My name is Soheil Nasseri. I was born in California and I live in Berlin. I have played in halls like Lincoln Center in NY, the Southbank Centre in London, the Berlin Philharmonie, in Tokyo, Dublin, Florence, Bordeaux, etc. I mostly play solo but also sometimes with an orchestra accompanying me (like in this recent video from Russia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9z8LfyKWzo#t=21m41s )

I started to learn piano when I was 5. I wasn't a very good pianist as a boy, but I always loved music, and at a certain point I decided to do everything to get as good as I could, and I dropped out of high school at 16 to practice as much as possible. It was a crap-shoot but it worked and by 23 I had made a name for myself.

I tried to get young Americans interested in classical music, and visited over 60 public schools performing assemblies that usually began with me accompanying a rapper from the school. I even did this in a juvenile prison. I also play a lot of new 'classical' music written for me by living composers. But Beethoven is my favorite.

I look forward to answering your questions, here is verification via Facebook http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=354466111331633&id=142772005741213

I will be practicing and answering questions in my breaks, and try to answer everyone over the next couple days.

UPDATE: Thanks for your interest. I was happy to answer your questions. Everyone is always welcome to meet me personally after my concerts!

Comments: 204 • Responses: 62  • Date: 

Yopperpo18 karma

I've been playing piano on and off for about 8 years now, however I stopped taking lessons when I was about 13. However, I feel like I've never gotten mechanically better with my fingers. What is the best way to train playing quickly and precisely?

soheilnasseri14 karma

at least an hour a day, and get a teacher to help you as much as possible

this_won12 karma

what do you think the teacher's role is? considering how expensive teachers are, what should I use them for?

soheilnasseri5 karma

as with all things, one learns from experience. Someone who has a lot more experience that you will have a lot more knowledge to share. Of course, this person may have all kinds of their own problems, and if they are not helpful then you should leave them.

hegemonic13 karma

Where do you see the future of classical music headed?

Is there any difference in the level of appreciation for classical music in the different countries you play in?

soheilnasseri20 karma

Western classical music is very much a European tradition. It is obvious how integral it to Europeans' lives, whereas that is not the case in the USA. It has become very important in Asia lately too. When I perform in Europe, it is not unusual to have half the audience consist of young people, many of whom play instruments themselves. Since the music is usually written by local heroes who have statues, streets and piazzas dedicated to them etc, I can understand how people there might feel a closer connection, on average.

Of course plenty of Americans love classical music too, like myself!

ashowofhands8 karma

First of all, let me say congratulations and thank you for doing this AMA - sounds like you had just the right combination of talent, work ethic and luck. I'm currently listening to your performance of the Brahms Waltzes on youtube - one of my favorite cycles, and I'm enjoying your rendition thoroughly.

Would you ever go back to school (presumably a university or conservatory)? Have you ever regretted dropping out of school?

Do you prefer recording in a studio or playing for a concert audience? What are the pros and cons of each? How about playing with an orchestra (ie a concerto) versus playing solo?

Hope that isn't too many questions. Thank you again!

soheilnasseri11 karma

I do regret dropping out of school, I also won a full-scholarship to any Maryland University of my choice (including the Peabody Institute- a music conservatory) which I didn't take advantage of. My life in the first 20 is filled with regrets. I don't want to depress you folks so I'll just stop there. But let's say I do subscribe to the belief that "today is the first day of the rest of your life!" and I am not religious but I do love Jesus's idea of redemption, as I understand it.

  • I love the Brahms Waltzes !!! Thanks for listening.

  • I prefer to play live concerts, the recording studio is an awful experience. I hate that- see my comment above. I should try again though.

  • It is no longer practical to go back to school- if it were, I would consider it. But I could only do it if I only did that- I would have to put my career on hold altogether.

  • playing with an orchestra is both very exciting, but also constricting. I need to be together with 100 people, some of whom I can hardly hear. A solo recital is pure self-indulgence.

chichichip7 karma

Hi Soheil, thanks for doing this AMA and congratulations on your impressive career at such a young age!

