New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score.

Posted by: Serge Marinkovic

New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 12/31/12 10:48 PM

http://nyti.ms/WWLwOt
Posted by: DameMyra

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 12/31/12 11:08 PM

Thank you for sharing. I have some very personal feelings about this matter but . . .
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 12/31/12 11:09 PM

Thanks for posting the NYT url to the article.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 12/31/12 11:23 PM

I can't imagine not having a piece memorized to perfection before performing it...
Posted by: Kuanpiano

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 12/31/12 11:26 PM

Originally Posted By: Joel_W
I can't imagine not having a piece memorized to perfection before performing it...

Just wait until you start learning pieces in 2 weeks... no time to build muscle memory at all.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 12/31/12 11:27 PM

Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano
Originally Posted By: Joel_W
I can't imagine not having a piece memorized to perfection before performing it...

Just wait until you start learning pieces in 2 weeks... no time to build muscle memory at all.


What sorts of pieces? And for what might I ask, college performances?
Posted by: Kuanpiano

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 12/31/12 11:29 PM

Yeah, though I'm not a music major. Stuff like Brahms intermezzi, small pieces from large sets (like Le Tombeau de Couperin).

Then there's stuff that's IMPOSSIBLE to memorize - the fugue to Beethoven's op.110?
Posted by: RealPlayer

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 12/31/12 11:37 PM

Gee, ya think? But with my (and my colleagues') focus on contemporary music, it's hard to remember an instance when we DIDN'T have a score in front of us And not just pianists. Yes, the article does mention this "exception" for new music. Hey, I guess we were leading the way!
Posted by: carey

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 03:20 AM

Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano
Then there's stuff that's IMPOSSIBLE to memorize - the fugue to Beethoven's op.110?

Not impossible. I managed to do it - but had to work on it a long time !! smile
Posted by: WhoDwaldi

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 10:34 AM

Years ago, I recall Andre Watts using the score on a Mostly Mozart PBS broadcast for a concerto, a purely magical performance (he only seemed to really need the score in a couple of spots).

Myra Hess gave performances with BOMBS DROPPING during WWII using the score, and sometimes got criticized for it--asinine!

I have noticed a fine young pianist of international note using paper scores or an iPad in some of his YouTube clips of performances. Interesting. http://m.youtube.com/user/edjacoh

I used to be a memory-only snob until I had to play the slow mvt. of Bach's Italian Concerto, which is pure torture from memory.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 12:21 PM

For amateurs like myself, I think many or most would greatly benefit from using the music to avoid (a)the fear/anxiety of memory slips and (b)all the incredible extra time needed to try and memorize a piece well enough to avoid memory slips.

My Christmas program, which I played 10 times at a senior center, was over a 100 pages of music and perhaps as long as 1.5 hours of solo piano(I only played about half of it each time). If I had chosen to try and play from memory it would have been more like 10 pages, I would have been nervous about memory slips, but most importantly I would haven't had the pleasure of playing the other 90 pages of music.

I strongly think that for most amateurs, who are not usually "required" to play from memory, spending all the extra time trying to memorize a piece loses precious time that could be used far more productively and pleasantly.

For professionals, playing from memory is often required although maybe that's changing. My guess is that most professionals don't have much difficulty memorizing a score except for a contemporary piece, but more than an small percent do have anxiety about memory slips.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 01:11 PM

I agree with much that pianoloverus has written. I will also add that, when I have performed recently, I have both used the score and performed from memory.

While I am not an absolute, fanatic adherent about playing from memory, I do find that
- playing a piece from memory because it has, almost unintentionally, been memorized as I have worked on it
- playing a piece from memory that I have made an effort to memorize
are both proofs to me that I can still memorize a piece and play it well from memory - not an insignificant factor as I age. There is, however, the added support and security of having the score on the music stand.

I think that too many feel that someone who is playing the music with the score on the music stand does not know the music as well as s/he should. Some seem to think that the score on the stand means that the performer is reading from the score throughout the performance. For many of us this is simply not the case. As has been mentioned, Richter, in his later years, frequently used the score. I would hardly think that that would be an argument proving that this pianist didn't know the score sufficiently well or was constantly relying on the score as he was playing.

As freeing as some feel playing from memory may be, it is equally liberating to be free of the worry of memory lapses by having the score on the music stand to consult at certain moments during a performance.

To keep whatever grey cells I may have left, I will continue to exercise the mind by memorizing certain pieces, but memorization will never be a prerequisite to performance for me.

