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#1979165 - 10/27/12 02:57 AM Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times  
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TrueMusic Offline
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Interesting article I just found on the NY Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/a...-generation.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Makes me ask the question of just why I am playing the piano and what my goals are. How can I bring an original voice to my playing? I'm not a technical wizard, but I like to think I create a unique sound and really try to play the music how I imagine it, not simply by the standard. I also learned piano by improv not by reading and note-perfect reproduction.

I thought the article was fascinating.

Sorry if this is a re-post - I searched but didn't find it.


Piano/Composition major.

Proud owner of a beautiful Yamaha C7.

Polish:
Liszt Petrarch Sonnet 104
Bach WTC book 1 no. 6.
Dello Joio Sonata no. 3

New:
Chopin op. 23
Bach WTC book 2 no. 20
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#1979168 - 10/27/12 03:16 AM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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If you thought you were going to be special, then you should probably quit right now.

If you thought that only few could ever be great at the piano, then you should definitely quit right now.

But it sounds to me as though you are wondering how to make your music special, which is entirely different - and that is, as long as you can do something with the music, then you're doing something special. It may never be recorded. It may never be performed. But really, that shouldn't always be the goal.


A linguistics major who loves piano and knows too much theory/history without knowing how to play it as well as he wants to be able to.

Let's hope that changes. Taught piano for almost two years and currently working on:
"Going back to the basics..."
#1979169 - 10/27/12 03:25 AM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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I used to think I was something special - then I discovered the internet! Ha. But, thinking about the incredible talents around the world makes me wonder why do it...and I guess the reason has to be for the other people I might be able to effect with music around me! And also, of course, for my own enjoyment of playing certain pieces.

What keeps you guys going despite, most likely, never being the "best"?


Piano/Composition major.

Proud owner of a beautiful Yamaha C7.

Polish:
Liszt Petrarch Sonnet 104
Bach WTC book 1 no. 6.
Dello Joio Sonata no. 3

New:
Chopin op. 23
Bach WTC book 2 no. 20
#1979171 - 10/27/12 03:38 AM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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Because there's not a single 'best' person out there. Even if there's a better composer than me in the world (and there's ton like that, believe me), I have a better looking wife, longer *ahem* and my dad has a better car! :P

It's fruitless to go chassing being the best. Being the best of the best probably means that your life sucks... You can't be the best pianist in the world and not travel constantly, be away from your family (if you even have one), and having sacrificed everything in between...

As to why we keep going? It's simple: Because we love what we do. Because, personally, I feel that even if I change one mans life, that's enough (and I think I've done that already to more than one person, but anyhow). Because our instincts, our egos, our personalities, our inner agents push us so hard that we can't stop. Or perhaps we're earning better money than if we were working in a bank! wink

Each one has a different reason for keep going, but for me it's all of the above!

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#1979183 - 10/27/12 04:52 AM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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This is something only instrumentalists care for.
When you listen to someone playing a piece in concert, it doesn't matter if he had to put a lot of serious work in it to make it work or if he just read it a few timew one week ago. What is important is the artistic result, isn't it ?
In a word, what your hear...

Even though I'm really preoccupied with my technique (particularly at the guitar, but at the piano too), I always find it strange that there's seemingly only in music that we put such an emphasis on technical brilliance. Do you often hear about extraordinary precocious virtuosos painters ?

On the top of that, we have to define what a virtuoso is.
To me it's someone who is extremely virtuous, who excels in his art. What's the art of a musician ? Not "finger technique", music.
So, I'd call a virtuoso someone who can not only play anything fast and accurate, but also sight-read pretty much anything, hear extremely well, is able to improvise (as organists do, not just playing around a few minutes on the piano), to write music (not necessarily as a composer, but someone able to write a fugue, a classical sonata dans le style de, and so one), and knows music history well.

And I'm not even talking about being cultivated, and knowledgeable enough at least in other arts.

I'm not saying that following this definition of being a virtuoso, the few pianists quoted in this article are not virtuoso but rather mere performant music makers, just that in general there are much less true virtuosos than we could think there are as music students.
I used to be kind of admirative of the guitarists who studied at the CNSMDP (Paris superior conservatory). A lot of them were/are winning competitions, etc. But me teacher told me that those guitarists know nothing about music, or even guitar, apart from the pieces they play. They make contests of who will be able to play this or this Rodrigo piece the fastest.

I'm learning to be very cautious about these musicians. They're not interesting, and apart from shining among their peers at the conservatory, they're pretty much inexistant as artists.

Last edited by Praeludium; 10/27/12 04:53 AM.
#1979203 - 10/27/12 07:26 AM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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Why play instead of just listening to the virtuosi? Why fall in love? You could always just read love stories.


