A short note.

A few years back I found this wonderful discography.

Music for Piano and Orchestra: The Recorded Repertory by Dr Allan B. Ho

In case you didn’t look at it just then it’s effectively an impressively exhaustive list of recorded piano concertos – defined as a work for piano and orchestra (seven or more instruments total). It’s a constantly updated work and now goes for 369 pages… With around 25-30 individual compositions listed on each page. I lack the patience and/or technology to actually count but it roughly means there are at least 10 000 recorded works for piano and orchestra identified by this study.

2000 per Corgi

I’ve always had little more than contempt for strict, mindless adherence to the classical canon, evidenced by many piano competitions listing a small handful of allowable works. Typically these include two concertos by Mozart, five by Beethoven, two by Chopin, three by Rachmaninoff, and one by Schumann, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, Saint-Saens, Bartok and Prokofiev. You could maybe double this number to allow for other common “standards” and other works by the above composers… Also it is also a fair comment (as I established in a previous post) to say that orchestral programs featuring concertos rarely branch outside this small European paddock of musical stagnation.  Let’s say a basic concerto repertoire of forty concertos, but feel free to double this again, or quadruple it, or quadruple it again! See if that makes much difference.*

40/10000 x 100= 0.4% of the repertoire.

* still only 25.6% Good luck naming all 2560 ‘common’ concertos!

I find this statistic kind of ridiculous. Though it’d be a hard study to undertake, I think a statement that 95% of pianists play 5% of the repertoire is actually not too far off from the truth. Sure, there’s always the occasional novelty in your typical pianist program, but it strikes me that anything more than that in the music world means you’ve gone off into the ‘niche’ that is ‘uncommon/rare/new music.’ Congratulations, you’ve become a specialist. Is it not absolutely ludicrous that this apparent niche occupies 99.6% of available ‘art’  piano music, at least in the concerto field.

This is why I’m confused when I’m told I need to play more mainstream music. If I chose music at random, with this sort of statistic I’d need to play 249 concertos before finding one that pianists normally played.

Admittedly, not all this music is going to be amazing but even if you hold that 0.4% so dear and infallible  (though if you look really, really hard at the Chopin concertos you’ll probably start to wonder why…) you’ll still have to find something worthwhile in at least a more substantial percentage.

Bat country

To put it in perspective: According to our friends in Wikipedia, only one-eighth of the Earth’s surface area is habitable, and 0.4% percent of that mean’s that you’re only happy living on a square about 160km wide. That wouldn’t get you out of any but the obscurest of the European countries. People would not call you well-travelled.

Dear Pianists: Are you really that afraid?

No pictures this time. Oh maybe one or two. I think the bold font compensates.