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Imagine...being a concert pianist (Read 21725 times)

Offline Jacey1973

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Imagine...being a concert pianist
« on: July 07, 2005, 03:52:30 PM »
Anyone see this programme on BBC 1 last night? (It was on about 10.45pm).

My mum and I came to the conclusion that most the concert pianists interviewed were actually completely unable to lead normal lives. (Notably Evgeny Kissin, perhaps he just came across a bit odd because he wasn't talking in his own language), the child prodigy (11 year old Matthew sumthin - who was on BBC young musician of the year last year i think) was vaguely normal but he has no life outside of piano practise (he said he practises 8 hours a day 6 days a week and misses alot of school because of this - not that he seems to mind).

They also went onto interview a few pupils from Juilliard music school, who all have dedicated their lives to piano playing (or should i say practise?). And when they interviewed one of the teachers she said "so little of these pianists will go on to make a career as a concert pianist". It just shows - even if you dedicate every waking hour of your life to practising it doesn't guarantee you anything.

Lang Lang was the only pianist who possessed any kind of humour - the rest were so serious. What all these concert pianists had in common was none of them were married or have children or in fact seem to have any kind of life outside piano playing. I actually felt sorry for them - is it really worth giving everything up to be able to play as well as hundreds of other wannabe concert pianists? I really couldn't give up my social life completely, although i practise about 5 hours a day and even then i feel cut off from everybody else. The only thing i would put before piano is getting married and having children....so that's just about everything!

What did you guys think? Anyone see it?

"Mozart makes you believe in God - it cannot be by chance that such a phenomenon arrives into this world and then passes after 36 yrs, leaving behind such an unbounded no. of unparalled masterpieces"

Offline thracozaag

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #1 on: July 07, 2005, 04:01:29 PM »
  Trust me; we're all freaks.

koji
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Offline alhimia

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #2 on: July 07, 2005, 06:56:55 PM »
I've seen the programme too. I don't take it so seriously, there are also a lot of other great pianist who have besides the piano/music a completely normal life, like for example, Arcadi Volodos. He never practised more than two/three hours a day, the rest of the time he is having a lot of fun;

for me, practising more than four, maybe five hours, is ridiculous (although in some cases you have to), and most of the people who practise that much have perfect technique but often lack individuality, they become in fact trained piano monkeys.
On the other hand, do you see today a young pianist performing in a famous hall having technical struggles? I don't think so. We require almost note perfect performances, and this is a pity because many upcoming pianist with a lot of potential go lost. Personally I think the 'golden age of piano', with such legends as Horowitz, Richter, Gilels etc. never will come back. it's simply impossible. Now we are focused on fast fingers (Lang Lang, Kissin) and nobody cares about the fact that Kissin interpretates Chopin polonaise op. 26 nr.1 like a silly ten year old boy (to give one small example).

Of course we are all freaks, so music is always in our mind, but that means in no way that we should practise every day 8 hours! it's crazy. If you read about great composers and composer-pianist you will see that for some genius people music or piano was actually a small part of their live and they had also a lot of different activities apart from it. But it was another time.
Personally  I think it depens on what you want. The world of music is so large, try something new instead of focussing on only playing piano. Think on what is really important for you.

I think the programme gives us the standard, but for me this is really not what music is about. For me 'career' means that I am able to express myself, that's it.

Offline jhon

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #3 on: July 07, 2005, 07:23:13 PM »
Personally I think the 'golden age of piano', with such legends as Horowitz, Richter, Gilels etc. never will come back. it's simply impossible. Now we are focused on fast fingers (Lang Lang, Kissin)

I agree and it seems Martha Argerich is the only one still alive from that "golden age." 

Most pianists nowadays become famous merely beacuse of media projections.  ::)

Offline 6ft 4

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #4 on: July 07, 2005, 07:43:01 PM »
Lang Lang was amazing. I loved his description and playing of Beethoven PC 4. You're right though: he's the only one who seemed human.

