Sunday, September 19, 2010

Intensity is something that cannot be pasted onto music, either in composition or in performance. Phony baloney is not hard to spot. (Real baloney--Liberace, for instance--is altogether different: my sophisticated piano teacher from Prague admired his pianism and could laugh more easily than I could when it turned into schlock.)

Many library copies of chamber works at Mannes where I have taught for over 30 years, used to be marked with pencil: "More! More!" What did those coaches want if not pasted on intensity? I would have marked: "Less! Less!" which is to say, do less and listen harder. The tones themselves, if composed with real intensity (a fair enough assumption when the composer is Beethoven or Mozart) inform all the passion required.