Alma Deutscher and the five greatest child prodigies

Alma Deutscher and the five greatest child prodigies

This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alma Deutscher. A composer of piano and violin sonatas, string quartets and lately a full-length opera, Deutscher also plays the violin and piano superbly - and has recently turned ten. The British girl is being described as 'Little Miss Mozart', not only because of her precocious talents, but because of her inspirations, namely: "Mozart, Schubert and Tchaikovsky - the composers of the most beautiful melodies ever written."

As a composer, Deutscher is brimming with charming melodies, which often arrive unbidden and fully formed. "Even when I'm trying to do something else, when people are talking to me about something completely different, I get these beautiful melodies that play inside my mind," she told me. "Sometimes it might be a human voice singing, sometimes a piano, sometimes a violin."

Two years ago, in the middle of the night, an entire set of piano variations in E-flat announced itself to her subconscious. "I woke up and I didn't want to lose the melodies so I took my notebook and wrote it all down, which took almost three hours. My parents didn't understand why I was so tired in the morning and didn't want to get up!"

People can be very cynical about modern child prodigies - hence the slightly sneering 'Little Miss' epithet. "What can be said for certain is that serious art music could never be written by a child," argued critic and novelist Philip Hensher in 2007, upon hearing Symphony no 5 by Jay Greenberg, the Juilliard-educated prodigy who was then aged 15. "The only things that are left for even the most brilliant of them are reheated gestures from a museum."

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