Monday, November 26, 2012

Giving the Feeling vs. Getting it Right

When I play a Schubert sonata I am no longer concerned about whether or not I'm doing it right.

It has taken a long time to be confident of the content of these works as, judging from the going versions of them heard in concert and on recording, they are large, rather cumbersome and overly repetitive.

Then I recall that, preparing to tour and later record with Richard Dyer-Bennet his English language version of Die Scoene Muellerin (The Lovely Milleress), I worked not on the songs but on Schubert's larger forms.  Instinctually I knew that the short forms were condensations of the larger structures.   The reverse lesson is just now, over 30 years later, coming into focus.  What took so long, you might ask.

Without text and, when performing in English, subtext that the audience clearly feels, the pianist is left alone to discern boundaries between what can be written down and what must be intuited as the composer's intention.

When I play I want the listener to be persuaded of my total acceptance of lyricism at its most exposed and developed.

Rubinstein was over 80 before he played Schubert in public.  Surely it was not because he doubted his ability to play the notes.

When Dyer-Bennet first asked me to accompany him I was reluctant to get involved.  "Just give it one rehearsal before you decide," he advised.  I felt immediately the depth of unconscious comprehension opened by performance in my native language--depth clearly shared by the audience as was evident after a performance in Savannah, GA, when listeners, as empassioned as if they had been at the movies, debated about who was the real villain in this monodrama:  the river, perhaps?