Slow down and do it right.
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#1979271 - 10/27/12 12:15 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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Originally Posted by TrueMusic
Interesting article I just found on the NY Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/a...-generation.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Makes me ask the question of just why I am playing the piano and what my goals are. How can I bring an original voice to my playing? I'm not a technical wizard, but I like to think I create a unique sound and really try to play the music how I imagine it, not simply by the standard. I also learned piano by improv not by reading and note-perfect reproduction.

I thought the article was fascinating.

Sorry if this is a re-post - I searched but didn't find it.


You are yourself. With a good technique and ability, you will have many tools to make the music YOU want to make. The "musicality" aspect comes from experience and knowledge of a variety of musical aspects. But if you want your own personal sound, it's already there; you just need to further develop being able to produce it!

That goes for every one of us, I'm not singling you out, and I'm also not excluding myself.

#1979320 - 10/27/12 03:20 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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Thanks for the post.

#1979372 - 10/27/12 05:50 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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Originally Posted by TrueMusic
I used to think I was something special - then I discovered the internet! Ha. But, thinking about the incredible talents around the world makes me wonder why do it...and I guess the reason has to be for the other people I might be able to effect with music around me! And also, of course, for my own enjoyment of playing certain pieces.

What keeps you guys going despite, most likely, never being the "best"?

What keeps a pianist "going" is the need to play. It is as essential as breathing. This is why writers write and painters paint, and it has nothing to do with others. You play because you must play. It is not a choice. And it doesn't matter who's better than you or inferior to you. You play to please yourself. If others enjoy your playing, that's a bonus, but it should not be your goal.

Requisite disclaimer: All of the preceding is IMHO.

#1979417 - 10/27/12 07:33 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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Good article and an interesting phenomenon.

The caption says: "In the last decade or so the growth of technical proficiency among young pianists has seemed exponential. The new generation that can play anything includes Yuja Wang".

And there is also this statement by Jerome Lowenthal:

"When the 1996 movie “Shine,” about the mentally ill pianist David Helfgott, raised curiosity about Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, Mr. Lowenthal was asked by reporters whether this piece was as formidably difficult as the movie had suggested. He said that he had two answers: “One was that this piece truly is terribly hard. Two was that all my 16-year-old students were playing it.”

I wonder why this is the case. It's not like someone developed a performance enhancing drug for pianists like doping or steroids. And it's not like pianos have evolved much like what has happened in certain sports like tennis which evolved from wood rackets to oversized graphite technology.

#1979423 - 10/27/12 07:40 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: Works1]  
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Originally Posted by Works1
Good article and an interesting phenomenon.

The caption says: "In the last decade or so the growth of technical proficiency among young pianists has seemed exponential. The new generation that can play anything includes Yuja Wang".

And there is also this statement by Jerome Lowenthal:

"When the 1996 movie “Shine,” about the mentally ill pianist David Helfgott, raised curiosity about Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, Mr. Lowenthal was asked by reporters whether this piece was as formidably difficult as the movie had suggested. He said that he had two answers: “One was that this piece truly is terribly hard. Two was that all my 16-year-old students were playing it.”

I wonder why this is the case. It's not like someone developed a performance enhancing drug for pianists like doping or steroids.

Probably the great advancements we've made in piano pedagogy as well as other social ties with achieving that level as earlier as possible.


A linguistics major who loves piano and knows too much theory/history without knowing how to play it as well as he wants to be able to.

Let's hope that changes. Taught piano for almost two years and currently working on:
"Going back to the basics..."
#1979432 - 10/27/12 08:08 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: Works1]  
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Originally Posted by Works1
Mr. Lowenthal was asked by reporters whether this piece was as formidably difficult as the movie had suggested. He said that he had two answers: “One was that this piece truly is terribly hard. Two was that all my 16-year-old students were playing it.”

I wonder why this is the case. It's not like someone developed a performance enhancing drug for pianists like doping or steroids. And it's not like pianos have evolved much like what has happened in certain sports like tennis which evolved from wood rackets to oversized graphite technology.



I think today's students, more than yesterday's, are taught how to practice. I personally can't remember a single piece of technical advise from my teachers in childhood.

