Composing an Opera? It's Just Child's Play, Says Britain's Newest Classical Music Prodigy

Article excerpt

Having written her first sonata at the age of five, Alma Deutscher is, unavoidably, being likened to Mozart. Simon Usborne joins the audience

"It takes a long time to write a sonata," says Alma Deutscher, drinking milky tea from a mug decorated with pictures of squirrels. The seven-year-old then describes how she conceived a piano composition when she was five. "I was in my room playing with my dolls and singing," she recalls. "I thought, 'Oh, that's nice, what I just sang. It was a beautiful melody'."

Alma, the daughter of academics whose house near Dorking offers views of the Surrey hills, is a talent who is being compared to great composers and commended for her first opera. "Simply mind- blowing," Stephen Fry tweeted on Wednesday. "Alma Deutscher playing her own compositions. A new Mozart?"

Fry, a devotee of classical music who has campaigned for it to reach younger audiences, then posted a link to Alma's YouTube page, which features dozens of short clips of her compositions, as well as her renditions of works by the likes of Bach and Rossini.

They include The Sweeper of Dreams, a short opera Alma composed this year and entered into a contest run by the English National Opera. By far the youngest entrant, she narrowly missed out on a place in the final.

The videos were swiftly devoured, clocking up tens of thousands of views by last night and bringing Alma to the attention of a new audience.

"I want people to know how I play," she says, adding that when she is older she wants to "compose like Mozart, play the violin like Perlman and play the piano like Barenboim".

Alma's talent and ambition appeared early. Her father, Guy Deutscher, an Israeli-born linguist of international renown, and an amateur flautist, says she could repeat nursery rhymes in perfect pitch before she could speak. At the age of two, she was naming notes struck on the piano.

"For her third birthday I bought her a little violin as a toy," Mr Deutscher says. "She was so excited by it and tried playing on it for days on end, so we decided to try and find her a teacher. Within less than a year she was playing Handel sonatas."

Aged four, Alma startled her father. "She had heard a song that she loved," he recalls. "She came to me and asked me, 'How can music be so beautiful?'"

Mr Deutscher, 43, and his wife Janie, 39, moved with Alma and their younger daughter, Helen, four, from Oxford to be closer to the Yehudi Menuhin School in Cobham, Surrey. Alma has weekly piano and violin listens there and may yet enrol as a full-time pupil, but she is taught at home for now.

She plays in the garden and goes to ballet with her friends but spends five hours a day immersed in music. …