What makes a good pianist stand out?

Posted by: Gould

What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/13/11 11:59 AM

What makes a good pianist stand out? What makes pianists like Vladimir Horowitz, Martha Agerich different than other average pianists?
Posted by: Pogorelich.

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/13/11 12:01 PM

Can you really not hear it?
Posted by: PaulaPiano34

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/13/11 12:27 PM

Horowitz and Argerich are pianists that can make their audiences cry and have shivers up and down their spine and excite them with their inhuman technical virtuosity. What sets them apart is that a lot of concert pianists can do either or, not both.
Posted by: ll

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/13/11 02:35 PM

However, don't let fame = quality.

That's not always the case...
Posted by: Gyro

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/13/11 03:37 PM

First of all, they're hitting all the right notes in the right time at tempo, which is no easy task in difficult pieces with a brisk tempo. This seems obvious, but in difficult pieces, lesser players simply cannot do this. For example, in a long, difficult piece can you play every single note with the same proficiency as every other one, the most difficult bar played just as perfectly as the easiest one? A lesser player will mess up in the difficult bars and start to fudge his technique to cover his shortcomings, which will be glaringly obvious to the listener. Big time players like this can hit even the most difficult to reach note just as proficiently as the easiest to reach one, which is why they "sound so good."
Posted by: Drunk3nFist

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/13/11 05:13 PM

Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Can you really not hear it?


Exactly as I was thinking!
Posted by: WinsomeAllegretto

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/13/11 05:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Gyro
First of all, they're hitting all the right notes in the right time at tempo, which is no easy task in difficult pieces with a brisk tempo. This seems obvious, but in difficult pieces, lesser players simply cannot do this. For example, in a long, difficult piece can you play every single note with the same proficiency as every other one, the most difficult bar played just as perfectly as the easiest one? A lesser player will mess up in the difficult bars and start to fudge his technique to cover his shortcomings, which will be glaringly obvious to the listener. Big time players like this can hit even the most difficult to reach note just as proficiently as the easiest to reach one, which is why they "sound so good."


My teacher began telling me at a young age that music is a lot more than just hitting the right notes in the right rhythms. I mean, what if I can play something really pretty, like Schubert Impromptu op 90 no 3, and I can hit all the notes and rhythms perfectly, but I just bang them all out without paying attention to phrasing, voicing, dynamics, articulation, pedalling, rubato, etc? It's not going to be great by any means. In fact, my teacher and I can actually START to work on a piece in lessons once I have learned the notes and rhythms. It's not an ending place.
Posted by: Batuhan

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/13/11 06:15 PM

Originally Posted By: Gyro
First of all, they're hitting all the right notes in the right time at tempo, which is no easy task in difficult pieces with a brisk tempo. This seems obvious, but in difficult pieces, lesser players simply cannot do this. For example, in a long, difficult piece can you play every single note with the same proficiency as every other one, the most difficult bar played just as perfectly as the easiest one? A lesser player will mess up in the difficult bars and start to fudge his technique to cover his shortcomings, which will be glaringly obvious to the listener. Big time players like this can hit even the most difficult to reach note just as proficiently as the easiest to reach one, which is why they "sound so good."


Technique is not everything, if you cant feel the piece you play, your performance going to be compeletly garbage. The important thing is while you are hitting all the right notes in the right time at tempo, you have to reach heart of the audience too. All great pianists feel the pieces they play very deeply thats because they are great.
Posted by: polyphasicpianist

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/13/11 07:10 PM

Originally Posted By: Vesivian
What makes a good pianist stand out? What makes pianists like Vladimir Horowitz, Martha Agerich different than other average pianists?


I think perhaps you mean, "what makes a good pianist famous?" And the reason I think this is because I don't necessarily believe that people like Horowitz and Argerich are necessarily part of a exclusive club of extraordinary musicians. I think they are part of a elite club of musicians who have happened to have struck fame. Exceptional musicality is not nearly as rare as people want to believe. There are a least a couple pianists I know of in my own home city who I would count as equally talented as a Horowitz or a Argerich, but who do not possess their fame. I think it is easy to fall into the common fallacy that people are famous because they are the best at what they do. But you need only look at the Miley Cyrus's and Helene Grimaud's of the world to know that this is simply not the case. People become famous for all sorts of reasons and under all sorts of circumstances. Argerich and Horowitz are remarkable pianists, but I think if you make the effort you will see that remarkable pianists can exist without the remarkable fame.
Posted by: stores

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/13/11 07:45 PM

Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist

There are a least a couple pianists I know of in my own home city who I would count as equally talented as a Horowitz or a Argerich,


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH Funniest thing I've heard all day (and no, I don't need to hear your hometown neighbors). Hop aboard my list, matey!
Posted by: LaReginadellaNotte

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 01:00 AM

I find it inconceivable that a pianist pursuing a career would go unrecognized if he was as good as Horowitz or Argerich. Audiences and critics aren't deaf, and skill of that magnitude is going to be obvious.

When you say that the pianists are as talented as Horowitz and Argerich, do you mean that they simply appear to have the same level of natural ability that they did, but are not at the same skill level? After all, talent only indicates potential skill, rather than actual realized skill. It's conceivable that a person could be supremely talented, but fail to utilize that talent to its full degree.
Posted by: polyphasicpianist

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 01:27 AM

Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte
I find it inconceivable that a pianist pursuing a career would go unrecognized if he was as good as Horowitz or Argerich. Audiences and critics aren't deaf, and skill of that magnitude is going to be obvious.

