Biss responds to YAP
Last week I posted about the generation of American pianists who came of age in the 1950s, and the difference between them and young American pianists today (who one can't even call a "generation" in the same sense). Two of the pianists I mentioned responded with their own thoughts: Jeffrey Biegel commented on the original post, and Jonathan Biss wrote the following response, which I post for him here:
"I was intrigued by your post about the “OYAPs” because I’ve often thought of what an impressive and unlikely thing it is that so many pianists who were both great and professionally successful came from the same place at roughly the same time. I think it’s particularly interesting as -- and someone please correct me if I’m wrong – those pianists are also the first generation of American pianists to achieve international renown. Where did they come from and how were there so many of them? Even just sociologically, it’s fascinating to me.
"I was also interested by the comparison you drew with my generation, and the use of the term 'DIY.' It got me thinking about what the substantive differences are (outside of the question of quality – it’s certainly not for me to say if we are OYAPs, or just YAPs rapidly turning into APs!). I think I’ve come to a similar conclusion, but see it more from the cause side than the effect side: the path towards a career used to be (for the lucky few) a fairly straight line – competition, debut, mushroom effect. That model doesn’t exist in the same way anymore, so everyone has to find his or her own path. In a sense it’s good, because it encourages pianists to be creative, and explore many more facets of their musical personalities – chamber music, new music, teaching, writing about music. (This is not to suggest, even for a moment, that the OYAPs were not creative or versatile – it’s just a commentary on what the outside expectations were.) But perhaps it also has made my generation seem more... diffuse, I guess?... as a group. (At least looking from the outside in; in reality, I have lots of close friendships with pianists of my generation.)
"But I don’t think the DIY thing is connected to nationality – musicians everywhere need to think in these terms now. It may be that the OYAP Generation captured the imagination of the American media and public because the idea at the time was that a Great Pianist was necessarily a person who came from Europe or the Soviet Union. (I wonder if the Chinese people have a somewhat analogous feeling towards their many astonishingly successful young pianists.)
"In the end, though, music’s greatest quality is its ability to speak to people beyond cultural or national borders. And so what was really significant about the OYAPs is not that they were all A, or even Y, but that they were so very O."
Posted by: JBiegel | December 21, 2010 7:02 AM | Report abuse