"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, classissima, classissima.com, Elaine Comparone, Harpsichord.org, how to improve memorization at the piano, Irina Gorin, piano, piano addict.com, Seymour Bernstein, Uncategorized

The Haydn Piano Sonata in C, UNPINNED, and matters of Memorization

Well, it’s still not memorized yet, but the clips and staples mounted far too high on the rack, have been undone. I no longer need a giraffe’s neck to play through the sonata’s many first movement pages. The music has descended to eye-level.

Incidentally, my feeble excuse for using music was my relatively recent exposure to this work–It would take a while to absorb it minus an unreliable cut and paste exhibit.

And this brings up the subject of memorization, and whether it advances a composition’s performance. Many would attest that owning this masterwork without reliance on the score, would free the spirit and soul?

Or maybe not?

Here’s feedback from a few well-known music teachers/performers:

Irina Gorin: (creator, Tales of a Musical Journey, Books I and II–her own unique approach to teaching piano to beginners and on)

“For me performance with music looks a lot like practicing. I’m used to performing by memory, and I require from all my students that they perform from memory, unless there are some really big problems. But, so far, in 30 years of teaching, every single student of mine was able to perform from memory. There are tons of articles written about memorization and different tricks to help with that. I don’t think I have anything new to say.”

I interjected that Sviatoslav Richter, the great Russian virtuoso, often performed in public with music as exemplified in these videos:

Haydn Piano Concerto in D, movement 1


Handel Suite in D Minor

If I close my eyes, I enjoy these readings, without any distraction of watching the artist’s eyes glued to the score. And what difference should this detail of production make? It was Richter’s philosophy, in any case, that he “played for himself and not the audience.” His personal pleasure was transmitted outward.

To which Gorin responded:

“Richter had music only in a few very last years of performing, and he was over 70 years old. His late performances were not his best. Also, there are different types of performances” formal and informal. I would not mind sheet music if played for a circle of friends or home video, but the big stage is a different story. IMO :)”

Not to be argumentative, but pianists are put to a higher standard in this realm than instrumentalists such as flautists and clarinetists. The latter routinely march onto the stage with the music and no one much cares.

Certainly music critics, on pedestals of power, don’t specifically fault a performer for playing with the score.

A well-reviewed pianist, Leon Fleisher, played Book I of the Well Tempered Clavier with music propped on the rack at the Fresno Keyboard Concerts Series.

Would he have played better without the page turner peering over his shoulder? In some instances, the answer might be a resounding, yes!

I watched an awkward page turner push an Urtext album into accompanist, Martin Katz’s lap in Carnegie Hall. The soloist was either Milstein, violinist, or Shafrin Cellist. Ironically, MY MEMORY FAILS ME! Yet I do recall Katz carrying on gloriously without music to the final cadence. (A good example of MEMORY having come to his rescue!)

Seymour Bernstein explored this very subject in his popular book, With Your Own Two Hands, Chapter 10

Sub-heading, “Why Memorize?”

“There is something very important to be gained from memorization that many musicians themselves may not be aware of. Apart from freeing a performer in musical and technical ways, memorization, per se, despite current opinion to the contrary, actually sharpens the mind.” (He quotes, by analogy, students of ancient Greece who had to memorize all their texts and recitations as a key to mastery in public speaking AND to hone their minds)

Back to the piano: “Some performers are distracted by any visual contact with notation, and therefore prefer to play without a score. Better to risk forgetting, they feel, than do anything that might interfere with their involvement in the music. Other musicians have a complete sense of freedom only when the score is before them.”

Bernstein went on to discuss recording sessions, where he asserts, the decision whether to use music or not, resides with the recording company. He cites a case in point:

“I had been invited to record a recital for the BBC and was somewhat surprised to find in my contract, a stipulation that a page turner be present in the studio. The reason, of course, was that the BBC quite simply did not want to waste more time than was necessary with retakes owing to memory slips.”

