As we prepare to celebrate a decade of BBT this weekend, baritone Henk Neven (BBT fellowship 2009) shares his thoughts on the concept of talent as seen by mass media versus true talent.
This year we celebrate 10 years of Borletti–Buitoni Trust, a wonderful institution which has been indispensable to so many artists during the development of their careers. I am happy and feel very privileged that I was one of the fortunate musicians selected by the BB Trust.
These days we take the words ‘talented’ or ‘gifted’ quite lightly. Helped by a huge variety of talent shows on television, the word is watered down, but in these cases talent means: expose yourself, just perform and you are there. Singers are being called ‘opera singers’ just by singing an aria one 5th down. In my eyes this is a too easy and wrong way.
First, what do we mean if we say someone is a talented violinst, singer or artist?
I like the following quote by Jascha Heifetz:
You always hear of the ‘delicate, sensitive artist’. I assure you that it takes the nerves of a bullfighter, the digestion of a peasant, the vitality of a nightclub hostess, the tact of a diplomat, and the concentration of a Tibetan monk to lead the strenuous life of a virtuoso.
I agree with his idea that a successful artist needs to have a cocktail of talents. All these different talents form a total that helps the artist express his personal artistry (or not).
Secondly, I think it is important to see talent as a gift which has been given to you for an inexplicable reason. And as it is with any precious gift, it comes with a responsibility to handle it with care. In other words, a task to put this seed in the ground, to nourish it, to keep the wrong birds at a distance, to make the flowers blossom at the right moment.
So, is talent enough? No it is not. And if talent happens to be a multipack of gifts, the work starts and never ends…. I am convinced that personal satisfaction is the result of investment, sacrifice and humble work.
The music world is very fortunate to have had the Borletti-Buitoni Trust for a decade. More than any other organisation, they have the gift to find artists who are (or will be) able to express their personal artistry. They are caring and supportive in creating fertile ground for blooming!
Henk Neven performs on Sunday 19 May, 2013 (Borletti-Buitoni Trust Celebrated with Mitsuko Uchida) at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. For more information and to book tickets, visit our BBT Celebrated page.