I'm currently a violist studying in Vienna on exchange. A couple of questions:

  • What motivates you to practice? What makes you get up in the morning open that piano lid and play scales?

  • Do you believe it is healthy to compare yourself against others?

  • Controversial- beta blockers- yay or nay?

  • Any pre-concert rituals you go though?

:)

soheilnasseri3 karma

  • What motivates you to practice?

I love the music I am playing, I want to get better at playing it, and I know if I don't bust my ass every day I will make a fool of myself in front of thousands of people when I have to perform, and probably also lose my livelihood.

  • Do you believe it is healthy to compare yourself against others?

I think it is healthy for a time, especially when you are still finding your own voice and niche. You can learn a lot from others! At some point though, we need to relax a bit. Someone just asked me about Volodos- the transcriptions he does, I cannot play that kind of thing. But I am not going to cry myself to sleep. Some people like my playing better. But let's remember, we do this because we love music, not because we love to be number one!

  • Controversial- beta blockers- yay or nay?

I have it from a reliable source that one of the top conductors on the planet ( i will leave out his name) chugs beer offstage during his concerts. My answer to you is, why should beta blockers be controversial? Probably some very uptight people who never perform are passing judgement (sounds like the conservatory crowd to me). Really, if you play with passion and energy, and nail your part, then you should be judged on that. If someone gives a sleepy, boring performance, because they took drugs, well then they made that choice and should be judged on the performance. But leave the medicine issues out of it. This is not the abortion debate- is the fetus a person already etc- we are mostly talking about whether it is practical to perform when body parts are shaking wildly.

  • Any pre-concert rituals you go though?

Since I am a pianist and play new instruments at every concert, I need to get used to that instument. This is my important pre-concert ritual, if you want to call it that. Everything else is flexible.

CrownStarr6 karma

You're stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life with a piano, and you're allowed to bring the full compositional output of one and only one composer. Whose music would you bring?

soheilnasseri18 karma

Beethoven for sure! But that piano will be destroyed fairly quickly due to the elements! (plus I would use the piano's wood to make a boat.) Music is great, but to hell with spending my life on an island!

CrownStarr4 karma

Hahaha, making a boat was also my answer when someone posed it to me. It's a fun hypothetical though, and Beethoven was definitely up there for me. I think I ended up going with Bach, though.

kavim6 karma

Don't choose Rachmaninoff. The piano would be destroyed within two weeks time. :D

I would go with Chopin myself. (can never get enough Chopin)

soheilnasseri2 karma

I just last night knocked the black key off a piano playing the Rachmaninoff Sonata No. 2. See - http://imgur.com/WeoFsVS

fortissimo251 karma

Interesting! Why would you choose Bach over all the composers? I think I agree with you, though, I would choose Bach too. :)

soheilnasseri3 karma

Bach is the greatest human being of all time, in my opinion. I think he is the greatest composer as well. But Beethoven is the best composer for my personality.

smortaz6 karma

great to see this ama! i have a few Q's:

  • thanks for playing the music if contemporary composers. what are some of your upcoming performances in this regard?
  • gotta ask: your favorite pianos?
  • do you play any persian music? :)
  • what do you think of alkan? seems like the man deserves more airtime...
  • how about doing some duets w tara kamangar?
  • have you recorded hammerklavier? who do you think does it justice?

ok, that's enough for now :)

soheilnasseri15 karma

  • have you recorded hammerklavier? who do you think does it justice?

Yes, I did record the Hammerklavier (Beethoven Sonata No. 29) live in Santa Cruz, California: http://soheilnasseri.com/videos.html scroll to the second-to-last piece on that page.

  • do you play any persian music?

I have played Persian music by a number of composers, most recently Hormoz Farhat. Also Ranjbaran, Maroufi, and even Khaleghi's popular song y Iran which I played in Tehran to dramatic effect: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuiRZSL7jEQ

  • thanks for playing the music if contemporary composers. what are some of your upcoming performances in this regard?

Next season I premiere new works by American Michael Hersch, following up on my performances of his Vanishing Pavilions this past Fall.