Regards,
Posted by: jdhampton924

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 01:20 PM

I believe it is just a choice to make. If one can memorize the scores, it can add a sense of drama and the illusion of conflict. This can be exciting to the audience.

Though the flip side, who says you always need conflict?
Posted by: WhoDwaldi

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 01:29 PM

I have played for Christmas parties where I would do something short, fast, loud, and happy fom standard literature, such as a Scarlatti work or a Mozart sonata movement, before launching into reading innumerable carols and songs.

I alway use the score for playing the opening solo work, even if I can play it fom memory, because you never know when a drunk guest will try to carry on a conversation (with you) while one is playing. smile

And always someone has to tell me about a friend of a friend's nephew who played something that "sounded about like what you just played" at said nephew's Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 12. (Yea, right.) But, of course, nephew didn't "HAVE TO USE the music." (And he's now a brain surgeon.)
Posted by: DonaldLee

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 01:30 PM

Thanks for sharing. I personally will never perform publicly with a score (knock on wood). I guess it's been ingrained in me ever since I was five that a "real pianist" doesn't play with a score. That isn't to say that I have any objections to pianists using a score. However, I will say that memorization has saved me a** in a few situations. The most recent occasion was when I was accompanying my mezzo friend (she was singing "Noel de Jouets" by Ravel, which isn't exactly easy) in a recital at my university, and I went for the page turn before the last two pages, and the score onto the stage. I was able to continue playing without a hitch because I memorize everything I have time to (the more you memorize, the easier it is to memorize). I also feel more at ease playing from memory because I trust my brain more than a page turner or my page turning.
Posted by: Barbareola

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 02:04 PM

So these pianist who play with a score - do they have somebody next to them, turning the page?

And yes, I know that is a question that can only be asked by somebody who hasn't gotten farther yet than playing sheets that can be arranged next to each other, without having to turn the page.... *cheeksreddening*
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 02:14 PM

Originally Posted By: jdhampton924
I believe it is just a choice to make. If one can memorize the scores, it can add a sense of drama and the illusion of conflict. This can be exciting to the audience.

Though the flip side, who says you always need conflict?
Where's the drama and conflict? When one hears a professional recital one usually is not expecting a memory slip. Nor is it considered a monumental task unless it is something like Schiff playing both books of the WTC from memory. Even if one was I don't see how this would any drama and conflict.

If a pianist, amateur or pro, gets lost with a memory problem, it just creates an uncomfortable situation for the audience and an even more uncomfortable situation for the performer.
Posted by: gooddog

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 02:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Barbareola
So these pianist who play with a score - do they have somebody next to them, turning the page?
Oh, yes. I once read an article about a professional page turner who worked for Carnegie Hall.

A few years ago I was asked, just moments before a performance, to turn pages for a Beethoven concerto. I was only marginally familiar with the piece. I must say it was an extremely nerve-wracking experience. I was terrified I would lose my place, make an unfortunate shadow, turn the page too soon or too late or get in the way of the performer!
Posted by: rada

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 02:42 PM

Knowing a piece from memory, for me, is like a blue print on my brain. Reading the music is a developed skill and I believe being able to play away from the printed score is another developed skill which seems to imply a deeper understanding of the music. I never force my students to memorize but I do believe having a library of music in my memory is intriguing to myself and usually more so to the listener. I've always heard we only use a small portion of our brains so I like to challenge mine as much as possible. I have a closet fulls of books much too difficult to tote around.

rada
Posted by: jdhampton924

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 03:25 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: jdhampton924
I believe it is just a choice to make. If one can memorize the scores, it can add a sense of drama and the illusion of conflict. This can be exciting to the audience.

Though the flip side, who says you always need conflict?
Where's the drama and conflict? When one hears a professional recital one usually is not expecting a memory slip. Nor is it considered a monumental task unless it is something like Schiff playing both books of the WTC from memory. Even if one was I don't see how this would any drama and conflict.

If a pianist, amateur or pro, gets lost with a memory problem, it just creates an uncomfortable situation for the audience and an even more uncomfortable situation for the performer.


I am going to have to disagree, in a lot of ways, it is like walking a tight rope. As an audience member, we know that more then likely nothing bad is going to happen, but it might, and that is exciting. It is a little bit of Schadenfreude, also it is a bit of wanting to see the artist conquer the physical aspects of playing.

I am not trying to say that is what people always want to see, but it is part of it.
Posted by: Ragdoll

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 03:40 PM

Quote:
There is, however, the added support and security of having the score on the music stand.

I think that too many feel that someone who is playing the music with the score on the music stand does not know the music as well as s/he should. Some seem to think that the score on the stand means that the performer is reading from the score throughout the performance. For many of us this is simply not the case.