When you say that the pianists are as talented as Horowitz and Argerich, do you mean that they simply appear to have the same level of natural ability that they did, but are not at the same skill level? After all, talent only indicates potential skill, rather than actual realized skill. It's conceivable that a person could be supremely talented, but fail to utilize that talent to its full degree.


I find it very conceivable, if everyone who has the ability to master a Rachminoff concerto were as famous as a Horowitz and Argerich, then the Royal Albert and Carnigie hall would be packed day and night with piano recitals.

Just to provide an example, check out the girl playing the Tchaikovsky concerto. The concerto starts at 3:42. Clearly she is a great talent (by "talent" I don't mean to imply anything other than she can play the piano damn good), and I think if she was given the opportunity she could show her metal just as much as an Agerich or a Horowitz.


It's like I have said before, people put pianists like Horowitz, Argerich, Richter, etc. on a such a lofty pedestal that only a very few people can manage to break into. If it were the case that audiences and critics new best 100% of the time then pianists like Helene Grimaud would not be selling tickets to the largest venues.
Posted by: Lingyis

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 01:57 AM

in general, i think the truly brilliant will find their way. i'm talking about generational talents--the horowitzs, the argeriches, etc. it's the ones that are just a hair below them who need some luck to stand out. like, i think, someone on the level of kissin--if he didn't have the great publicity he got as a teenager, it's entirely possible he wouldn't be so well-known. maybe he's good enough as is, maybe not. we'll never know.

and i think that's probably why pianists place so much emphasis on competitions. for many, winning them is the break you need. even if you don't win, you need the free publicity.
Posted by: Lingyis

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 02:08 AM

but we've gotten off-topic: just what makes a pianist stand out?

honestly, i don't know. sure, i can hear it--but it's not an answer. well, it's a very unsatisfying, hand-wavy answer. i'd love to quantify it, but i can't really do it. as somewhat of an academic (in the quantitative sciences), i've accumulated a few rules to decide whether makes a performance great. but at this stage, the rules are so rudimentary, and, i think, detail-oriented that often times it loses the big picture.

like: phrasing, dynamics and timing are all things you can analyze to death. but "passion"? i haven't really managed to translate that to something tangible. when does "passionate" pass into "sentimentality" or even "trashy"? the "phase-space" is almost infinite dimensional, and we humans, with our experiences and training, interpret what we hear in a certain way as to render a translation from mere sounds very, very difficult.

and we're not even including the non-musical aspects: charisma, quirkiness, or, sheer luck, etc. as has been pointed out, those could matter much more than the ability of creating music itself.
Posted by: polyphasicpianist

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 02:38 AM

Originally Posted By: Lingyis
but we've gotten off-topic: just what makes a pianist stand out?

honestly, i don't know. sure, i can hear it--but it's not an answer. well, it's a very unsatisfying, hand-wavy answer. i'd love to quantify it, but i can't really do it. as somewhat of an academic (in the quantitative sciences), i've accumulated a few rules to decide whether makes a performance great. but at this stage, the rules are so rudimentary, and, i think, detail-oriented that often times it loses the big picture.

like: phrasing, dynamics and timing are all things you can analyze to death. but "passion"? i haven't really managed to translate that to something tangible. when does "passionate" pass into "sentimentality" or even "trashy"? the "phase-space" is almost infinite dimensional, and we humans, with our experiences and training, interpret what we hear in a certain way as to render a translation from mere sounds very, very difficult.

and we're not even including the non-musical aspects: charisma, quirkiness, or, sheer luck, etc. as has been pointed out, those could matter much more than the ability of creating music itself.


Do you mean stand out to the public and critics, or stand out in musicality in general? If you mean the latter case (which I suspect you do), you are unlikely to get an answer everyone will be satisfied with. Scientists can't even agree on what constitutes intelligence, how one earth can you expect to quantify something as vague as exceptional musicality? And vagueness is just one of the problems, in both the former and the latter instance, standing out is probably the result of a multi-factored sequence of causes and not the result of one specific cause. To try to discover, weed out, and establish each cause's degree of relevance is so monumental a feat that I am going to go out on a limb and say it can't be done.
Posted by: stores

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 05:01 AM

Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist

I find it very conceivable, if everyone who has the ability to master a Rachminoff concerto were as famous as a Horowitz and Argerich, then the Royal Albert and Carnigie hall would be packed day and night with piano recitals.


Well, of course, but here is where your depth of understanding goes no further than the wading pool. There are a ton of pianists that can play the notes...to anything. No one cares about the notes...it's what is behind, between, around and within those notes that make the difference. Sadly, these days there are those, who, like your example of Grimaud, sell tickets and recordings and are the result of the marketing machine, but there is not, nor will there ever be, anyone to take the place of the one and only Vladimir Horowitz, or Queen Martha Argerich. Pianist like these two, or your other example of Richter, don't just happen onto the scene...there's a reason they sit atop those lofty pedestals.
Posted by: polyphasicpianist

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 05:32 AM

Originally Posted By: stores

Well, of course, but here is where your depth of understanding goes no further than the wading pool. There are a ton of pianists that can play the notes...to anything. No one cares about the notes...it's what is behind, between, around and within those notes that make the difference. Sadly, these days there are those, who, like your example of Grimaud, sell tickets and recordings and are the result of the marketing machine, but there is not, nor will there ever be, anyone to take the place of the one and only Vladimir Horowitz, or Queen Martha Argerich. Pianist like these two, or your other example of Richter, don't just happen onto the scene...there's a reason they sit atop those lofty pedestals.


