If there is any such thing as a conventional background for concert performers, then Raymond Banning has certainly not enjoyed one. Deprived of most of the privileges that help youngsters forge musical careers, he worked his way from a tough council estate to the main performance platforms of this country.
His determination and natural talent led to his first piano concerto performances in his teens, followed by study at the Royal College of Music. Lean years followed, however, when he had little opportunity to develop his playing skills, lacking even a decent piano of his own. But his determined resolve and, many would say, sheer bloody-mindedness, found him beginning to build a career in the 1980s as a recitalist on a national level.
The end of that decade, however, found him dissatisfied with his playing and he decided to thoroughly overhaul his approach to the keyboard. He had become increasingly inspired by the great late Romantic pianists such as Rachmaninoff, Horowitz, Cortot and Myra Hess. He was aware that his own playing style lacked the values that those figures embodied. As he put it, "I decided to question everything I had ever been taught, and to have two rules only: to play in a more naturally relaxed manner, and to try and embody the qualities of those great pianists of a past age. Over the next few years my playing became totally transformed, gaining greater expressive depth and tonal range."
Following his dramatic conversion his concerts have attracted large audiences throughout the UK. An unashamed Romantic, he believes that many of the qualities that singled out the great performers of the past are being lost, with much contemporary playing emphasising the percussive nature of the piano. He devotes his attention to qualities of tone, colour and legato playing; qualities which mark his recitals as events of expressive and emotional power.