with UB professor Stephen Manes and ready to take on Liszt's First Piano Concerto with the UB Symphony, led by Magnus Martensson. The concert is at 8 tonight at Lippes Hall in Slee Hall on UB's North Campus in Amherst. Admission is free.
The gig came about because English was a winner of UB's annual concerto competition. The News called Richie, as he's known, at his Kenmore home and interrupted his practice to ask him a few questions.
>What pianist inspires you?
If there's one person on the face of the Earth that I'd die to have a cup of coffee with and hang around with for half an hour, it would be Evgeny Kissin. First, he was a freak of nature. Second, he was a product of the Soviet system. I hate to say this, because I hate communism -- I'm a real patriot -- but they knew how to exploit talent. He was stuck in a school for the gifted. He became an overnight sensation. And he was able to make the leap from prodigy to artist. His playing just puts me in this different world. It's a natural high.
>Rumor has it Franz Liszt is your hero.
I've had funny debates with fellow students about that! (Laughs.) Liszt was just so innovative. He doesn't get credit for that, for the tricks he popularized, all the big barnstorming virtuosity. I love Liszt, the virtuoso tradition. I can't stand people who say it's schlock. Nothing gets me going like Kissin playing the Fifth Transcendental Etude. It's borderline superhumanly beautiful.
>You write music as well as play it. Do you think you'll stay in Buffalo?
I'd like to live and work here. I love this town. You don't feel insignificant here as you do in New York City. Part of my mission is trying to spread this music. I love seeing people's reactions when they hear Liszt for the first time. I bring it to my friends' houses, people who listen to hip-hop or death metal. I love seeing their faces light up.
Liszt was a womanizer. These people had the same problems we did. Once my friends are aware of that, they're completely into classical music. I've never heard someone say, "I can't stand this -- turn it off." My generation is the greatest untapped audience.
-- Mary Kunz Goldman