You don't give people enough credit. A lot of people care deeply about the music they learn and perform. It is unfortunate that you can't see that. I guess people like you are compelled to mimic the view of the overwhelming majority because you have an inability to form your own opinions, which is why you can't accept the fact that pianists of comparable ability may exist and yet may not be famous. You're so afraid of being wrong that you predictably stick with the safe bet so that nobody can accuse you of liking a inferior pianist: This causes you to erroneously think that the best pianists are the ones who achieve great fame. If they don't have great fame then they must not be great pianists.

It is true that great talent can help you reach fame as in the case of Horowitz and Argerich, but having great talent does not necessarily mean you will achieve fame.
Furthermore, it is also true that fame does not necessarily equal great talent.
Posted by: ll

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 05:47 AM

Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist

I find it very conceivable, if everyone who has the ability to master a Rachminoff concerto were as famous as a Horowitz and Argerich, then the Royal Albert and Carnigie hall would be packed day and night with piano recitals.


Well, of course, but here is where your depth of understanding goes no further than the wading pool. There are a ton of pianists that can play the notes...to anything. No one cares about the notes...it's what is behind, between, around and within those notes that make the difference. Sadly, these days there are those, who, like your example of Grimaud, sell tickets and recordings and are the result of the marketing machine, but there is not, nor will there ever be, anyone to take the place of the one and only Vladimir Horowitz, or Queen Martha Argerich. Pianist like these two, or your other example of Richter, don't just happen onto the scene...there's a reason they sit atop those lofty pedestals.


I'm sorry, but are seriously trying to say they're actually famous because they just excel where others do not?

What about Lang Lang? Would you say the same thing?

Like I said, fame DOES NOT equal quality. Nor is it an indication. There are a lot of talented - equally talented - people who are not famous. There are also famous people with no talent. This goes beyond piano, but applies just as well.
Posted by: stores

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 06:04 AM

Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist
Originally Posted By: stores

Well, of course, but here is where your depth of understanding goes no further than the wading pool. There are a ton of pianists that can play the notes...to anything. No one cares about the notes...it's what is behind, between, around and within those notes that make the difference. Sadly, these days there are those, who, like your example of Grimaud, sell tickets and recordings and are the result of the marketing machine, but there is not, nor will there ever be, anyone to take the place of the one and only Vladimir Horowitz, or Queen Martha Argerich. Pianist like these two, or your other example of Richter, don't just happen onto the scene...there's a reason they sit atop those lofty pedestals.


You don't give people enough credit. A lot of people care deeply about the music they learn and perform. It is unfortunate that you can't see that. I guess people like you are compelled to mimic the view of the overwhelming majority because you have an inability to form your own opinions, which is why you can't accept the fact that pianists of comparable ability may exist and yet may not be famous. You're so afraid of being wrong that you predictably stick with the safe bet so that nobody can accuse you of liking a inferior pianist: This causes you to erroneously think that the best pianists are the ones who achieve great fame. If they don't have great fame then they must not be great pianists.

It is true that great talent can help you reach fame as in the case of Horowitz and Argerich, but having great talent does not necessarily mean you will achieve fame.
Furthermore, it is also true that fame does not necessarily equal great talent.


If anything, I don't side with the majority, I'm NOT afraid to be wrong, I don't stick with the safe bet, nor do I have an inability to form my own opinions. ...ask anyone here who knows me about that (that last is actually pretty damned funny). I DON'T think that the best pianists are necessarily those who've achieved great fame. Lang Lang, is probably the most famous pianist in the world right now and he sucks, so throw that theory out the window. Clearly, you've not been around long enough to know anything about me. I speak my own mind, I speak it well and you'd better make sure you know what you're talking about or I'll pull the rug out from under you.
Now then, you go find me two pianists the likes of Horowitz and Argerich (or two you think comparable) and I'll be happy to tell you (as will others, I'm sure) why they're not in the same league.
Posted by: Lingyis

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 06:41 AM

Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist
Do you mean stand out to the public and critics, or stand out in musicality in general? If you mean the latter case (which I suspect you do), you are unlikely to get an answer everyone will be satisfied with. Scientists can't even agree on what constitutes intelligence, how one earth can you expect to quantify something as vague as exceptional musicality? And vagueness is just one of the problems, in both the former and the latter instance, standing out is probably the result of a multi-factored sequence of causes and not the result of one specific cause. To try to discover, weed out, and establish each cause's degree of relevance is so monumental a feat that I am going to go out on a limb and say it can't be done.


Well, the less ambitious version is just to get musicality right. Obviously, we hope to reproduce musicality the same way we hope to reproduce intelligence--that's the holy grail. (Not an AI expert, but I think scientists do know the kind of intelligence being sought after. Not sure what you're referring to--perhaps the various kind of tests used to determine if a program is close enough?)

I feel that in some ways "becoming famous" is easier because it feels like one of those things that's highly chaotic in nature so... if you can establish that then you're probably done, done in the sense it's so complicated you don't bother. But like picking stocks, just because something is "highly chaotic" doesn't mean you can't improve your chances of guessing right, so in that sense, it could be just as difficult as you mentioned. Obviously impossible to get it 100% right--we're talking human society not math or physics--but some level of predictability.

Anyway, I wrote the reply because, as a pianist (not a professional one) wanting to improve, and relatively lacking in musicianship, I want to improve by trying to figure out what makes people fall in love with certain performers and see if I can copy them. Obviously there's some disparity in piano techniques that I can never hope to overcome but at least I hope to become a better musician in the process. It feels this is something that perhaps resonates with the OP.
Posted by: stores

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 06:53 AM

Originally Posted By: Lingyis



I want to improve by trying to figure out what makes people fall in love with certain performers and see if I can copy them.


