Most people are familiar with the following scene from the perspective of the audience, either in a live concert or on TV: The stage is filled with the members of a large orchestra wearing festive clothing: men in black suits and white shirts, women in black evening dresses. The concert hall is packed, cameras are ready, the critics have their pens pulled out and in the middle of the stage is a polished black grand piano.
Then two more people walk onto the stage and are received by the audience with a grand applause: the conductor and the pianist. They bow, take their places and the concert begins. The center of everyone's attention is on the pianist. This was the name people saw on the posters outside and wherever the concert was advertised.
When the pianist begins to play, people expect it to be perfect, beautiful, inspiring. Some parts of the music have the piano playing with the orchestra accompanying, in others sections the piano's sound stands totally alone. The concerto will normally end with a sweeping, rapid virtuoso finale, the audience claps, soloist and conductor bow and leave the stage and if the applause continues, come back on again for another bow and to receive flower bouquets. (Watch the brilliant Tom and Jerry "Cat Concerto" cartoon for a bit of fun on this topic.)
This is the dream of many pianists but its fulfillment is granted to only a very few. To be that pianist sitting in the stage center you have to be a remarkable and well trained musician who is able to play extremely challenging pieces flawlessly. Next, you need to have VERY strong nerves to handle the pressure, and last but not least you need to get invited to give concerts in a tough and competitive market.
One person who achieved this is the Dutch pianist Ronald Brautigam. Just looking through Brautigam's concert schedule on his website can make you dizzy: he skips from one continent to the next, performing on the big world stages with well known conductors and orchestras. His recordings page is jaw dropping: The major piano works by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Mendelssohn and others are available in more than 70(!) CDs.
I was very excited when Ronald Brautigam agreed to meet up for an interview for Pianoways. In the next blog post you will find the conversation we had on topics such as how to keep your nerves under control in a performance, how to keep practicing a piece without getting bored and some ideas for young musicians who would like to have a musical carrier.
What we didn't talk about was the incredible amount of work that has to be done to play at this level. From a very early age one has to spend many hours alone by the piano. Many hours of hard work with no glory and spot lights, training and learning. I personally think this is only possible if the path too is a goal in itself: you can only do this if you have a deep passion for music and it is this deep passion that draws the audience to the concert hall or the recording and inspires them.
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- Interview with Concert Pianist Ronald Brautigam
- How Much Talent do You Need to Play the Piano?
- How Much Practice Should a Piano Student be Doing?
- What happens when we practice?
- The Secret of slow Practice