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Thread: What made the greats what they were?

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    Default What made the greats what they were?

    A reasonably skilled amateur pianist with enough effort can learn to play the notes and observe the dynamics of a piece from the standard repertoire. Yet, compared with an undisputed great like Rubenstein, the amateur's performance is clearly inferior. What is that "something" that the masters had? I am looking for more than "talent"...can you be more specific?

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    Member Jonathan Wrachford's Avatar
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    Maybe their location, and something stunningly brilliant about their character. Added to this might be a sense of origniality, where it seems that no one else can interpret the music like him, or play it like him/her. Examples: Glenn Gould with Beethoven, Mozart, Bach. very original interpretations I'd say. But that could be the reason why he is so popular: no one else plays just like Glenn Gould!!!!

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Speaking from my valley location, I say that a performance consists of technique +. The + is what the performer can give when his technique has handled the notes. I use Alkan as an example of music that requires so much technique that most performers have nothing left for +.

    [That paragraph reads like a creole of a parent language insecurely understood. Valley dwellers don't yodel well.]

    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member Headphone Hermit's Avatar
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    the ability to communicate effectively
    "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils." Berlioz, 1856

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Headphone Hermit View Post
    the ability to communicate effectively
    In addition, having something worth communicating.


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    It's not just the notes, the dynamics, the timing there is also the phrasing - identifying the musical / harmonic lines in a piece, bringing out the different voices in a piece, the balance between the hands, the use of the pedal - a whole range of things to thing about.

    A good amateur will manage two maybe three, a good player four or five, an expert performer six or seven and make it look easy. All too often,as a (rank) amateur you get the notes and the dynamics and then the phrasing goes; or you get the notes and the phrasing but the balance between the hands goes - you lose the tune in the harmonies.; or you get the dynamics and the tune but some of the harmonies or the phrasing goes.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    Now this is definitely a thread where I'm all agog to see what PetrB thinks!
    ~ Mollie ~
    My fiddle my joy.

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    Senior Member Headphone Hermit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ingélou View Post
    Now this is definitely a thread where I'm all agog to see what PetrB thinks!
    surely it would need the title of the thread to be changed from past tense to present tense?
    "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils." Berlioz, 1856

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    I'm sceptical that professionals play simpe stuff like slow movements any better than skilled amateurs. I'm similarly sceptical that most of the "greats" (Gilels, Backhaus, etc.) would play such things better than other professionals or skilled amateurs.

    It's true that some well-known pianists have interesting recordings compared with many other professionals, but does this mean skilled amateurs can't do interesting renderings? I'd say a lot of professional pianists sound rather boring compared with the greats of the early 20th century because they are trying to please everybody so their performances end up sounding like they were created by some sort of a committee. It's well known that before the era of recordings, pianists were more original sounding because there weren't standardised expectations regarding how a piece should be played. I think amateurs are actually better positioned to do interesting renderings than professionals, because they don't have to worry about what the critics think. And I suppose even professionals sound more interesting privately than in public.

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Most of the greats started full and intensive lessons and training between the ages of two to four and never stopped.

    That is often what it takes to develop the full technique needed so that technique is barely a consideration for even the most difficult to execute pieces.

    A greatly important factor in that early beginning is learning music while the learning of spoken language and the ability to learn to rationally think are simultaneous -- that will make music more a native language for the early beginner vs. a second and learned language, and it has been found that there is an enormous difference between what can happen if started in those earliest of the more formative years vs. even a few years later, say at age five or six.

    After that there is still a basic intelligence, and a musical intelligence, which can be developed, but it must be said that not all people are created equal, in innate intelligence or potential ability, an unhappy fact some would love to ignore.

    A personality who loves to perform for others, charismatic (at least on stage) who does have remarkable powers to communicate, both through technique and power of personality.

    [And yeah, an innate talent, sorry, but that has to be present to be developed. You've already said it in so many words in the OP, some people seem to have just as much technique and training, but little or no music comes out or gets communicated.]
    Last edited by PetrB; Mar-15-2014 at 01:11.

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    Roma locuta est; causa finita est. ^^^
    Last edited by Ingélou; Mar-16-2014 at 19:55.
    ~ Mollie ~
    My fiddle my joy.

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    So many things in this thread I so thoroughly disagree with...

    First of though, I definitely agree with chordalrock. If you're able to play the notes comfortably, then it is perfectly reasonable to expect you might be playing the piece extremely well. There will be many pianists taking only their grade 8 piano exams right now who are playing simple pieces, the Moonlight Sonata 1st Mov for example, just as well as any concert pianist.

    Second, it is perfectly reasonable that an amateur pianist can be absolutely world class at playing (supporting evidence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn1H...3EE7CF0D33B17A). Being professional only means you earn money from doing something, not that you are particularly skilled, so to say or suggest that only professional pianists can be considered for greatness is ridiculous.

    To reply to the original post, the answer is basically practice. I didn't quite realize the scale of practice that was required until I took lessons for a while under a concert pianist. Getting to know his schedule over time, he practiced still for quite a few hours a day when he was at home and had, as a child and younger man, put in truly tremendous hours.

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    WELL to me it is the sound of the music happy music with a good melody makes them great.

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    I enjoy the performances of skilled amateurs and I love it when they have something to say in their music. I include in that statement my youngest students when they play their Twinkles with brio and panache.

    But musicians are always growing, and one's ability to understand and communicate a piece gets better and better with time and experience. Very experienced pianists sound very different from graded exam students, even in simple pieces. Taggart mentioned most of the specifics that I'd mention already.
    Heather W. Reichgott, piano
    http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matsps View Post
    So many things in this thread I so thoroughly disagree with...

    First of though, I definitely agree with chordalrock. If you're able to play the notes comfortably, then it is perfectly reasonable to expect you might be playing the piece extremely well. There will be many pianists taking only their grade 8 piano exams right now who are playing simple pieces, the Moonlight Sonata 1st Mov for example, just as well as any concert pianist.

    Second, it is perfectly reasonable that an amateur pianist can be absolutely world class at playing (supporting evidence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn1H...3EE7CF0D33B17A). Being professional only means you earn money from doing something, not that you are particularly skilled, so to say or suggest that only professional pianists can be considered for greatness is ridiculous.

    To reply to the original post, the answer is basically practice. I didn't quite realize the scale of practice that was required until I took lessons for a while under a concert pianist. Getting to know his schedule over time, he practiced still for quite a few hours a day when he was at home and had, as a child and younger man, put in truly tremendous hours.
    The playing in your link might get a barely passing grade in conservatory, the slop, the wrong notes, the technical stiffness of the playing goes directly into the sound, and I can only think you are most impressed with anyone who can play a lot of notes fast to the point where you are blinded and deafened as to the other elements which are missing from that rendering in the link you posted.

    The pianist in that link is very rough edged and student level, at best, and no where near the level of technique or having the musical elements in place enough to be considered any level of professional classical pianist.

    Point is, that pianist is not, by any professional classical concert standards, "playing the piece well."
    Last edited by PetrB; Mar-18-2014 at 05:59.

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