I’m in rainy Glasgow, half way through my fortnight on the jury of the triennial Scottish International Piano Competition. Obviously I can’t say much as the competition is still in progress, but I can say how absorbing it’s been to hear so many accomplished young pianists from all around the world.
So many different styles of playing, such varied types of platform presentation, such different cultural attitudes, and yet all linked by the fact that at their young age they have already attained a level of excellence which would astonish some of the composers whose music they play. I imagine that Liszt, for example, might never have imagined that people would actually take the trouble to play every one of the trillions of notes he wrote in his sonata and his virtuoso arrangements. And yet they do; they regard being able to play every note as an obvious starting-point.
I said something about these high-achievers this evening in a radio interview for CBC. The presenter asked me whether such achievement inevitably means that the people concerned ‘have no time to stop and stare’. Do they know anything about world events? Do they go to the theatre? Are they fun to go for a drink with? And of course I wonder too.