Paul Cantrell’s music blog & podcast
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Schumann Arabesque, played by Don Betts

In the Hands is primarily for my own recordings, but today I have a special exception to make: over the summer, I recorded Don Betts, my piano teacher, playing in his home. Don has made a great many excellent recordings over the years — including the Chopin album available on this web site — but these recordings we made in his living room are something entirely different. They have a special kind of magic about them. The Chopin album was recorded in a concert hall, and it has a concert hall feeling: it’s Don the performer, playing a big piano in a big space, and with a big manner to match. The way I really think of him, though, is Don the teacher: playing to an audience of one, not performing so much as sharing, hoping you will share his love and his sense of wonder for the music. These recordings are the first that truly capture the Don Betts I know best.

We recorded several pieces, and after much fiddling with EQ, I finally have the first recording prepared and sounding quite decent (though more work is needed!).

Arabesque (Op 18)
Donald Betts, piano

Recording in this setting posed some challenges: I had to adapt a recording setup designed for my home studio to an entirely different piano in an entirely different space. It took some experimenting to get mic positions that worked. Don’s piano isn’t a concert instrument, and there was a funny buzz to contend with, plus the noises from outside — you can even hear Don’s fingernails clicking on the keys! I worry a little that listeners used to hearing clinically perfect studio recordings will be put off, but I think you’ll find that there is so much life in this music, your mind won’t notice the surface details for long. Close your eyes and imagine: you’re standing next to a master of the art, in his home, sharing with you what he loves.