Sunday, October 17, 2010

I wish it were possible to convince people that the number of notes one plays or the speed with which one plays them are not what make a performer compelling or even minimally interesting.

This past week I heard three ensemble performances, in only one of which the awareness of pitch was evident, indeed compellingly so. One situation was a Master Class in which graduate students at an eminent conservatory were unable to get interested in tone quality; speed was their only selling point. In the second case it was a highly recognized string quartet whose rhythmic coordination was outstanding but whose absence of tone put me literally to sleep in the one work they programmed that demanded tonal involvement. The third was a young opera company with an uneven assortment of voices and talents--when they were good they were very, very good indeed, and their pianist was exemplary. Not famous--just riveting.