Having endured the opinions of critics since the age of nine, this pianist has a few criticisms of his own.

Ebullient. As a nine year-old, the word meant nothing to me. Was I good or bad? Had I pleased my masters? The word burnt itself into my synapses. My playing had just been described as “ebullient” by critic Fred Blanks. Frantically I looked up the word and found it meant: “bubbling up like a boiling liquid”. I knew Blanks was a scientist by day, so I feared momentarily there had been some mix-up in the press room. But underneath was another definition: “exuberant”. This was my first review from a critic, those sepulchral high-priests that lurk at the back of concert halls. The “ebullient” review comes from my early Con days. I played well on this occasion. In future years, I would not be so lucky.

At age 17, I encountered that famously nasty period every artist must endure: the transition between childhood and adulthood, when reflexes must become nuances, intuition must become erudition. Blanks didn’t seem to think that I had made it. “He needs to get off the publicity bandwagon,” he chirruped after a concert. My comments...

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