Kissin was utterly hilarious. His hair is awesome. lol at the way he speaks.

The 11 year old kid was just odd. He just doesn't look right. Its also a shame he's got a lisp.

There was also some nice quotes/interviews from the old masters.

And they showed Gould's odd technique......wow his wrists are SO low!!!


I wish i was what i was when i wanted to be who i am now.

Offline Jacey1973

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #5 on: July 07, 2005, 09:34:03 PM »
Lang Lang was amazing. I loved his description and playing of Beethoven PC 4. You're right though: he's the only one who seemed human.

Kissin was utterly hilarious. His hair is awesome. lol at the way he speaks.

The 11 year old kid was just odd. He just doesn't look right. Its also a shame he's got a lisp.

There was also some nice quotes/interviews from the old masters.

And they showed Gould's odd technique......wow his wrists are SO low!!!




Good point Alhimia - i'm thinking documentaries like the above set out to portray something how they want to portray it. I'm sure there are many pianists out there with full and interesting lives.

Yeah Lang Lang was sweet  :) if, a little eccentric. Still in his own little world, but what i like about him is that he so obviously enjoys himself. He is so happy all the time, which is probably an important thing in such a demanding job, otherwise you would just go mad (see Kissin and his abnormal hair/voice/eye twitch etc etc, aww don't mean to be mean! I'm sure he's alright really....?..?)
"Mozart makes you believe in God - it cannot be by chance that such a phenomenon arrives into this world and then passes after 36 yrs, leaving behind such an unbounded no. of unparalled masterpieces"

Offline 6ft 4

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #6 on: July 07, 2005, 09:52:45 PM »
Nah Kissin probably isnt alright, i mean to socialise with an all that. Not that it matters, he obviously loves his music and he is an incredible player.

But tbh, anyone who practices 5 hours + a day is probably a bit weird

which reminds me:

i practise about 5 hours a day.

:P
I wish i was what i was when i wanted to be who i am now.

Offline thalberg

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #7 on: July 07, 2005, 10:36:44 PM »
Hi Jenni,

Some people are just freaks, but just because you share a profession with them doesn't mean you will end up being a freak, too.  They probably would have been freaks whether they played the piano or did something even worse, like physics.  Get married and have kids, and you can still be a really good pianist and have a rewarding life.

Personally.  I love piano and a love people and relationships, so I choose to have both.  Every piano teacher I've ever had--male or female--has been married with children, and has had a nice happy life.  I've known lots of people who have played Carnegie Hall, studied with famous teachers--Leon Fleisher, John Perry, Emmanuel Ax, Menahem Pressler etc., and performed with famous people--Gidon Kremer, Arnold Steinhardt, Lynn Harrell, and big orchestras.  They were VERY accomplished, yet not freakish at all.  NONE of them EVER practiced 8 hours a day.  I'm not as accomplished as my teachers were, but I insist on being normal, too.  If they can do it, we can do it!  Forget the freaks.

Offline Jacey1973

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #8 on: July 07, 2005, 11:04:05 PM »
Hi Jenni,

Some people are just freaks, but just because you share a profession with them doesn't mean you will end up being a freak, too.  They probably would have been freaks whether they played the piano or did something even worse, like physics.  Get married and have kids, and you can still be a really good pianist and have a rewarding life.

Personally.  I love piano and a love people and relationships, so I choose to have both.  Every piano teacher I've ever had--male or female--has been married with children, and has had a nice happy life.  I've known lots of people who have played Carnegie Hall, studied with famous teachers--Leon Fleisher, John Perry, Emmanuel Ax, Menahem Pressler etc., and performed with famous people--Gidon Kremer, Arnold Steinhardt, Lynn Harrell, and big orchestras.  They were VERY accomplished, yet not freakish at all.  NONE of them EVER practiced 8 hours a day.  I'm not as accomplished as my teachers were, but I insist on being normal, too.  If they can do it, we can do it!  Forget the freaks.


