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Is Emmanuel Macron a pianist?

May 8, 2017 by norman lebrecht

61 comments.


Several media outlets are reporting that the new President of France wanted to become a pianist. Some say he won awards.

We can find no trace of Macron playing the piano.

Does anyone have evidence?

UPDATE: According to Le Monde of 


Comments (61)

  1. thierry vagne says:

    it’s said he studied piano for 10 years at the Amiens conservatory, receiving a 3rd prize.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      I heard that, but I can’t find documentary proof. Do you have a contact at the Amiens conservatoire, Thierry?

      1. norman lebrecht says:

        Ann Lovett writes: He is a keen amateur. Probably thought of a pianist career at some point like we all dream of unusual careers when young. A third prize is not a Médaille d’or but I did wish him Piano would come soon to the Élysée palace when I saw him 😉 and he smiled at that. We had a good chat about French piano music so I think all good for culture in France. (Nice change!)

    2. ColinG says:

      Yes, but what about the next bit?

      My O-level French tells me: “He masters the basics of dance, or at least of the tango”.

      What?

  2. Cecylia Arzewski says:

    Yes, and he is a civilized human being!

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      La preuve, svp…. have you heard him play?

    2. Olassus says:

      But he kept interrupting … .

    3. Peter says:

      well, ex-investment banker. oxymoron. civilized on the surface maybe.
      who wants to be an investment banker? seriously? only the worst of the worst.

    4. Una says:

      Well, Pope Benedict was a very, very fine pianist as well and played duets with a friend of mine in Rome … but I’m sure no one was interested in that. But having music like that as a hobby is just wonderful when you are in power – doesn’t mean you have to be a concert pianist!

  3. clarrieu says:

    Norman, what big deal is there about this? That EM studied piano 10 years as mentioned above is totally plausible, given his social environment; that he got (shall we say “only”?) a third prize at his conservatory (which is no way “award winning” !) would indicate a dedicated amateur, with no intention or reason to pursue professionally in music. More important, the fact that (the first since Giscard) a french president has some feeling with music, and knows what a conservatory is.

  4. V.Lind says:

    I got the impression he was more interested in drama…

  5. Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    If Macron is a pianist, he could play with his fellow pianist Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands. Unfortunately, I have experienced neither gentleman playing…

  6. Robert Holmén says:

    A list of national leaders who play an instrument would be an interesting list.

    Probably a short one.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      1 Mark Rutte, piano
      2 Ehud Barak, piano
      3 Edward Heath, organ
      4 Bill Clinton, saxophone…

      1. Steven Holloway says:

        It could be longer. You forgot Helmut Schmidt, a very accomplished pianist who recorded Mozart and Bach concerti for multiple keyboards on EMI and DG, his collaborators being Eschenbach, Frantz, and Oppitz. As you’ve included the late Edward Heath, the list might begin chronologically with Paderewski, given that he served as president of Poland.

        1. Petros Linardos says:

          At least two real pros from eastern Europe have been heads of state:

          Ignacy Jan Paderewski, piano (Prime Minister of Poland, 18 January 1919 – 27 November 1919)

          Vytautas Landsbergis, pianist and musicologist, de jure head of state of Lithuania, 11 March 1990 – 25 November 1992

          ————
          US:
          Richard Nixon, piano
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCsGSMze_6Q

          Condoleeza Rice, piano (OK, only US secretary of state)
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow2xA-KLyUE

          1. Alexander Davidson says:

            I think US Secretary of State probably counts as a world leader. Although not a head of state or head of government the position carries more worldwide influence than prime minister of the Netherlands, mentioned in another comment here.

            By the way, I would not describe Poland and Lithuania as eastern European.

          2. Sasha says:

            Boris Yeltsin, the wind band conductor (there is video evidence somewhere)…

            …and Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, all very much belong in the Eastern Europe.

          3. Alexander Davidson says:

            @Sasha: “Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, all very much belong in the Eastern Europe.”

            Poland, Finland, and the Baltic states have spent hundreds of years struggling against Russian domination. That does not mean that they “very much belong in Eastern Europe”. If anything, it means the exact opposite.

        2. Steven Holloway says:

          Shame on me for forgetting Ivo Josipovic, President of Croatia and a performer and award-winning composer, a great promoter of contemporary music. I suppose the list could go back into mistier times, certainly to Ancient Rome and later Henry VIII would get a mention. But to move further forward, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin played violin and harp and also designed a much-improved glass harmonica. He composed as well, and his string quartet is not too bad. Both Harry Truman and Richard Nixon wanted to be concert pianists, Nixon in his youth and Truman, in his fancies, all his life. Nixon also composed, but the one of his efforts I remember his playing suggests that his works most definitely do not bear repeating.