This is not how one improves. Speak with your own voice.
Posted by: wr

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 07:18 AM

Originally Posted By: ll
However, don't let fame = quality.

That's not always the case...


And it shouldn't be assumed that pianists who have what it takes to be as famous as Horowitz or Argerich would necessarily want that kind of fame. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it may very well be that the more artistic sensitivity a pianist has, the more likely it is that they will not be attracted to fame, per se.

But - and it is a very big qualification - I think that the fame that surrounds some musicians ends up being a sort of feedback loop that enhances their charisma when they perform, and can produce really remarkable events, in terms of how the audience perceives what is taking place. I remember going to hear Argerich do the Prokofiev 3rd concerto, and the audience was so primed with her fame that the instant she arrived on stage, there was something like an electrical charge in the air surrounding her, before she played a note, and as a seasoned creature of the stage, she totally knew how to manage it.

As much as I am fascinated with how she plays, I have to say that kind of thing is not about great musicianship, but about charisma, which all sorts of public figures have.

Or private figures, for that matter. I have been at parties where there is a palpable change in the atmosphere when some particularly charismatic person walks into a room, for example. Although other people have walked through the very same door with no particular effect, it is fascinating how a charismatic person can open the door, and like magic, suddenly everyone there registers that entrance in a special way.
Posted by: ll

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 07:23 AM

Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: ll
However, don't let fame = quality.

That's not always the case...


And it shouldn't be assumed that pianists who have what it takes to be as famous as Horowitz or Argerich would necessarily want that kind of fame. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it may very well be that the more artistic sensitivity a pianist has, the more likely it is that they will not be attracted to fame, per se.

But - and it is a very big qualification - I think that the fame that surrounds some musicians ends up being a sort of feedback loop that enhances their charisma when they perform, and can produce really remarkable events, in terms of how the audience perceives what is taking place. I remember going to hear Argerich do the Prokofiev 3rd concerto, and the audience was so primed with her fame that the instant she arrived on stage, there was something like an electrical charge in the air surrounding her, before she played a note, and as a seasoned creature of the stage, she totally knew how to manage it.

As much as I am fascinated with how she plays, I have to say that kind of thing is not about great musicianship, but about charisma, which all sorts of public figures have.

Or private figures, for that matter. I have been at parties where there is a palpable change in the atmosphere when some particularly charismatic person walks into a room, for example. Although other people have walked through the very same door with no particular effect, it is fascinating how a charismatic person can open the door, and like magic, suddenly everyone there registers that entrance in a special way.




Incredible points. I agree with you 100%. We can only make so many at once, though!
Posted by: stores

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 08:02 AM

Originally Posted By: wr
the instant she arrived on stage, there was something like an electrical charge in the air surrounding her, before she played a note,
I have to say that kind of thing is not about great musicianship, but about charisma,



You're right that presence has nothing to do with musicianship and your recollection here is, of course, YOUR perception. Certainly with some musicians/public figures at large there is going to be a certain aura surrounding them and it doesn't always have to do with their abilities. Argerich, however, has only to "speak" (and in her case that which she has already said) and it becomes all too obvious why she is considered uniquely a singular voice.
Posted by: JustAnotherPianist

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 08:08 AM

Originally Posted By: stores

Now then, you go find me two pianists the likes of Horowitz and Argerich (or two you think comparable) and I'll be happy to tell you (as will others, I'm sure) why they're not in the same league.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7F6S2WBDINM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUQoFOIn8dA

They don't exactly live in my city lol but I think these two have had/will have the same level of impact on the course of pianistic history as Horowitz and Argerich did.
Posted by: stores

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 08:20 AM

Originally Posted By: JustAnotherPianist
Originally Posted By: stores

Now then, you go find me two pianists the likes of Horowitz and Argerich (or two you think comparable) and I'll be happy to tell you (as will others, I'm sure) why they're not in the same league.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7F6S2WBDINM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUQoFOIn8dA

They don't exactly live in my city lol but I think these two have had/will have the same level of impact on the course of pianistic history as Horowitz and Argerich did.






Ivo, in his younger days was phenomenal. Bozie...eh, I'm not so crazy about, but, he's certainly a fine pianist, no doubt. I was really after pianists still without a "name" as polyphasic (I hope that's close...my apologies if not)suggested there are many (and some in his own hometown). Will either of your two impact the course of pianistic history (I like that haha)? I think that remains to be seen, but, of course Ivo already did make quite an impact with a little help from...Martha.
Posted by: Lingyis

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 09:05 AM

Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: Lingyis



I want to improve by trying to figure out what makes people fall in love with certain performers and see if I can copy them.


This is not how one improves. Speak with your own voice.


Copy was the wrong word to use here. But like Issac Newton said, you need to stand on the shoulder of giants to see far. (or something like that)

Yeah, I didn't exactly mean "copy". "Learn" is closer to what I had in mind.
Posted by: izaldu

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 09:06 AM

So much for respect of artists, to throw Miley Cyrus and Helene Grimaud on the same level is totally uncalled for.
Seems one s experience or musical education, and cv is a factor on these forums (to many,a t least) as to how relevant one s opinion is. I wonder how many of the Grimaud detractors could point out what makes them actually so much better than her. Myself, i don tlike her that much, but she s an accomplished concert pianist, that has played with Boulez, Gergiev, etc etc ...I wonder if they re easy to impress too
Posted by: JustAnotherPianist

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 09:24 AM

Pogo changed the way I (and many other pianists) think about Scarlatti forever.