I agree, even after I memorize a song well I still have the music before me (playing for an audience) for my Linus blanket but only look at it if I have a brain freeze fumbling around for a grip. Been there and it's so frustrating and embarrassing blush, Still much the non-confident beginner.
Posted by: spanishbuddha

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 03:43 PM

I attended a concert last year, where a popular modern day composer and pianist played his own compositions. I was surprised to see him using the score for a couple of the pieces.
Posted by: RonaldSteinway

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 03:45 PM

I just wonder people in this forum, how many percent is muscle memory.
For me, I remember the flow of the music, but I have to say 90% is muscle memory.
I keep practicing until I SUDDENLY can play without music. I have never really tried to remember.
I think it is not wise, but now I never need to play by heart like when I was teenager.
Love to hear from others....
Posted by: WhoDwaldi

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 03:50 PM

Aren't many recordings made using the score, and the listener is none the wiser?

There is a story about John Rubinstein turning pages for his father's Chopin Mazurkas recording (and screwing up).

I seem to remember a documentary where Horowitz used the score for a recording of Mozart K. 488.
Posted by: WhoDwaldi

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 04:02 PM

Study of form, structure, harmony is supposed to help, but I would agree that for most people it is more muscle memory than they would care to admit.

But, there are people who can write out every note of a Bach prelude and fugue that they are playing, for example, such is their knowledge of the score.
Posted by: DonaldLee

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 04:08 PM

Instead of writing the notes out, sometimes I play a piece so dreadfully slow that I have time to say the name of the note/chord that comes next out loud before I actually play it. It helps to avoid memory slips.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 05:04 PM

Until I bought my own piano two years ago, I only had about ten minutes' worth of music stored in my memory. But I found it so much more enjoyable to be able to play music without recourse to the score that I've been adding bit by it to my memorized repertoire ever since. It just feels great to be able to play any one of several pieces (rather than half-remembered bits of classics interspersed with rubbishy linking improvisations....) whenever I happen to come across a piano, anywhere, anytime.

I'd say that 95% of my playing from memory is down to muscle memory; the rest is remembering where the modulations are (and into which key) and the basic harmonic structure, but that's sufficient to get me out of pickles (coupled with improvisations) if my muscle memory fails. But still, there is a lot, lot more music that I've learnt to play, but with the music in front of me.......
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 05:29 PM

Originally Posted By: jdhampton924
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: jdhampton924
I believe it is just a choice to make. If one can memorize the scores, it can add a sense of drama and the illusion of conflict. This can be exciting to the audience.

Though the flip side, who says you always need conflict?
Where's the drama and conflict? When one hears a professional recital one usually is not expecting a memory slip. Nor is it considered a monumental task unless it is something like Schiff playing both books of the WTC from memory. Even if one was I don't see how this would any drama and conflict.

If a pianist, amateur or pro, gets lost with a memory problem, it just creates an uncomfortable situation for the audience and an even more uncomfortable situation for the performer.


I am going to have to disagree, in a lot of ways, it is like walking a tight rope. As an audience member, we know that more then likely nothing bad is going to happen, but it might, and that is exciting. It is a little bit of Schadenfreude, also it is a bit of wanting to see the artist conquer the physical aspects of playing.

I am not trying to say that is what people always want to see, but it is part of it.
I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks this way although, obviously, at least one person does. I have gone to hundreds of concerts and never gave this one second thought, and it seems a quite bizarre of thinking a concert experience even if it's only a tiny thought in the back of one's mind. Kind of like going to play and thinking about whether the actors will remember their lines.

A parent going to their child's performance might be nervous or anxious about their child's memory failing but calling this a sense or drama or illusion of conflict seems like a wrong choice of words. Same thing with calling this exciting.
Posted by: asthecrowflies

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 05:46 PM

When I saw Stephen Hough last year, he played his own Sonata (broken branches) with his score (though he didn't for his Liszt, Scriabin and Beethoven).
Posted by: bennevis

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 06:01 PM

Originally Posted By: asthecrowflies
When I saw Stephen Hough last year, he played his own Sonata (broken branches) with his score (though he didn't for his Liszt, Scriabin and Beethoven).


