Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter

Posted by: vers la flan

Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/26/11 07:50 PM

Van Cliburn and Sviatoslav Richter were mutual admirers. Cliburn once described Richter's playing as the most powerful he'd ever heard, and Richter, as a judge in the Tchaikovsky competition directed to score competitors on a scale of 1-10, gave Cliburn 100 and everyone else 0.

But their mindset regarding performance couldn't be more different. Cliburn once said that the pianist must never think of himself when performing because it is always for the audience he is playing, never for himself. Richter, on the other hand, said he always played only for himself and that he never paid any attention to the audience.

So, which do you agree with? Bear in mind, there's no right or wrong answer.

That being said, Richter is right wink .
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/26/11 07:55 PM

VC
Posted by: TheHappyMoron

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/26/11 07:56 PM

If a pianist was listening to himself/herself playing, wouldn't that make him/her also part of the audience? In which case they'd both be right!! Or both wrong...
Posted by: stores

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/26/11 08:02 PM

I love them both, but, here I have to side with Van.
Posted by: Andromaque

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/26/11 08:18 PM

I think that Richter meant that he plays up to his own standards, and very faithfully to the score.
Posted by: vers la flan

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/26/11 09:07 PM

Interesting... so far, the consensus seems more inclined towards Cliburn.

I feel I need to amend the perspective of Richter, which isn't quite so cut and dried as I made it. His specific take is the following:

Quote:
I am not so altruistic as to play only for the listener; no, I play above all for myself. If it turns out well, the listener may also get something from it. A well-known musicologist once asked me, 'Why do you always have these invisible walls round you when you play? Why don't you like the audience?' My answer, 'Because it doesn't concern me, I simply don't notice it.' I am often asked, 'How satisfied were you with the audience?' But what is much more important is whether the audience was satisfied with me!


So apparently, it's not that he didn't care about the audience, and in fact he wanted them to feel "satisfied" with his performance. But as far as how it relates to his playing, the audience just doesn't seem to factor in to it at all.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/26/11 09:10 PM

If one plays only for oneself, why even perform solo recitals in public?

Are you sure Richter said that? I read the recent and only, I think, lengthy bio of Richter and I don't remember reading that.
Posted by: vers la flan

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/26/11 09:23 PM

Hi pianoloverus,

I got the quote from the Autumn 1997 issue of International Piano Quarterly, who in turn got it from a German book called Musiker Im Gespräch: Sviatoslav Richter. According to IPQ, the interviews from this article originally took place in September 1971 and August 1973.
Posted by: Opus_Maximus

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/26/11 11:20 PM

These are just things that people say. When you are performing onstage, in real time, you are too engulfed in the moment and in the music to be conscious of to whom and why you are playing. (off-stage philosophies notwithstanding)
Posted by: Pogorelich.

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/26/11 11:55 PM

Well.... I think you should play in a way that is honest to yourself, and share that with an audience.

Where does that make me stand?
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 12:28 AM

No, here's the right answer. ha

It's in between. smile

The audience is what enables us to find things in ourselves that we never would have -- and that's what we express.
Posted by: Ralph

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 01:34 AM

Richter suffered from performance anxiety after an embarrassing memory lapse during a performance. He used to play with the score and just a single light next to the piano shining on the keyboard. The audience couldn't even see his face. I think he did all that to ward off the anxiety. His attitude toward performing was probably a device to deal with his fear.
Posted by: Pogorelich.

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 08:41 AM

Hmm, I think Richter just started performing with a score because he said if you were to be absolutely true to the composer you should play with a score; it's impossible to memorize every single detail, and a score gives you the details right there. According to him, it's more honest that way.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 08:49 AM

Originally Posted By: vers la flan
Hi pianoloverus,

I got the quote from the Autumn 1997 issue of International Piano Quarterly, who in turn got it from a German book called Musiker Im Gespräch: Sviatoslav Richter. According to IPQ, the interviews from this article originally took place in September 1971 and August 1973.
I was responding to your OP. Your second post(the quote) clearly shows that the audience was also important to Richter.
Posted by: Ralph

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 12:36 PM

Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Hmm, I think Richter just started performing with a score because he said if you were to be absolutely true to the composer you should play with a score; it's impossible to memorize every single detail, and a score gives you the details right there. According to him, it's more honest that way.


That was Richter's official statement, and I dont disagree with him, buy in reality he never trusted his memory after that famous memory lapse. I believe he was playing a well known Bach P&F (it may have even been #1 in C major) and he just kept coming back to the same spot and couldn't remember the next chord.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 12:47 PM

Originally Posted By: vers la flan

Cliburn once said that the pianist must never think of himself when performing because it is always for the audience he is playing, never for himself. Richter, on the other hand, said he always played only for himself and that he never paid any attention to the audience.

