In praise of Dame Fanny Waterman

Posted on September 1, 2009

Guardian Editorial
Tuesday 1 September 2009

At the age of 89, you might think that Dame Fanny Waterman would have decided to ease off. But, like Dame Vera Lynn, who this week became the oldest person to have an album in the top 20, she is indefatigable and irresistible. It is 36 years since Waterman co-founded the Leeds International Piano Competition with Marion Thorpe. This year, as ever, she is still putting in 14-hour days as chair of the jury in the world famous event with which she is synonymous. A firm believer in the competitive ethic – woe betide anyone with the temerity to suggest that such events put unhealthy pressure on young artists – she has always led from the front. Over the weekend, Waterman and her fellow judges whittled the 68 entrants down to the 33 young pianists who will go forward into this week’s second round. Perhaps the youngest of them, China’s Qi Xu, a mere 14, is destined to emerge at the end of next week as winner, joining illustrious artists such as Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia, Andras Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida, all of whom made their names after winning prizes at Leeds. It is decades since Waterman went from being merely the best piano teacher in north Leeds – where she still gives lessons – to the most legendary piano teacher in the world; more than 2 million students have bought her Me and My Piano series. This year, with a bit of time to spare, she took on the presidency of the Harrogate Festival. The festival’s motto is “Global talent in god’s own county”. Just like Dame Fanny, in fact.

Taken from The Guardian Online,