He said in an interview he wanted to show the audience that he was playing a properly composed piece of music, not an improvisation. It is probably a general expectation that pianists play contemporary music (or atonal music apart from Berg's Sonata, though I saw Hélène Grimaud play it from the music too....) from the score. Even Pollini plays Stockhausen and Nono (though not Schoenberg or Webern) with the music in front of him.
Posted by: jdw

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/01/13 09:23 PM

Here's a problem that maybe only an amateur would have. Am I the only person who can make an error from memory lapse even when performing with the score? I forgot to look at it and almost got myself into a repeating loop, thinking that I knew where the piece was going. I tend to have things mostly in memory but can fall between the two stools.

Anyway, I agree with the article that the musical (audible) result is what counts. I think playing from memory has become something of a fetish in musical training. One can see it not only in the high-powered conservatories, but even at modest levels. My daughter had just a couple of years of piano lessons, but her teacher insisted on memorization--very much at the expense of sightreading skills, I think.
Posted by: jdhampton924

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/02/13 01:50 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: jdhampton924
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: jdhampton924
I believe it is just a choice to make. If one can memorize the scores, it can add a sense of drama and the illusion of conflict. This can be exciting to the audience.

Though the flip side, who says you always need conflict?
Where's the drama and conflict? When one hears a professional recital one usually is not expecting a memory slip. Nor is it considered a monumental task unless it is something like Schiff playing both books of the WTC from memory. Even if one was I don't see how this would any drama and conflict.

If a pianist, amateur or pro, gets lost with a memory problem, it just creates an uncomfortable situation for the audience and an even more uncomfortable situation for the performer.


I am going to have to disagree, in a lot of ways, it is like walking a tight rope. As an audience member, we know that more then likely nothing bad is going to happen, but it might, and that is exciting. It is a little bit of Schadenfreude, also it is a bit of wanting to see the artist conquer the physical aspects of playing.

I am not trying to say that is what people always want to see, but it is part of it.
I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks this way although, obviously, at least one person does. I have gone to hundreds of concerts and never gave this one second thought, and it seems a quite bizarre of thinking a concert experience even if it's only a tiny thought in the back of one's mind. Kind of like going to play and thinking about whether the actors will remember their lines.

A parent going to their child's performance might be nervous or anxious about their child's memory failing but calling this a sense or drama or illusion of conflict seems like a wrong choice of words. Same thing with calling this exciting.


Well, obviously, I am not talking about a children's performance, but performance of professionals. Though, wouldn't surprise me to have parents out there, wanting other children to screw up, and feel their child is better. I don't feel that it is a wrong choice of words at all. I do feel we have differing view points on this, and I totally respect where you are coming from.

Though I also feel, it is not something outwardly spoken of, do you know many people who would? Of course not, that would make people just look petty.
Posted by: Aldous

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/02/13 03:38 PM

Originally Posted By: Joel_W
I can't imagine not having a piece memorized to perfection before performing it...


Wait until master classes in a conservatory. Not the ones where you play for visiting artists with works that you've prepared solidly, but the master class with your teacher and the other students in his/her studio, intended for gaining performance familiarity with the major works. Not much prep time and memorizing is almost out of the question. How about a week for the "Dante Sonata" or the first movement of the Beethoven Fourth Concerto?
Posted by: wr

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 06:15 AM

Originally Posted By: jdw
Here's a problem that maybe only an amateur would have. Am I the only person who can make an error from memory lapse even when performing with the score? I forgot to look at it and almost got myself into a repeating loop, thinking that I knew where the piece was going. I tend to have things mostly in memory but can fall between the two stools.



A local music school puts on an annual piano marathon, where most of the piano teaching staff play at least one piece, but usually two or three. Some use the score at times, and I've noticed that even with the score, it is possible for them to falter and get "lost" It seems very much like a memory lapse, but how can that be if you're not performing from memory? I am guessing it's the result of nerves.

At any rate, these are music professionals and not amateurs (even if some concertize and others don't).
Posted by: bennevis

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 08:01 AM

Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: jdw
Here's a problem that maybe only an amateur would have. Am I the only person who can make an error from memory lapse even when performing with the score? I forgot to look at it and almost got myself into a repeating loop, thinking that I knew where the piece was going. I tend to have things mostly in memory but can fall between the two stools.



A local music school puts on an annual piano marathon, where most of the piano teaching staff play at least one piece, but usually two or three. Some use the score at times, and I've noticed that even with the score, it is possible for them to falter and get "lost" It seems very much like a memory lapse, but how can that be if you're not performing from memory? I am guessing it's the result of nerves.

At any rate, these are music professionals and not amateurs (even if some concertize and others don't).



Personally, when I'm playing from the score, I can just as easily get lost as when playing from memory, because unless I'm sight-reading, I'm not looking at the score all the time. I might look at the keyboard for a second or two when I have to make a few big leaps, then look back at the score, by which time I'm several bars ahead of where I last looked, then get disorientated when my hands (now playing from muscle memory) aren't playing the music my eyes are seeing, and have to start searching for the right spot while continuing to play automatically...

