Pianist Nahre Sol

In the early 18th and 19th centuries, any performer worth his (or her) salt knew how to improvise. Composers playing their own works improvised the solo cadenzas on the spot, and everyone’s favorite party trick was to make up variations on the popular tunes of the day. With the rise of competitions in the 20th century, improvisation took a back seat to technical perfection in the classical world, and became an essential tool only for jazz and pop musicians.

Fortunately, the tide seems to be turning; musicians are actually being taught improvisation in conservatories, and the best ones have studied enough that they can improvise, not only in their own style, but in the style of other composers as well. Think about how hard THAT is, and then have a laugh or two at this video by pianist Nahre Sol, who takes one of the simplest and most popular tunes ever written (“Mary Had a Little Lamb”) and takes it through the history of classical music. She even gives you clues along the way to what she’s making fun of! (Special props to her faithful pup, who seems to be enjoying herself, too.)

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