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#582003 - 10/26/04 08:28 PM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
valarking Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/02
Posts: 2331
Loc: Dallas
You could also have every one of those 8 things and not succeed as a concert pianist.

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#582004 - 10/26/04 08:33 PM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
Goldberg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/08/03
Posts: 1231
Loc: U.S.
Yeah, there are plenty of people out there with hands much smaller than Rachmaninoff's who can play...well, Rachmaninoff's music (with a few exceptions depending on exactly how small the hands are--also, notes might have to be left out or rolled into chords, but that rarely matters very much). They say Ashkenazy has "small" hands--not the smallest ever--but can play most of the "huge" Rachmaninoff pieces, including the concerto cycle. And Godowsky, perhaps the greatest technical pianist before 1950, had generally small and chunky hands--definitely not the slender, narrow hands of Liszt or Chopin. He got by all right; check out his Passacalgia for proof.

It really comes down to flexibility and accuracy (of the fingers), I think, and of course the ability to relax 100%. But if a pianist has trouble reaching an octave comfortably, he might run into considerable trouble in more advanced pieces (though some stretching through practice wouldn't be out of the question).

I'm not planning on going pro, but I must say out of btb's list, I really hate not having 2, 4, or 8...well, I have relatively good pitch and sight-reading is something one can improve upon...but I often wonder if it's possible to develop a photographic memory. I sort of doubt it.

How important would you all say 2, 4, and 8 are, then?

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#582005 - 10/26/04 08:38 PM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
valarking Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/02
Posts: 2331
Loc: Dallas
2 is not required at all
4 helps, but again is not really required
I would think 8 is pretty important.

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#582006 - 10/26/04 09:36 PM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
Goldberg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/08/03
Posts: 1231
Loc: U.S.
Yeah, I guess you're right. 8 should definitely be important.

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#582007 - 10/26/04 10:17 PM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Great encouragement for small hands.
The Rachmaninoff hand-spread looks like a bonus.

But where are the Concert pianists to "talk turkey"?

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#582008 - 10/26/04 11:48 PM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
Allazart Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/16/02
Posts: 389
I think having a large hand span is an occasionally useful but highly overemphasized trait. Looking back, someone like Rachmaninoff was almost the exception rather than the rule. A large percentage of successful pianists have been small in stature (beethoven, mozart, chopin, rubinstein, godowski, de larrocha, to name a few) and many were child prodigies. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the chords near the end of the Hammerklavier's Adagio Sostenuto (a 10th split by a 4th) weren't so easy for even Liszt to negotiate.

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#582009 - 10/27/04 05:50 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2506
Loc: Denver, Colorado
I think large hands are always a plus, not a minus. It is important, even though not necessary. As far as piano playing is concerned there is a limit as to how small the hands can be. At least one's hands need to reach the octave.

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#582010 - 10/27/04 06:49 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
Badger Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/22/03
Posts: 227
Loc: United Kingdom
Can you qualify for Concert pianist status without

1. Musical flair - no

2. Perfect pitch - yes

3. Top teachers - most of the time, no

4. Sight-reding fluency - if you're good enough to be a concert pianist, chances are your sight-reading won't exactly suck

5. Equivalent ABRSM Grade 8, etc. - Grade 8? No. Degrees and advanced diplomas might help, but I don't know - I'm not a pro

6. Dedicated practice - Duh

7 Rachmaninoff hand-spread - Would be nice, but you don't need it

8 Photographic memory - same as above
_________________________
"There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself."
--Johann Sebastian Bach

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#582011 - 10/27/04 07:12 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
But where are the Concert pianists to "talk turkey"? [/b]
Good question. I certainly don't qualify, as I've only performed a handful of times in the past 12 years and I am just now finally getting my fingers back into real playing shape.

I think concert pianists need more than photographic memory. "Muscle" and aural memory is an absolute must, I would think. A solid memory is pretty much a necessity, and the ability to memorize fast doesn't hurt. But I think photographic memory might fit more into the "would be nice" category. Same with perfect pitch. A concert pianist has to have drop dead accurate relative pitch and a strong sense of where pitches fall on the keyboard (e.g. hear it and play it). But I think perfect pitch falls more into "would be nice" category as well. I can think of some situations where it wouldn't be all that nice to have.

