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Can Pianists Break Records?

Each decade runners get faster and jumpers jump higher. Some of the improvement is due to the decline of amateurism, more time spent training, and much improved equipment, but how much? It’s hard to break it out.

A few weeks ago I went to hear Garrick Ohlsson play Chopin at Lincoln Center. Then, when I came home, I somehow ended up watching YouTube videos of Horowitz and Rubinstein and others more recently playing the same sonatas. Some videos have closeups of mind-boggling finger movements and show the score simultaneously.

So, I wonder, do pianists get better all the time too, relative to previous pianists? On the one hand it’s harder to define “better”. On the other hand though, pianists have always been professional and their equipment hasn’t changed much, so there’s less to break out.

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