The Independent

Putting on a new CD of Chopin Scherzi and Impromptus, I wonder how it will measure up to others on the market. Very well, actually, with the notes seeming to glow. But its biography omits the fact that the pianist Bernard d’Ascoli has seen nothing since the age of three. I once looked over his shoulder as he played: whereas most pianists’ hands seem to do their owner’s bidding, his moved with a curious watchfulness, as though they saw as well as felt. He told me that he had no memory of sight – “The idea to me is entirely abstract” – and that he grew up with no sense of being handicapped. He didn’t go to blind school, and did precociously well in the normal system, becoming famous as a recitalist in his native Marseille at 20. The word “handicap” is not in his vocabulary; “frustration” is what he speaks of, and, as a teacher, he is adept at dealing with the frustrations of the sighted pupils who flock to his home. Blindness, he says, “has led me to develop my inner ear, and therefore theirs as well”.

—Michael Church