Piano World Home Page

Who was the most gifted prodigy?

Posted By: JoelW

Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 04:33 AM

Between Mozart, Mendelssohn and Saint-Saens?
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 06:43 AM

Before I saw the content of your post, just seeing the title, I was going to say "Mozart, Mendelssohn and Saint-Saens." ha

(except I would have put a comma after Mendelssohn) grin
Posted By: Eric399

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 07:14 AM

Define gifted... And while you're at, how do you measure giftedness?
Posted By: chopin_r_us

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 08:56 AM

Someone totally unknown who came to nought.
Posted By: Hatchestron

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 09:48 AM

From what perspective? Maybe Sans Saens was the most remarkable as a keyboard player. But Mendelssohn at 16 wrote a work (the Octet) which Saints Saens never came close to equaling (and in truth, nor did Mendelssohn), Mozart excelled in a wider range of musical skills as a child and assimilated more styles which combined with a much greater originality led to a vastly superior adult career as a composer.
Posted By: WiseBuff

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 10:36 AM

Mozart, I know, grew up under the tutelage of his musical father and was surrounded by piano music and expectations. What was the family background of Mendelssohn and Saint Saens? I'm not familiar with their home life as children. I know they all were gifted but I wonder how much their environment nurtured that talent into what they later produced. Wouldn't even a prodigy need to be recognized and given the instrument and tools to become gifted?
Posted By: patH

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 01:04 PM

Where is Shostakovich?
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 01:20 PM

I think Alma Deutscher has to up there. She is truly amazing.
Posted By: boo1234

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 01:33 PM

Mendelssohn. Listen to his early works at the same age as Mozart. There is no comparison.
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 02:16 PM

Many of us started music lessons at a young age. Can't say Mozart was even self-taught. at a young age of 4 he was in a room with musicians practicing a piece. He picked up a violin and played along without a single lesson. We'd normally describe Mozart's genius as the "Mozart effect". Based on today's definition parents would play recordings of music by Mozart at home while the child is still in the womb. But when Mozart was still an unborn child, his Music hasn't been composed yet. So playing complex music to an unborn child would have the same effect.

Someone like Saint-Saëns learned to play all the Beethoven Sonatas at a young age. Besides Mozart, other composers has to learn to play their instruments (piano, violin, etc). There is a learning curve even when the learning curve is much shorter than an average person.

Someone who is considered a modern day music genius would be Derek Paravicini. He can listen to a piece of music once and reproduce it on piano and even change the style to Boogie-Woogie, Ragtime, etc.
Posted By: dogperson

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 03:09 PM

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
I think Alma Deutscher has to up there. She is truly amazing.

I would absolutely agree!
Posted By: BDB

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 03:34 PM

Mendelssohn had the most money.
Posted By: caters

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 03:44 PM

Where is Beethoven on that list? He had his first concert when he was 7 years old. He improvised during his violin practice which I think he started around 4 years old. And he started composing at 12 years old. And his early works(like when he was still a teenager and wanted to meet Mozart) are just as popular as his middle works(like his 5th symphony) which are just as popular as his late works. For that matter, where is Chopin? He was a piano playing child prodigy like most of the other composers. Like Beethoven, there is a pretty good chance that while he was still quite young, before reaching his teens, Chopin could play the entire Well Tempered Clavier. Also like Beethoven, he loved and respected Bach and his works.
Posted By: Hatchestron

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 04:14 PM

I think we are getting a bit off-track here! If we define prodigy in terms of instrumental mastery, then we have to mention Liszt and probably Josef Hofmann takes the top prize!

In terms of compositional mastery, then Mendelssohn surely is the winner. The Octet was written when he was 16 and has a maturity and mastery that I don't think was emulated let alone surpassed by any other composer of that age (or younger). Schubert's Erlkönig and Gretchen am Spinrade were written at 17 (and of course, unlike Mendelssohn, he went on to write even better pieces).

Beethoven wrote nothing of comparable quality until perhaps the slow movement of Opus 10 no.3 (composed at the age of 28), and the world would not be a worse place if everything he wrote before he was 25 disappeared... (although open counter arguments!)
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 04:31 PM

Originally Posted by Hatchestron


In terms of compositional mastery, then Mendelssohn surely is the winner. The Octet was written when he was 16 and has a maturity and mastery that I don't think was emulated let alone surpassed by any other composer of that age (or younger). Schubert's Erlkönig and Gretchen am Spinrade were written at 17 (and of course, unlike Mendelssohn, he went on to write even better pieces).


Just listen to Alma Deutscher - even younger.
Posted By: AaronSF

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 09:31 PM

Mendelssohn was composing music of astonishing sophistication as a teenager, far beyond Mozart at the same age. I can't speak to Saint-Saens.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 10:16 PM

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Just listen to Alma Deutscher - even younger.

