August 26, 2012
“Self realization demands very great struggle.”
Students sometimes ask me how to choose their repertoire for exam. They want to choose something “easier”. I want to say, that there is no one song easier than the other, especially in their kind of more advanced levels. Okay, there are many aspects to define the level of a piece, technically, stylistically or musically. So, one piece can be technically easy but stylistically difficult to approach. And that is just different for everyone. Some might be good at scalic passages but not as much at chords. Or others can bring out the dramatic essence of a piece but not as well the lyrical side of another. So what I usually say is, choose what you can play best. Bring out the best in your playing and the music. And I accordingly choose those pieces that can reflect the best of each student’s technique, style and musicality.
I often ask my students to think about what they play. I want them to ask themselves, “do I enjoy my own performance and the music as a player?”, and “how do I play in order that my listeners can enjoy my playing and the music?”. In your playing, you do not show the difficulty you are facing. It is not about you at all. It is all about the music. Are you conveying the meaning of the music in your playing? If the piece is too difficult for you to do so, that you have way too much to tackle technically, stylistically and musically, then that piece is not for you to play right now.
Please play the best for others. Don’t be selfish and keep thinking how hard it is for yourself to play in front of others. Don’t have so much complaint about everything, the piano, the environment, the surroundings. It is how hard for the listeners who give you their precious time to listen to your playing solely and doing nothing else. Please give them an enjoyable time. And in return, the listeners should be kind and really focus on their listening, and reflect kindly to the performer what s/he has done well, and what s/he can do to improve in the future. Let’s support each others positively and genuinely.
I will never forget about this experience of me in one certain pianist’s recital. Watching him play made me suffer. It was not even about his playing, but it was his attitude, his uneasiness in the playing that led me to even feel worried about when his memory would fail him any second during his performance, as what I could tell that he was anxious about that the whole time in his recital.
Whatever sentiments that you feel and use in your playing your audience can hear it, whether you truly enjoy it (playing/music) or are resentful or mad about it. They are really not stupid. People can feel what you feel with your playing in your playing.
There are the basic techniques that you all have to work on, some more than the others of course. You all need to drill on building a more solid foundation of scales and arpeggios, even Alberti bass and alike. The sound you project needs to be clearer and cleaner, but not just hitting the correct notes. Touch matters and that affects execution of the correct notes as well. Also work on the weight transfer, as most of you have not done much on it, and that greatly shows the lack of such technique on all of your playing. The moments of drama should not scattered; rather they must be linked in different ways. Think more about the connection in between and the sense of continuous smooth non-stop kind of flow. Give a clear direction and character: what do you want to express really?
This sort of performance opportunities / informal gatherings shows you the direction. It tells you if you really know the song that well like you think you do, either you genuinely know and love the piece inside out – so you can play through it and relatively well, or you are just faking it- that you worry so much about your playing that you are lost in the middle, many a times, completely.
What you should all care is whether the audience enjoys your playing or not. And stop thinking about how you are going to ruin it.
*P.S. I think you all did splendidly, and can do better along the way as you keep your faith and work up.