When exploring musical talent there are many aspects that one might consider. For the purposes of clarity on this let us consider for example a guitarist who has a tremendous amount of virtuosity and speed in his or her playing. The untrained audience’s initial perception would be that the talent of the player in question lies in the incredible speed at which scales and changes are executed. However on “closer inspection” one could find that the player has no feeling in playing a piece, and the interpretation and phrasing is cold and lifeless. The dilemma then lies in asking oneself whether we have witnessed true talent at all or simply talent for mimicking notes from an analytical perspective without the ability to interpret with creative genius.
Having said this there are many more aspects to consider that will depend on personal outlook and leanings of both audience and performers alike. In Classical music and for guitar in particular we could be listening to Bach’s violin concerto or the adaptation thereof for guitar in either its original tonality or predisposition key for guitar and if we did not understand Bach’s particular style we could judge any performance of this peace as cold and lifeless. Strict contrapuntal rhythm with seemingly very little room for expression is what would strike one almost as a prerequisite for playing such a piece.
However there are many aspects to the music by Bach of this period such as the preference for utilizing open strings to sound the notes which are characteristic of this period and contrapuntal music in general. Having said all this there are performers that will interpret Bachs music as expected for the period in which it was written and will be lauded for adhering to the rules for the period and style, and others that will add expression which is more suitable to the later Romantic period and to players such as Segovia with stretched pauses and emphasis. Either of these types of performers could be regarded as genius in their own right but only by part of the audience or followers however many they may be.
We also have the child prodigies that are considered to possess true genius as it were being able to play grade 8 pieces at ages as early as 12 or earlier. Here a distinction has to be made as it is known that a young mind is a super computer and sponge for new information and learning and often we find that once these prodigies have reached adulthood many are then found to be relatively mediocre performers, retaining the initial virtuosity in the playing, but due to greater expectations for their age group when it comes to expression through life’s experiences, lacking any warmth and feeling or character. And so although it may have been perfectly acceptable for the performer as a child not to express considerable feeling in the execution of a performance it is altogether a different matter once they are adults.