12 Pianists Chose the Piece of a Lifetime
By Merrin Lazyan
The great pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff once said, “Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.” This is true not only with respect to the infinite scope of feeling, fascination and joy that music offers, but also with respect to the virtually infinite repertoire. Pianists in particular are faced with impossible decisions about what to play. Will they enter the sublime world of Bach? Will they spend years mastering the Beethoven sonatas — each an entire universe unto itself? Will they enjoy the passionate reverie of Chopin? Even the most dedicated and virtuosic pianists can never play it all.
But what if this impossible decision was made more impossible still? What if today’s great pianists could play one piece — and one piece only — for the rest of their lives? What would they choose, and why? Here’s what they told us.
"Any one of several hundred pieces would do the trick, so long as I’m lucky enough to be able to play for the rest of my life. I could climb the mountain that is Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto forever, for instance, and still feel like there’s a long way to go, because I will never be its equal. If not that, I could also live with any or all of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier for a lifetime, as my brain will always feel stretched by those movements. Likewise for the Chopin etudes, because they will always stretch both my technique and my hand. I could keep coming up with these, but the wonderful thing is that so many of them are in my memory; I can always practice them in my head."