[UPDATE: Video embed and links fixed]
Can you remember what you were up to when you were 6 years old? I can’t, but I imagine it involved fair amounts of introversion and nose-picking, with dashes of tee ball sprinkled in here and there.
But thanks to YouTube, we know exactly what Alma Deutscher was up to when she was 6. She was composing a sonata. A sonata in E-flat, to put a finer point on it. A sonata that, to these admittedly classical noob-escent ears, is pretty damn amazing.
I found out about Deutscher the same way I find all my new music — browsing BBC News for reactions to a presidential debate, obvs. (I’m seriously addicted to election coverage. November 6 can’t come soon enough.) BBC’s video profile of Deutscher, now 7, focuses on her short opera — yes opera — entitled Sweeper of Dreams, the existence of which is just bonkers. Can you imagine having written an opera at that age? At any age, for that matter? It’s either incredibly discouraging or deeply inspiring, depending on how full you consider this glass to be. Maybe it’s a little of both, but one thing is not up for debate: her incredible grasp of music’s most elegant language.
In a way, I think my relative unfamiliarity with that language plays into my enjoyment of her Sonata. Not because it offers low-hanging, unsophisticated fruit — the 7-minute work is home to a gripping melodic theme, tons of variation, intriguing dissonance and emotionally affecting dynamics — but because she and I, in very different ways, are both at the beginning of a journey with classical music. She has a future in composition as bright as one could possibly be, and I’m hoping my future in listening will be bright as well. You see, there’s a veritable library of classical vinyl sitting on shelves in my mom’s house in Norfolk. My dad loved Aaron Copland most of all, but he amassed a comprehensive collection during his lifetime, and I’m slowly but surely learning about pieces of that collection so I can, in good faith, make some of that mountain of quartets and symphonies my own. As intimidating as that task seems, and as overwhelming as those shelves appear from a distance, it’s all incredibly exciting — there’s so much potential there. So much to look forward to.
That’s exactly what it’s like watching Alma Deutscher play her Sonata. I highly recommend you watch above, listen below and join me in being completely amazed and delighted.