Yeah i see what you're saying but....I bet we haven't heard of any of these "normal" pianists you've known. I know very successful pianists who have pretty normal lives too, but i bet you haven't heard of them either.

The more eccentric a pianist tends to be the more famous he/she seems to be (perhaps that's to do with the whole stage presence thing?) I mean look at Kissin and Lang Lang.

But yeah...i know what you mean... :)
"Mozart makes you believe in God - it cannot be by chance that such a phenomenon arrives into this world and then passes after 36 yrs, leaving behind such an unbounded no. of unparalled masterpieces"

Offline hazypurple21

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #9 on: July 07, 2005, 11:43:20 PM »
My teacher is Mariko Sato. She's studied at the Kunitachi School in Japan, at Michigan School of Music with Leon Fleisher, and earned a doctor's degree from SUNY Stonybrook. She is without question my favorite pianist, because she's not just a pianist, she's a musician, and she's not just a musician, because she plays like a true artist. While studying at Stonybrook, she performed several Rachmaninoff preludes in Carnegie Hall. She's also one several concerto competitions with Beethoven, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky concertos, among others. She's also a wonderful, normal, sweet person. She's married and has a son, and also currently works as a Japanese language teacher at a highschool. So clearly, eccentricity isn't entirely unavoidable.
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Offline Motrax

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #10 on: July 08, 2005, 12:18:22 AM »
For the record, Kissin is indeed as socially awkward as he appears, no matter what language he's speaking.  :P

Jenni, most of the musicians Thalberg mentioned are not pianists - something which does matter, at least a little. A good deal of pianists miss out on chamber music and other collaborative forms of art, where other instrumentalists almost always play with other people (I'm speaking only of classical, by the way). From my own experience, pianists tend to be a more lonely bunch, but indeed there are many who have perfectly fine lives away from the piano.
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Offline MattL

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #11 on: July 08, 2005, 06:43:28 AM »
imo people who really love the piano will play it for themselves not for money

i could be wrong though

Offline Skeptopotamus

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #12 on: July 08, 2005, 08:21:24 AM »
I have a fiancee and a pretty active social life o.o

Offline Ruro

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #13 on: July 08, 2005, 02:38:12 PM »
imo people who really love the piano will play it for themselves not for money

i could be wrong though

Interesting, I would agree with that. BUT, if I wanted my life to be purely a Pianist, and I can still get as much fun from playing whilst getting money, then why not? :D
Plus if you wanna express your playing for Audiences... money is just a fortunate part of doing this for them ^_^ Sure you could deny it, but naturally you might as well accept it, or else you won't be able to pay for that flight to Moscow, where you're performing next :P

Offline jhon

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #14 on: July 08, 2005, 07:56:10 PM »
imo people who really love the piano will play it for themselves not for money

i could be wrong though


exactly.  these who practices 6-8 hours a day can be doing such merely for SELF-FULFILLMENT'S sake and not necessarily to earn or to be famous or to prepare for a concert...

Offline infamousbr

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #15 on: July 10, 2005, 07:48:39 AM »
its a dream job definitely, doing something u love, but there must lots of pressure being one as well since everyone will expect you to make no wrong notes and stuff, and pick on you if you even make one little mistake..and it seems like a lonely profession, if my life went the way i wanted it to be i'd be a part-time concert pianist playing for my local area, with another full-time job with something else, cuz being full-time, man there must be so much pressure

Offline thalberg

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #16 on: July 10, 2005, 01:44:03 PM »
Jenni,

Well, it's true that you haven't heard of any of the pianists I'm talking about.  If your standard is fame and extreme success, then yes, that area is dominated by freaks.  But....the piano teachers I'm talking about play so beautifully they're always worth hearing, and they get to do what they love for a living, and they make very acceptable salaries.  So they're quite happy.  As for the freaks, does their fame and success make them genuinely happy?  Well, if they looked happy to you, I don't think you would have been disturbed by the program you saw.  My opinion: you will finish your education, have an enjoyable piano career, have a nice family, and you will be so happy you won't envy the freaks one bit.  I don't!

