This is going to be fun.
For my next class, I’m going to do something a little different. Instead of focusing on the music and its meaning, I thought just this once, it would be fun to focus on the performers. Generally, we want to resist the cult of stars and celebrities. They come and go and they often have egos the size of Utah, which puts attention in the wrong place.
But for this class, I thought it would be fun to look at a dozen performers who have done extraordinary things without obstructing their art.
Performers fascinate us because we enjoy watching someone do something well. And almost all accomplished performers — let’s call them virtuosos — start out early. Many of them were child prodigies; children who do adult things astonishingly well.
So, we are going to look at two types of musicians: prodigies and virtuosos.
We will thrill to videos of young-and-old violinists Yehudi Menuhin and Joshua Bell. We will see the great Bejun Mehta as a boy soprano and then, years later, as a formidable adult countertenor. We will watch the violinist Sarah Chang dazzle as a 14-year-old and as a poised adult.
We will also shake our heads in disbelief at the artistry of such virtuosos as pianists Martha Argerich, Glenn Gould and Yuja Wang, the incomparable mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli and old lions Vladimir Horowitz and Jascha Heifetz.
No, they are not like you and me. Or, as Tom Lehrer, the singer, songwriter and satirist, put it: “It is a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years.”
4 p.m. Jan. 29, Classic Pianos, 3003 SE Milwaukie & Powell Blvd., Portland. 503-546-5622.
David Stabler is a pianist, writer, dad and cyclist. He's working on a novel based on his childhood years living in Africa and just finished riding across America with his brother this summer.