The prince of romance hits all the right keys

Richard Clayderman, one of today’s most prolific easy-listening pianists, shares the love ahead of a return trip to Israel next month.

World-renowned pianist Richard Clayderman. (photo credit: OLIVIER TOUSSAINT DU WAST)
World-renowned pianist Richard Clayderman.
One of the most successful instrumental recording artists in the world, with reported record sales in excess of 70 million, 60-yearold French pianist Richard Clayderman’s clout extends well beyond his native city of Paris. With his trademark style of smooth, lavishly orchestrated reinterpretations of popular hits, show tunes and wellknown pieces from the classical repertoire, Clayderman made an impressive entry to the Israeli market in the early 1980s when he performed “Ballade pour Adeline” on evening TV talk shows. Today he has recorded over 1,000 melodies and, in the words of a German journalist, “he has arguably done more to popularize the piano around the world than anyone since Beethoven.”
Clayderman will, no doubt, wow his Israeli audiences as well when he comes to Israel to perform concerts in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beersheva and Haifa (September 11-14).
What was it that initially drew you to the piano?
My father was a music teacher, so there was a piano at home and I would often listen to my father teaching some piano beginners on this magic box. I also was attracted by the black and white keys. Without forcing me, my father showed me how to proceed and slowly gave me competency. He was never aggressive with me; I was always the one asking him how to proceed.
Do you remember the first piano piece that you mastered?
Not really, but I remember my first composition. I was, at that time, more or less six years old and I had composed my first waltz. My father and mother had entitled it “Valse à Phiphi.” Phiphi was and still is my nickname for Philippe. It was not a great composition, but this was the result of a certain work.
Who is your favorite pianist of all time?
One of my favorite pianists is Arthur Rubinstein. Apart from his expertise and excellence, I was very fond of his personality. He was so optimistic and joyful. In Tel Aviv at the theater where I perform, I’m always in the Arthur Rubinstein dressing room. There is a great painting of the Maestro and it’s always a pleasure and quite emotional for me to be provided with this dressing room; quite impressive.
Can you describe your process when composing original pieces?
In fact I’m not a composer, I limit myself to being an interpreter. My two producers, Paul de Senneville and Olivier Toussaint, have been composing hundreds of compositions for me while considering my style and personality. I own them, as for example, “Ballade pour Adeline” composed by Paul de Senneville.
How has the classical music scene changed since your career began?
In the past 40 years, there have been many changes and an evolution due to the international exchanges. The music of the world and the cross-overs have offered all sorts of new music and new dimensions in music with new style and new feelings, which I think is very positive for everyone concerned.
You’ve played concerts all over the world. What has been your favorite city in which to perform?
I am always delighted to be back in Sydney or Rio to perform, but the most essential point for me is to be provided with a good piano. I remember a piano in the same way some people may remember a dinner in a four-star restaurant. I do not drink wine, but for me, to play on a great piano is the same feeling as someone drinking a glass of Bordeaux Millésimé.
How do you feel about playing in Tel Aviv?
I have performed many many times in your country and more specifically in Tel Aviv. I like Tel Aviv. All these hotels on the beach; this is something unique which always make it pleasant for me to be back. I also love performing in your country, as the people are always warm and enthusiastic music lovers.
Do you have certain songs that you always perform?
For sure I perform “Ballade Pour Adeline” at each of my concerts; it is a kind of identity theme for me. People would not be satisfied and would even be cross with me if I would not play “Ballade Pour Adeline.”
When you play a song that’s not an original, how do you make it your own?
I always try to bring something special with my arrangements; my own touch, my own style. This way, it is not only a cover version, but a Richard Clayderman interpretation.
You have recorded many albums. Are you working on anything currently?
The last album I recorded is entitled Romantique, and was distributed worldwide by Decca/Universal. It was released about two years ago. I think it is a good album, which counts among my best. My producer, Olivier Toussaint, is currently having discussions in respect to new recordings, but so far nothing is finalized.
You are credited as being the most successful pianist in the world. What do you hope your legacy will be?
One of my greatest satisfactions in being what I am today is to have given millions of people the envy, the attraction and the pleasure of playing piano. In Asia, for example, you can hardly believe how many young pianists attend my concerts. It is a real joy for me!
Richard Clayderman will perform at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv on September 11, at Beersheva’s Performing Arts Center on September 12, at the Haifa Auditorium on September 13 and at the Sherover Theater in Jerusalem on September 14. To purchase tickets visit or