Nicholas McNair- The Artist

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February, 1991: The San Carlos Opera House, Lisbon, Portugal. Pier-Luigi Pizzi's production of Handel's opera Rinaldo conducted by Nicholas Kraemer, with principals Teresa Berganza, Michael Chance, and Maria Bayo.

Nicholas McNair's versatility and professionalism were on dazzling display in this somewhat hair-raising musical adventure. The orchestra went on strike just prior to the first performance, and he was called in to play the orchestral parts on a Steinway Concert Grand, along with two harpsichords and a lute.

Mr. McNair had only 48 hours to prepare the opera, which was performed three different times, with no rehearsal. During a thirty-minute meeting in Conductor Kraemer's hotel room, Mr. McNair had a scant thirty minutes to mark the cuts into his score, immediately before the curtain was raised on the premiere performance. The Portugese critics were suitably impressed:

Dito isto, refira-se a forma espantosamente inteligente como o pianista Nicholas McNair desempenhou esta tarefa t‹o ingrata (ainda para mais com um per’odo de preparać‹o m’nimo), demonstrando uma capacidade rara de compreens‹o e integrać‹o estil’sticas, a ponto de uma soluć‹o de emergźncia, necessariamente atabalhoada como esta, acabar por se tornar perfeitamente toler‡vel. < >< >< >< >< >< >< >< >< >< >Rui Vieira Nery in O Independente

This said, one is referring to the astonishingly intelligent way in which the pianist Nicholas McNair played such an impressive role (all the more so with such a minimal period of preparation), demonstrating a rare capacity for stylistic understanding and integration, so that what was a necessarily irregular emergency solution became perfectly tolerable.

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Somente que a orquestra se resumiu a piano, dois cravos e alaœde, improvisać‹o de h‡ dois ou trźs dias que evidenciou a excepcional capacidade do pianista Nicholas McNair. JosŽ Blanc de Portugal in Di‡rio de Not’cias

Only that the orchestra consisted of piano, two harpsichords and lute, an improvisation of two or three days ago which put in evidence the exceptional capacity of the pianist Nicholas McNair.

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March 1991: The British Council, Lisbon, Portugal, with soprano Elvira Archer and violinist Jack Glatzer

Elvira Arche brilhou em todo o seu programa, obtendo excelente colaborać‹o do talentos’ssimo McNair (ao piano) JosŽ Blanc in Di‡rio de Not’cias de Portugal

Elvira Archer shone throughout her programme, obtaining excellent collaboration from the extremely talented McNair (at the piano).

March, 1992: The British Council, Lisbon, Portugal, with mezzo-soprano Liliana Bizineche-Eisinger

The last concert took place last week with the mezzo-soprano Liliana Bizineche-Eisinger singing arias from operas, and also the moving "Magnificat" by Nicholas McNair, who accompanied her to perfection on the piano. As for Nicholas McNair, modest and self- effacing as always, he is a truly great musician.Katharina Hahn Anglo-Portuguese News


July 1995: John Eliot Gardiner's CD of Don Giovanni:

Gardiner opts for a text that is neither that of the original Prague version nor the usual amalgam of Prague and Vienna. The editor, Nicholas McNair, argues that the order adopted here is the answer truest to Mozart. Edward Greenfield in The Guardian

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August 1995: Gardiner uses the complete Vienna score in the opera, assigning the Prague alternatives to an appendix. The musicologist writing in the booklet makes a convincing historic case for including the Zerlina/Leporello duet in the performance. Alan Blyth in Gramophone

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June 1995: Lisbon, Portugal, performance of The Magic Flute

Uma palavra final para o profundo trabalho de investigać‹o de Nicholas McNair JosŽ Prata in A Capital

A final word for the profound research work of Nicholas McNair.

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November 1997: John Eliot Gardiner's CD of Beethoven's Leonore

Co-editor Nicholas McNair draws a fine-tooth comb through the comparative Leonore/Fidelio versions in an absorbing thesis which sees Leonore in the broader context of contemporary German philosophy. Hilary Finch in Gramophone

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February, 1998: The version here recorded is one concocted by Gardiner and Nicholas McNair which has been several times given in a "semi-staged" production. I thought it worked well in the Felsenreitschule at Salzburg. The accompanying booklet prints interesting and informative essays by Gardiner and McNair and the libretto and translation, but also an analytical table by McNair in which one can compare across four columns what does and does not appear in Lenore (1805, three acts), Lenore (1806, two acts), Fidelio (1814, two acts) and the version here recorded. One cannot ask for more, and these discs are a must for anyone interested in Beethoven or indeed in romantic opera. Opera

Note: Information on John Eliot Gardiner's CD of Beethoven's Lenore is available by sending e-mail to Mr. McNair at

March 1995: Mr. McNair's accompaniment of the film Amor de Perdicao (1921) on the 100th anniversary of the Cinema. The original score which has partially survived was by the composer Armando Leca, who himself played the piano and improvised for large sections of the film. Mr. McNair improvised for the entire 3 hours of the film, using some themes from the original score where it was practical.

"Finally, but for me in no way less important than the film itself, I "drank in" that wonderful, perfect, expressive musical accompaniment in which pianist Nicholas McNair knew how not only to make use of and develop my father's themes but also to adapt them precisely to what was being portrayed on the screen. Throughout the film I sat captivated, but also profoundly moved, because in that person at the piano I was seeing and hearing my own father, imagining him living again in those films he had scored. The composer's son in a letter written after the performance.


Nicholas McNair | The Music | The Artist | The Reviews | Contact
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