Offline pies

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«Reply #17 on: July 13, 2005, 10:36:07 PM »
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Offline eusebius27

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #18 on: July 18, 2005, 12:17:05 AM »
Does anyone know which piece Kissin was practicing in the empty orchestra hall?

Kissin was playing the Mendelssohn Scherzo op. 16 No.2.

Does anyone know what Maria Joao Pires was coaching the student in during the masterclass at her home?


Offline Karli

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #19 on: October 07, 2008, 03:16:40 PM »
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Offline Karli

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #20 on: October 07, 2008, 04:49:21 PM »
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Offline opus10no2

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #21 on: October 08, 2008, 05:18:16 PM »
They aren't mutually exclusive. A concert pianist is an artist (like commercial success in popular music) who finds mass appeal.

The whole music industry/machine acts as a filter, and what hits our ears has found them often purely because of a resonance, the resonance which connects the mass musical conscious.

Some musical ideas were never meant for eternity, some only find resonance with a small few, some only the artist themselves.

The flame of inspiration dwindles unless it finds resonance in our memories, if not, however bright and beautiful, it shall die and be forgotten. Much like us.
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Offline Karli

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #22 on: October 08, 2008, 09:01:24 PM »
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Offline opus10no2

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #23 on: October 08, 2008, 09:25:06 PM »
Well, it is a one sided form of communication in a way.
An attentive ear isn't saying anything back, and the only reward can be that of empathy or apathy.
The fascinating and beguiling (also frustrating) thing is that although the listener hears the same notes, it can never mean quite the same thing upon recieving.

So is it a need for compassion or love? Needing to be heard.

Do we wish to be loved for the beauty of our musical self because we cannot find it on a personal level? Or is it simply another outgrowth of ego.
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Offline Karli

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #24 on: October 08, 2008, 10:37:46 PM »
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #25 on: October 09, 2008, 02:00:26 AM »
....something that stands out is that there are many people in the world who are very serious about being concert pianists and have given up or sacrificed many things in their lives for it.
I think that with all good professional art comes a lot of sacrifice. Whether it be sacrifice regarding social life, time with family, money, another job etc. An artists life can often reflect a hermits life which is probably the greatest sacrifice we make for our craft. Sitting alone working hard, it is what music is more often than not.

What you choose to do with your art is very important. There are people who are quiet achievers, I have met many professional musicians who don't perform and they play brilliantly. They don't perform because they live life with other desires in their life, whether it be family or the love for teaching music to their own community.

As a performing artist it pains me to see musicians who should play in public more but do not perform at all. But at the same time I can see that it is unimportant to that person because their personal relationship and private relationships sharing music is what is important to themselves.

For me I have always found music as a great healing source. Performing music also has a healing effect. I love to perform in public because I know for a small moment I can take peoples minds off the world that they are in. You can inspire memories, make them confront emotions with the music. What you say to present the music and pay respect to the composers life story is almost us breathing life back into the composer. The composer gives us so much joy at the piano the least we can do is remember them in our concerts and let others know them too. For me this is almost like closing the deal with the often dead composers ;) I feel like I am paying them respect by talking about them on stage before I play their music.

...there can be a difference between aiming at being a concert pianist vs. aiming at being an artistic pianist. If I had to choose between the two, I would choose the second.Something I have been considering in my own life is the difference between finding one's artistic voice vs. finding the place for it in the world. 
I don't think that there is much of a difference between the two. The international concerting pianists I have met are also amazing teachers and their activities, although very heavily orientated towards concerting, also has a lot to do with teaching and community work with music. It is however a very high stress job, I see some near 60 yr old international concert pianists still going, the amount of pain they go through physically, the way they push their body to go on. Is it worth it? I don't think so.
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Offline Karli

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #26 on: October 09, 2008, 03:32:12 AM »
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Offline cmg

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #27 on: October 09, 2008, 04:36:19 AM »
Anyone see this programme on BBC 1 last night? (It was on about 10.45pm).

