He says he practises 11 hours a day

Hola a todos. Why are the conservative classical music armchair critics that one sees saturated under classical music videos on U-toob — most of whom I suspect have never studied an instrument or music based on their amateurish comments about music and musicians — so “mainstream” and easily-impressed? Well, in this case, I think they were awe-struck because the pianist was a teenager (15 years old) and was playing the Rachmaninov Second (that’s the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 in c minor). I did the same thing — played the Rachmaninov Second — when I was a teenager although I was a bit older than he, but no one cared because I didn’t have cameras on me. It’s not a case of jealousy on my part. It’s just a different time and a different societal culture today than then. I learned the first movement of the Rachmaninov Second on my own one Summer break from the Conservatory where I was training. Then I shocked my piano professor when I walked in for the Fall Semester and told him what I had done. He was very pleased and he listened to me play it alone (for accuracy) and then he sat down at his grand piano and played the orchestral part with me. It was wonderful. He told me that I had learned it perfectly on my own. That was good to hear. I had hoped that I had because I went through it meticulously since I was my own teacher over the Summer. Then the following Summer, I learned the second and third movements. Then he gave me the Grieg Piano Concerto in a to begin working on. I wasn’t too hot on that. The Grieg didn’t do as much for me as the Rachmaninov. Too bad he didn’t give me the Rachmaninov First or Fourth or the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. I’m a Rachmaninov musician. Today, I much prefer them to the Grieg.

I watched this teenager’s performance of the Rachmaninov Second, and in the comments the pianist immediately had developed a cult-like following from the conservative, traditionalist, classical music armchair critics. I’m not sure where these people come from. I think it was because of his young age that they were literally worshipping him. (roll eyes) The comments were embarrassing to read. The video performance was uploaded near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and based on the comments, most people had already gone insane and or emotionally flipped-out. Reminding me of most of the people in my apartment building who flipped out as well). The comments wrote about how they were in tears throughout the concerto, one person claimed to not have blinked during the entire length of the concerto, another person didn’t breathe for 40 minutes (the length of the piece) and other such nonsense. The pianist is from Russia so some conservatives had to launch into Russian nationalism and promote that conservative myth that only Russians can play Rachmaninov the best, which is ludicrous thinking to any rational, thinking person. A pianist originally from Brazil plays my favourite interpretation of the Rachmaninov Third. I was reminded again of just how conservative and backward-thinking the classical music armchair critics are. Then someone attributed it all to the Floating Cloud Being (the Christian deity) and there were umpteen comments about god. Some people quoting scripture and others writing “Glory to God.” Ugh. Other people stopping short of reciting The Nicene Creed. Yet this was a video performance about the Rachmaninov Second, not a video about a Russian Orthodox Liturgy and the existence or not of god. Sigh. Honestly people, get a grip. I think the world has gone insane. Well based on the comments under this video, it has.

Then someone said that the pianist said he practises 11 hours a day and the armchair critics were so terribly impressed by that. Why? If he does practise 11 hours a day — which is doubtful — he didn’t explain how he does that. That would be done most intelligently in groups of 2-3 hours at a time, totaling 11 hours a day. At the Conservatory where I trained, no one practised 11 hours a day including the Performance Majors. It’s impossible if one has anything else to do in one’s day. And the Performance Majors have a curriculum to study in addition to their private instruction.

