What is it like to be a musical child prodigy

Madness child prodigies? - 8 child prodigies who made music history

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

He is the child prodigy par excellence: first piano compositions at the age of five, the first extensive concert tour at seven (it lasted three and a half years!), First opera composition at eleven. The little Wolferl became world famous - and still is today. His music is one of the most played in classical music.

However, Mozart did not have a childhood in the present sense. For years, family life was primarily focused on his career. He was privately tutored by his father and often traveled with his family to the next concert in a tight, bumpy carriage.

That didn't seem to bother him too much - he didn't know it any other way. And as a young adult he had seen more of Europe than most of his contemporaries because of all the traveling.

Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847)

She wasn't quite as early as Mozart or her younger brother Felix with composing and playing the piano. Nevertheless, she is considered a child prodigy. It should also have reached a very high technical level within a short time. Fanny's early compositions testify to her giftedness, such as her art songs.

At that time, however, she was denied a career as a woman as a woman. Her father said that she should rather be prepared to become a mother and a housewife. This patriarchal attitude, which, incidentally, also represented her brothers, triggered a crisis in Fanny.

Later she was able to live out her talent in a more private setting, composed a total of over 450 works and directed the semi-public concert series “Sunday Music”.

Evgeny Kissin (born 1971)

The pianist received lessons from his mother, a pianist, at the age of two. At the age of six, like so many Russian musicians, he began the tight, systematic and professional training of Russian colors at the renowned talent factory Gnessin Institute in Moscow.

From then on, the pianist Anna Kantor was his only teacher, and since then she has accompanied Kissin on his concert tours, together with his mother. That would certainly not be for everyone.

"I just hope to find a woman who lives with us," said Kissin once in an interview. He has been married since last year. But this particular constellation was obviously the recipe for success for Kissin.

For almost 40 years he has been at the top of the pianist guild and his inclusion, Link opens in a new window of the two Chopin concerts, which he recorded when he was twelve, still amazes today.

Midori (born 1971)

The Japanese violinist Midori was brought up by a strict "Tiger Mom". She taught her daughter herself, with relentless drill and perfection. Sometimes there was a slap for wrong notes. Once the instrument even had to believe in it because the child did not get everything right: the mother broke the instrument.

This tough and cross-border training nevertheless bore fruit: Midori became an internationally successful child prodigy, made music as a teenager with the most important orchestras and conductors - to the point of physical and psychological breakdown.

After a break of several years with professional help, self-discovery and a second degree in psychology, however, she reinvented herself. She appears again regularly as a soloist and chamber musician, teaches young violin talents herself and leads her own music education projects.

Daniel Barenboim (born 1942)

Barenboim, the all-rounder: he regularly challenges politicians with his political statements and projects that promote people. Even at a ripe old age he remains adaptable, for example trying his hand at music mediator on YouTube, the link will open in a new window.

He also started out as a piano and conducting prodigy. As the youngest conducting student, he was admitted to the Music Academy in Rome at the age of twelve and later appeared as a conducting soloist in piano concerts. In the further course of his career he became chief conductor of various orchestras in Europe and the USA and became music director at opera houses.

He likes to present his all-rounder: in 2006, for example, within four days he conducted and played Wagner's musical dramas “Tristan und Parsifal” as well as both volumes of Bach's “Well-Tempered Clavier”.

Joey Alexander (born 2003)

Playing the piano excellently and interpreting notated music is challenging enough. If a child can also compose or improvise exceptionally well, then that shows additional creative power.

The Indonesian jazz pianist Joey Alexander was inspired by his parents and their jazz record collection. At the age of six he began to play jazz standards on an electric miniature piano. He received his first lessons from his father, who is an amateur musician.

When Joey's giftedness became apparent, his parents moved with him to Jakarta so that he could continue his education there through jam sessions with jazz greats. At the age of nine he made his international breakthrough at the Master Jam Contest in Odessa. He confirmed his phenomenal skills a year later on his US debut in New York, Link opens in a new window.

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

The father is behind this career too, but in a completely different way. The crane operator Joseph Jackson pushed his children on under great pressure, sent them to talent competitions, formed five of them into a hearty boy group and let them enchant the audience with their bell-like voices. Eight-year-old Michael surpassed his brothers, his moves were even more precise, his singing even purer than the others.

The solo career was predetermined, as is well known, it was first class: The “King of Pop” dominated the charts for a long time, in the 1980s he was the most commercially successful pop singer, and with “Thriller” he even released the best-selling album of all time.

But Jackson's intense world career also had its downsides, the pop star suffered from health, psychological and addiction problems.

Björk (born 1965)

The career of the Icelander Björk Guðmundsdóttir was a lot quieter. She was also a child prodigy: trained in singing, flute and piano from the age of five, she recorded her first album at the age of eleven. At the same age as Mozart composed his first opera. It contains pop songs and idiosyncratic interpretations of children's songs.

In contrast to other child prodigies, who are marketed with a childlike look for as long as possible, Björk switched to the harsher and more provocative genre at the age of 14. She founded her own punk band with the offensive name "Spit and Snot".

In general, since then she has repeatedly surprised with her various artistic changes, with experiments at the limits of musical genres and art disciplines. This makes her one of the most versatile and adventurous former child prodigies.