The pianist-thinker

Certain great pianists spend their lives thinking deeply about music, and feeling torn between the ethereal and the apoplectic – either dancing on the piano (clip 1) or crawling under it (2).  Some times they believe they have mastered their instrument…

while other times they believe that their instrument has become their master.

I know, because Dr. Pantelis Polychronidis, my other self, is one of them.

The critic Huntley Dent has suggested that pianists fit into three large categories: Personalities (like Cherkassky and Wang), powerhouses (like Cziffra and Argerich), and poets (like Gieseking and de Larrocha). Inspired by the example of Pantelis, I would add a fourth category of pianists, thinkers, in which I would include, among others, the scholarly Jeremy Denk, the critic Harris Goldsmith, the comparatist David Greilsammer, the encyclopedic Marc-André Hamelin, the literary Angela Hewitt, the polymath Stephen Hough, the cross-over Labèques Sisters, and the essayist Igor Levit. I would take this further and argue that, even though every instrument can boast great virtuosos, only the piano can claim that it produces musicians-thinkers.

I consider my friend, Pantelis, too a literary thinker in that literary interests large (such as periods) and small (such as techniques) thoroughly inform his playing and contribute substantially to our collaborations. I recall the wonderful poetic quality of his artistry as I salute his birthday tomorrow and his Athenian appearance the day after.

May 7, 2018

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