My mum and I came to the conclusion that most the concert pianists interviewed were actually completely unable to lead normal lives.


What one earth is a "normal life?"  Can you define "normal?"  Is normal that which is conventionally accepted to be the life most humans live?  Lives, as Thoreau said, that are ones of "quiet desperation?" 

A life spent honing your talent to its sharpest edge is more important than anything.  If it  precludes close personal relationships, then so be it.  If it includes close personal relationships, then you are lucky. 

Our lives take on meaning only if we can take care of the ones we love.  But we must love ourselves first, if we are to love others.  People who hate themselves can't love others.  And this love of ourselves includes the cultivation of our talent.  This is what concert artists must do.  This is what everyone must do.  Creativity in humans is the closest we get to God.  There is nothing else.

The notion of "normal" is idiotic. 

 

Current repertoire:  "Come to Jesus" (in whole-notes)

Offline communist

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #28 on: October 09, 2008, 09:12:15 PM »
i have no social life anyway  8)


but playing 6-8 hours a day is crazy it will probably be worse for you than 3-5 hours a day
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Offline cherub_rocker1979

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #29 on: October 10, 2008, 02:07:32 AM »
I'm pretty messed up by 'normal' people standards.  There really isn't much I can do about it.

Offline 49410enrique

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist-fyi
«Reply #30 on: April 20, 2012, 10:27:25 PM »
fyi  bump, caught this on the front page of ps dot com....

Offline austinarg

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #31 on: April 21, 2012, 12:17:08 AM »
Back on topic, I see nothing wrong with practicing 8 hours a day, it's like a job. Of course, after those 8 hours you must completely disconnect from the piano, just as anyone disconnects from work, in order not to neglect your personal life. My two cents  ;D
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Offline Mayla

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #32 on: April 21, 2012, 12:37:47 AM »
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Offline rachmaninoff_forever

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #33 on: April 21, 2012, 01:21:07 AM »
This is a response to those of you that think that practicing more than five or six hours a day is ridiculous.

Well, think about it.  ages 6-18, you go to school six hours a day!  Some people have to go longer because their country requires it, or maybe because you have extra school related activities after school! 

And what about your job?  The average person works 6.57 hours a day including Sundays, or 7.66 hours with Sunday off. 

So I don't think practicing several hours a day means that you have no social life.
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Offline steinway43

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #34 on: August 21, 2013, 09:06:54 PM »
Fascinating documentary. I'm a Grosvenor fan now.

Offline karenvcruz

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #35 on: September 12, 2013, 02:32:27 PM »
I've watched this documentary many times because I have to admit, I do learn a bit from it, particularly the portion of the Portuguese pianist giving a master class.

I remember that my old professor who trained some of the best concert pianists in our country before they would be off to Julliard or some other foreign school would often tell me that it was important to practice at least 6 hours, although her more career-oriented students who were preparing to enter Julliard would practice 8 hours a day. They would take breaks though and when tired, they were advised to go off, relax, get a life, distract themselves and have fun, and then go back and practice again.

I wouldn't call the likes of Kissin or other concert pianisits to be freaks mainly because at least for some of them, these were choices they made.  I am not sure about Kissin though, although he was gifted with a talent that if I had, I would also really work hard on.

I guess it is more this:  because they spend 8 hours may not necessarily be wrong for them, if and is is a big IF they chose for themselves this ambition and this profession.  One should love and be passionate about what they do.  They are actually no different from people who go to work, and be employed for 8 hours.  I often encounter people - accountants, lawyers, doctors, painters, writers, etc. who also slave for 8 hours in a discipline they have chosen or were required by their parents.  For some of those employed, they reach a plateau after 5 years - and it is even worse for them because sometimes, they do tell me, there's no fulfillment.