In tune with Bernstein’s reflections, I noted a videotaped recording session memorialized on You Tube where Vladimir Horowitz has the mandatory page turner sitting beside him at a reading of Mozart’s Concerto No. 23. (Carlo Maria Guilini conducts)

**

Elaine Comparone, renowned harpsichordist, shared her own valuable insights about memorizing: portraitelainecomparone2

“Memorizing is as physical as mental but it’s not at all an intellectual process as such. Once you memorize a composition, then those tools are useful for preparing it for performance– kind of as an adjunct practice tool. But the piece has to take hold of your subconscious as well as your conscious mind via your fingers and your ears.”

This statement dispels myths about over-reliance on the analytic ingredients of score, making one further probe the depths of a memorization process.

***

(As usual, thoughts and ideas are welcomed from the teaching and student community about a controversial area of performing)
See PIANO WORLD.com thread related to this topic:

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2022450/1.html

And on this note, here’s my personal confession about memorization in performance that may ring familiar. It’s in the form of a letter sent to a piano teacher:

“One of the big issues for pianists is the psychological dimension of memorization, and sadly, many teachers equate a student’s inability to memorize with his failure to properly organize or analyze the score according to theoretical and structural content in his protracted learning process. (harmonic rhythm, modulations of course included in this universe)

“But as COMPARONE points out, this type of analysis is not enough.

“I once played a recital, that began without music on the rack.. it was being recorded for airing later on Valley Public Radio. It opened with the rather straightforward first Scene of Childhood, “Of Foreign Lands and People.”

“I knew that piece in my sleep, yet I don’t even know what I played for the first phrase. At that point my music was taken out and put up before me, with my page turner standing by.

“Am I to feel any less of a musician because I play with music? Did this mean that I hadn’t studied my pieces thoroughly, as you know my learning emphasis is ground up, baby-step, layering. (and impart this approach to all my students)

“I gave one of the most inspiring performances of my life at Temple Beth Israel WITH music, and I couldn’t imagine ever having played for two hours without my music.

“I guess I’m writing this because each musician must decide for him/herself what works, and what produces the highest performance standard at any given time that he is capable of.

“So it follows that I refuse to be hard on my students if they cannot play without music. I still say it’s a tradition-bound construct that does not universally apply across the board to ALL musicians. (flautists, violinists, cellists, and the like)

“Recently, I watched violinist, Sarah Chang perform Beethoven sonatas with music, and I enjoyed her performance just the same which affirms my opinions in this universe of discussion.”

***

Pertinent LINKS

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/a-well-known-haydn-piano-sonata-is-pinned/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/memorization-at-the-piano-how-to-improve-your-skills/

IRINA GORIN:
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/irina-gorin-creator-of-tales-of-a-musical-journey-shares-her-thoughts-about-braving-a-new-piano-teaching-universe/

SEYMOUR BERNSTEIN, author, With Your Own Two Hands
with_your_own_two_hands

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/my-nyc-visit-with-seymour-bernstein-pianist-teacher-author-and-composer/


http://www.seymourbernstein.com


ELAINE COMPARONE:

http://www.harpsichord.org

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/a-visit-with-elaine-comparone-at-her-harpsichord-palace-in-new-york-city/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/vibrant-music-making-at-rest-or-at-play/

classissima, classissima.com, Grigori Sokolov is a legendary pianist, Grigori Sokolov pianist, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, piano, Seymour Bernstein pianist, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Sokolov at Theatre des Champs Elysees 2002, word press, word press.com, you tube, you tube.com

The Gold Standard in piano playing (Sokolov IS a legend in his own time)

I was greeted by two e-mails yesterday that bore links to Grigory Sokolov’s digitized recital at the Theatre des Champs Elysee in Paris. (2002) The communication from Seymour Bernstein read as follows:

“Stop whatever you are doing! You are about to hear performances that
certainly must rank among the greatest examples of music making and piano
virtuosity. I would call this recital legendary. Most of us are of two minds
concerning modern technology. But with these performances, all negative
opinions must vanish. We have to be grateful that we are privy to such an
overpowering experience.”
Seymour

A direct You Tube link:

To the second friend who e-mailed me a link to Piano Street’s feature on Sokolov, I wrote back confirmation of playing that sent me into a state of permanent ecstasy.