Bozhanov changed the way I think Chopin... the level of artistic freedom in his sound, and his constant and unyielding commitment towards using that artistic freedom to sculpt the sound-and everything always in IMAX-level HD-I mean, Krystian Zimerman is on the same level for instance, pianistically...in terms of cleanliness and constant attention to the ballance and quality of sound... but there is something inflexible about his artistry compared to Bozhanov's, to my ears at least.

It's like Avatar and Inception magically combined into the same awesome movie watched on the biggest IMAX theatre in the world. He has dark powers.

What don't you like about him? Have you seen his classical stuff? His chamber music? It's all just so disgustingly superb. The intensity of flavour is too much sometimes-he puts my senses into overdrive. And the biggest mistakes he ever makes are microscopic compared to those that most pianists make...

He makes colours every day that most pianists don't even have in their deepest and darkest dreams.

For me, Pogo's Gaspard is the gold standard. After Pogo's, even Argerich, Gieseking, and Perlemuter's don't sound so good to me.
I saw Pogo live recently and he shattered my world. I mean, he was so broken in many ways, but the logic the binds the broken pieces together reveals unimaginable dark powers. And the sheer VOLUME which he gave to accents and sfz in the Tchaik concerto was frightening.

That sound that piano tuners get when the bang the living heck out of a note in order to set the pins.... that's the sound he was able to produce with tiny movements while keeping other voices quiet.

Granted, it's an ugly sound, but he was playing above a 110 piece orchestra in a 3000 seat hall, and that's the sound he decided to use.

No.... every so often pianists come around these days in the grand tradition of Martha and da HO. But I agree that it often seems that the higher the general conservatory standard gets, the fewer the true giants there are that emerge.

It may simply be because it becomes harder and harder to notice the true giants as the standard of mediocrity grows ever higher.

But I mean... some of the stuff Andrew Tyson dared to do at the Chopin competition-his Barcarolle, his E minor Etude, heck, almost everything he played.... to have the balls to play with in such a totally new way in front of that jury.... that's the stuff of legend.

He's still young-he will mature over time.... but his technique, his clarity, his precision, and his cantabile are already so good it's absolutely scary.

I hear certain things in some of these youngsters' playing that I do not hear in Martha's at that age. Granted, the fire and conviction that she showed as a teenager remains awe inspiring to every pianist...but certain aspects of her artistry were not as refined IMO at that age as that of some people today.

As for the level of Zhang's Chopin etudes at age 11... even Pollini didn't play them that well until he was a bit older than that.

Posted by: Andromaque

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 10:56 AM

I also would love to hear a sound critique of what people think is lacking in Bozhanov's playing. To my ears, it is magnificent, colorful, inspiring and all the above.
I believe there is some bias against him, may be because of his mannerisms. In my limited experience, some of the best pianists and educators cannot always disengage from their biases even when they have been judges and teachers for a long time, especially the latter.
I have finally managed to get my teacher to listen to Argerich and it took over a year, but he finally admitted that she is a superb pianist, well above the fray. But I simply could not get him to acknowledge Bozhanov. "should not be allowed" is all he would say , mostly targeting the body language and excessive facial movements. Anecdotal of course, but it makes you wonder.
Posted by: polyphasicpianist

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 10:57 PM

Originally Posted By: stores

Now then, you go find me two pianists the likes of Horowitz and Argerich (or two you think comparable) and I'll be happy to tell you (as will others, I'm sure) why they're not in the same league.


Since you asked so politley.


If you want a second video then you can analyse the girl playing the Tchaikovsky concerto above. Frankly, I am fed up with your tactless remarks and refuse to waste anymore of my time conversing with you.
Posted by: DonaldLee

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 11:07 PM

For me, It's one's ability to use a piece, no matter what difficulty to convey one's inner self to the audience.
Posted by: argerichfan

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 11:39 PM

Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist
Argerich and Horowitz are remarkable pianists, but I think if you make the effort you will see that remarkable pianists can exist without the remarkable fame.

I wouldn't argue that point, and I have certainly encountered some 'remarkable' pianists who are not well known to the general public, or perhaps even critics. I recently discovered Alexander Gavrylyuk. Seems to me he should have a major career: all the ingredients are there in spades. (Full disclosure, I've only so far heard him in a transcription, but the playing was world class.)

But I think you need to consider the longevity of pianists such as Horowitz, Rubinstein, Argerich, Richter, etc. They were very early on recognised as outstanding pianists, and as their careers matured, they went from strength to strength. Many pianists came and went -some no doubt extremely talented- but Horowitz, et al were never knocked off their pedestal.

Horowitz obviously still sells CDs, and one of DG's biggest cash cow is the early recordings of Argerich, particularly the Chopin Preludes. If there had been so many remarkable recordings of the Preludes since then, well why is anyone still buying Argerich? Clearly she still has something pertinent to say to new buyers.
Posted by: Pogorelich.

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 11:43 PM

Originally Posted By: JustAnotherPianist
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7F6S2WBDINM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUQoFOIn8dA

They don't exactly live in my city lol but I think these two have had/will have the same level of impact on the course of pianistic history as Horowitz and Argerich did.



I like the second one =) It's unfortunate what happened to him in the 90s, he could have been a legend. Well, for some people he will be. Actually as for pianistic "history" alone, he is already a legend!
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/14/11 11:51 PM

For me, it's range. The pianist in your video has 15 uploads on YouTube. All but two are standard fast/loud virtuoso literature.

