Excellent Versus Great Piano Playing. What determines excellent piano player? Here are a few strictly musical goalposts of excellence. However, Vladimir Horowitz, pictured above, fits into the great category.
- Few if any wrong notes. Preferably, none.
- Adherence to the tempo, except when otherwise notated by the editor.
- Following phrase marking instructions.
- Adhering to dynamics (i.e. forte, piano, mezzo forte etc).
- Playing the correct tempo at a steady pace.
For this blog I quote and paraphrase: Reflection from the Keyboard:The World of the Concert Pianist. It is written by David Dubal.
Excellent versus Great Piano Playing
Bar-Illan asks: What separates a very excellent performance by someone from great performances given by certain pianists? This statement touches me. I studied with Mischa Kottler. In turn Kottler studied under Alfred Cortôt in the 1920’s. Bar-Illan’s description of Cortôt’s playing places his difference out front: “What an individualist! What is it about Cortôt! -Even with all the wrong notes and variations in tempo that I simply cannot understand. Yet his performances make your heart beat faster. One can talk about timing, personality, character, tone, ability to color the music. …It is impossible to actually say what separates a very excellent performance…from one given by Cortôt, Rubenstein, Horowitz or Gould.” The difference cannot be defined, yet, it is essential to great music making. Every if both types play the music absolutely correctly, they are still “two different species.”
Mischa Kottler told me a most amusing story about Cortôt. In Paris the public loved a good bet. Cortôt also had numerous memory lapses. Everyone still loved him. However, his audiences in would actually place bets as to how many times he would forget the music. Regardless, Cortôt’s pianistic interpretations thrilled all that listened to him.