‘Play it Again, An Amateur Against the Impossible’ by Alan Rusbridger.

Wikileaks and the phone-hacking scandal conspired to make 2011 a very busy year for Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian newspaper. However, Rusbridger is evidently not a man to cut himself some slack.  In the midst of a time he calls ‘one of the most frantic of my life’, he felt inspired to attempt to learn Chopin’s First Balade, Opus 23, a piano piece so difficult that, as Rusbridger himself pointed out, ‘to the amateur pianist it’s an unplayable piece’.

Rusbridger was speaking on Thursday at a meeting of the Primrose Hill Community Association.  He described how, while steering his paper through hectic and significant events, he persevered in his commitment to learning a piano piece of ferocious difficulty.  Meanwhile, the book he had planned as a chronicle of his musical re-awakening took on quite a different character.  He explained: ‘the diary that began with me learning this piece became perhaps something more interesting: the story of the Guardian dealing with these two big stories.’

Where did this drive come from, to challenge himself in this way at the age of fifty-six?  In Rusbridger’s experience, after moving on from formal education, where a young person is exposed to all sorts of artistic opportunities and stimuli, ‘creativity gets smothered’.  However, later in life the creative urge emerges once more, and it is not unusual for the middle-aged to take up or return to an artistic discipline.

An amateur, as Rusbridger pointed out, is one who is motivated by their love for their chosen activity, and it was clear to see that this engaging, thoughtful man adored and relished his ultimately successful musical journey.

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