So from the start, that tells me that this pianist is primarily interested in showing off, not sharing. Where's a Mozart sonata? Where's a slow Scarlatti? In the literature he plays, what about his tone and phrasing is unique? Does he have a strong point of view as an artist, or are his interpretations still being coached by a teacher?

Then what are his professional credentials? Can he play anything written after 1920? Can he play chamber music? What has he been doing since 2008? Can he learn repertoire quickly? Is he reliable and fun to work with?

My favorite definition of genius is this:

"Talent hits targets no one else can hit. Genius hits targets no one else can see."

The pianist in your video hits targets no one else can hit. His Islamey really is impressive.

But his berceuse? A berceuse is a lullaby. Lee's sounds intense, his crescendos and diminuendos are somewhat extreme - I can't really describe the effect as dreamy.

Whereas these guys obviously had access to a dictionary, looked up what berceuse meant, and found a way of communicating that to an audience:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQBIYInzyyU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZK27JQdsFw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlD3xuoT49U
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-02elNMQbQo

Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist
Originally Posted By: stores

Now then, you go find me two pianists the likes of Horowitz and Argerich (or two you think comparable) and I'll be happy to tell you (as will others, I'm sure) why they're not in the same league.


Since you asked so politley.

If you want a second video then you can analyse the girl playing the Tchaikovsky concerto above. Frankly, I am fed up with your tactless remarks and refuse to waste anymore of my time conversing with you.
Posted by: Lingyis

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 12:47 AM

i agree with kreisler. the berceuse... some of the pauses and what-nots reminds me some of the bad things lang lang does. not quite as exaggerated but shades of it.

his islamey performance in public isn't all that great. the one he did at home sounded very good, but probably out of many many takes.

youtube is full of these people. i don't know how well known Hyun-Jung Lim is, but some call her the asian martha argerich. she's got quite a following on youtube--and on facebook for whatever that's worth.

tremendous, tremendous virtuoso. technically, several notches above Jeffrey Lee, without a doubt. perhaps even even Argerich, in fact. but listen to her scarlatti... too much "lang lang" again (haha, it's becoming my stock criticism).

she might be virtuosic enough to live off of it alone, but she's not gonna go too far without developing the more subtle things.

but in this day of youtube, the only way to stand out is not via musicianship, but showmanship. she's gotta plenty of it. it's too bad, but it just means all the more likely we'll miss the next rubinstein or haskil.

like, this bumblebee is on crack:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKCZZf6ixj4

there are better clips but this is just so so so fast.
Posted by: polyphasicpianist

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 01:00 AM

Originally Posted By: Kreisler
For me, it's range. The pianist in your video has 15 uploads on YouTube. All but two are standard fast/loud virtuoso literature.

So from the start, that tells me that this pianist is primarily interested in showing off, not sharing. Where's a Mozart sonata? Where's a slow Scarlatti? In the literature he plays, what about his tone and phrasing is unique? Does he have a strong point of view as an artist, or are his interpretations still being coached by a teacher?

Then what are his professional credentials? Can he play anything written after 1920? Can he play chamber music? What has he been doing since 2008? Can he learn repertoire quickly? Is he reliable and fun to work with?

My favorite definition of genius is this:

"Talent hits targets no one else can hit. Genius hits targets no one else can see."

The pianist in your video hits targets no one else can hit. His Islamey really is impressive.

But his berceuse? A berceuse is a lullaby. Lee's sounds intense, his crescendos and diminuendos are somewhat extreme - I can't really describe the effect as dreamy.

Whereas these guys obviously had access to a dictionary, looked up what berceuse meant, and found a way of communicating that to an audience:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQBIYInzyyU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZK27JQdsFw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlD3xuoT49U
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-02elNMQbQo


I am not too sure what your argument is. I can make similar comments about Rubenstein or Michelangeli:
Why don't they play any Schoenberg or Hindemith? I am not particularly fond of Rubenstein's Chopin. I much prefer Argerich's. Why don't don't they play any renaissance repertoire? Why is Michelangeli's range of repertoire so small?

Also, what does it matter if Lee's Chopin is not as good as others. Glenn Gould's Chopin was not particularly good. Does that make him any less a great pianist?
(listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0wErcLg1Pg )

And so what if Lee likes the virtuosic literature. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Furthermore, it's YouTube, not the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue, he can't be expected to record everything. The point was simply to show that excellent pianists can exist outside of your Royal Albert Hall type venues.

Posted by: polyphasicpianist

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 01:45 AM

Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Horowitz obviously still sells CDs, and one of DG's biggest cash cow is the early recordings of Argerich, particularly the Chopin Preludes. If there had been so many remarkable recordings of the Preludes since then, well why is anyone still buying Argerich? Clearly she still has something pertinent to say to new buyers.


This is going to sound a rather pessimistic view, but perhaps one of the reasons Argerich's early recordings are still at the top of the classical charts is because people want a sure thing. Her status has been cemented so critically that when people buy her albums (or Richter's or Horowitz's, etc.) they know their is little chance they will be let down, and even if they are let down, the loss is not a big one since they are still left with a acclaimed recording. For example, I have some recordings of Rubinstein that either bore me to tears or make me sea sick with all that rubato, and I will probably never listen to them ever again. But am I going to get rid of the albums, of course not, it's Rubinstein.
Posted by: Lingyis

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 02:20 AM

Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist

And so what if Lee likes the virtuosic literature. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Furthermore, it's YouTube, not the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue, he can't be expected to record everything. The point was simply to show that excellent pianists can exist outside of your Royal Albert Hall type venues.