      2. Robert Holmén says:

        Is it true that Prince Charles dabbled on the cello at some time?

        1. norman lebrecht says:

          yes, got taught by Slava

          1. Steven Holloway says:

            The Prince’s ‘cello studies had ended by the time he graduated from Cambridge, some years before Slava went into exile, and then he settled in the U.S. HRH certainly knew Slava, who may have given him a few tips, but that is all. HRH has never said that he studied with him, nor is the Prince ever cited as a pupil of Slava.

        2. Alexander Davidson says:

          He also does a bit of conducting.

          1. Steven Holloway says:

            And also mastered the French horn.

          2. Peter says:

            …not to forget the Ukulele as well.

      3. omer says:

        Paderewski…

      4. The Incredible Flutist says:

        I would like to point out that John Quincy Adams (1767 – 1848), the 6th president of the United States, was a flutist.

        1. Patrick Brompton says:

          Has anybody mentioned Frederick the Great (1712-1786), King of Prussia, flautist, composer, patron of Bach (J.S. & C.P.E.) … ?

      5. Louise Barder says:

        Thomas Jefferson played the violin & cello.

        John Quincy Adams played the flute.

        John Tyler played the violin.

        Abraham Lincoln played the violin.

        Chester Alan Arthur played the banjo.

        Franklin Roosevelt played the piano and sang soprano in his school choir.

        Woodrow Wilson played the violin and sang tenor in his college glee club.

        Warren Harding organized the Citizen’s Cornet Band, available for both Republican and Democratic rallies. He once remarked that, “I played every instrument but the slide trombone and the E-flat cornet.”

        Calvin Coolidge played the harmonica.

        Harry Truman played the piano.

        Richard Nixon was a classically-trained pianist and also played the accordion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCsGSMze_6Q

        Ronald Reagan played the harmonica.

        Bill Clinton plays the saxophone.

        1. norman lebrecht says:

          impressive!

          1. doppelgänger says:

            Pedro Pablo Kucsinsky the current President of Peru is an accomplished quasi professional flautist and conducted the Israel Philharminic for the national anthem of Peru in a concert in Lima with Zubin Mehta

        2. Cammy says:

          Thanks for the list. It troubles me that the only think music wise Trump did was punch his music teacher in the face.

  7. DB says:

    The fact that Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte presided over devastating cuts in the national culture budget, in spite of being a keen amateur pianist who at one point considered a career in music, should be a warning to us all that politicians are always, first and foremost, politicians.

  8. Ungeheuer says:

    Luis A. Ferré, former governor of Puerto Rico, was an accomplished pianist and a major influence in the Casals Festival there. The yearly Festival is still in existence even if its glory days are a thing of the past. And with last week’s bankruptcy declaration, probably on the chopping block.

    1. Ungeheuer says:

      For those not in the know, Pau Casals was born to a Catalán father and a Puerto Rican mother. In old age he married, settling in San Juan and founding the Festival in his name, as he had done before in Prades, Spain.

  9. Patrick Lemanski says:

    He can at least talk about music quite intelligently and with great sensitivity
    And his favorite piano composer is Schumann
    Et oui sorry it’s in French (the bit about music is at the end of the interview)
    http://www.classiquenews.com/la-culture-selon-emmanuel-macron-grand-entretien-pour-classiquenews/

  10. Ungeheuer says:

    It is a positive thing that Macron is a pianist and presumably attuned to the crisis engulfing classical music. But I don’t envy his shoes. Good luck to him as he will need all the luck. If he is lucky to survive his term.

  11. Robert Holmén says:

    The New York Times, in its editorial about Macron’s win, includes this line to describe him:

    “A student of philosophy, accomplished pianist, former investment banker and most recently minister of economy under President François Hollande, he had never before run for office.”

    No audio proof, however.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      NY Times is no proof of anything these days.

      1. NYMike says:

        NL: Are you speaking for Trump??

  12. V.Lind says:

    Stephen Harper, piano and guitar (once appeared in a National Arts Centre gala, backed up by the Barenaked Ladies).

    Tony Blair, rocker-ish. Guitar. Played with Ugly Rumours.

    1. Emil says:

      Having heard Harper play and sing, I would hardly call him a musician.