  • gotta ask: your favorite pianos?

My favorite piano is the Hamburg Steinway (as opposed to New York Steinway). I am trying to save up the $160,000 to buy one! (kidding)

  • how about doing some duets w tara kamangar?

Tara is a very good pianist! But I have no interest in piano-duos. It just gets too loud and percussive.

gaztelu_leherketa2 karma

I saw you give a recital of Prof Farhat's music and the Hammerklavier in the Royal Irish Academy of Music last year. Thank you for the concert and thank you for the AMA!

soheilnasseri3 karma

awesome! That concert was very memorable, particularly the post-concert drinking, from which I returned at about 8 am. I love Dublin and can't wait to go back!!!! :)

JimmyPageOfficial5 karma

How many hours do you practice a day?

soheilnasseri19 karma

about 5-6 hours in the off season (= social life) and 7-12 when a tour is approaching (no time to even shower!).

DatBanana15 karma

Any advice for aspiring pianists?

soheilnasseri19 karma

there is no such thing as 'working too hard'. And try not to get hooked on a TV series- I am wasting way too much time on Breaking Bad. Season 5 is not that good, but I can't stop now!

RilesBanJovi5 karma

Can you talk about the emotion of playing? Do you find it a spiritual experience at all?

soheilnasseri18 karma

Musical performance is for me a totally spiritual and cathartic experience. I not only love music, and need music, but my soul is somehow musically-oriented. Emotions that I feel, I can express very well at the piano, and no other way.

A great performance is one where I forget about all the technical aspects of playing 100's of 1000's of notes precisely, and I just commune with the composer, in my trance, feeling what he felt when he was writing the music.

NomosAlpha4 karma

I'm a cellist, but also decided to give it my all late in life - I started at 19 and got my degree at 24 and I'm practising harder than ever still.

Firstly, well done for sticking at it. It's great to hear that you managed it.

My questions are, how did you keep motivated? I have a good teacher and I work hard, but getting through the next popper étude can sometimes be a drag, and I can't always keep the end result in sight. I love music and this has kept me going thus far!

Secondly, ultimate practise tip?

Thanks.

soheilnasseri6 karma

  • how did you keep motivated?

it is easy to stay motivated when you love what you are doing and hate everything else. Sad, but it works.

  • Secondly, ultimate practise tip?

Turn off the computer and your phone when you practice. Get into the zone and stay there until you faint.

Mozartist4 karma

I posted this in the cross post. so here it is again-

That's incredible, What hall? Did you have a lot of trouble with teachers growing up? Ones that were to slow for your progress?

It's amazing, I dropped out of art school after high school, and have started to get a lot of work and attention with my detail drawings.

Here, check out my musical related art work! because i love to represent music in my work

http://kmish213.deviantart.com/art/Allegro-Maestoso-351050978?q=gallery%3Akmish213%2F5023731&qo=4

and here's Mozart

http://kmish213.deviantart.com/art/Creatures-from-Mish-Fish-With-Musical-Cities-351049638?q=gallery%3Akmish213%2F5023731&qo=2

Do you have any videos of performing? Do you like Jazz at all? Any advice for a growing musician. I'd say I'm quite well at piano, guitar, and music theory/reading, but maybe a concert pianists knows who's blood I need to drink to finish Beethoven's Piano Sonatas.

soheilnasseri7 karma

I had 30 different piano teachers growing up. I was very difficult to get along with, and I wasn't very good, so it wasn't fun for them. Thanks for sharing you art works with us. My performance videos are at http://www.youtube.com/user/soheilnasseri

bobbincygna4 karma

Hi!, I have a few questions:

Do all people practice alike?

What makes a good practice session?

Could you talk about the mental state required for practicing and playing? any differences? What's the aim or ideal? Are there mental states that you trascend into other mental states?

Could you talk about different ways of playing? For example I imagine you can play with only muscle memory, like a robot, and also in more emotionally involved ways, like the way people sing. Could you comment on the subjects I mentioned and any other that could be of interest?

Thanks for taking the time to do this IAmA!

soheilnasseri10 karma

  • Do all people practice alike?