This is... getting away from OP. Youtube is a different animal.

If you're happy with youtube performances, there's nothing wrong with it, it's just that it becomes "How to make your piano performance stand out on Youtube" as opposed to "What makes a good pianist stand out". There is difference in psychology between sitting through a few minutes of a performance and 2 hours of it.

Anyway, I agree with your original point that there are hidden gems, but I agree with Kreisler that you could have picked a better example, since that one seems kind of typical.
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 08:46 AM

Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist
The point was simply to show that excellent pianists can exist outside of your Royal Albert Hall type venues.


Those of us in professional circles are well aware that excellent pianists exist outside of the Royal Albert Hall. I can name at least half dozen professionals and a handful of students of that caliber here in Iowa. (And I don't include myself in that list. I'm decent, but not on the level of a regular recitalist.)

But your video was in response to "you go find me two pianists the likes of Horowitz and Argerich," so I was simply saying why I don't think he's the likes of those two.
Posted by: liszt85

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 09:27 AM

Originally Posted By: Lingyis


but in this day of youtube, the only way to stand out is not via musicianship, but showmanship. she's gotta plenty of it. it's too bad, but it just means all the more likely we'll miss the next rubinstein or haskil.

like, this bumblebee is on crack:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKCZZf6ixj4

there are better clips but this is just so so so fast.


Her interpretations of these Chopin etudes seem to be different: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d51pRBE2vk&feature=related However, from whatever little I've read of Chopin, I would imagine he'd hate these performances if he were around today. This is just not Chopin, to me.
Posted by: Pogorelich.

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 09:55 AM

Originally Posted By: Kreisler

Then what are his professional credentials? Can he play anything written after 1920? Can he play chamber music? What has he been doing since 2008? Can he learn repertoire quickly? Is he reliable and fun to work with?


Why does he (or she!) have to play things written particularly after 1920? Some people circle around Baroque and Classical, some people perform only new music. Some are in the middle. I never saw anything wrong with that - we are all different, we can't possibly play ALL styles equally well, and that's because our personalities suit specific types better.

Also, how would you know if he (or she) is reliable/fun to work with? Just curious.. because sometimes videos can be misleading!
Posted by: JustAnotherPianist

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 10:36 AM

Originally Posted By: Kreisler
For me, it's range. The pianist in your video has 15 uploads on YouTube. All but two are standard fast/loud virtuoso literature.

So from the start, that tells me that this pianist is primarily interested in showing off, not sharing. Where's a Mozart sonata? Where's a slow Scarlatti? In the literature he plays, what about his tone and phrasing is unique? Does he have a strong point of view as an artist, or are his interpretations still being coached by a teacher?

Then what are his professional credentials? Can he play anything written after 1920? Can he play chamber music? What has he been doing since 2008? Can he learn repertoire quickly? Is he reliable and fun to work with?

My favorite definition of genius is this:

"Talent hits targets no one else can hit. Genius hits targets no one else can see."

The pianist in your video hits targets no one else can hit. His Islamey really is impressive.

But his berceuse? A berceuse is a lullaby. Lee's sounds intense, his crescendos and diminuendos are somewhat extreme - I can't really describe the effect as dreamy.




thumb

Great post, Kreisler.

This kid has an impressive technique, but he's a long way from being a great artist. I'm not sure he even has the makings of one-it's quite difficult to tell from the stuff he has on youtube.

How can you tell if a pianist is reliable and fun to work with?

Good question.... see how they do chamber music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPZVQl7hAoI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBvEY65JcPA


What makes someone stand out as a good pianist is the quality of their work.

It's not about how fast or loud they can play..... how much repertoire they have learned..... how typical or atypical their repertoire is.... it's about what they have to say as artists in the repertoire that they DO play.

You see, this guy, for instance, can play the notes as well if not better than the next guy-he doesn't make mistakes, he has a huge repertoire in his memory.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQV2o6pcyPo

he plays the right notes at the right time..... but does he stand out as a pianist? Not to me, he doesn't. Russia has oodles and oodles of pianists like this guy.

There is no one else in the world like this guy tho:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuGonko-Wuk

It's all to do with the sound.

The piano can be the most boring instrument in the world-a typewriter in the wrong hands.... or it can be the most sophisticated musical illusion machine in the world..... capable of describing the indescribable, producing an infinite variety 3-dimensional textures in sound.

The explosive combination of infinite possibilities of ballance in the vertical plane AND infinite possibilities of phrasing, placement, and rubato in the horizontal plane gives the piano the ability to be the most expressive of all instruments. Very very few pianist reach the level required to be able to REALLY take advantage of what the piano has to offer as an instrument. For most, the obvious difficulties of hitting the right notes at the right time remain an insurmountable barrier throughout their pianistic lives.
Posted by: argerichfan

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 10:40 AM

Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist
... perhaps one of the reasons Argerich's early recordings are still at the top of the classical charts is because people want a sure thing. Her status has been cemented so critically that when people buy her albums (or Richter's or Horowitz's, etc.) they know there is little chance they will be let down, and even if they are let down, the loss is not a big one since they are still left with an acclaimed recording.

These days, there is little excuse for a buyer new to certain repertoire (regardless of age or experience) not to go online and check out what the critical consensus is. I certainly do this before buying a book or, say, an appliance.

