As many UD readers know, I was once a classical concert pianist.
Although I no longer perform classical piano concerts or record (earning a living has precluded this for many years), I still play the piano every day for myself and still have a passion for classical music.
I recently discovered something extraordinary: a pianist by the name of Yundi Li, who grew up in relative poverty in China and became the youngest pianist to ever win the International Chopin Competition at the age of 18.
At this youtube link you can listen to and see his performances at the competition. The first two works (Chopin Scherzo No. 2 and Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante, both of which are in my repertoire and which I loved to perform) are magnificent, but his performance of the Chopin Concerto with orchestra beginning at 26:38 is the most beautiful and inspiring I have ever heard, and I have heard many of them.
Chopin wrote this concerto at the age of 20.
Yundi’s technique is impeccable (this, of course, is a prerequisite), but the most amazing thing is his overall musicianship. There is passion, drama, and stunningly sensitive and convincing subtlety and nuance in his musical interpretation. In the slow, second movement, I was overwhelmed with this, and the superb musical melding with the orchestra and conductor.
Musicians know this when they hear it (as did the Chopin Competition jury, obviously), but it cannot be defined. Whether it be the composition itself or the performance, we know when “it works” and when it doesn’t.
I had the privilege and blessing of studying music from the age of seven with a wonderful piano teacher — Ruby Bailey, a graduate of the Eastman Conservatory and wife of the chairman of the department of music at Washington State University. After all the instruction, practice, rehearsal, music theory, and the rest, whenever I went out to perform she would always tell me: “Just think about what you want to say.”
To suggest that Darwinian evolution through random errors filtered by natural selection explains all of this is simply absurd on its face.
Great art is an expression of the human soul.