Of course, if I play music that has no big leaps, I could just keep my eyes on the score all the time, but very little of the music I enjoy playing is of this nature. Another solution is to rehearse exactly when I'll look away from the score and when I'll look back again, and write an asterisk to remind me where on the score I need to resume from. Which, for music I enjoy playing, sounds like just as much hard work as memorizing the music completely, and with rather less gains.

Which is why these days, if I do decide I'm going to learn a piece properly (as opposed to 'half-learn' it sufficiently to play from the score with the odd hiccup), I end up memorizing it.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 09:04 AM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
Personally, when I'm playing from the score, I can just as easily get lost as when playing from memory, because unless I'm sight-reading, I'm not looking at the score all the time. I might look at the keyboard for a second or two when I have to make a few big leaps, then look back at the score, by which time I'm several bars ahead of where I last looked, then get disorientated when my hands (now playing from muscle memory) aren't playing the music my eyes are seeing, and have to start searching for the right spot while continuing to play automatically...

Of course, if I play music that has no big leaps, I could just keep my eyes on the score all the time, but very little of the music I enjoy playing is of this nature. Another solution is to rehearse exactly when I'll look away from the score and when I'll look back again, and write an asterisk to remind me where on the score I need to resume from. Which, for music I enjoy playing, sounds like just as much hard work as memorizing the music completely, and with rather less gains.

Which is why these days, if I do decide I'm going to learn a piece properly (as opposed to 'half-learn' it sufficiently to play from the score with the odd hiccup), I end up memorizing it.
Part of learning to play with a score is learning to move your eyes to the keyboard and back to the score without losing your place. I think this is a learned skill like sight reading or any other skill at the piano. Also, if one practices playing a particular piece from the score one gets more familiar with where to look at that particular score.
Posted by: Forstergirl

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 03:26 PM

I have believed the argument that states that a piece can be developed more fully musically once it is memorized - has to do with not being distracted by the black dots on the page - you start "really hearing" your playing and can respond.

No? Comments? This very much amateur player is breathless!
Posted by: BruceD

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 03:45 PM

I would take gentle exception - gentle, because, perhaps he was applying the comment only to himself - to bennevis' implication that playing from the score means that a work is not 'properly' but only 'half-learned.'

To those who get lost when playing from the score, I say that you have to train yourself to knowing where you are in the score at all times, even when not reading from it. If there are particular spots where you always have to look at the score, post an adhesive (later, removable) colored dot at the trouble spot if you have trouble finding your place on the score.

To avoid awkward page turns I will often use a second copy of a work and read from the bottom of the page of copy 1 to wherever the next measure is in copy 2 - most cases, they are not the same editions of the work - until I get to a spot on copy 2 where I can turn the page back to copy 1. Then, I will have a bright green dot placed on the spot where I need to resume reading from copy 1. It may sound more complex than it is, but it sure helps avoid turning pages at awkward and/or impractical moments.

Regards,
Posted by: bennevis

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 04:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Forstergirl
I have believed the argument that states that a piece can be developed more fully musically once it is memorized - has to do with not being distracted by the black dots on the page - you start "really hearing" your playing and can respond.

No? Comments? This very much amateur player is breathless!


I wouldn't have agreed with that statement until three years ago when, for various reasons (mainly to do with learning more complicated pieces than I'd ever attempted before, because I'd finally acquired my own piano), I started to memorize pieces that I decided I wanted to keep in my repertoire indefinitely. That's when I found that I could play with more freedom and more spontaneity, and experiment with different coloristic effects the pieces I had memorized, which I couldn't do playing music I needed to use the score for. The very act of reading from the score stifled my (re)creative juices, maybe because constantly associating the notes on the page with a certain action with my hands made it more of a repetitive exercise than a recreative one.

Since then, I've been adding more and more pieces to my long-term memory....
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 04:08 PM

Originally Posted By: Forstergirl
I have believed the argument that states that a piece can be developed more fully musically once it is memorized - has to do with not being distracted by the black dots on the page - you start "really hearing" your playing and can respond.

No? Comments? This very much amateur player is breathless!
But for starters this assumes one can memorize a piece and not have any nervousness about memory slips. If that was the case then the only downside of memorizing would be the additional time it takes and what you say might be a possible advantage. For most amateurs, even those who have no nervousness about memory slips, I think this downside of extra time far outweighs any freedom of musical expression some pianists might have when playing without the score.