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#582012 - 10/27/04 10:54 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
snap_apple Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/03
Posts: 710
you know photographic memory aint all it's cracked up to be. In the literal sense it means they can actually see the score in their mind and read from it while playing. It is a rare phenomena like perfect pitch and the problem is that people with photographic memory can be dependent on it. But like all special features it has its weakness...if for some reason your focus is taken away or you have an off day or something goes awry then you can lose your spot on the page...literally and then you have nothing to save you.

My teacher had a student with photographic memory once and said that he was shocked she would come in and have pieces completely memorized in a week...however if anything was a little out of whack she would fall apart being completely dependent on her photographic mind.

Instead of literally photographic memory I would say on number 8 it is important to have a well rounded memory. A memory for the theory, the harmony, aural memory, a good ear, physical memory (most common) and a strong understanding of the piece.

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#582013 - 10/27/04 12:14 PM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
Allazart Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/16/02
Posts: 389
 Quote:

I think large hands are always a plus, not a minus. It is important, even though not necessary. As far as piano playing is concerned there is a limit as to how small the hands can be. At least one's hands need to reach the octave.
It can definitely be a plus, though I'm not convinced that over-large hands don't come with their own limitations, especially if the fingers are also very thick.

I guess the perfect piano hand would have 88 long thin fingers. \:D

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#582014 - 10/27/04 12:42 PM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
Robert J Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/17/04
Posts: 88
Loc: west of Toronto, Ontario
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mikester:
I mean, think about Lang Lang. He had nothing until he got a lucky break when some concert pianist got injured before a performance.

Horowitz ... subbed in for an injured pianist [/b]
The moral here is to find an injured pianist! Kind of like lawyers chasing accidents.
_________________________
RJ

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#582015 - 10/27/04 02:51 PM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
 Quote:
Originally posted by Allazart:
I guess the perfect piano hand would have 88 long thin fingers.[/b]
They would be able to play lots of notes, but would have a thin and brittle sound ;\)

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#582016 - 10/27/04 11:43 PM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
jeffylube Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 716
Loc: Weatherford, Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by panicworld:
hey
what a stupid thread![/b]
hey
what a stupid person!

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#582017 - 10/27/04 11:52 PM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
jeffylube Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 716
Loc: Weatherford, Texas
As fast as we could come up with things that we all agree a person needs to be a concert pianist, will there be someone that goes out and proves there isn't a specific formula.

How many "requirements" did Richter and Volodos not have? Before Volodos, I'm sure the answer to "is it possible to be a world famous pianist by 26 if I start at 18?" would be a definite "NO".

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#582018 - 10/28/04 05:22 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
Don't know about Volodos, but Richter had all 8 "requirements".

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#582019 - 10/28/04 08:26 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
jeffylube Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 716
Loc: Weatherford, Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by ryan:
Don't know about Volodos, but Richter had all 8 "requirements". [/b]
Only if "Start studying seriously at 4 years old" isn't on your list, then yes I suppose he might have. Also, do you really think Richter had musical flair? He had to have been the most unhappy, serious appearing artist to be on stage. He never smiled, but he had unmatched musical insight which is more important. When I think of flair, or charm, I think more of Horowitz.

Out of all of the requirements, age of when you started is by far the one I hear the most. Both Richter and Volodos started serious study in their late teens, Volodos especially.

In 8 years Volodos was able to acquire his current technique, get signed on with Sony (which was a very lucky break, as others have pointed out luck being a big part), and start concertizing around the world. He alone gives alot of students and music lovers out there a small glimmer of hope when most teachers/musicians will say it isn't possible. As Volodos says in regards to his technique, "all I try to do is imagine the sound I want to produce...it's not in the fingers, but in your thinking. For me it's the only way" or something similar.

So basically, my point is that anything can happen to anyone. Now if we want to start talking about the odds of something happening, well then that's a whole new thread.

