The Complete Pianist
What is a complete pianist? And how does one become one? Being a pianist has an historical context as well as defined skills. A pianist in Beethoven's day was expected not only to play famous pieces, but also to improvise upon any theme, or be capable of making one up themselves.
Members of the audience called out tunes, and the concert pianist was expected to deliver an improvisation, then and there. Ask a concert pianist today to improvise, and they will stare at you in horror. I'm reminded of the famous jazz pianist who, when asked to play Happy Birthday at a party replied, "But I don't have the sheet music!" Here are the skills you will need to be a complete pianist:
You'll have to be able to read anything at sight, and that includes handwritten sheet music. You're not really a pro unless you can do this.
You have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of music theory. Your knowledge must be perfect.
You need a working knowledge of orchestration to be able to communicate properly with orchestral musicians.
You'll need to know what it means when the conductor waves his arms. Not knowing could lead to disaster.
You should be able to improvise on any theme, in any style.
You should be able to play in any style reasonably well. No one expects Horowitz to play jazz, but he could muster up TEA FOR TWO if he had to at a party.
You should have a working knowledge of what a composer does, although you don't need to actually be one. You must be able to understand what a composer does, and empathize with them.
You should be able to participate and appreciate popular music. Leonard Bernstein was a perfect example, equally at home on Broadway and the symphony hall.
You have your work cut out for you.
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