So, which do you agree with? Bear in mind, there's no right or wrong answer.

That being said, Richter is right wink .


I agree with neither. Performing is for the composer first and everything else comes second.
Posted by: jdhampton924

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 01:42 PM

I guess I have to side more with Richter on this one, though Cliburn sounds like the more PC statement. I want to hold what I do up to standard with myself, if I don't like what I am hearing myself, how will I convince the audience to like it.
Posted by: TheHappyMoron

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 04:31 PM

Would Cortot and Michelangeli represent two extreme examples of each argument?
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 05:34 PM

Originally Posted By: TheCannibalHaddock
Would Cortot and Michelangeli represent two extreme examples of each argument?
Maybe, but I don't know which categories they'd be in?

Unless someone is playing only for the money or their ego, I can't see why soemone wouldn't care what the audience feels. Why perform in public?

I think some posters are confusing about caring if the audience feels something with who should evaluate the quality of a performance.
Posted by: vers la flan

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 07:49 PM

Originally Posted By: Ralph
Richter suffered from performance anxiety after an embarrassing memory lapse during a performance. He used to play with the score and just a single light next to the piano shining on the keyboard. The audience couldn't even see his face. I think he did all that to ward off the anxiety. His attitude toward performing was probably a device to deal with his fear.


Hi Ralph,

Don't *all* pianists suffer from performance anxiety? ;P

At any rate, if I'm not mistaken these interviews took place before the infamous memory slip. And, according to Richter, at least, the thing about playing almost completely in the dark was to allow the audience to focus on the music and not the performer (and, he admitted, there was a kind of theatrical effect to it as well).
Posted by: vers la flan

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 08:02 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: vers la flan
Hi pianoloverus,

I got the quote from the Autumn 1997 issue of International Piano Quarterly, who in turn got it from a German book called Musiker Im Gespräch: Sviatoslav Richter. According to IPQ, the interviews from this article originally took place in September 1971 and August 1973.
I was responding to your OP. Your second post(the quote) clearly shows that the audience was also important to Richter.


I agree that the audience was important to Richter. In fact, later on in the same interview he goes on to describe the audience in Paris and contrast that with the audience in Germany and how the dynamic affects the recital. So clearly, he's attuned to these kinds of things.

I guess what I'm reading in these assertions is that one philosophy is geared more towards playing based primarily on what one is feeling, while the other is geared towards giving the audience what they seem to want. And given these options, I agree with the former (much as I think Pogorelich stated she does).
Posted by: Palindrome

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 08:16 PM

It's like the contrast between (Stanislavsky) "method" actors and others. Are you trying to be the character, or do you consciously act so as to convey the character to the audience. According to Chasins, Hofmann was in the second group, feeling that at times one had to "project" more to the audience than you would if you were playing in a small venue (a living room) or for yourself. Artur Rubinstein comments in the first volume of his autobiography that he would choose a person in the audience to play to. Perhaps that puts him in the second group also.
Posted by: Ralph

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/27/11 08:29 PM

Originally Posted By: vers la flan
Originally Posted By: Ralph
Richter suffered from performance anxiety after an embarrassing memory lapse during a performance. He used to play with the score and just a single light next to the piano shining on the keyboard. The audience couldn't even see his face. I think he did all that to ward off the anxiety. His attitude toward performing was probably a device to deal with his fear.


Hi Ralph,

Don't *all* pianists suffer from performance anxiety? ;P

At any rate, if I'm not mistaken these interviews took place before the infamous memory slip. And, according to Richter, at least, the thing about playing almost completely in the dark was to allow the audience to focus on the music and not the performer (and, he admitted, there was a kind of theatrical effect to it as well).



That's all true about the timing of the interview and the memory issue not occuring until 1980, but I think (and this is just my opinion) that Richter was fearing some sort of catastrophe that in fact did happen during that 1980 concert. And yes, most certainly all pianists suffer from performance anxiety. Gould delt with it in his way and Richter in his.

Richter was a powerhouse and a big figure of a man and he knew it, but none of us know what was really going on between his ears. He was also very theatrical when he performed. He'd sit at the piano for what seemed to be minutes and then attacked the keyboard. Maybe just a little showboating? He was VERY aware of the audience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hOKcdZJJFU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ-NAgDpRVs
Posted by: Pianolance

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/28/11 01:33 AM

I noticed that on that second video he sat on what looked like a bar stool. Very interesting.
Posted by: wr

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/28/11 06:39 AM

To me, there's something smarmy and false about the Cliburn position. Of course, it's just what someone pandering to an audience would say.

Richter's not caring about the audience seems much more real to me, and interestingly, he's the one who had the long career, not Cliburn. And over time, it appears that he played for far far more people than Cliburn ever did, in spite of his "bad" attitude towards audiences.