All people practice differently. 'Whatever works' is the best attitude. You just have to figure that out by trying everything.

  • What makes a good practice session?

One in which you solve a problem / problems that have been giving you trouble. It's like a jigsaw puzzle.

  • Could you talk about the mental state required for practicing and playing?

Sometimes one starts daydreaming. This is no good- you might as well go to the gym or do something else. You want to be very alert and aware of as much as possible

Varyx2 karma

I'm currently doing an honours degree in performance-related pain. A vast percentage of professional musicians do have long-term injuries that come from the way they interact with their instrument, and I'm always interested to hear from musicians on the topic.

Do you suffer from any playing related injuries or finger/hand pain? Also, do you do any exercises to avoid/stave off injury, or limit your practise sessions?

soheilnasseri4 karma

i have back problems and leg problems, from all the sitting and leaning forward. So I go to the gym or run every day. My technique is very relaxed, so I do not have tendon problems, luckily. Many of my acquaintances have been injured.

I also won't play basketball or football anymore, though I like those sports very much.

AlmightyB4 karma

Do you think that there is a time at which a person can no longer fully reach their potential on the piano when learning from scratch? So many great pianists seem to have practiced since they were very young.

soheilnasseri5 karma

yes, I think kids who somehow get as good as the best adults, when they themselves have not even reached puberty, do seem to have a huge technical skill advantage over the rest of us. On the other hand, they often have other kinds of problems, especially socially.

nylorack3 karma

How important do you think getting exam certificates/having qualifications are? I love classical music so much, it was hard to deal with the fact that I didn't pass my Viola LRSM despite practicing for hours every day.... :(

Also, you are absolutely amazing. Your talent is unmatchable, and you have awesome stage presence. :)

soheilnasseri6 karma

thank you! I do not have any certificates or 'qualifications', nor does that bother me in the least. I hope you are not discouraged by the exam you mentioned. Michael Jordan didn't make his high school basketball team on his first try, and I also was not very good until I was about 22. Difficult things take a lot of work, just stick at it, put the time in, and you will get better!

nylorack2 karma

thank you! I hope you get to perform the last 2 beethoven sonatas soon! Ah you make me feel a lot more reassured in myself now! Hope to watch you one day. Make it to Singapore please! :)

soheilnasseri6 karma

I am saving Op. 111 for Fall of 2020, when my Beethoven complete-piano-works project will culminate. Op. 109 I might play soon

DanDanSprinkles3 karma

Sorry if this was asked before, but did it scare you to drop out of high school?

soheilnasseri3 karma

I think I felt relieved. It was the solution to a problem in this case. If I had not dropped out, I probably would have failed out anyway- I cut my losses.

FOTBWN3 karma

My seven year old has been doing Piano for a year now with a great teacher, what is a good way to keep him keen and interested with it? We're doing our best to avoid making practice seem like a chore.

soheilnasseri3 karma

good question. I have never answered that question before. But now that I think about it, I think you should get together with the other 7 year-old piano students in you area and meet every month and have pizza and have them play for each other. Just an idea- let me know if it helps at all.

94svtcobra3 karma

For Beethoven: Brendel, Richter, Arrau, or Pollini? I know it's largely piece-specific, but in general?

soheilnasseri2 karma

Too bad that I never got to hear Richter live, because he is maybe my all-time favorite pianist, with Leon Fleisher. I only heard him play 1 Beethoven Sonata though, via youtube. Brendel I have heard many times- he is great live. the recordings are often disappointing. I heard Pollini live once, but I was very sleepy that day, so it's not his fault I fell asleep. (no sarcasm intended- i just mean I can't judge.) Arrau I never heard. But his recording of Op 53 I thought was ponderous.

mojoSOdopes3 karma

What was your "big break" (if you had one). In other words, what event, concert, person, or organization most dramatically vaulted you to stardom?

soheilnasseri10 karma

My big break was an article in the New York Observer in 2002 featuring me on the front page. The article was primarily focused on my late-night activities in New York City, going to 'velvet rope' clubs and such. It still is true- after practicing all day alone at home, I need to get out and socialize to keep from going crazy!

