The Road To Mastery

The Road To Mastery

What’s Missing from this Picture?

By Mark Hubble, Scott Miller

May/June 2011

Classical pianist Rachel Hsu enters the auditorium. Among the many pieces she’ll perform on this occasion is the Concert Étude no. 3 by Franz Liszt. “Un Sospiro” (Italian for sigh), as the composition is known, is a famously challenging work to play, and a pleasure to watch. The hands mirror the sound of the music, moving rapidly up and down the keyboard in an intricate, crisscrossing fashion, which when done correctly, evokes images of water tumbling over rocks in a small mountain brook. Most experts consider Liszt’s Étude no. 3, with its third staff, abundance of notes, and complex fingerwork, exceptionally difficult—a 12 on a scale from 1 to 10.

Clad in a simple, black-satin dress and red sash, Rachel silently makes her way to the piano. A hush falls over the crowd as she sits and, with a practiced poise, effortlessly adjusts the bench, which offsets her diminutive size. She straightens her back, takes a deep breath, and raises her hands, holding them momentarily above the keys. Then, magic!

To say the audience is stunned would be a gross understatement. Simply put, those in attendance are entirely unprepared for what they’re witnessing. It’s six minutes of perfection; a combination of music and performance that brings many to tears—an experience made all the more compelling by the fact that the pianist is only 8 years old.

Exceptionally talented children are nothing new, of course. In a host of fields, individuals who seem touched by greatness, like…

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