But I don't think Richter was really anti-audience, it's more that he knew his own standards of performance worked better to get him playing at his absolute best, rather than trying to please "the audience". So playing for himself and not considering the audience was indirectly the way to do his best for the audience.

Pleasing the audience is something of a fantasy anyway, since the audience is really made up of all sorts of individuals who have all sorts of thoughts and ideas about what the music and performance should be and what they want out of it. A performer playing for the audience is really just projecting onto that mass of people some kind of imagined common denominator, which may or may not be close to reality.
Posted by: TheHappyMoron

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/28/11 09:55 AM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: TheCannibalHaddock
Would Cortot and Michelangeli represent two extreme examples of each argument?
Maybe, but I don't know which categories they'd be in?

Unless someone is playing only for the money or their ego, I can't see why soemone wouldn't care what the audience feels. Why perform in public?

I think some posters are confusing about caring if the audience feels something with who should evaluate the quality of a performance.


Cortot would be in the "playing for self" category and Michelangeli the other. Of course i'm not being serious.

As to playing in public, i thought the audience goes to hear the pianist, and not necessarily that the pianist goes to play for the audience; especially in Richter's case.
Posted by: Stanza

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/28/11 10:06 AM

Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
Originally Posted By: vers la flan

Cliburn once said that the pianist must never think of himself when performing because it is always for the audience he is playing, never for himself. Richter, on the other hand, said he always played only for himself and that he never paid any attention to the audience.

So, which do you agree with? Bear in mind, there's no right or wrong answer.

That being said, Richter is right wink .


I agree with neither. Performing is for the composer first and everything else comes second.

+1 When I am playing a Beethoven Sonata, I play best when I feel like I am "channeling Beethoven".
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/28/11 11:09 AM

Originally Posted By: wr
To me, there's something smarmy and false about the Cliburn position.....Richter's not caring about the audience seems much more real to me....

If anything I would say essentially the opposite.

As I said before, I think the answer for most performers is (and should be) somewhere in between. But IMO Richter's is basically full of crap. smile

Along the lines of what some other people have said, IMO we can be pretty sure that what Richter said was more a compensatory kind of thing (sort of what would sometimes be called "sour grapes") than genuine. Looking at it that way perhaps helped him -- but it wasn't true.

(I think I can predict fairly well how you might reply, and I'm ready.) ha
Posted by: 1RC

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/28/11 02:15 PM

As I read I keep thinking "false dichotomy". I doubt I could keep doing this without a healthy does of both attitudes.

I would never be able to learn anything on piano if I didn't love the music itself, enough to organize my life to accomodate hours of solitary practicing. The thought of performing pushes me to prepare as much as possible to cope with nerves and memory slips, and do the best I can of bringing this music to life in front of an audience, so's they can share some of the enjoyment I get out of it.
Posted by: Kuanpiano

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/28/11 02:22 PM

Disagree with what Mark says. Given the way he thrashes his own performances in his own private journals, I'm pretty sure that when he says he's only satisfied with a concert when he plays to his own standards, he's being genuine.

And to the OP or somewhere: I think the more exact words by Richter were somewhere along the lines of "I don't need the audience", not that he doesn't exactly care about them.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/28/11 02:56 PM

Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano
Disagree with what Mark says. Given the way he thrashes his own performances in his own private journals, I'm pretty sure that when he says he's only satisfied with a concert when he plays to his own standards, he's being genuine.....

I don't disagree one bit with that.

But while the two things you're talking about (and they are different things) seem to be sort of the same, but they're not. Being satisfied or not satisfied according to the audience isn't the same as whether or not we are influenced by their presence and whether we feel it matters.

I just played a recital yesterday, and I'm not satisfied, for exactly the reason Richter gave: I didn't play to my own standard (although it met most of the audience's standard). I share that with Richter. (Not enough else, unfortunately.) ha
And there have been a couple of times in competitions that I did meet my own standards but not the judges' standards -- and I felt very satisfied.

But I don't at all share the rest of what Richter said (including how you clarified it), and as per what I said before, I don't believe it was even true for him, although he might have tried to convince himself that it was, and it may have helped him.
Posted by: vers la flan

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/29/11 11:39 PM

Hi all,

In the interest of full disclosure, this is the quote from Cliburn, lifted from the documentary for the 8th Cliburn competition, "Here to Make Music."

Quote:
Half of you must be on the stage relating to the music, and half of you must be in the audience trying to see (?) how the audience is feeling what you're trying to say, because it's for them that you're playing, it is not for yourself.


I admit, in its entirety it's not such a one-sided assertion. Nevertheless, the emphatic way he declares the last part about playing for the audience and not for oneself still doesn't sit right with me.
Posted by: Ralph

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/30/11 12:07 AM

Originally Posted By: wr
To me, there's something smarmy and false about the Cliburn position.


