Shen Lu, Watercolor
Steinway & Sons CD 30039
I am very persnickety about piano recordings. Many piano recordings manage to leave me rather cold–both from a performance standpoint, and usually also from the sonic standpoint. Some of that I can trace to the facts that my early musical experiences were playing violin in student orchestras, and singing in school choruses.
Shaping a musical line and shading dynamics are existentially important in music. But the piano is unavoidably a percussion instrument.
Piano dynamics are a one-way street. Once you hit a note, it will die out as it will—there is no way to swell the sound once a note has started sounding on the piano. Whereas swelling a note is part of a singer’s stock in trade, and a violinist’s too.
Wagner: Overture to Tannhäuser
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2
They say that if you want to grow up to be good-looking, it helps to have good-looking parents. The same is often true in the case of talented musicians. Examples abound—both positive and negative.
For every childhood violinist or pianist who matures into a well-balanced, happy, and productive member of society, there seems to be at least another (if not more than one) whose high solo flight is followed by an Icarus-like plunge to earth. The line between parents who are loving sources of inspiration and “The Stage Parents From Hell” is not always easy to see. Imparting discipline is one thing; imposing tyranny is another.