You are going to read a magazine article about a famous pianist and the young student who became his pupil. For questions 31-36, choose the answer (A, B, C or D) which you think fits best according to the text.
A musician and his pupil
Paul Williams interviews the famous pianist Alfred Brendel
Over six decades the pianist Alfred Brendel gradually built up and maintained a dominant position in the world of classical music. He was an intellectual, sometimes austere, figure who explored and recorded the mainstream European works for the piano. He wrote and played a great deal, but taught very little. Those who knew him best glimpsed a playful side to his character, but that was seldom on display in his concerts. It was a disciplined, never-ending cycle of study, travel and performance.
And then, four or five years ago, a young boy, Kit Armstrong, appeared backstage at one of Brendel’s concerts and asked for lessons. Initially, Brendel didn’t take the suggestion very seriously. He had very few pupils and he saw no reason to start now. He quotes from another famous pianist: ‘You don’t employ a mountain guide to teach a child to walk.’ But there was something that struck him about the young boy – then about 14. He listened to him play. Brendel explained, ‘He played remarkably well and by heart. Then he brought me a CD of a little recital he had given where he played so beautifully that I thought to myself, “I have to make time for him.” It was a performance that really led you from the first to the last note. It’s very rare to find any musician with this kind of overview and the necessary subtlety.’
As Brendel is bowing out of the public eye, so Kit is nudging his way into it – restrained by Brendel, ever nervous about the young man burning out early. Kit, now 19, is a restless, impatient presence away from the lessons – always learning new languages; taking himself off to study maths, writing computer code or playing tennis. All under the watchful eye of his ever-present mother. On top of all this he composes. ‘This was very important,’ Brendel says. ‘If you want to learn to read music properly it is helped by the fact that you try to write something yourself. Then I noticed that Kit had a phenomenal memory and that he was a phenomenal sight reader. But more than this is his ability to listen to his own playing, his sensitivity to sound and his ability to listen to me when I try to explain something. He not only usually understands what I mean, but he can do it. And when I tell him one thing in a piece, he will do it everywhere in the piece where it comes in later.’
(line 50) Brendel catches himself and looks at me severely. ‘Now I don’t want to rise any expectations. I’m very cross if some newspapers try to do this. There was one article which named him as the future great pianist of the 21st century, I mean, really, it’s the worst thing. One doesn’t say that in a newspaper. And it has done a great deal of harm. As usual, with gifted young players, he can play certain things amazingly well, while others need more time and experience. It would be harmful if a critic was there expecting the greatest perfection.’
It is touching to see the mellowness of Brendel in his post-performing years. He explains ‘When I was very young, I didn’t have the urge to be famous in five years’ time, but I had the idea I would like to have done certain thing by the age of 50. And when I was 50, I thought that I had done most of those things, but there was still some leeway for more, so I went on. Although I do not have the physical power to play now, in my head, there are always things going on, all sorts of pieces that I’ve never played. I don’t play now but it’s a very nice new career.’