Observations: Whose notes are they anyway?

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The Independent Culture

Most concert pianists are content to play the notes as written. Not so Mikhail Rudy, who, we'll see next week, breaks every rule in the book. He'll improvise on Bach, Chopin, Debussy and Mozart – and do it as jazz, in duet with another pianist. It's hard enough for one brain to devise a complex piece on the hoof: how on earth can two brains mesh?

His answer comes in an unstoppable stream. His early youth was spent on the run after his family were exiled by the Soviets for sedition. When he was five they were living in a ruin, lacking a roof but mysteriously containing a piano. "One day I heard a violinist playing next door – so I answered him through the wall with the piano, imitating what he was playing. And thus began a conversation lasting weeks."

The violinist found him a teacher, and his talent did the rest: success in Moscow and a competition win in Paris. Having had problems with the secret police – who tried to recruit him, then hounded him – he got asylum in the West and struck up another weird duet-relationship, this time with Misha Alperin, the pianist who'll partner him. As Alperin lives in Norway, they devise pieces on the phone. This apparently works a treat.

The following night, Rudy will be joined by an actor, with whom he will set his own translation of Kafka's love letters to Janacek's music. "Though the two men never met, they were living in Prague at the same time, and both fell in love with powerful Czech women. I have engineered their encounter."

Kings Place, London N1, 18 and 19 February, 7.30pm (www.kingsplace.co.uk)