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#582020 - 10/28/04 08:49 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
DW_mod Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/04
Posts: 117
1. Excellent technic ( I wouldn't consider this an asset of a concert pianist actually. Because any decent pianist who wishes to play at a more advanced level, of course has to be technically equipped. This is common sense and is a by product of hard practicing, NOT an asset. )
2. Dedication. Practice, practice and more practice!
3. Ability to handle stress. Some concerts programmes are only drawn up at the last minute, and you need to be able to handle that much pressure... that comes along with trying to perfect 7 to 8 pieces at one same point of time. Even if you're just making an appearance as a guest pianist and need not worry about ticket sales and so on.
4.Magician. A concert pianist is not just a pianist, as in someone u can enjoy his or her recording at home, with your private CD player, and probably with your eyes closed at the same time. A concert pianist is someone whom u listen to and WATCH at the same time. There must be a certain charisma and appeal about her presentation, and definately something magical about it too. That's how you connect with the audiences.
5. Pull strings. U need to know the Who's who in this business. Music is entertainment, it's showbiz, no matter if it's classical, pop or rock. As you might have realised already... How Issac Stern is Yo Yo's friend and how this is that's friend and so on... If you do not know of any fellow musicians, never mind. But you must know enough Music Producers and Sponsers. It's a dark, dark world out there.
6. Good luck. To know the correct people who will eventually help you pull off the stunt, or know enough fellow lecturers or important blah blah blah who will invite you to conduct master classes at their colleges when you have no concerts lined up for the next few months. This will help to keep your pocket rolling and make people remember you. It's all about public appearances.
7. Competitions. This is what is going to set you apart from the rest of the piano playing population.
8. Reliable marketing abilities or find someone who is well equipped in the art of managing and 'selling'.
That's about it. \:\)

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#582021 - 10/28/04 08:59 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
jeffylube Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 716
Loc: Weatherford, Texas
I will have to respectively disagree with:

 Quote:
Originally posted by DW_mod:
4.Magician. A concert pianist is not just a pianist, as in someone u can enjoy his or her recording at home, with your private CD player, and probably with your eyes closed at the same time. A concert pianist is someone whom u listen to and WATCH at the same time. There must be a certain charisma and appeal about her presentation, and definately something magical about it too. That's how you connect with the audiences.
7. Competitions. This is what is going to set you apart from the rest of the piano playing population.
[/b]
4. Do you think Sviatoslav Ricther or Horowitz were entertaining to watch? You could close your eyes and they were still able to communicate to you. No unnecessary movements or facial expressions.

I think there might be more people on this board that could tolerate Lang Lang, and may even like him, if he would STOP WITH THE PSYCHO, ORGASMIC FACIAL EXPRESSIONS.[/b] I, as well as others, find it to be VERY distracting when the performer is trying to take away from the composer and his work with unnecessary movements, expressions, ect. The fact that a great artist such as Earl Wild called Lang Lang the "J Lo of piano" should be a wakeup call. It bothered me so much watching Lang Lang's Carnegie Hall recital on DVD that I decided to make his nipple my avatar image.

7. Actually, I think you're correct here if you mean losing[/b] competitions will help you. Losers usually end up being more successful than winners in competitions. How many of the "greats" can you think of that were helped by a competition? Not many compared to those that never even entered one.

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#582022 - 10/28/04 09:45 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
DW_mod Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/04
Posts: 117
Quoted :...Do you think Sviatoslav Ricther or Horowitz were entertaining to watch? You could close your eyes and they were still able to communicate to you. No unnecessary movements or facial expressions....

Yes, they're fascinating to watch. I think your idea of being 'entertaining' to watch is greatly apart from mine.
I would watch a pianist or actually sit for a concert 'only' if the pianist communicates well with the instrument, which indirectly 'communicates' with the audiences.
Charisma comes from the dedication that u show and the confidence that you wield, along with your 'personal' brand of body movements.
Why should I watch someone's whose playing is ok but plays like a clown on stage? I think you are misleading.
But you have to acknowledge the fact that there is a COLOSSAL difference listening to the CD and watching a live performance. If a certain pianist lacked that charisma or appeal, would u want to watch him perform live? I wouldn't. I'll just insert him into my triple disc player and that's it.
Hmm.. Losing competitions.. That I never thought of. But I'm more of thinking like getting the gold, silver or bronze medallion. \:\)

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#582023 - 10/28/04 09:48 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
F. Chopin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/26/03
Posts: 386
Loc: England
I wonder why the great composers didn't add choreography to their manuscripts. Oh wait, that's because the music is what's important. Funny that.

