Give me a break with the perfect pianists already!

piano handsNot too many months ago I watched as Mark Twain played the lovely middle movement from Beethoven’s Sonate Pathetique while his wife died in the upstairs bedroom. It was a heart breaking scene.

Sadly, what I can’t get out of my mind is how perfectly the actor portraying Twain played the piece. It’s not a difficult work, but I manage to make mistakes no matter the degree of difficulty. Twain didn’t make a single mistake despite the fact that he wasn’t a professional musician, and despite his deep despair in the face of his wife’s death.

Mark Twain is not alone. In nearly every movie or television drama I’ve ever seen, amateur pianists play perfectly, especially when the piano player is one of those sweet-faced Victorian women who did nothing but practice all day—or at least until tea time. The only exception was Jane Austin’s Elizabeth. She had no talent for the instrument. What a relief it was to hear her struggle from note to note, chord to chord.

Typically, I would try to draw wisdom from this factoid, but there isn’t any. Not really. I just wish the media would give me a break and give me less formidable models.

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