Alma Deutscher

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Painting by Alex Katsenelson

Recently a reader shared a piano concerto performed by then-eleven-year-old Alma Deutscher from Britain. I was glad to see this young virtuoso, but with shows like America’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent, child prodigy performers are now a dime a dozen. However, when I started listening to Alma’s piano concerto, I did not recognize the music. As I paid closer attention to the video, I realized that this eleven-year-old girl was not just playing this concerto, she had composed it.

And what a concerto it was! It had the lightness of Mozart, the delicacy of Chopin, the dynamism of Mendelssohn, and the Hollywood (modern) flair of Korngold. It is terrific!

Most classical music I listen to was written between the 17th and early 20th centuries. There are exceptions, like Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (composed in 1957), the adagio from the ballet Spartacus, by Aram Khachaturian (composed in 1954), and maybe a few others. But I cannot name a single piano concerto, or a symphony, written by a modern, living composer that I enjoy listening to. (There may be some wonderful pieces I don’t know about. If you know any, please send them my way. Knowing my readers, I suspect they’ll take up that challenge. Thank you!)

I would also like to point out that composing a concerto is an incredible undertaking – you have to write music for a dozen instruments. An eleven-year-old doing it and doing it so incredibly well gives me hope. Yes, hope that classical music did not peak in Europe in the 19th and very early 20th centuries and that I won’t be listening only to music composed by dead white men for the rest of my life.

Alma also plays violin and has composed a violin concerto, too. I will share both the piano and violin concertos. I really hope you enjoy them as much I did.

 

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Comments

  • What an amazing musician. So adept at violin and piano at such an early stage. Thanks for sharing her talents.

  • Mitch Reiber says:

    All I can say is wow.

  • Michael letch says:

    Yes,amazing early talent — but her music! A wonderful new composer — That is what really matters!

  • Dean Webb says:

    Such a wonder! Thank you for sharing the word on this amazing composer, Vitaliy!

  • Katya Kats says:

    Vitaliy, I always enjoy your posting. My husband and I always wait for the new posting from you.
    Regarding contemporary composers, I would like to put my 2 cents. I enjoy very much Trevor Jones. I discovered him after I had been blown away with his music for the movie “The Last of the Mahicans”. I think that this is a piece of fine orchestral contemporary music.
    Another Contemporary composer that I enjoy very much and can listen for long period of time is John Williams. That Williams who composed the music for “Schindler’s List”. He has some number of concertos, symphony and some chamber works
    Sorry for the long post..

  • Jeremy Morfey says:

    Alma was actually 12 when she completed the piano concerto. I was at this very premiere which opened the Carinthia Summer Festival in 2017.

    What is particularly remarkable about this piece was explained in Alma’s promotional video, recorded at home in February of that year entitled ‘Why Music Should be Beautiful’. She introduces every movement of both violin and piano concertos… except the first movement of the piano movement where she says “actually, I haven’t written it yet”. She had a few ideas for it though, and it was on a plane journey in March that the main melody came to her. With the exception of a few bars from a discarded ‘Cinderella’ aria written in 2013, pretty well all the music in that movement was new.

    So from March, she had until July to compose it, orchestrate it and learn the piano solo to concert standard, on top of learning the solo for the first movement of the violin concerto, which was greatly altered from an old viola sonata. I remember one interview when she admitted “I had forgotten it was hard work composing a piano concerto”.

    The second movement was originally a lament for her beloved grandmother Michal Deutscher, who died in 2015, and is one of the most beautiful pieces I know. What this recording misses was that for 15 seconds after this movement, the audience lulled into a state of bliss did not stir or make a sound.

    The final movement was an elaboration of an old piece ‘Variations’ that’s been around a while. There was another interview about a time when Alma was 8 and had this tune came to her in a dream. She always keeps a notepad by her bed, so she spent the next few hours writing it down. When her mother could not get her up in the morning for school, Alma had to confess what she was up to in the night.

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