Imitation Stifles Music and Hinders Originality. A young French pianist came to ask a question of famed pianist and conductor Phillipe Entremont. The purpose was to ask questions about her ideas for pianistic interpretation. Entremont had already won a prize in the 1952 Queen Elisabeth Music Competition[1. Among his credentials was being the Director of the New Orleans Symphony from 1980 to 1986. He served the Denver Symphony Orchestra as principal conductor from 1986 to 1988, and music director from 1988 to 1989. Entremont has also been chief conductor of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, and is now its Conductor Laureate. He also holds the same title with the Israel Chamber Orchestra.
I will quote Entremont’s answer found in the book, Reflections from the Keyboard: The World of the Concert Pianist. by David Dubal. Dubal has done a great service for all aficionados of piano playing in writing this book. In part Dubal’s knowledge comes from being the music and program director of New York City’s former classical music radio station, WNCN. His own credentials are also most impressive.
How Imitation Stifles Music
Essentially the younger, less experienced pianist told Entremont: If a phrase pleases her from Brendel she copies him. If another phrase was pleasing from say, Weissenberg, she did the same. In effect, she kind of assembled the thoughts of many great pianists for various opus numbers she worked on.
Entremont, in mentioning his thoughts to Dubal replies: “This means she has nothing to say. You can not be successful at imitation: it is the death of music.”
My own piano teacher was Mischa Kottler. He often complained about students who were only great at imitation. If you showed them exactly what to do, they were fine. However, such pupils were incapable of coming up with own ideas. Greatness often means rather than leaning on other people for musical thoughts, also be sure have your own.