Sunday 24 September 2017

My cultural life: concert pianist Veronica McSwiney

Veronica McSwiney
Veronica McSwiney
Noel Fitzpatrick
Proof of Heaven by Maeve Binchy
Lavender Ladies

Veronica McSwiney was born in Dublin in 1940 and at age seven started taking lessons at what was then the Municipal School of Music in Chatham Row with Dr J.J. O'Reilly. She received her first piano for her eighth birthday, and by the age of 14 was determined to become a concert pianist.

Thanks to Sir Robert and Lady Mayer, who heard her play around this time and took great interest in her progress, she got the opportunity to study abroad - first of all with Bruno Seidlhofer in Salzburg and then in London with Ilona Kabos. Veronica says of her successful career: "For a woman, combining a very demanding music career with marriage and a family was a real struggle but I was determined to keep going. I think nowadays it is more widely accepted that women can and do pursue their own aspirations, and rightly so."

TV: The Supervet

Noel Fitzpatrick

I am a huge animal lover. I have two gorgeous dogs, four rescue cats and a cockatiel called Benjie that can talk for Ireland, and I taught him nearly everything he knows. Without hesitation my favourite TV programme is The Supervet. What an incredible man he is, and he is Irish. His name is Noel Fitzpatrick. It is amazing how he copes with some of the horrific injuries and health issues he deals with whether it is a four-legged, two-legged or feathered friend.

Book: Proof of Heaven

Proof of Heaven by Maeve Binchy

I love Maeve Binchy. I have read all of her books. However when I lost my beautiful daughter Judi to meningitis in 2012 a friend gave me a book, Proof of Heaven, by an eminent neurosurgeon, Dr Eben Alexander. He had also had meningitis and miraculously survived. I always had great faith, but this book confirmed everything for me. His near-death experience is the most incredible I have ever heard and was a great source of comfort for me.

Music: Der Rosenkavalier

This is an almost impossible question for a musician to answer. I will never forget the first time I heard that famous trio from Strauss's opera Der Rosenkavalier with The Marchioness, Octavian and Sophie. What a heavenly piece of music! Another divine piece which I have played often is the Archduke Trio by Beethoven, especially the slow movement. True genius.

Design: Vienna

One of my favourite cities in the world is Vienna. Without fail every time I visit I spend so much time on various sections of the Ringstrasse, that wonderful boulevard that circles the city. I am in awe of that beautiful Opera House, the Burgtheater, the Town Hall, the Parliament, the wonderful museums and beautiful parks. What magnificent buildings - ordered to be built as far as I know by the Emperor Franz Joseph, using the best architects of the time. It is a real masterpiece in terms of urban planning.

Movie: Ladies in Lavender

Lavender Ladies

I just love Judi Dench and Maggie Smith but especially in Ladies in Lavender. This is a beautiful, gentle story of two sisters who find a young man on the beach, and it turns out he is a talented violinist.

Two Piano Recital, in aid of the Dublin International Piano Competition, with Veronica McSwiney and John O'Conor, takes place in the National Concert Hall on November 2.

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