Musical Prodigies : Perilous Journeys, Remarkable Lives
Автор: Claude Kenneson
Год издания: 2003Количество страниц: 386
What is a prodigy? Originally, the word meant a marvel or a monstrosity. Today, it is what we call a child (the German word Wunderkind or wonder-child says it all) whose extraordinary musical gifts appear very early and can be developed exceedingly quickly. But like the conundrum about the tree falling in the forest--if no one heard it, did it make a sound?--even a prodigiously talented child becomes a "prodigy" only by being put on public display. Thus, the very concept has become encrusted with confusion. Claude Kenneson, a respected cellist and teacher, never makes this distinction clear, mentioning, for example, the sons of Bach, who, though highly talented children, did not rise to fame until adulthood. Having himselftaught "prodigies," he describes their upbringing and training as basically natural and benign, carried out by a "nurturing" team of loving parents and teachers (the former sometimes taking both roles) concerned with providing an environment propitious for fostering superior talent. However, despite the speed with which gifted children learn, this optimal situation will hardly produce a "prodigy" ready to perform at an age calculated to cause a sensation, as is borne out by several of Kenneson's subjects.
Ruggiero Ricci's father, determined to make him a prodigy, started him on the violin at age 4. By age 7, he lived with his teacher and had daily lessons; he practiced four hours in the morning and again in the evening, did not go to school but studied with a tutor, saw his parents only on Sunday and no other children at all. Zara Nelsova's older sisters played piano and violin; her father, resolved to have a "sisters trio," started her on the cello when she was not yet 5. "Under my father's constant supervision," she recalls, "we were forced to work six hours per day with a five-minute break after each hour." Violinist Erica Morini also studied first with her father. "When I was three and a half, I played Sarasate's Gypsy Airs , yet he stillwas not satisfied," she says. Ricci sums it up: "Believe me, when you find a prodigy, you find an ambitious parent in the background."
Kenneson acknowledges this element of exploitation, criticizing Leopold Mozart for presenting his children like a circus act, but emphasizes the toll exacted by early success rather than by a childhood spent as a hothouse plant forced to bloom prematurely. Yet surely this is where the seeds of the physical and mental breakdowns of some ex-prodigies in this book were sown. As his subtitle implies, Kenneson feels that the greatest danger lies in the transition from childhood to adulthood, when, in addition to facing the normal emotional problems of adolescence, the prodigy is expected to go from instinctive to conscious mastery of his instrument and from ingenuous expressiveness to mature artistry. Cellist Janos Starker says, "What happens to the bird who sings and doesn't know how it sings? Child prodigies wake up and start asking dangerous questions about how they dothings, and have no answers." However, most of the book's subjects negotiated this crucial rite of passage successfully, if not easily, and established major careers. Perhaps this determined their selection, if only because they are the ones we know about. The most riveting, moving chapter is a first-hand account by countertenor Bejun Mehta of growing up as a famous prodigy boy soprano, losing his voice and, after a long period of travail, finding a new one--and with it a new identity. Told to the authorwith keen intelligence, unflinching insight, and wrenching honesty, it is illuminating, overwhelming, and unforgettable. --Edith Eisler Book DescriptionWhat must it be like to start composing music at age two and create an opera at age ten as Samuel Barber did? Or to go deaf at age eight and yet become a world-renowned percussionist as Evelyn Glennie has? This book is a celebration of the remarkable lives of 44 musical prodigies from the 18th century to the present, including the amazing stories of Mozart and Paganini, Andres Segovia and Samuel Barber, Van Cliburn and Ruggiero Ricci and Jacqueline du Pre and Yo-Yo Ma, to name only a few. The author explores early family life, first teachers, the importance of peers and the inevitable struggles forindependence and acceptance as an adult musician.
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