Boy, 11, plays the Alban Berg sonata

Boy, 11, plays the Alban Berg sonata


norman lebrecht

April 07, 2018

This is the unbelievably precocious Bertrand Chamayou.

He is now 36 and wears long trousers.


  • anon says:

    Why would you force feed Alban Berg on an 11 year old? It just messes up his still developing cerebral cortex, fractures his sense of the self, alienates him from humanity.

    Mental torture is against the Geneva Convention.

    (ha ha)

    • Robert Holmén says:

      Maybe he wanted to. He might have wanted to do it to show he could.

      No more mental torture than the hours a kid will spend perfecting his play of a video game that has no return other than to top someone else.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    This is not unusual. Back in the old 20th century (and perhaps before), it was common not brand new when Bertrand was 11 to see young musicians tackling ‘modern’ repertoire, although the Berg Sonata was 11 . In the studio of the late American pianist Morton Estrin, ‘Morty’s’ students were playing pieces like this at a very early age. He assigned Meyer Kupferman’s brand new ‘Sonata Mystikos’ to me at age 12 in 1973 to learn and play for the composer – which was fiendishly difficult musically and physically. Bertrand was a highly gifted youngster, now enjoying a wonderful career in music. On his Facebook public page, he tenderly posts a photo standing outside the home of his late teacher, Maria Curcio, who was one of the definitive teachers of the late 20th century in London. His schedule is healthy and he makes his New York Philharmonic debut in mid-May (wish I could be there!).

    • Bo says:

      I don’t know about healthy, but his schedule is certainly very busy.
      No idea how he’s able to tour that much with such a wide repertoire, and being artistic director of a festival, and being a father.

  • The View from America says:

    This Chamayou recital shows how the pianist has grown up — and grown up well:

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    The Berg sonata is quite good for being anybody’s opus 1.

    • John Borstlap says:

      True, but it is also a very amorph piece, everything is so differentiated that there is only a grey pathological mass left.

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        Beauty is in the ear of the beholder. It’s a piece of music that I like. I like most of Berg’s music, actually. For me, “Wozzeck” and “Lulu” take all the terrible, awful things people do to each other in most any Verdi tragedy, but surround those things in music that is far more appropriate to the crimes involved. That’s just me – everyone’s different.

        • John Borstlap says:

          I fully agree concerning Wozzeck. Everything in that work is awfulL plot, music, and with some contemporary Regieoper also the staging, but it is all very appropriate. The ending is truly moving. You get into the opera house rather depressed by the weather and the latest news, and you leave the building on hands and feet, and you pay money for it as well. It is an extreme piece, an end point, not something upon which a tradition can be built. But as such I think it is a master piece.

  • George says:

    I played the Berg sonata when I was 14.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    It would indeed be funny if the Berg sonata came out of that tape recorder.

  • Daniel Poulin says:

    The Berg Piano Sonata figures prominently in Glenn Gould’s public career. It’s the very first piece put on disc ( a very rare 10 inch Hallmark, recorded 1951/released 1953). Gould was only 19 y.o. He performed the Berg Sonata no less than 32 times throughout his career, including his American debut, the famous Washington Recital on January 2, 1955. One of the most amusing events took place in a mid-size Ontario town -Peterborough- halfway between Toronto and Ottawa on October 19, 1953. Gould was aware that the music of Berg and Schoenberg would come as a shock to an audience more than likely unfamiliar with the Second Viennese School. He therefore decided to give a speech explaining in simple terms what to expect and why he liked it so much. The reaction was very enthusiastic: a standing ovation lasting a few minutes. “Well, said Gould, since you all seemed to enjoy it, I am going to play it again”. Needless to say that second performance was greeted with very polite and brief applause. Everyone was afraid he would perform it a third time.

  • John Borstlap says:

    I fully agree with Stravinsky’s opinion about Berg’s music.