The difficulty with your idea is that for many the negative effects of nervousness about a memory lapse far outweigh any possible advantages of not being distracted by black dots.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 04:40 PM

Originally Posted By: BruceD
I would take gentle exception - gentle, because, perhaps he was applying the comment only to himself - to bennevis' implication that playing from the score means that a work is not 'properly' but only 'half-learned.'

To those who get lost when playing from the score, I say that you have to train yourself to knowing where you are in the score at all times, even when not reading from it. If there are particular spots where you always have to look at the score, post an adhesive (later, removable) colored dot at the trouble spot if you have trouble finding your place on the score.

To avoid awkward page turns I will often use a second copy of a work and read from the bottom of the page of copy 1 to wherever the next measure is in copy 2 - most cases, they are not the same editions of the work - until I get to a spot on copy 2 where I can turn the page back to copy 1. Then, I will have a bright green dot placed on the spot where I need to resume reading from copy 1. It may sound more complex than it is, but it sure helps avoid turning pages at awkward and/or impractical moments.

Regards,


May I hasten to correct any implication from my earlier post that a piece is only 'half-learnt' if it cannot be played from memory. That applies purely to me, for pieces that I didn't care enough for to want to keep in my long-term repertoire - I'd then learn it well enough to play all the notes fluently, but with unavoidable hiccups during awkward page turns. (Before I embarked on my 'memorising spree', I'd spend time photocopying pages to avoid tricky page turns, sticking pages together with Sellotape etc; if necessary - and only as a last resort - memorizing a whole section to make it to an easier page-turning part of the music; or even buying a different edition that has a more 'page-turning friendly' layout of the music.)
When I was having lessons, of course my teacher would turn the pages for me, but these days I find I'm even practising 'built-in' missed notes from one hand, or pauses, just to turn pages....... grin cry ...since I don't ever get a chance to play from the score with someone doing the work for me.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 05:00 PM

With careful practice and decisions about where to turn a page, occasionally printing out of an extra measure and pasting at the bottom of the score, or even occasionally memorizing a few measures, I have found that it is possible to turn one's own pages without leaving out any notes or causing any hesitation/tempo change.
Posted by: Overexposed

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 06:28 PM

deleted due to post was in poor taste.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 06:44 PM

Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky


As far as the memorization issue goes, I say just play music! Performing only from memory seems to be a bit of musical masturbation. The focus is self pleasuring instead of pleasing the audience. (Ah, I am so smart and marvelous and light years more advanced than the pathetic amateurs who use sheet music.)


I sooooo agree. That just about covers every concert pianist of any repute, from Rachmaninoff and Horowitz to Michelangeli to Van Cliburn to Yuja Wang and Daniil Trifonov. Musical masturbators all! wink
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 07:05 PM

Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky

As far as the memorization issue goes, I say just play music! Performing only from memory seems to be a bit of musical masturbation. The focus is self pleasuring instead of pleasing the audience. (Ah, I am so smart and marvelous and light years more advanced than the pathetic amateurs who use sheet music.)
Although I have recommended that amateurs use music if they wish(either to avoid nervousness about memory problems or to better spend the time involved in memorizing on other musical endeavors)I strongly disagree with this statement. For a long time it's simply been a requirement of professional performers to play from memory so these pianists had little choice in the matter from the time they began playing. In fact, I think it's almost inconceivable that professionals think about playing from memory in this way. I don't think many in the audience are thinking how impressive it is that the pianist is playing from memory. Anyone who has reached a reasonable level knows that for the most part memorizing is not so difficult, although not getting nervous about memory problems may not be so easy.

Some professionals may make performing into an ego trip, but I don't think the memory part is any part of this.
Posted by: Overexposed

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 07:09 PM

deleted because post was in poor taste for an international forum.

Posted by: Overexposed

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 07:21 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Anyone who has reached a reasonable level knows that for the most part memorizing is not so difficult


I would not agree with this.

Getting pieces to performance level takes work. Memorizing takes more work. And requiring memorization for performance means that a pianist has a very limited performance repertoire in any given year.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 07:48 PM

Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Anyone who has reached a reasonable level knows that for the most part memorizing is not so difficult


I would not agree with this.

Getting pieces to performance level takes work. Memorizing takes more work. And requiring memorization for performance means that a pianist has a very limited performance repertoire in any given year.
I agree that it takes more time if one has to memorize a work well enough to be secure but that was not at all the point I was making.