 Quote:
If a certain pianist lacked that charisma or appeal, would u want to watch him perform live? I wouldn't. I'll just insert him into my triple disc player and that's it.
Are you kidding? I care about how people play!

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#582024 - 10/28/04 10:06 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
i was fascinated when watching Aimard playing, who hardly moves his body and only when he needs to watch the score he'd lift his head, but just watching his hands and fingers moving around keyboard made my day! there is something about his playing, largely due to the sound/tone he produced, attracting me.

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#582025 - 10/28/04 10:07 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
jeffylube Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 716
Loc: Weatherford, Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by DW_mod:
Charisma comes from the dedication that u show and the confidence that you wield, along with your 'personal' brand of body movements. [/b]
I'm going to take a stab in the dark: You like Lang Lang? I really don't care about a performers dedication or confidence, all I care about is hearing a good performance that's true to the score and communicates what the COMPOSER wanted to communicate. The performers that do unnecessary, 'personal' body movements are trying to cover up their lack of musical maturity and ability. If I wanted to see a circus I'll go to a circus.

 Quote:
Originally posted by DW_mod:
Why should I watch someone's whose playing is ok but plays like a clown on stage? I think you are misleading. [/b]
You think I'm[/b] misleading? What planet are you from?!

 Quote:
Originally posted by DW_mod:
But you have to acknowledge the fact that there is a COLOSSAL difference listening to the CD and watching a live performance. If a certain pianist lacked that charisma or appeal, would u want to watch him perform live? I wouldn't. I'll just insert him into my triple disc player and that's it.[/b]
Yes I acknowledge there's a difference. In a live performance you get the energy of the audience around you and you get the element of surprise of not knowing how the performer is going to play, unlike a CD which is the identical way every time. What I DON'T[/b] go to a live audience for is to see someone orgasm on stage and try to distract me from what Beethoven is trying to convey, or to distract me from the shallowness of the performer. It's pathetic that someone feels that they need to help Beethoven or Liszt communicate sadness, surprise, excitement etc. by showing it on their face or with their bodies. Good composers don't need any help. Just do as they say and leave it up to what they wrote. If you want music and choreography go to an ice skating event.

 Quote:
Originally posted by DW_mod:
Hmm.. Losing competitions.. That I never thought of. But I'm more of thinking like getting the gold, silver or bronze medallion. \:\) [/b]
Ever heard of Simone Pedroni? Gold medalist at 93 Cliburn. Jon Nakamatsu? He's a little more popular. Gold medalist at 97 Cliburn. There are many more examples proving that winning only gives you a little shove in the right direction. If you don't have what it takes, no competition is going to make you a household name.

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#582026 - 10/28/04 10:14 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
DW_mod Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/04
Posts: 117
Ok, for a fact... I don't like Lang Lang. I don't even like his hair style.
I don't appreciate Horowitz all the time. Though he remains one of my personal favourites. Just like Glenn Gould, I find him slightly extreme and aggressive at times.

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#582027 - 10/28/04 10:22 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
 Quote:
Originally posted by jeffylube:
Out of all of the requirements, age of when you started is by far the one I hear the most. Both Richter and Volodos started serious study in their late teens. [/b]
Richter started studying piano when he was a child. I don't know what you mean by "serious" - but he was trying to play serious masterworks from the start. He was also making something of a living with piano and conducting well before he studied with Neuhaus. But his career didn't take off until he studied with a top teacher.

 Quote:
Originally posted by jeffylube:
Also, do you really think Richter had musical flair?[/b]
Richter had stage presence - an air of command and power. I love watching him play. There was nothing shy and retiring about Richter, he left no doubt that he was making bold statements.

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#582028 - 10/28/04 10:26 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
No offense intended, but I don't think Volodos belongs in the same discussion as Richter.