  13. Observer says:

    The topic of musical US Presidents is a rich one. http://minormusicllc.com/?p=20

    But the White House piano is a particularly interesting subject dating back to George Washington. It’s been blogged on extensively. Every US President in history, apparently, has kept at least one fine piano in the White House. The make varies with each president. This gives you an idea: http://livingpianos.com/piano-history/is-there-a-piano-in-the-white-house-pianos-and-us-presidents/

    Here’s a blog with pictures of important White House pianos. http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/furnishings/piano.htm

  14. Alexander Davidson says:

    Among world leaders who are also musicians it would be fair to include Pope Benedict XVI. Here, for example, he plays part of Schubert’s Impromptu in A-flat major, D. 935 (Op. posth. 142), No. 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeFw5FSenoo

  15. Maria Held says:

    The Queen of Belgium, Elisabeth Gabriele in Bayern (1876-1965) was a very good violinist. She was a pupil of Eugène Ysaye, supported the arts and founded/initiated the Concous Musical Reine Elisabeth in Brussels.

  16. Branimir says:

    5. Ivo Josipović, piano*

    * Former Croatian president (2010 – 2015) is distinguished composer. So, having in mind the level of piano playing required to be admitted to study composition, he is also quite skillful pianist, which he demonstrated on several occasions.

    6. Josip Broz Tito*

    *It was one of the legends about ex-Yugoslavia communist leader, but also documented (one of such documents, a photo, you will find here: https://dissonantheritage.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/views-on-josip-broz-tito/). Those who witnessed his playing said he played with deep musicality and understanding of music.

  17. Branimir says:

    OK, Tito should not be here if we are listing only those still alive. We all know that Paderewski is the absolute champion of the past.

  18. Wolfgang Amadeus Museart says:

    Napoleon Bonaparte had at least some understanding on music:
    1. “Music is the voice that tells us that the human race is greater than it knows.”
    2. “Music, of all the liberal arts, has the greatest influence over the passions, and it is that to which the legislator ought to give the greatest encouragement.”

  19. Alan Lu says:

    80-year-old Empress Michiko of Japan plays the piano.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8H6JrVuBLrw

    An article with a picture caption:
    A family concert, with Crown Prince Akihito playing the cello,
    Crown Princess Michiko playing the piano, and
    Prince Naruhito (now the Crown Prince) playing the violin.
    (December 1987)
    http://www.mofa.go.jp/s_sa/sea2/ph/page24e_000132.html

  20. Ross Amico says:

    King Frederik IX of Denmark was a pianist and most certainly a conductor. In fact, some recordings were issued on the Dacapo label, with the Danish National Radio Symphony. While clearly not a professional, His Majesty had nothing to be ashamed of.

    He was also proud of his tattoos.

    https://i1.wp.com/www.unofficialroyalty.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Frederik-IX-tattos.jpg

      1. Bruce says:

        OMG I think I’m in love <3

  21. Petros LInardos says:

    Pope Benedict XVI, piano. Religious duties aside, the Pope is ex officio head of state of Vatican City.

  22. James Manishen says:

    James Carr, currently Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, was a professional oboe player and still plays. Studied with Marc Lifschey (Cleveland Orch).

    James is performing Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin (slow movement) on June 28 with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Likely news video coverage.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      Do send a link, James.

  23. debussyste says:

    I have learned he was more interested in Litterature and Drama. That’s how he met his wife. Anyway he is a man whith good humanistic and artistic culture. What a difference whith Donald Trump !

  24. Steve says:

    The late King Bhumibol of Thailand was an accomplished saxophonist and played with the likes of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Sydney Bechet.

  25. Mather Pfeiffenberger says:

    According to William Herndon, the law partner of Abraham Lincoln before he assumed the US Presidency, Lincoln composed a song entitled “Adam and Eve’s Wedding Song” for his sister Sarah’s wedding in 1826. Lincoln was 17 years old at the time. The song has been recorded and can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-c56fGmtrI

    And Charles G. Dawes, US Vice President under Calvin Coolidge, was a self-taught pianist and composer whose 1912 Melody in A Major was popularized by Fritz Kreisler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0d1t36lBli0 In 1951, lyricist and songwriter Carl Sigman added words to the melody and it became the pop hit “It’s All in the Game”.

  26. Chris Butch says:

    I don’t think anybody’s mentioned the Duke of Wellington (British prime minister as well as Waterloo victor) who reputedly spent most of his time playing the violin when not giving orders on the battlefield.


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