You said that those who play from memory are doing it as an ego trip to show they're better than amateurs who may not memorize as frequently. The only time I would be impressed or give the memorization part of a performance even the slightest thought would be if the program was particularly difficult in that area (like Schiff's recent performance of both books of the WTC). I think most in the audience with the possible exception of some of the non pianists think this way. In fact, I think the majority of pianists find memorizing a piece quite easy and only have to spend more time in this area because of the pressure of performing.

I find it inconceivable that the memory part of a recital is an ego trip for the performer.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 07:49 PM

Quote:
As far as the memorization issue goes, I say just play music! Performing only from memory seems to be a bit of musical masturbation. The focus is self pleasuring instead of pleasing the audience. (Ah, I am so smart and marvelous and light years more advanced than the pathetic amateurs who use sheet music.)


Way off.

Why does playing from memory suddenly equate to some condescending personality? Nobody ever thinks "you silly peons and your sheet music". People who play from memory just prefer playing without the score. It's as simple as that. I don't understand why you are saying such things. All signs point to jealousy if you ask me. Instead of getting emotional and taking it out on others with said ability, keep practicing and get better at it.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 08:14 PM

Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky


No, seriously, I've just seen too many college student performances where the poor soul could be helped out of their misery by using sheet music.

Why not stop the misery? I see no need to demand that music on the stage be memorized.

I'm tired of the snobbery I've seen. Playing for folks in a concert hall is the be all end all. And all other performing in the community (for the very same people by the way) means you're a nobody. Since most people don't make it to the concert halls (or stay for long), they end up being one more soul who used to perform.



Why do (some) teachers think that performing in public is the ultimate goal for a pianist? And why is a pianist who doesn't do so a 'nobody'?
If anyone is serious about becoming a concert pianist, they would have no problems accumulating - and keeping - a large amount of repertoire in their memory. If they did, surely they would have realized (or their teacher should have told them, if he/she was any good) that a concert pianist's life wasn't on the cards for them. There are lots of other ways to perform without being a soloist: as lieder accompanist or chamber musician for example, or repetiteur; none of which requires playing from memory.

I never thought of becoming a concert pianist; if any of my teachers insisted that I had to perform in public - with or without music - I'd change teachers. But if a student entered a music college where the requirements for graduation include a solo concert playing from memory, then they only have themselves to blame for their 'misery' if playing without the score made them miserable.

If a pianist isn't born to be a performer, being able to play from the music isn't going to change it.


Posted by: Overexposed

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/03/13 08:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Joel_W
People who play from memory just prefer playing without the score. It's as simple as that. I don't understand why you are saying such things.


I don't think anyone has been told not to play from memory. But plenty have been told not to play using the score.

I'm simply saying I don't agree with the attitude that performances must be played from memory.

As to why I said "such things"...it just popped into my mind and I thought it was funny. But I can see my sense of humor bombed in this corner. (Creeps back to teacher forum.)

Edit: I deleted some of my previous posts. What seemed hilarious last night, I found to be in poor taste this morning.
Posted by: murrayb1893

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/04/13 06:02 PM

I don't think there is anything wrong with professionals using music. However, doing a full work from memory is more entertaining and thus more marketable.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/04/13 07:23 PM

Originally Posted By: murrayb1893
I don't think there is anything wrong with professionals using music. However, doing a full work from memory is more entertaining and thus more marketable.
For me, how entertaining a performance is has nothing to do with whether the score is used. And, of course with very rare exceptions all orchestral and chamber works are performed with he score.
Posted by: argerichfan

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/04/13 11:52 PM

Interesting thread, though so far I have only lurked. Rather than quoting posts which I either agree or disagree with, I'll just put out my feelings.

I don't attend many solo or orchestral concerts. (Chamber, choral, organ and opera are generally more of interest.) Being busy with a full time job, a concert has to either feature a performer I'm anxious to see live, or repertoire which is sufficiently out of the mainstream or dear to my heart. (I cannot see myself going to the symphony and hearing the Schumann concerto followed by a Brahms symphony.)

But when I do attend a recital or featured concerto, I expect the performer to play for memory. Part of the concert experience for me is the visual aspect, and I find page turners distracting. I do not feel I got my money's worth. What is the point of going to a piano recital wherein the Beethoven Op 81a or the Liszt B minor is played with music? Any major concert pianist can do those for memory, so why watch some silly pretender using the music?

(No concert pianist myself, but at uni I always played everything for memory, including the Beethoven Op 53 and Schumann Op 13.)

Exceptions of course. Stephen Hough used the music for a complicated Kenneth Leighton piece (btw, he turned his own pages), and I didn't have a problem with that.