danny_vedder3 karma

Hi Soheil! I just want to ask you, what do you recommend to improve my sight-reading? which repertoire is good to work with? I've been reading some easy works (pieces for childen, easy quartets, mikrokosmos, even some pop music I found on internet), I always try to read as slow as possible but keeping a steady time. I also turn my metronome on and try to read as much as I can. I'd be very thankful for your advice. Thank you so much for making an AMA! Greetings from Mexico!

soheilnasseri3 karma

I am very bad at sightreading. Please give me some advice on becoming a better sightreader.

Mozle3 karma

Thanks for doing this!

  • What is your opinion on going to school/conservatory for piano? Would you recommend it?
  • Do you have a least favorite piece of classical music? Which one and why?
  • What is your opinion on the extremely popular pieces of classical music that everyone knows, like the Moonlight Sonatas or Rondo Alla Turca? I had an instructor that absolutely hated them and wouldn't let me play them.
  • I get extremely nervous whenever I perform. Worst of all my hands start shaking! Do you have any tips?

soheilnasseri2 karma

  • What is your opinion on the extremely popular pieces of classical music that everyone knows, like the Moonlight Sonatas or Rondo Alla Turca? I had an instructor that absolutely hated them and wouldn't let me play them.

The Moonlight Sonata is a masterpiece! Your former instructor just hears it too often, probably because everyone wants to play it.

Jamonbob3 karma

Thanks for doing an AMA!

• How do you build up finger dexterity?

• How fast can you play your scales?

• How important do you think ear training and knowledge of theory are?

• How does one minimalize mistakes and anxiety during a performance?

soheilnasseri2 karma

  • How does one minimalize mistakes and anxiety during a performance?

The best way is by performing the same works again and again until you get comfortable with them in fron of an audience. And if you make a mistake somewhere in a performance, figure out why, and do not repeat that mistake.

Audiun3 karma

  • What does your typical practice session consist of?
  • How long of breaks do you take?
  • How do you prepare yourself for auditions/performing?

soheilnasseri2 karma

  • How long breaks do you take?

I like to go running or to the gym in the afternoon. this takes 1.5 -2 hours usually. Maybe more because I eat lunch right after. Also, a lot of the music business is marketing etc. So I have a lot of work to do at the computer. I break from the piano to work at the computer every hour or two.

qabsteak3 karma

Glenn Gould: good interpreter of Bach or the best interpreter of Bach?

soheilnasseri3 karma

very good interpreter of Bach, but not always. A lot of hype there. But he's an honest performer, and always interesting. I do have about 20 of his CDs.

libreg3 karma

Do you think it's possible for someone who started piano at 19-20 but has been musical their whole life to become as good as you? Provided of course that they put in the insane amount of practice that you do.

soheilnasseri3 karma

my colleague Michael Hersch did something like that. It is extremely rare. http://www.michaelhersch.com/

reversefungi3 karma

Hi! I actually remember your name from around a decade ago, you were one of the only people to ever record Sorabji's Sonata Op. 7. I keep forgetting to grab a recording of that, but I do have the Sibelius file made by that one person who documented his experiences trying to transfer it over to a digital format. I had to e-mail him personally to get it since he had taken the file down due to the MIDI playback not doing justice to the work. Is there anywhere online we can access this recording? Good to see that your career has only been improving since then!

soheilnasseri5 karma

That album is still for sale everywhere, but I am not very happy with it and don't recommend it. I really ought to take it off the market. The Sorabji is very interesting, and I played that fine, but I am unhappy with my Beethoven and Rachmaninoff. They sound too uptight. Live and learn! That was a while ago, so I have improved since then.

NO_TROLLS_HERE3 karma

Do you have an agent who gets you these gigs?

soheilnasseri9 karma

I used to have an agent for a while, but they were so ineffective that I thought my career was over. I went against their advice and started contacting presenters again on my own (after 1.5 years with the agent) and I got a lot of concerts! I heard back from many of these presenters, "we have never heard from your agent". I politely mentioned this to my agent, and they just responded that they wanted to cancel our contract. My answer was "great! I agree! goodbye!"

