Piano wizard Manuel Villet struck a chord with the greats

VETERAN pianist Manuel Villet has hit the high notes with classical music stars in a brilliant career spanning five decades. The 78-year-old has played with world-famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin, learned from one of France s classical music greats, Nadia

VETERAN pianist Manuel Villet has hit the high notes with classical music stars in a brilliant career spanning five decades.

The 78-year-old has played with world-famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin, learned from one of France's classical music greats, Nadia Boulanger, pushed his technique in Cape Town with concert pianist Lili Kraus and performed with the London Philharmonic and the BBC.

Villet, of St Marys, Barking, first laid his fingers on a keyboard aged six and in secondary school could play pieces by Brahms and Mozart.

He graduated from Cape Town University with a bachelor of music degree in 1951 before studying for two more years in Paris with Boulanger, who tutored some of the greatest 20th composers, including US pianist Aaron Copland.

Villet performed as a soloist with top orchestras in Britain, France and South Africa, playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 4 with the London Philharmonic conducted by Sir Adrian Boult.

He was then given the task of using his skills to accompany Menuhin, widely seen as one of the 20th century's top violinists, at home in South Africa.

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He said: "It was a great time, it was in 1956. I got the job, whatever you would call it, of coming with him on a South African tour.

"It was a great honour. He invited me after that to accompany him in 1957 in Vienna. I will never forget.

"At the time I was a young man, I was learning a lot from him. He was such a great musician.

"Looking back, it was very interesting. I went to various places, played with quite a few orchestras - in England with the BBC Northern Orchestra and lately with the University of East London."

Villet performed Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata at St Margaret's church, Barking, on August 8 and is booked to play at a Redbridge Music Society event at Redbridge Town Hall in the High Road on February 16.

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