I couldn't agree more! Give me a break Van. We all know that audiences are the root of all evil. The only thing good about audiences are ticket sales and Van was very aware of that.

I saw Van play the Tchaik 1 in Philladelphia in 1978(?). Talk about building a career with one piece. He got a lot of mileage out of that one.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/30/11 12:17 AM

Originally Posted By: vers la flan
Hi all,
In the interest of full disclosure, this is the quote from Cliburn, lifted from the documentary for the 8th Cliburn competition, "Here to Make Music."
Quote:
Half of you must be on the stage relating to the music, and half of you must be in the audience trying to see (?) how the audience is feeling what you're trying to say, because it's for them that you're playing, it is not for yourself.
I admit, in its entirety it's not such a one-sided assertion. Nevertheless, the emphatic way he declares the last part about playing for the audience and not for oneself still doesn't sit right with me.


Sit right with you? smile
OK.....What both of these guys actually said isn't as simple as how it was presented here.

But anyway it has made for a nice thread. smile
Posted by: Damon

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/30/11 01:01 AM

Originally Posted By: vers la flan
Hi all,

In the interest of full disclosure, this is the quote from Cliburn, lifted from the documentary for the 8th Cliburn competition, "Here to Make Music."

Quote:
Half of you must be on the stage relating to the music, and half of you must be in the audience trying to see (?) how the audience is feeling what you're trying to say, because it's for them that you're playing, it is not for yourself.


I admit, in its entirety it's not such a one-sided assertion. Nevertheless, the emphatic way he declares the last part about playing for the audience and not for oneself still doesn't sit right with me.


Why doesn't it sit right? If you have an audience, particularly a paying one, then you should be playing for them. Otherwise, you are just masturbating in public. That should always be done in private.
Posted by: jeffreyjones

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/30/11 01:02 AM

Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Hmm, I think Richter just started performing with a score because he said if you were to be absolutely true to the composer you should play with a score; it's impossible to memorize every single detail, and a score gives you the details right there. According to him, it's more honest that way.


When Richter played with a score, though, he sounded like he was reading - he lost his impulsiveness and fiery temperament. I listened to a Prokofiev Second Sonata from his Vienna recital that was drained of any kind of life. He was much more true to the music when he wasn't reading.

Personally, though, I'm much better with a score in front of me.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/30/11 01:21 AM

For what it's worth, y'all check this out: It's from the Cliburn Foundation website, in a "Q & A" by a past-and-possibly-future judge (Carol Leone), giving guidance for the upcoming amateur competition:


What about playing from memory?

At the Cliburn's Amateur competition, memorization isn't required of course, but the most successful pianists typically do play from memory. They're much more free.


Flat-out -- "They're much more free" -- none of "Some people say this and some people say that," or "This is just my opinion."
Just, "They're much more free."

Sure, we could say it's one person's opinion, but it's an opinion widely-enough shared that it's not unreasonable for the Cliburn site to say that. I wouldn't have put it so flat-out but I'm with those who are convinced that other things being equal, it's true, and Jeffrey's post about Richter is right in line with it.
Posted by: vers la flan

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/30/11 03:02 AM

Hi Damon,

Well, speaking for myself (RE: playing in public, NOT "playing with self" in public), I'm just kind of dubious of a performer who plays for the crowd. It brings to mind a circus seal blowing on horns for a fish. Well, to my twisted mind, anyway.

When I think of the mindset of one who plays for the audience, I think of someone who is trying to please as many people as s/he can, and trying to offend as few people as possible. In short, someone who is playing like they're trying to win a competition, or perhaps record something for posterity, which to me is boring. It's like they try to convey the universal by communicating on a universal level--making broad statements and platitudes that everyone can agree on. I'm more interested in someone who communicates something personal which then becomes universal through shared recognition.

And as for the other thing, um, yes. Probably best kept private.
Posted by: vers la flan

Re: Philosophy of performance - Cliburn vs. Richter - 03/30/11 03:22 AM

Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Hmm, I think Richter just started performing with a score because he said if you were to be absolutely true to the composer you should play with a score; it's impossible to memorize every single detail, and a score gives you the details right there. According to him, it's more honest that way.


When Richter played with a score, though, he sounded like he was reading - he lost his impulsiveness and fiery temperament. I listened to a Prokofiev Second Sonata from his Vienna recital that was drained of any kind of life. He was much more true to the music when he wasn't reading.

Personally, though, I'm much better with a score in front of me.


Actually, Richter himself conceded the point. To quote (from S. R. Notebooks and Conversations):

Quote:
True, it's not as easy to retain the same degree of freedom with a score open in front of you — it doesn't work straight away and requires a lot of practice — but now that I've got used to it, I find that it has lots of advantages.


He then goes on for a while talking about the advantages, which some people have already touched on (fidelity to the score, security, breadth of repertoire, etc.).