 At least, I do know that pianists and for that matter, musicians who play different instruments, or sing, at least enjoy the music they play.  They may be complaining about overdoing it but sometimes I wonder if they also cannot stop themselves because they also get a high after being able to caress the keyboard so that it brings out such magical moments of success in expressing oneself fully through music.

I am 53 and I have a job.  I do enjoy my job because there is fulfillment, but it is nowhere near the musical arena.  However, I revived studying piano lessons again, and while I practice at least 1-3 hours on weekdays, I do make sure I could at least practice 6 hours on weekends.  I didn't stretch it to 8 more because of the warning that you could damage yourselves. 

Perpaps, the thing we question is also about the balance in their lives ... Which unfortunately is also a complaint in the business world.  Our concerns pianists may after not be any different from the office employee when it comes to time and quality of life ... But they may be fulfilled at least in ehat they do, not just complete about living a full life.


Offline minona

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #36 on: September 12, 2013, 04:12:21 PM »
The thing that struck me about them not living a 'full life' is not about their life-style, but their unwillingness to create their own music. They're like athletes, but unlike athletics, there is an option right before you to create your own music, to improvise. It must be soul-destroying to lock that away when it's such an essential part of human nature.

Offline karenvcruz

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #37 on: September 12, 2013, 11:28:51 PM »
I agree with you, Minona.  I remember watching a video where Kissin was interviewed and he mentioned that he also composed something  when he was younger.  He played a sample of it.  I have often wondered why some concert pianists have not taken steps to actually note down their own compositions or their improvisations of pieces learned.  Unless, they may be seeing composition as a different field... I am not a music major so I would not know much of the difference.a

Offline klaviertraum

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #38 on: September 14, 2013, 10:04:22 PM »
I watched this documentary a few years ago. The concert pianist profession has become devalued over the years. Classical pianists are no longer highly regarded/rewarded as jazz, pop pianists, or others. The piano superstar status invented by Liszt is acknowledged only in very closed circles like ours. Music and musicianship in general have devalued so much that the only thing that really matters is how many records one is capable to sell.

Besides pianists have given a different approach to piano playing towards the acrobatic, ultra high speed, exhibitionist stile. Nowadays is very rare to be truly touched, to be moved by a performance capable to infiltrate in our feelings and to blow our minds away for the brief time that music is still in the air. I saw Andrass Schiff live playing Schumann not long ago, very professional, no mistakes, but nothing, not even a bit of excitement, of sentiment. 90 - 99% of the students in the documentary are pursuing a piano career burning their fingers off because they have one thing in mind, to be competitive in such an Olympic piano games environment to have chances to make a career.

Offline emill

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Re: Imagine...being a concert pianist
«Reply #39 on: September 15, 2013, 04:49:38 PM »
One has to love the piano, be focused and be DRIVEN to be able to practice hours upon hours each day. It is a near impossible task even for parents who are "slave drivers" to be able to force their children to spend so much time on the piano if they are not innately driven.

On the other hand for someone DRIVEN, you barely have to encourage, much more push. It's what is NORMAL to them, being with their piano and tinkering with it for hours on end, as if their very lives depended on it! Not being able to practice upsets their day and may depress them.

As to the number of hours of practice dAILY, i would say it varies from person to person. My son Enzo, would average 2-3 hours a day, depending on his moods and the demands of his other academic subjects. When preparing for a recital, he would spend 4-6 hours a day about 2-3 months before the event.  When he was preparing his College audition pieces he was spending 6-8 hours a day a month before the auditions.

Now a freshman at Eastman School in NY, he practices 3-4 hours a day despite an upcoming piano concerto competition first week of October.  It is not because his desire to practice has diminished, it is just because he is adjusting to his totally new environment and has daily classes and homework to also attend to.

Still he is profuse with excitement and so are most of his classmates.  Non-pianists and I would venture that even pianists who are not innately DRIVEN would think them weird or freakish and would advise them to get a life or add some spice to their lives, not realizing that they ALREADY HAVE IT ! ! ! ! !

member on behalf of my son, Lorenzo