Culture vulture

12th May 2006 at 01:00
Aydin Onac is moved by Donatello and passionate about Prokofiev

Books I love

My top three are Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Anna Karenina and Our Mutual Friend. I love Dickens's humour and his language. An Equal Music, by Vikram Seth, is a fabulous book, though I think you need to be male and a musician to fully appreciate it. And The Piano Tuner, by Daniel Mason. His writing is so vivid: you can feel, you can touch, you can smell the jungle.

My inspiration

As well as being a headteacher I'm a professional concert pianist. I practise from 6.30am to 8am in the school hall, so the noise doesn't disturb anyone. I love to play Rachmaninov and Prokofiev, particularly Prokofiev's third piano concerto. There's such fantastic passion and excitement in the music. There's nothing like the buzz you get from being the soloist with a big symphony orchestra. Nothing that gives you that high point of excitement or total emotional immersion. And terror.

Films I love

Rabbit-Proof Fence moved me a lot. And Gandhi. I love the BBC series The Office: it's so funny and the characterisation is unique. The Christmas episode makes me cry with laughter.

Sculpture to visit

Donatello is my favourite sculptor. His Mary Magdalene in Florence (pictured) is carved from a single piece of pearwood. It's the most moving piece of art I've ever seen. It makes me cry to look at it. And Rodin's The Burghers of Calais in the Rodin Museum in Paris. They're the opposite of graceful: full of rugged, distressing emotion.

Treat in store

I've just moved back to London and I'm looking forward to concerts, particularly Shostakovich. Sitting on the first level overlooking the orchestra, you feel you are right in the middle of this mass of forces.

It's one of the most exciting musical experiences you can get. And I shall try to get to all of the RSC's Complete Works season, but even if I don't I shall go to some comedies, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear. Lear captures the whole of humanity and tragedy and madness.

Aydin Onac is head of Fortismere school, London borough of Haringey.

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