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Pianist Philip Fisher sits down at his instrument. A brand new score is placed on the music stand -- notes he has never seen, to a piece he doesn't know, from a recording he has never heard. He stops for a moment to stare at the page of horizontal lines, squiggly symbols and clusters of black dots. You can see him processing. You can feel him absorbing.

When he finally places his hands on the keyboard and music begins to rise from the piano, it is an astonishing result. This young pianist's uncanny ability to sight-read any piece of music as if it has been in his arsenal for years has made him into a very hot commodity in the music world. He's collaborated with an enviable list of top performers, he's chewed through more repertoire than many pianists could hope to in a lifetime, and lately, even composers are trying to get in on the action, beating down his door to get their works premièred and performed.

Watching Fisher absorb at light-speed brings on both an awe-inspiring and slightly disturbing revelation. Such an extraordinary spectacle might easily contribute to the stereotype that all musicians are slightly crazy -- and the more brilliant they are, the more 'off their heads' they tend to be. Philip Fisher, however, is a startlingly down-to-earth individual, well spoken and articulate, extremely polite and amicable.

Twice in one week I sit down with Fisher for an interview, and twice he shows up wearing a business suit -- Hugo Boss, to be precise. Lacing his speech with a melodious British accent (the kind that American ladies really seem to dig), and clearly embracing the classic 'GQ Code of Style', Fisher, minus the stuffy briefcase, seems more like a marketing entrepreneur from Wall Street, than a concert pianist from Juilliard.

Philip Fisher. Photo © Rita Castle
Philip Fisher. Photo © Rita Castle

In his final year of post-graduate studies at The Juilliard School, Fisher says he has to be very judicious in his work choices. Judicious or not, the man is constantly performing. Between solo engagements and chamber music appearances, Fisher already performs over sixty concerts per year, and yet he is still always on the lookout for new projects. 'If I were able to do everything, to play every single concert I wanted to, I certainly would. In fact, I think everyone would, given the chance. But there simply aren't enough hours in the day.'

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Copyright © 24 November 2005 Anya Lomakova, Brooklyn, USA


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