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#582029 - 10/28/04 11:16 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
jeffylube Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 716
Loc: Weatherford, Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by ryan:
 Quote:
Originally posted by jeffylube:
Out of all of the requirements, age of when you started is by far the one I hear the most. Both Richter and Volodos started serious study in their late teens. [/b]
Richter started studying piano when he was a child. I don't know what you mean by "serious" - but he was trying to play serious masterworks from the start. He was also making something of a living with piano and conducting well before he studied with Neuhaus. But his career didn't take off until he studied with a top teacher.[/b]
Richter didn't start piano until almost 10, and then during his teen years he was mostly interested in conducting and opera. He decided he wanted a career as a pianist in his late teens and then started to direct all of his energies towards that goal.

 Quote:
Originally posted by ryan:
 Quote:
Originally posted by jeffylube:
Also, do you really think Richter had musical flair?[/b]
Richter had stage presence - an air of command and power. I love watching him play. There was nothing shy and retiring about Richter, he left no doubt that he was making bold statements. [/b]
I guess it depends on what type of flair we are talking about. I'm talking about arms wailing and facial expressions revolving, which he did not do, thankfully. Yes he was making bold statements, but he was doing this with his playing and nothing else.

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#582030 - 10/28/04 11:37 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
I think Richter had flair. No facial expressions (thankfully), but his arms were quite active. I've read that he held his audiences spellbound, not just with the music, but with his brilliant technique. (and probably also his absolutely insane tempos!).

I do think you are mistaken about Richter's background. Both his parents were musicians and his father was a respected pianist and piano teacher. How could he not have started young? He was probably soaking it in long before official "lessons" started. I've read in at least one source that he began lessons with his father at a young age and was pronounced to be a "master of the keyboard" by the age of 8. Neuhaus said he had nothing to teach him, although I strongly suspect that Neuhaus helped refine his musicianship and technique to the point that it could support a concert career. All of those "finishing touches" that take so much work to master.

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#582031 - 10/28/04 11:42 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
jeffylube Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 716
Loc: Weatherford, Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by ryan:
No offense intended, but I don't think Volodos belongs in the same discussion as Richter. [/b]
First of all, this isn't a discussion about Richter, it's about what it takes to be a concert pianist. What I was referring to was that both Volodos and Richter, "concert pianists", started later than what most people will say is necessary.

And I couldn't disagree with you more in saying that Volodos and Richter don't belong in the same discussion. I do agree that Richter is in the top 3 pianists of the 20th century and the recording era. However he has his reputation after a long and successful career. Volodos is only 32, and only has about 10-12 years of piano under his belt and he is established as one of the supreme virtuosos around today. What will he be like 40 years from now? Have you heard his Schubert disc? Arguably one of the top 10 Schubert discs ever recorded.

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#582032 - 10/28/04 11:50 AM Re: What makes a concert pianist?
jeffylube Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 716
Loc: Weatherford, Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by ryan:
I think Richter had flair. No facial expressions (thankfully), but his arms were quite active. I've read that he held his audiences spellbound, not just with the music, but with his brilliant technique. (and probably also his absolutely insane tempos!).

I do think you are mistaken about Richter's background. Both his parents were musicians and his father was a respected pianist and piano teacher. How could he not have started young? He was probably soaking it in long before official "lessons" started. I've read in at least one source that he began lessons with his father at a young age and was pronounced to be a "master of the keyboard" by the age of 8. Neuhaus said he had nothing to teach him, although I strongly suspect that Neuhaus helped refine his musicianship and technique to the point that it could support a concert career. All of those "finishing touches" that take so much work to master. [/b]
"I think Richter had flair. No facial expressions (thankfully), but his arms were quite active."

But his arms were active because it was necessary. What I'm talking about are the Lang Langs in the world who "practice" body choreography at the piano because they want to look good to their audiences. I actually read Lang Lang saying he was excited to get his recital on DVD so he could look at his gestures and body movements and see what areas he could improve on! And I don't mean "improve on" = "stop doing them".


Richter didn't go to Neuhaus until 17, which was his first real teacher. Richter was able to start late and become a master in just a handful of years because he was a musical genius. But the point I've been saying all along and I think it still stands, Richter didn't start out at 4 years old with a teacher and receive lessons every week until he was 20 and ready for a concert career, like most people will say is a "requirement" to be a concert pianist.

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08/29/14 10:33 PM
No one home?
by ScottM
08/29/14 08:05 PM
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