To a third friend, who happens to be a world-class pianist, I bubbled with unabashed praise raised to a higher, more articulate level.

“Everything about the playing, from every perspective is awesome!

“I’m now listening to the 2-hour recital via you tube, and will no doubt re-watch and re-listen.

“The technical command is drop dead phenomenal.. an extraordinary tonal palette at his easy disposal… the orchestral range, and then a sense of voicing in a chamber music dimension when needed…don’t forget the opera…. This fellow is something else! Phrasing to melt the heart and rouse the passions in us.

“Why have I not been made aware of him to this point?

“Now I’m into finding out MORE! Worth many blogs into the night and the following day.”

***

Impassioned and inspired, I raced to the official website:

http://www.grigory-sokolov.com/

Grigory Sokolov (My emphasis in BOLD)

Grigory Sokolov (born April 18, 1950 in Leningrad)

“In the 40 years since the 16-year-old Grigory Sokolov was awarded first prize at the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1966, the world has been blessed with what one American critic recently called “a kind of pianism, musicianship and artistry one thought had vanished forever”. Championed at a young age by Emil Gilels and a prominent figure on the Russian music scene since his early teens, Sokolov has gained an almost mythical status amongst music-lovers and pianophiles throughout the world. He is considered by many today to be the world’s greatest living pianist. Ever since his first major piano recital in Leningrad at the age of 12, Sokolov has amazed everyone again and again with the enormous breadth of his repertoire and his huge, almost physical musical strength. Using little pedal, and thus superior finger-work, he draws from the concert grand an immense variety of sounds; he has an unlimited palette of colors, a spontaneous imagination and a magical control of line. His interpretations are poetic and highly individual, and his rhythmic freedom and elasticity of phrase are perhaps unequaled among pianists today.

“Those who are used to his art are most particularly attracted by the naturalness of his performing manner, which is part of his artistic credo. His playing betrays no influence from past masters, his style and approach are entirely his own, and are completely unique. Whatever Grigory Sokolov performs, be it a Pavane of William Byrd, a Bach Fantasia, Chopin Mazurka or a Prelude of Ravel, it suddenly sounds completely new. Even a familiar Beethoven Sonata can be rediscovered as a new piece. But all this magic has its earthly roots: Sokolov knows more about a Steinway than many piano technicians, and before he sits down to play a strange instrument, he first examines its inner mechanics, taking it to pieces. He is used to studying for many hours every day, and even on the day of a concert, practices on stage for hours, “getting to know” the piano. That he prefers his CDs to be recorded live is not surprising, since he likes to capture the sacred moments of a real, live concert and avoid the sterile atmosphere of a studio.

“Grigory Sokolov is a regular guest of the most prestigious concert halls and festivals of Europe. He has performed in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Madrid, Salzburg, Munich, Rome, New York, and worked with many of the world’s most prominent conductors including Myung-Whun Chung, Valery Gergiev, Trevor Pinnock, Neeme Järvi, Herbert Blomstedt, Sakari Oramo, Alexander Lazarev, Moshe Atzmon, etc. He has worked with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, Münchner Philharmoniker, Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Philharmonia and Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Sokolov has made a number of live recordings for Melodya and Opus 111 labels. These include works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Schubert, Schumann, Scriabin, and Tchaikovsky. The most recent publication is a DVD directed by Bruno Monsaingeon filming a recital of Grigory Sokolov at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris.

**

NO more need be said except that great pianists may not come in big commercial packages!

LINK:
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/ruminations-about-why-some-virtuoso-pianists-book-on-the-continent-leaving-the-us-behind/