Friday, October 10, 2014

Competition Holds Us Back - Especially the Winners

Winning a competition is just that: being judged better than the other competitors.  It has nothing to do with mastering the art or reaching the fullness of one's potential.  (How is one to accomplish that before the tender age of 25 or 30, the usual cutoff ages for prominent piano competitions?)

Having won the competition is a guarantee of some sort of livelihood.  But what sort?  In our media-dominated climate it means more of the same, thank you.  And don't by any means suddenly discover something new and unlikely.

Whether or not I enjoy someone's playing is completely separate from my admiration for anyone sticking her or his neck out and trying something new: new repertoire, new performance outfits, new venues.

But we are at an ironic time where sticking one's neck out may have to do with deciding to focus on repertoire that has become so stultified that no one knows anymore how great it is:  Mozart sonatas, Schubert sonatas, Brahms pieces, Beethoven sonatas, even Fuer Elise, one of the most perfect compositions ever written.