NO_TROLLS_HERE3 karma

Wow that's great! How did you know/get in touch with these presenters?

soheilnasseri7 karma

internet

NO_TROLLS_HERE2 karma

Can you elaborate please?

says-stuff3 karma

[deleted]

soheilnasseri1 karma

welcome to the world of show business! (sorry, did you think you were an 'artist'?) Look, at least we get to do something interesting, that we love, even if we don't become the biggest stars. If you can put food on the table, then great. You could just as easily be disappointed in another field (though probably with more money). Good luck! Remember me when you are famous!

aguycalledjack2 karma

Do you have a favourite piece of classical music?

Do you have a favourite piece to perform?

Many thanks, your performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1 was lovely

soheilnasseri3 karma

In addition to my previous answer somewhere else on this page, I think Beethoven's 5th Symphony is probably my favorite piece to listen to!

luiggi_oasis2 karma

what's your second favourite instrument? I mean, the one after the piano!

soheilnasseri3 karma

classical guitar- you have harmony and melody, and you are mobile

Dsguitarguy2 karma

How hard was it to go all in and drop out? I've been tempted to, to pursue guitar, but leaving that safety net of a college degree seems so hard to do. How did you do it?

soheilnasseri3 karma

It was not hard, because I was probably going to fail if i did not drop out. Part of the problem was I was in a school with very strenuous academic requirements. I should have never been there in the first place.

jmilesporter2 karma

What do you think would be the best possible way to spread the incomparable joy of playing music to as many people as possible?

soheilnasseri5 karma

I certainly think music education, including learning a musical instrument, should be prioritized in schools on the level of, say, Science.

billyeisenmole2 karma

Hey Soheil, thanks for doing this! You are a truly incredible pianist.

What is your favorite piece to play?

What was your most memorable concert?

soheilnasseri5 karma

My favorite piece is quite possible the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 , which I happen to be playing on Sun in Balitmore. I just played it 2 weeks ago near San Francisco.

My most memorable concert was probably when I was 17 - my life was falling apart, I wasn't practicing, I showed up unprepared, and I forgot where I was on the first page and had to start over several times. Then I quit for a while, and moved out too...

lhrmeonom2 karma

How do you begin practicing a new piece?

soheilnasseri3 karma

slowly, deciphering what the notes are and which hands and fingers will play them

Pancocks2 karma

Have you ever suffered from any repetitive strain injuries?

soheilnasseri2 karma

my back has had problems off-and-on

fortissimo252 karma

Do you have any non-musical hobbies? If so, what are they? Do you think they relate to music, in some way or another?

What other genres of music do you listen to?

soheilnasseri2 karma

I am very social. I like to go out with friends in the evening. I could tell you that has something to do with music, but then I would be like one of those college professors who talks too much and tries to analyze everything.

Mellow_thoughts2 karma

What made you drop out of high school as opposed to just staying a little longer to graduate? Do you listen to jazz? And if so who is your favorite jazz pianist?

soheilnasseri2 karma

i reallly like that song my Elis Regina, upa neguinho. Is that jazz?

iambabz2 karma

In your experience as a pianist, what has been the hardest piece for you to learn initially?

soheilnasseri2 karma

probably the Sorabji Sonata No. 0

Topper26762 karma

I've just started picking up piano, and I'm actually composing for the KC Symphony as a 16 yr old. How hard was it to get started in the music business and how did you start?

soheilnasseri3 karma

that's very impressive! it is very hard though, and I started by performing, for free, everywhere I could. Good luck! send me the recording of the concert. use the contact button on my website to email me directly if you wish

floor_board2 karma

Who are your favorite or most noteable teachers you have studied with?

soheilnasseri2 karma

Jerome Lowenthal has been my main teacher for the last 12 years. He never charged me, gave me his lunch hour, came in early, stayed late, lent me his apartment for a week, came to 30 of my concerts. He agreed to be my best man at my wedding, too! (though that never happened and I am single)

TheLameloid2 karma

Horowitz or Rubinstein?

soheilnasseri8 karma

Rubinstein !!!

