“You were teaching that pianist like she was a college student” — the complaint of an observer of one of the masterclasses I gave in Jerusalem. In my defense, the student pianist was 18 (I learned later), and playing one of Beethoven’s Opus 10 Sonatas.
It seems to make sense that we have differing expectations of musicians — according to their stage of development. More experienced players may have more musical or instrumental command, or more nuanced understanding.
Complex music can be looked at with simplicity, but I resist the idea that it can or should be “reduced” for the consumption or instruction of the young. “It’s ok not to hold those difficult left-hand quarter notes now, but next year I’ll expect it…” (Perhaps not what my critic meant.)
As time passes, and growth occurs, our essential questions and challenges will be answered with increasingly sophisticated performances in response.
I wonder if it is exactly our very youngest, most impressionable pianists that need our most subtle and detailed teaching? Not that we want to overwhelm them, or scare them off. But let’s do involve them, with the big things that really matter — that make music something worth a lifetime of attention.
The youngest pianist I heard in Jerusalem (a kid of really remarkable ability and imagination) followed everything I said. Even in my most far-fetched spontaneous experiments, he was right there. I might even say he led the way. The talented provoke us to do our best — playing, listening, teaching. This young pianist’s talent seemed to challenge, to ask all of us to do our best for him, and, in so doing, to do our best for ourselves too — the best (as well as we know it) for the future of music in the world.