#1979436 - 10/27/12 08:13 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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I have been amazed myself by the increasing number of really wonderful performers in the classical piano world, but most of my favorites are from a while ago. I have no need to increase my music collection much further. It is too big now. Not to change the subject much, but if one is asking why play the piano if it is unlikely that one will ever become "the best", or whatever, my reason for playing is very simple: it is one of my greatest pleasures and I go through withdrawl symptoms when I can't play for even a few days. While searching for a piano to buy the last nine months or so I was miserable. I never even thought about how good I might be some day. I will always stink. Many might say I do not deserve to play my wonderful new Mason-Hamlin BB grand. They are right. So what. I am thrilled every time I think about playing it. I have been away from home for six days and I am dying to get back to my piano so I have haunted the internet, reading about pianos, listening to YouTube, and writing on PW. If I want to enjoy the playing of some of the world's greatest pianists, I have the cds and records. My collection is very, very large and it is almost all piano music. But it is no substitute for me actually playing. Simple.

#1979441 - 10/27/12 08:23 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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This obsessive need for absolute technical mastery in overly ornamental music is why I ignore anything played by any of the pianists the article's author mentioned.

Yes yes, Lang Lang can play anything, and I just don't care.

I'm sure I'd get laughed out of Juliard for saying so, but give me simplicity with depth over virtuoso and mastery anyday, I find sloppy playing endearing.
Even my daring I say: I prefer my sloppy slow version of Gnossienne 1 over anyone elses.

#1979476 - 10/27/12 10:01 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: Foxes]  
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Originally Posted by Foxes
This obsessive need for absolute technical mastery in overly ornamental music is why I ignore anything played by any of the pianists the article's author mentioned.

Yes yes, Lang Lang can play anything, and I just don't care.

I'm sure I'd get laughed out of Juliard for saying so, but give me simplicity with depth over virtuoso and mastery anyday, I find sloppy playing endearing.
Even my daring I say: I prefer my sloppy slow version of Gnossienne 1 over anyone elses.
I'm going to bet that you play Gnossienne 1 slow and sloppy because you can't actually play it, not because you think that having great technique is a bad thing. I'd prefer someone who can play it just fine.

I don't think most people aim for absolute technical mastery with intent of obtaining it. Classical musicians are trained to understand that mistakes happen and to keep moving on after they occur. Having virtuosity doesn't prevent someone from having depth; likewise, depth can often be found in virtuosity.


A linguistics major who loves piano and knows too much theory/history without knowing how to play it as well as he wants to be able to.

Let's hope that changes. Taught piano for almost two years and currently working on:
"Going back to the basics..."
#1979516 - 10/28/12 01:44 AM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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I think that as classical music means less and less to our culture, we prize the athletics of its performance more and more. We are a society that puts sport before art, and our media frenzy just magnifies this for us.

Mr. Tommasini might take his observations much deeper if he wishes to revisit this story.

Last edited by Peter K. Mose; 10/28/12 01:45 AM.
#1979580 - 10/28/12 07:35 AM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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Technique is grand, but it will never be enough.
Artur Rubinstein never recorded the Chopin etudes. In an interview he admitted that he just didn't have the chops, stunning the interviewer and most of the readers, I'm sure. He noted that conservatories nowadays graduate hundreds every year who have better technique that he had. "But," he added, "when they come out on stage, they may as well be soda-jerks."

Another nice quote, this from Horowitz: "In order to transcend virtuosity, one must first be a virtuoso."

Last edited by geraldbrennan; 10/28/12 08:41 AM.
#1979603 - 10/28/12 09:55 AM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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Why we do it, you ask?

After a concert once, a man came up to me and said that what he had just heard worked on him like medicine, healing his worries away (his words).

I know exactly what he means as I've experienced that sensation a few times at concerts. If I can have such an effect on someone, even if it's for a split moment, then it's all worth it. That's why we do it.



"The eyes can mislead, the smile can lie, but the shoes always tell the truth."
#1979604 - 10/28/12 10:01 AM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: kayvee]  
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Originally Posted by kayvee
I'm going to bet that you play Gnossienne 1 slow and sloppy because you can't actually play it, not because you think that having great technique is a bad thing. I'd prefer someone who can play it just fine.


That was mean spirited and unnecessary.


Slow down and do it right.
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#1979630 - 10/28/12 11:19 AM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: kayvee]  
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Originally Posted by kayvee
I'm going to bet that you play Gnossienne 1 slow and sloppy because you can't actually play it.


That was below the belt.

Poor show.


#1979656 - 10/28/12 12:31 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: TrueMusic]  
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When I hear a student play a recital or audition program, I would prefer not to hear polish or dazzling displays of technical "perfection:"

I want to hear their nervous system.

I'm definitely in the minority, though.

Last edited by Gerard12; 10/28/12 12:32 PM.

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#1979670 - 10/28/12 01:25 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: Pogorelich.]  
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Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
Why we do it, you ask?

After a concert once, a man came up to me and said that what he had just heard worked on him like medicine, healing his worries away (his words).

