Phone call from Simon Usborne at the Indy yesterday asking what I made of the "prodigy" Alma Deutscher, who has just been spotted and tweeted about by Stephen Fry. She's seven. She plays both the violin and the piano extremely well and has composed an "opera" as well as a piano sonata or two. Read his feature here.
So, here she is. What do you make of her?
My feeling is that she's very good, for her age, but I don't think she is an actual "prodigy", let alone, heaven help us, a "new Mozart". She's a seriously gifted kid who's been very well taught (and whose "shy and softly spoken" father hasn't demurred from uploading her efforts to Youtube). She's having lessons at the Menuhin School, which is exactly what should be happening. A top-notch training, good nurturing and please, no record companies yet, and she could become a fabulous young artist...in seven to ten years' time.
A prodigy in the Benjamin Grosvenor or Evgeny Kissin sense tends to play with both technique and musical maturity far beyond their years. Alma is certainly advanced, but she doesn't do that.
As for "writing an opera"...Now, look. I first tried to write a "novel" when I was 12, and I finished it, and it was about 50 pages long, and I was very excited that I'd managed it, and I showed it to Mum and Dad and they were thrilled, as of course they would be, but we didn't have Youtube or E-books then and nobody would have dreamed of putting it out there for all and sundry, and I'm very glad because it would be bloody embarrassing now. It's great to do things young, but one day you really are not going to want your starter efforts being gawped at...
More worrying is the fact that where music is concerned, maybe the public is just too ignorant to know the difference any more?
For those who are interested in the life-imitating-art spooky side of novel-writing, I regret to say that Alma's father's name, Guy, is also the name of Alicia's father in Alicia's Gift (which was published in 2007) and of course Alicia's name begins with an A too, and this kind of thing does keep on happening, turning up out of the blue 3-5 years after hitting the page... For the same reason I now know how the Hungarian Dances characters' last conundrum would finally resolve itself.