Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fear in Performing

Speaking recently with a mature musician who is preparing an important recital I couldn't miss the recurrent word "fear."

Fear of memory slips is easy to take care of: Play with the score.  What is the big deal?  Organists do it all the time; so did Myra Hess.  It is not a defeat to use the music.

But he expressed another, more subtle fear:  The shock of hearing a sound different from the sound to which he is accustomed.  We do not realize how specific the sound of every piano is--most especially the piano on which we practice every day, which identifies "piano" to our touch and to our ear.

It took me decades to realize that this fear can be addressed very simply: Treat the performance instrument as the "piano du jour" and touch no other instrument that day.  No matter how nervous you are this will provide a level of confidence in reacting to the sound and touch in a wonderful exploratory frame of mind and body without the shock of foreign sounds inevitably resulting from business as usual followed by a performance somewhere strange..