I know exactly what he means as I've experienced that sensation a few times at concerts. If I can have such an effect on someone, even if it's for a split moment, then it's all worth it. That's why we do it.


Beautifully expressed!

#1979705 - 10/28/12 03:10 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: Foxes]  
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Originally Posted by Foxes
Originally Posted by kayvee
I'm going to bet that you play Gnossienne 1 slow and sloppy because you can't actually play it.


That was below the belt.

Poor show.

Sorry, but if you say "I prefer my sloppy slow version of Gnossienne 1 over anyone elses," it sounds the same as "It doesn't matter what I produce as long as *I* like it, so I can just play whatever I want." And, to me, that's pretty bad.

But maybe I misunderstood what you meant. If so, I apologize.


A linguistics major who loves piano and knows too much theory/history without knowing how to play it as well as he wants to be able to.

Let's hope that changes. Taught piano for almost two years and currently working on:
"Going back to the basics..."
#1979726 - 10/28/12 04:00 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: Gerard12]  
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Originally Posted by Gerard12
When I hear a student play a recital or audition program, I would prefer not to hear polish or dazzling displays of technical "perfection:"

I want to hear their nervous system.

I'm definitely in the minority, though.


So if given the choice, you'd rather hear a community orchestra do a Tchaikovsky 6th symphony than someone like the Mariinsky?



"The eyes can mislead, the smile can lie, but the shoes always tell the truth."
#1979740 - 10/28/12 04:46 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: geraldbrennan]  
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Originally Posted by geraldbrennan

Artur Rubinstein never recorded the Chopin etudes. In an interview he admitted that he just didn't have the chops, stunning the interviewer and most of the readers, I'm sure. He noted that conservatories nowadays graduate hundreds every year who have better technique that he had. "But," he added, "when they come out on stage, they may as well be soda-jerks."


Point of clarification - Rubinstein recorded "some" but not "all" of the Chopin etudes. Even a quick search on YouTube finds videos/recordings of Rubinstein playing at least nine etudes from Opus 10 and 25.


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#1979748 - 10/28/12 05:00 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: Carey]  
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Originally Posted by carey
Originally Posted by geraldbrennan

Artur Rubinstein never recorded the Chopin etudes. In an interview he admitted that he just didn't have the chops, stunning the interviewer and most of the readers, I'm sure. He noted that conservatories nowadays graduate hundreds every year who have better technique that he had. "But," he added, "when they come out on stage, they may as well be soda-jerks."


Point of clarification - Rubinstein recorded "some" but not "all" of the Chopin etudes. Even a quick search on YouTube finds videos/recordings of Rubinstein playing at least nine etudes from Opus 10 and 25.
He performed or recorded about 2/3 of the Etudes. If he really said that quote, than that was quite arrogant even for a great pianist.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 10/28/12 05:02 PM.
#1979814 - 10/28/12 07:45 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: pianoloverus]  
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He performed or recorded about 2/3 of the Etudes. If he really said that quote, than that was quite arrogant even for a great pianist.

He not only said it, he pretty much hit the nail on the head in reference to this discussion. A great musician has to have that aura of awesomeness and greatness. He had it; the current crop of "great virtuosi" runs short.
No?

#1979816 - 10/28/12 07:46 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: Carey]  
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Yes, thank you Carey and pianoloverus. I was speaking about the sets, but didn't clarify.

Last edited by geraldbrennan; 10/28/12 07:47 PM.
#1979823 - 10/28/12 08:04 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: kayvee]  
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Originally Posted by kayvee
"It doesn't matter what I produce as long as *I* like it, so I can just play whatever I want."


Exactly my philosophy, suits me down to the ground.

I'm playing for myself, no one else. If someone else happens to like it, that's just a bonus. Save the occasional love letter I've played for people dear to me.

#1979832 - 10/28/12 08:19 PM Re: Virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen - NY Times [Re: geraldbrennan]  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 22,364
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
pianoloverus  Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 22,364
New York City
Originally Posted by geraldbrennan
He performed or recorded about 2/3 of the Etudes. If he really said that quote, than that was quite arrogant even for a great pianist.

He not only said it, he pretty much hit the nail on the head in reference to this discussion. A great musician has to have that aura of awesomeness and greatness. He had it; the current crop of "great virtuosi" runs short.
No?
Whether he was right or not is not the point. It was how he described other pianists...very arrogant.

There are plenty of extremely great pianists playing before the public today.(Not particularly meaning the ones in the NY Times article.)They may not be at the Rubinstein level but they're in no way "running short". They are absolutely sensational technically and musically.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 10/28/12 08:20 PM.
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