“For me there was something touching about seeing a great pianist play a Bach prelude and fugue using the score. Every wondrous element of this complex music is right on the page. It looks almost as beautiful as it sounds.”*
The issue of memorizing has surfaced on a few blogs this week. It’s always an issue. Memory is required for exams, festivals, and competitions. A necessary skill for any pianist who is going to play beyond the living room and the studio.
Things I’ve stressed in the studio this week:
- Some things can’t be taken for granted. Tell the the student to close the music. And put it anywhere but on the music rack. “Not looking” at the score in front of the face doesn’t cut it.
- Close your eyes. All of a sudden, other senses become more important.
- Recite – from memory – the fingering in each hand. This will solidify things. Got this one from current pedagogical composer Christopher Norton who thought he was doing pretty good until his teacher demanded this.
But there have been murmurings and questions about the whole thing. A few posts on the topic of memory surfaced in the last few weeks:
- Is the stranglehold on performance from memory loosening? Read NY Times music critic Anthony Tommasini’s article – he gives some background on the convention (like why it used to be considered the height of arrogance to play a Chopin ballade from memory), as he questions the whole practice of public solo performances with no score.
- In light of that article, Wendy Stevens at ComposeCreate makes the shocking admission that she does not require all her students to memorize something for every performance. Read her thoughts here.
- Gail Fischler at Piano Addict poses her student’s question: “What’s up with this memory thing?” Reasons to memorize, and when it’s okay not to.
*Quote from Tommasini’s article.
Image: via The Music Point
- Classical music: Should soloists perform using a score or not? Which is more liberating for the performer, for the audience and especially for the music? (welltempered.wordpress.com)
- Musings on memory (ladonasmusicstudio.com)