One can go through the motions of practising endless hours — such as 11-14 hours a day — but how effective is that? The quality of the practise time will be inferior to serious practise time because of the way the brain works. The most I was ever able to practise at one sitting was 2 (maybe 3) hours for effective practise time and then my brain and body felt very tired. Some days maybe 4 hours, but my brain was fried at night, and it was not a regular thing I could do day after day. The thing is: the brain can only absorb so much at a time and then it tires. I can do up to 4 hours occasionally but only if I take brief breaks during the practise time to give my brain a brief break. I can’t imagine practising 11-14 hours a day. That would likely lead to burn-out. I’m more “impressed” (if that’s the correct word) by a musician telling me how little they practise while accomplishing a lot in a small amount of time. And some people “practise” away from the piano is one understands what I mean by that. Some people can practise very little at the piano but they accomplish a lot in that time. That’s what I look for, rather than how many long and grueling hours one is able to sit and log in at the instrument. And frankly speaking, with grueling practise hours, one can become sick of it all causing burn-out, in part, because it feels as though one doesn’t have any life outside of music. When the mind tires, one can start making mistakes that they’ve not made before! It’s time to stop rather than logging in more hours just so one can brag about how many hours they allegedly practise to impress willfully-musically-ignorant and conservative classical music armchair critics. So when I hear someone brag about practising 11 hours or more a day, I find it quite suspect based on my experience. I brush it off and I think: Why did he say that? I suspect it’s his immaturity and thinking that “the more hours you say you practise, the more the sheeple will be impressed and say ‘Oh, wow’.” Instead, I would say: Sounds grueling and like one is a slave to the instrument. That’s no fun. That’s not what music should be about. How many hours you can clock in. In passing, out of curiosity I used to ask some touring international concert artists I would meet about their practise time. Most concert artists told me: “It depends upon how much time I have for the day. Maybe a couple of hours or so.” Yes. Absolutely. Now I can relate to that. That makes much more sense. No one told me that they practise half the day away. But the armchair critics fall for that.

Nobody commented on the pianist’s posture at the piano, probably because no one knows anything about that because I’ve long suspected that the classical music armchair critics are wannabe-musicians, by their musically-ignorant and conservative comments. This pianist at times was very bent over, especially in the third movement. Why has his professor not taught him to sit up tall and support his back? One gets more power by sitting up tall. It also feels better because, well, one’s back muscles are not working so hard when one is all bent over with one’s face almost on the keyboard. Later on in life, one will likely have lower back problems. I’ve not heard of any back problems with pianists who have correct form when playing. With some pianists, my back starts to hurt just from watching them play all bent over. I’m serious.

Then, another commenter was whinging about pianists who use their scores and how they are “amateurish” according to conservative him. Someone said, “You’re calling Richter amateurish?” I’d add to that: You’re calling Marta Argerich, Nelson Freire and Daniel Barenboim amateurish, are you? Shows how much you don’t know! Thanks for exposing your ignorance. They all use their scores on occasion when performing. I’ve seen them do so. I like seeing pianists use their scores, in part, because it goes against that ludicrous tradition. Since when did music become all about “memory” when it should be all about allegiance to the score and one’s interpretation. What if one is an outstanding musician, but not a good memory person? I’d suggest that one abandon that outdated thinking of that ugly myth that pianists who use their scores are “not prepared.” They are as prepared as any other musician. They just feel more comfortable using the score — I’m one of them — and that gives the best performance. One of the piano professors where I trained performed with the Conservatory Symphony Orchestra and she asked me to turn pages for her as she was using her score. She told me, “I can’t memorise all this.” Well, she played the concerto as if she had known it all her life and no one cared that she used the score and had me as a page turner. I think people who are negatively obsessed with pianists using their scores, need to find something else to occupy their time. Maybe flower arranging or something. With all the problems we have in this world, do we really have the luxury of worrying about whether a pianist uses his/her score or not? I should think not. (roll eyes) And as I’ve said before, it’s interesting that the musicians who play the most notes (pianists) are the only musicians who are required to perform from memory, per that silly and ludicrous tradition. Oh I was trained to perform “from memory” and I did at the Conservatory, but I abandoned that shtick sometime ago because it’s one tradition — of many — that makes no sense what-so-ever. It should be left up to the artist and what he or she is most comfortable with. All other musicians — who play far fewer notes usually than pianists — are free to use their scores anytime they want per tradition. Why can’t pianists? Chau.—el barrio rosa

Related: Pianists: Use your scores. Screw these silly traditions.