Artist Spotlight
22. Sep

Oscar Peterson

When the world-renowned Canadian pianist came to Villingen in 1961, there was a mood of intense excitement all round. Hans-Georg Brunner-Schwer (HGBS), former owner of the hifi dynasty SABA who died in 2004, had just set up the first version of his studio, equipped with the most advanced recording technology of the time, above the living-room in his villa. This was the bait used by the piano enthusiast to attract the famous pianist to the Black Forest. After a guest performance in Zurich, Peterson climbed into a limousine and embarked on a journey across the mountains. As soon as he arrived, along with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen, the international star was led to the Steinway grand in the living-room where a number of excited guests were eagerly waiting. “I listened to him play ’til four o’clock in the morning and lost the desire to ever hear the Beatles again!”, says Matthias Brunner-Schwer, HGBS’ son, still starry-eyed half a century later. The legendary pianist himself was equally delighted when he listened to the recording of the nocturnal living-room performance, never before having heard such a direct and pristine piano sound on tape. It sounded to him as if he was still there at the grand piano, undisturbed by distracting nightclub sounds yet surrounded by a wonderfully intimate atmosphere. Peterson’s enthusiastic response marked the beginning of a long-term friendship and spiritual kinship with Brunner-Schwer.

In the following years, the Canadian pianist returned again and again to the Black Forest with various line-ups to capture his musical vision on tape. As Peterson was still under contract to Verve, the recordings could not be released before 1968. The legendary “Exclusively For My Friends” series was the first release for Brunner-Schwer‘s newly-established MPS label.
Never before had a recording captured every aspect of Peterson’s ground-breaking sound so vividly: the virtuosity and the speed as well as the delicate inspiration he brings to the subtle and reflective moments. The touch of light-hearted wit and the depth of lyrical feeling. Elegance and swing, interspersed with moments of intensity and explosive outbursts. The art of improvisation – simultaneously confident and imaginative – fuelled by harmonic and ornamental inventiveness. These recordings, made over a short period of five years, also reflect the transformation from equal member of a trio to soloist.