So someone wanting to buy the Chopin Preludes is invariably going to run across repeated references to Argerich. Critics and experienced collectors will undoubtedly have heard many subsequent recordings of the Preludes, but Argerich still stays at or near the top for the simple reason that few have surpassed her.

Referencing your last sentence, Argerich isn't going to appeal to everyone, and some folks will indeed be let down. Speaking in general, there are some recordings (not to be mentioned here to avoid a flame war) which have always received the top recommendation, but for the life of me I can't understand what the fuss is about!
Posted by: 1RC

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 06:41 PM

To the original topic, I was listening to a podcast today interviewing a fellow who wrote a book on the olympics. He began talking about the difference between competition and play in sports. Competition being to win, and it can push people to their best efforts. Play in contrast is exploratory and exists for it's own sake.

Then I listened to Gould's Goldberg Variations. Gould is hit or miss for me, but I do get a strong sense of 'play' from him. To really play is to not get locked into an interpretation, but to live in the space that's open to new inspirations. Maybe recordings can give the impression of a fixed interpretation. We're always trying to control the details of our lives, but the real magic is halfway an improvisation. Perhaps this is one way of looking at the difference between a talent and a greater talent.
Posted by: lisztonian

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 06:59 PM

I'm surprised no-one has mentioned luck. There are many who practice and practice, study, and attend universities who never "make the cut".
Posted by: riley80

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 07:38 PM

Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist

There are a least a couple pianists I know of in my own home city who I would count as equally talented as a Horowitz or a Argerich,


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH Funniest thing I've heard all day (and no, I don't need to hear your hometown neighbors). Hop aboard my list, matey!


I don't know whether a comment like that makes me want to laugh or CRY.

I guess some ppl still prefer Dinty Moore and Chef Boyardee too.
Posted by: stores

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 07:39 PM

Somehow I knew we'd hear something like "Islamey"...fast and loud. I'll not add anything more, because many good points have been made above already, but I will say that the young man in question is no Horowitz or Argerich (though impressive technique he doth possess). Good music schools are filled with kids of this caliber. I'm not taking anything away from him...I'm just stating a stark truth.
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 07:49 PM

Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Why does he (or she!) have to play things written particularly after 1920? Some people circle around Baroque and Classical, some people perform only new music. Some are in the middle. I never saw anything wrong with that - we are all different, we can't possibly play ALL styles equally well, and that's because our personalities suit specific types better.


Very true. There's nothing wrong with that. But well-known artists have always had interesting niches that they championed; it can be evidence of a certain depth. Horowitz introduced people to Scarlatti and Clementi and played Barber and late Scriabin. Rubenstein introduced people to the little-known Villa-Lobos. Richter premiered Prokofiev! Argerich has recorded everything from Bach to Messiaen. Even people who stick to 19th century literature find ways to be unique - Volodos does his own transcriptions, as did Cziffra, who was a great improviser.

Also, how would you know if he (or she) is reliable/fun to work with? Just curious.. because sometimes videos can be misleading![/quote]

I don't know. That's why I asked the question. It's important - if you can't get along with other people, the phone will stop ringing, no matter how talented you are.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 08:03 PM

Originally Posted By: stores
Somehow I knew we'd hear something like "Islamey"...fast and loud.


"The hardest, purely pianistic, task is to play very long, very loud and very fast."
Posted by: argerichfan

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/15/11 09:05 PM

Originally Posted By: Kreisler
... if you can't get along with other people, the phone will stop ringing, no matter how talented you are.

Ask Kathleen Battle.
Posted by: SimNotes

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/23/11 04:31 PM

Get back to the original topic, when you say "average", I guess you mean "average professional concert pianist"?
Maybe back in the days (50's and 60's) there were only a few big names concert pianists out there. But these days there are really a lot more quality plays, some of them you hardly heard of. And the difference between them is still technique - that last 1%, that only shows up in the most difficult passages. Which allows the truly greats to breeze through them with right sense of style and their personal touch.
But to get noticed, you do need some luck. Case in point, LangLang was lucky to audition for Christoph Eschenbach at just the right time. But he did impress him enough to be asked back to replace Andre Watts on short notice. And he played great in the concert to impress even Isaac Stern. And these are music directors/conductors with friends at high places in the classic music world. Which allows LangLang to play in top venues all over. You do need talent to take advantage of the opportunity.
Posted by: liszt85

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/23/11 05:18 PM

The answer to the question is: "If the good pianist does not do his homework for his lesson".

(Excuse the poor joke).
Posted by: Drunk3nFist

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/23/11 09:18 PM

This opened my eyes. Great point made.
Posted by: beet31425

Re: What makes a good pianist stand out? - 03/23/11 09:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Why does he (or she!) have to play things written particularly after 1920? Some people circle around Baroque and Classical, some people perform only new music. Some are in the middle. I never saw anything wrong with that - we are all different, we can't possibly play ALL styles equally well, and that's because our personalities suit specific types better.


Very true. There's nothing wrong with that. But well-known artists have always had interesting niches that they championed; it can be evidence of a certain depth. Horowitz introduced people to Scarlatti and Clementi and played Barber and late Scriabin. Rubenstein introduced people to the little-known Villa-Lobos. Richter premiered Prokofiev! Argerich has recorded everything from Bach to Messiaen. Even people who stick to 19th century literature find ways to be unique - Volodos does his own transcriptions, as did Cziffra, who was a great improviser.


Perhaps Perahia is an exception to this idea? It seems he sticks entirely to pre-20th century, and the only niche he carves out is that of playing everything really well with beautiful pealing tone.

-J