Chanz1 karma

What do you think of Arcadi Volodos?

soheilnasseri3 karma

I heard Volodos do a kick-ass Prokofiev 2 with the NY Philharmonic a while ago. Haven't heard him since, except on the internet, and he is very entertaining. His Mozart Rondo transcription is incredible and fabulous!

flashfrost2 karma

How old are you now? How do you define "making a name for yourself" since you said you reached that by 23? How did you make contacts primarily at first? Through playing free gigs? How did your parents feel about you dropping out of high school? Did you complete your GED, and if not, do you feel like it effects you in any way? Do people ever look down on you for not having gone through college?

soheilnasseri2 karma

I am 34 years old. I made a name for myself though an article in the New York Times, Washington Post, a blurb in the New Yorker, and the feature article I mentioned in the NY Observer. Yes, I started playing free gigs at 18 and met my most important contact at one of those concerts. My parents did not approve of me dropping out of high school, and I am no longer in touch with them for various reasons. I did get my GED! It was easy! Probably most people who went to college are jealous that I didn't spend the $150,000 they did! (kidding)

Gak22 karma

Hey I'm an aspiring pianist, and I'm going to take a big piano exam in August for a diploma where I'm playing pieces such as Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Chopin Revolutionary Etude, and Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G Minor.

What, besides technical accuracy, do I need to master in order to wow the examiner?

soheilnasseri5 karma

if the examiner is any good he/she will want to get a sense from your playing that you understand the emotions expressed. With me this comes very natural, but you may need to make up little stories, to keep yourself paying attention to the emotional content. It is easy, with all the difficulties of actually playing, to forget that music is an emotional activity. Good luck! That is a wonderful program, also very very difficult!

wigglezbrehhh2 karma

During the time where you dropped out and before you started taking serious gigs, were you spending all your time on practicing, or did you have some sort of job, perhaps keeping up with your studies?

soheilnasseri2 karma

I was practicing like it was my full-time job (except for that brief period when I was 17 that I mentioned elsewhere here, when I quit for 4 months. In those 4 months I did work at a video store briefly.)

Joewhimsy2 karma

Towards the end of my Music degree I discovered Scriabin's music properly, not really having had it on my radar previously. I ended up playing his Fourth Sonata as part of my final recital and was obsessed with it and many other works for a long time.

What is your view on Scriabin, and have you played much by him?

soheilnasseri3 karma

I only played his 2nd Sonata. It is a beautiful, interesting piece, as are the other sonatas and etudes and solo works I have heard by Scriabin. Somehow I have not felt compelled to learn anything else, whereas I absolutely want to play more Schubert and Beethoven. I guess it is about priorities. Now that you mention it, I think I'll listen to the 4th Sonata of Scriabin while I answer these questions! EDIT: And now I have - what a great piece! Thanks for reminding me of it.

trlababalan2 karma

First of all, thank you for doing AMA. I am an amateur piano player and my schedule allows me playing up to an hour a day. I am so glad that professional pianists like you play for me pieces that are a way beyond my reach. However, I feel sometimes that concert pianists play only that. While Rachmaninov or Liszt are great, there is so much music besides that. Why is nobody playing Satie, Scarlatti, or Joplin? How to motivate kids to play? Why not play (sometimes) something they can play too. Why not even Anna Magdalena Notebook Recital? Wouldn't that bring more kids to a hall and motivate them to play than something they may not even understand.

soheilnasseri3 karma

To give a great performance, you have to perfom works you are enthusiastic about. I try to think about what the audience would like too, but this cannot be more important that what I want, because my performance would suck.

fortissimo252 karma

I always wonder, as a concert pianist, are you completely free to choose your repertoire for concerts? Or is there some sort of requirement or something that you have to abide by, (B.z. must include a Beethoven sonata, or a Prelude und Fugue by Bach at the start of the program)?

soheilnasseri2 karma

the presenter must approve your suggested program.