Not only was her Cinderella a full length opera, which she started when she was 7 years old and had its world premiere when she was 10, but she wrote the libretto by herself in what is a second language to her (German - despite her last name, she is English). In the Vienna premiere, conducted by Zubin Mehta, she also played violin and piano solos.

Posted By: JoelW

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/27/19 10:46 PM

Originally Posted by AaronSF
Mendelssohn was composing music of astonishing sophistication as a teenager, far beyond Mozart at the same age.

Better than Mozart's little G minor at age 17?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lC1lRz5Z_s
Posted By: boo1234

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 01:05 AM

Originally Posted by JoelW
Originally Posted by AaronSF
Mendelssohn was composing music of astonishing sophistication as a teenager, far beyond Mozart at the same age.

Better than Mozart's little G minor at age 17?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lC1lRz5Z_s


Yes... At the same age he had already written the aforementioned octet and the overture to a midsummer's night dream

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYUs2AwvQdY
Posted By: Carey

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 02:37 AM

Originally Posted by Hatchestron
From what perspective? Maybe Sans Saens was the most remarkable as a keyboard player. But Mendelssohn at 16 wrote a work (the Octet) which Saints Saens never came close to equaling (and in truth, nor did Mendelssohn), Mozart excelled in a wider range of musical skills as a child and assimilated more styles which combined with a much greater originality led to a vastly superior adult career as a composer.

Sorry - but I don't share the opinion that Mendelsson was a "one hit wonder" (two, if you count the Overture to Midsummer's Night Dream). Yes, the Octet is an amazing accomplishment for a 16 year old, but many of Mendelssohn's later achievements, including the Variations Serieuses, Piano Trio Opus 49, Violin Concerto, and Symphonies No. 3 and 4 have become staples of the classical repertoire - and rightfully so. I agree, however, that Mozart was the greatest composer of the three. smile
Posted By: jandz

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 03:58 AM

There is no real way to compare composers, of course. Everything is subjective. These three are more difficult because their lives don’t really overlap. Only Felix and Camille we’re alive at the same time and only for a few years. They almost certainly did not know one another. It is easier to say that these men stood on each other’s shoulders.

If Saint-Saëns is easily the best keyboard player of the three, one could also say that he had more of a foundation to build on, coming after Liszt and Chopin changed the world. If Felix is the best composer at a young age, one could argue that Mozart was on the road for almost all of his young life and Mendelssohn was considerably more comfortable and able to think. The above might seem to make a case for Mozart but one cannot ignore that so few did what any of these people did that it is extraordinary that it happened at all.

So I’d say none is greater. They had different strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.
Posted By: jon-nyc

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 08:53 AM

I can’t believe we’re on page 3 and nobody has mentioned my name yet.

laugh
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 12:03 PM

Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by Hatchestron
From what perspective? Maybe Sans Saens was the most remarkable as a keyboard player. But Mendelssohn at 16 wrote a work (the Octet) which Saints Saens never came close to equaling (and in truth, nor did Mendelssohn), Mozart excelled in a wider range of musical skills as a child and assimilated more styles which combined with a much greater originality led to a vastly superior adult career as a composer.

Sorry - but I don't share the opinion that Mendelsson was a "one hit wonder" (two, if you count the Overture to Midsummer's Night Dream). Yes, the Octet is an amazing accomplishment for a 16 year old, but many of Mendelssohn's later achievements, including the Variations Serieuses, Piano Trio Opus 49, Violin Concerto, and Symphonies No. 3 and 4 have become staples of the classical repertoire - and rightfully so. I agree, however, that Mozart was the greatest composer of the three. smile



+1. Of these 3, Mozart was the greatest composer. But Liszt and Paganini should be listed as "prodigies" as well.
Posted By: Hatchestron

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 01:33 PM

I certainly didn't mean to imply that I regard Mendelssohn as a "one hit wonder". But I do feel that if he had died after writing the Octet, we would have supposed a far greater career awaited him than he actually produced. By the same token, Beethoven's works from his early 20s give no hint that he was going to produce opus 109, 110, 111 etc!

As for Alma Deutscher, mentioned by several posters earlier, she is certainly a fascinating phenomenon but her compositions are glib pastiches. Remarkable for someone her age but no one will be listening to them in 10 years time, let alone 200. Compare her music to Messiaen's La Dame de Shallot, written when he was 8, if you want an example of musical originality in a young mind.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 02:14 PM

Originally Posted by Hatchestron
I certainly didn't mean to imply that I regard Mendelssohn as a "one hit wonder". But I do feel that if he had died after writing the Octet, we would have supposed a far greater career awaited him than he actually produced. By the same token, Beethoven's works from his early 20s give no hint that he was going to produce opus 109, 110, 111 etc!

