NZ classical pianist at it, 54 years later
Tue, 14 Aug 2012 10:52p.m.
By Janika Ter Ellen
For all you pub quiz buffs, here's a piece of trivia you may want to store away:
New Zealand's first classical LP was recorded by 25-year-old Lola Austin in 1958.
Tonight, 54 years later, she made a triumphant return to the stage.
It's easy to see why 79-year-old Lola Austin was once considered New Zealand's leading solo pianist.
But it was under different circumstances, as a 25-year-old up-and-comer, she recorded the first classical LP album in New Zealand, Encores, made in just two hours at the Lower Hutt Town Hall.
“There were men working on the roof, at the same time, that had to be stopped,” she says. “People were walking from one side to the other, as they do through town halls; that had to be stopped, but still the playing went.”
There was no studio, no post-production, but critics loved her work.
From the moment Austin first set eyes on a piano at five years old, she revered it, and wouldn't even touch the keys until she had had lessons.
“It wasn't that my parents prevented me. It was just something inside of myself. It said, it seemed to say, ‘when I touch a piano, I want to be able to play’.”
She did, touring New Zealand and the United States, practising up to seven hours a day.
But tonight's concert is her first in a while, and she's philosophical about the worsening arthritis in her hands that one day may force her to stop playing.
“I will not like giving up my playing at all because that's been my life since I was five.”
Austin thinks she has still got a few years left in her.
“I hope so – if people want me, that is.”
After 74 years of playing, it appears they still do.
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