(Another exception: Richter. He played with music at the end of his life, but his Olympian status was another matter. Alas, I am too young to have heard him live.)

Concertos are designed to showcase the soloist, and to me it is particularly disconcerting to watch a page turner hovering nearby. Yet twice I attended concerts wherein the concertos were not played for memory. Neither concerto (Busoni and Reger) is in Elliott Carter territory, so why weren't they memorized? A frustrating experience to watch, as both of those concertos are superbly conceived for the star of the show.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/05/13 04:15 AM

We can broaden our discussion to singers and actors. Who would go to an opera where the diva was holding music in her hands while singing her last in La Traviata? Or reading from the auto cue? Or go to a Shakespeare play where the actor intoned ''To read or not to read, that is the question" while clutching his script? But we easily accept the solo singers in oratorios and cantatas (but not in Lieder recitals) singing from the music, just as we accept chamber musicians - string quartets etc - playing from the score. Because no single musician is the star of the show, whereas in a song recital, the singer clearly is. So, his accompanist can (and is expected to) use music.

Going back into history, Liszt started the tradition of the solo piano recital, where the pianist is the star, and so the piano is placed sideways on to the audience so that they can see his flashing hands and fingers as well as admire his noble profile wink . Naturally, playing from memory followed - why have the distraction of a page-turner getting up from his seat every minute?

In other words, the whole package of the solo piano recital includes playing from memory. Something an aspiring young pianist should ponder when deciding on his future aspirations.

Incidentally, more and more conductors are conducting from memory - complete Mahler symphonies and all......
Posted by: wr

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/05/13 05:56 AM

I don't think that memorization is, nor should it be, a one-size-fits all proposition. Every pianist is different, and in regards to memorization there are all sorts of variables. Although the accepted standard for solo recitals is that most standard repertoire will be memorized, if a pianist's music-making is compelling, I could care less if they use the score or not.

I've seen a good number of concert mishaps relating to memory by wonderful pianists, and there's not a single time that I would have preferred the mishap to hearing them play the same music using a score. To me, it's high time some excellent pianist arrives on the scene who always uses the score for everything, right from the beginning of their career. That would put the kabosh on the notion that memorization is crucial.

And too, why is it more acceptable for a solo instrumentalist other than a pianist to use the score in their recitals, which seems to be the case? They don't have nearly as many notes to deal with as a pianist.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/05/13 06:26 AM

If one goes to a piano recital with all or mostly contemporary music, chances are the pianist will play the recital with the score.

As far as the idea that a soloist in recital or concerto is the "star" and must look like a star by playing without the music, I think that is mostly tradition. If one heard Stern, Rose, and Istomin playing trios(all with the music) there are still three star performers on the stage so its mostly the performers and their performances that make stars.

Would Peter Serkin or Aimard playing a contemporary recital with music, Richter playing a recital with the music, or one of the great pianists of the 19th century performing before playing from memory before this became standard be considered any less of a star by most in the audience because they used the music?

I do agree that the visual aspect is important but I think it's of relatively minor importance compared to the musical composition and what the pianist does with music. Personally I do prefer to hear a recital without the pianist using the score but it's not the most important aspect. I also think if the pianists used Airturn when they played with the music, they could remove any distraction caused by a page turner.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/05/13 06:38 AM

Originally Posted By: wr


And too, why is it more acceptable for a solo instrumentalist other than a pianist to use the score in their recitals, which seems to be the case? They don't have nearly as many notes to deal with as a pianist.




Solo instrumentalists playing concertos don't use the score in performance - whether string, woodwind or brass. Maybe percussion (but that's often because they play contemporary music).

But they tend to do so when playing with piano accompaniment, because I suppose it's chamber music then. However, when a violinist (or cellist) plays all by himself (Bach, Ysaÿe, Britten etc), they often play without a score.

And singers rarely ever use a score in song recitals.

I've been to a few piano recitals where the pianist used the score in one or two pieces - Pollini in Stockhausen, Grimaud in Berg - but not in the rest of their program. For me, it was the page-turner getting up every so often that was distracting, rather than the actual reading from the music itself. Pollini managed without one by sticking several pages together, and it seemed perfectly natural. (The music - Klavierstück IX among others - made perfect sense when played from the music..... grin)
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: New York Times Article on Pianists playing with a score. - 01/05/13 06:38 AM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
We can broaden our discussion to singers and actors. Who would go to an opera where the diva was holding music in her hands while singing her last in La Traviata?
Opera is at least somewhat different because there is acting and a dramatic production happening on stage so holding a score would interfere with the drama.