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So You're a Piano Virtuoso? Get in Line

More and more musical geniuses crowding the field
By Tim Karan,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2011 3:37 PM CDT

(Newser) – So you can effortlessly play all of Chopin's piano études with flawless precision, style, and personality. Join the club. Being a young piano virtuoso is not the amazing feat as it used to be, writes Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times. "The overall level of technical proficiency in instrumental playing, especially on the piano, has increased steadily over time," writes Tommasini. "In the last decade or so, the growth of technical proficiency has seemed exponential."

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Many classical music experts say the noticeable jump in talent is akin to how each new generation of athletes seem stronger than the last. "The four-minute mile seemed an impossibility until Roger Bannister made the breakthrough in 1954," writes Tommasini. "Since then, runners have knocked nearly 17 seconds off Bannister’s time." Just like in sports, piano teachers and students are constantly fine-tuning their practice, conditioning, and performance methods; and that's led to an influx of musicians who blow away their predecessors. "Listen to 1920s and ’30s recordings of the pianist Alfred Cortot, immensely respected in his day," writes Tommasini. "He would probably not be admitted to Juilliard now." (Read more classical music stories.)

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