Felix's problem - like Korngold's - was that his style never changed from his precocious teenage years to adult maturity. (BTW, among composers, Korngold is right up there for pure prodigious gifts as a prodigious prodigy - his first piano sonata composed at 13 was performed often by Schnabel; Mahler called him a genius, as did R.Strauss).

Whereas Mozart's changed (as did Beethoven's - much more so). Compare his Die Entführung aus dem Serail to Le nozze di Figaro, then to La clemenza di Tito, or his Little G minor to the Big G minor, or his first non-derived piano concertos to his K595. His notes were pared down, his harmonies simplified down to basics yet more profound, his tunes became ever more vocal (& less note-y) in their inflexion. Whereas the Felix of 16 was the same as the Mendelssohn of the Violin Concerto, which was why his teenage MSND overture could so easily be expanded into a full-blown hour-long incidental music with no anachronisms a few years before his death. Musical perfection, either way, with full command of intellectual and emotional Romantic resources.

Try substituting a movement from Wolfie's K183 for one from his K550, or an aria from Die Entführung for one from Die Zauberflöte, and you get a jolt........
Posted By: Orange Soda King

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 02:51 PM

Saint-Saens has to be up there.
Posted By: Hatchestron

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 03:17 PM

Originally Posted by Orange Soda King
Saint-Saens has to be up there.


On what grounds?
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 03:25 PM

Originally Posted by Hatchestron
Originally Posted by Orange Soda King
Saint-Saens has to be up there.


On what grounds?

"The only thing this kid lacks is inexperience" - Hector
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 04:02 PM

Interesting thread. It had me looking up the likes of Anton Rubinstein , but here https://musicwithvision.medici.tv/playlists/classical-music-precocious-young-composers/
they have Mozart, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninov and Deutscher.

I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of Deutscher before!
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 04:40 PM

Originally Posted by Hatchestron
I certainly didn't mean to imply that I regard Mendelssohn as a "one hit wonder". But I do feel that if he had died after writing the Octet, we would have supposed a far greater career awaited him than he actually produced. By the same token, Beethoven's works from his early 20s give no hint that he was going to produce opus 109, 110, 111 etc!

As for Alma Deutscher, mentioned by several posters earlier, she is certainly a fascinating phenomenon but her compositions are glib pastiches. Remarkable for someone her age but no one will be listening to them in 10 years time, let alone 200. Compare her music to Messiaen's La Dame de Shallot, written when he was 8, if you want an example of musical originality in a young mind.


We shall see. I think I will if still alive, and looking forward to more.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/28/19 04:54 PM

Quote
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt, Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/29/19 12:54 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Quote
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt, Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910


+1. Teddy was quite the interesting guy.
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/30/19 07:09 PM

This is Liszt's Diabelli Variation written when he was 11.

Posted By: Carey

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/31/19 03:50 AM

Originally Posted by johnstaf
This is Liszt's Diabelli Variation written when he was 11.


The kid certainly showed potential. Whatever happened to him? crazy
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/31/19 07:39 AM

I don't know, but his daughter married some dude who wrote show tunes.

I think this is a real prodigy.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 05/31/19 02:52 PM

Anna Maria Mozart?Mozart's Sister
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 06/01/19 12:03 PM

Another modern day prodigy besides Alma Deutscher would be Ariel Lanyi from Israel. When he was born, his parents (non-musical) played classical recordings at home and he would listen to music constantly for hours.

At a young age he not only play concertos with orchestras, he also composed his own music. 1 time the family was traveling by car. The father said the car stereo is playing a concerto by Beethoven. Young Lanyi said "in...". The father couldn't answer so the son said "in B-flat major". The father checked the recording cover at home and the son was right.

We are talking about someone who has a rare gift and proficient at it beyond his years.
Posted By: karvala

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 06/02/19 12:46 PM

William Crotch, playing the organ for visitors at the age of 2, is right up there in any list of musical prodigies, and surely at the top of the list of "completely failed to fulfill his promise". laugh

Of the three originally listed, Mozart was undoubtedly the greater prodigy, composer and overall musician in my view, and unquestionably had the greater influence on subsequent generations. He also retained and fulfilled his promise into adulthood in a more convincing way than the other two.
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 06/02/19 01:57 PM

I don't think Mozart was necessarily the greatest child prodigy among the three, but he did become the greatest composer. I don't think Mozart became one of the great composers before he was an adult.

I don't get the fascination with child prodigies, as their music is nearly always uninspired and derivative. Amazing music for an 11 year old, is not necessarily amazing music. Liszt, I think, is fascinating because he foreshadowed his mature style while still a child.
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: Who was the most gifted prodigy? - 06/02/19 02:34 PM

That's not to say that I don't think prodigies are amazingly talented, but amazing musical talent (compared to us mere mortals) isn't freakishly rare.
© 2019 Piano World Piano & Digital Piano Forums