Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Memory good and bad

Having quit "serious" piano study at 15, not to resume it until 22 (and even then with physical limitations that precluded immersion in the big repertoire) there were many years during which conventional piano instruction involves learning the standard repertoire, including sonatas by Beethoven and Schubert, and works by Chopin, Schumann, and Brahms.  These years imprint the repertoire on the ear and muscle memory in such a way as to make them easy to recall later in life.

Too easy.  When I have revisited the classics I learned before quitting I find it very difficult to approach the works afresh, without the prejudices of premature exposure.

I think it is wrong to have young people play masterworks before they possess the ear to discern content on their own terms.  Going through the motions--playing Beethoven sonatas because, like Himalayas, they are there to be climbed--does great disservice to the works and to the student.