Kids on the Block

How the classical music industry devours its young

Cellist Gregor Piatagorsky was asked by his students, "Master, should we practice eight hours a day?" To this Piatagorsky replied, "Eef a monkey practiced cello eight hours a day, after a while it could play preetty good cello. OF COURSE NOT! Go out, take a valk, talk to luffly girl." Meaning, of course, that ordinary life experience informs and enriches one's artistry.

There are exceptions. Yevgeny Kissin was all of 12 when he recorded both Chopin piano concertos (RCA) in one night, displaying a bardic mastery that puts many an elder to shame. "If there's a reason to believe in reincarnation," says Clark, "the maturity of these young people has caused me to contemplate it. The depth that one brings to a Bach adagio is what's remarkable. Unfortunately, it's the virtuosity that is most often explored."

"The profession is pretty heartless [with] this perfectionism that's put on them," says Fleezanis of her pubescent peers. "You listen to old recordings and they're slopping all over the place. I'm not advocating slop, but I don't believe in this squeaky-clean, everything-is-dependable sort of thing. You should be hearing the music, not the perfectionism. We shouldn't be afraid of our vulnerabilities."

When Anne-Sofie Mutter played Brahms's Violin Concerto last winter, she didn't play an impeccable string of notes. But would anyone there have traded Mutter's vulnerabilities and risk-taking for clueless impeccability?

Gil Shaham performs in the Sommerfest concert series on July 9 and 10; Yura Lee, July 12; and Han-Na Chang Aug. 1. Call 371-5656.

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