fortissimo251 karma

Ohhhh I see - hmmm, I am not sure if I can accomplish then my goal of a recital completely devoted to Grieg Lyrische Stuecken :( I was hoping to do that - and Leos Janacek pieces from An Overgrown Path, and Notes D'Antany by Manuel Blancafort, and Alghe by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and The Seasons by Tchaikovsky - I will have to hide these contemporary pieces somewhere at the end of programs, where I see other pianists place them. Lol, hide is not a good word, highlight is better --- @[email protected] ugh i should be typing this report for escuela/or sleeping, but i find reading this blog much more entertaining :)

anyway, thank you for your response, Soheil or Mr Nasseri, i dunno which one you prefer.

soheilnasseri1 karma

Soheil

DashBlaster2 karma

What do you (mostly) think about when you perform?

soheilnasseri6 karma

Mostly the hot girls in the audience! (kidding). Seriously though, remembering all of that music is tricky, and I should stay concentrated on where I am in the music, and in which key, or I might inadvertently skip a page or something. But as I commented already, the best performances are where I just commune with the composer and go into a trance. Sometimes you just lose yourself and are one with the music. If something goes wrong, so be it. It's worth the risk.

hegemonic1 karma

Can you speak more about your experience playing in the schools? Do you get a sense of excitement from the kids? What was playing in the prison like?

soheilnasseri3 karma

The prison concert was quite an experience! Unfortunately we all got off on the wrong foot, because my odd sense of humor did not go over well. I greeted the prisoners with "I found the barbed-wire a bit intimidating but you all look so sweet" to which they responded by cursing at me.

The other schools mostly went well, the kids were enthusiastic- they seemed to like me and hopefully took something meaningful from the experience beyond just some entertainment and exposure to a new art-form.

cellenium1251 karma

Do you earn a comfortable living?

soheilnasseri3 karma

I earn a living...

tothemooninaballoon1 karma

Do you feel that Gershwin's music is Classical or Jazz?

soheilnasseri9 karma

Classical, because he wrote it out. Jazz is improvised- which is a skill in and of itself (unfortunately I have no abilities in the improv department)

jazzersimon1 karma

OK so this isn't as extreme a decision as you made but it's along the same vein so I'm going to put this here.

I'm in my final year of school in England and recently had the ordeal of applying to universities. I applied for both straight up academic music courses and universities and also applied for vocational music courses at conservatoires (I appreciate this is different to the US, here our conservatoires are nothing to do with our universities whatsoever).

I was very fortunate and ended up with two very good places offering me a spot on the course: A spot at Oxford University and a spot at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Both of these courses offer entirely different things, with the academic focus of Oxford and hugely practical focus (I play classical flute) I would get at Guildhall.

I spent a huge amount of time and effort working away at this decision and eventually, against all advice from teachers etc., chose to confirm my place at Guildhall. This essentially was because I simply couldn't turn my back on a life of being completely surrounded by people who love making music as much as me - I didn't feel the same way about being surrounded by academics, regardless of their status.

So I suppose my question to you, although having already read of your regrets I somewhat fear the answer, is being surrounded by music and doing (presumably) what you love doing worth missing out on the academic grounding you could have had? Is there ever times where you think of some other career and lifestyle you could have had and wish you had made that choice? And do you ever get bored of music?

Here I am asking you about the worries I have about my choice of course I suppose, but thanks in advance!

soheilnasseri1 karma

my teacher says he tells kids who ask him that, "It's better to be a doctor who wishes he were a musician, than a musician who wishes he were a doctor."

superjack461 karma

Holy shit what a coincidence, I just stumbled apon this video 2 days ago when I was checking if there were any updates on this piano concerto. I thought your performance was great. Personally I pretty much only listen to Zimerman's version, but yours was great as well. It's my favourite piano concerto.

My question is: did you get inspiration from Zimerman's performance? It seemed the most similar to it.

soheilnasseri1 karma

i did not even know the excellent Kristian Zimerman has a recording of it. He is always super. I listened to Rachmaninoff's own recording. Thanks so much for your compliments!