Pianistic Robots are Created by Competitions. Many aspiring pianists have competed in competitions. So what is it about competitions that can turn piano players in robots? I like to quote David Dubal. One of my favorite books is his Reflections from the Keyboard. He interviews quite a group of great pianists in compiling the book.
He relates the three most important factors of any concert: Composer, performer and the paying audience. Competitions only have the 1st two. Competitions have done away with the public audience. Incidentally, so has recording and playing on youtube. Mechanical adjustments, corrections and the artifial assembly of many takes are possible. Now I will quote Bolet:
How Pianistic Robots are Created
“A young pianist enters a big international competition.There are 15 judges, roughly. The pianists have to get 15 votes. At least that is their aim. They cannot play anything that is going to antagonize any of these 15 people in any way. They cannot do anything that could be considered controversial by any one of them. They cannot do anything that could be considered a personal idea. So, as a result, you hear one, ten,thirty young pianists and they are all alike.They all have exactly the same approach. You never hear anything that you haven’t heard many times before.”
My own piano instructor was Mischa Kottler. He paid an unexpected visit to our family when he was reaching his mid-90’s. My wife and children will never forget the experience. He flew unaccompanied to Sarasota from Detroit. He had on a light blue, French beret. It was as if he had just gotten off the plane from Paris. He studied there in the 1920’s under Alfred Cortôt. Later he went to Vienna and studied with a pupil of Liszt- Emil von Sauer. When you listen to his version of the Minute Waltz, you’ll get an idea of his capabilities- even in his 90’s. He played this waltz for our family. Incidentally, I offer piano lessons in Sarasota.
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.
New Music Style will be Romantic and Individualistic. Times are changing. Ugly and trite music is out. With the change over, new personalities are appearing. This is true artistically and politically. I begin by referring to David Dubal. His book is Reflections from the Keyboard: The World of the Concert Pianist. I found his interview with pianist/conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy quite illuminating. Dubal has given pianorecitals and master classes worldwide. He has also judged international piano competitions (to include the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition). Dubal has taught at the Juilliard School since 1983. He taught at the Manhattan School of Music from 1994 until 2015.
So why the New Music Style?
Dubal questions Ashkenazy as to why he pays so little attention to recent music. He answers with a discussion about how today’s music is coming to a dead end. The following story is related. He had appeared on the same program as a certain modern composer. I (blogger David Ohrenstein) quote Ashkenazy’s words as he talked to the composer after the concert-“Did you like the performance of your piece?” He replied, “Yes, it was very well performed, but it is such an ugly piece of music.” I said, “But you are the composer!”. “Yes, I know I’m the composer. But all I see and hear around me is ugliness, so that’s what I put down on the paper.”
Why Do We Need the New Music Style Immediately?
When times are good, we can tolerate some ugliness. Certainly, we have. During difficult times we need relief. My arch example involves Hoagy Carmichael. Click on the internal link below. It explains this statement. Mark my prediction: Romance and the Romantic style are returning. It is the wave of the future. We all need relief from ugliness. The ballroom dancing CD is a product on DSOworks.com