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'Apart from recordings, if there is any explanation for a possible decline, it is that some performers are selling audiences short. They are not giving them what they paid money to come and hear.' Part and parcel of the hype and euphoria that led one critic to label an international pianist as 'the greatest who ever lived!' Radio and TV announcers are good at this sort of thing. Comments should be made following the performance, in case the artist is below par for some reason.

'Most musicians accept this. Of course. We are all human, after all. If the performer has this humility, it doesn't matter if they don't play that well on the night, because integrity is there. On some level, the music will still "speak" to the audience on a communicative level. The mistake that predominates now is: "We are not allowed to have bad days!" In one of my recitals I played a lot of wrong notes. Yet that is the pressure we have to contend with in order to be "CD perfect", whatever that means.'

Like Cortot and Gieseking, of whom it was stated that their music derived from their wrong notes. 'Both were marvellous pianists ... and I defy anyone to say otherwise. There are some recordings where listening to the wrong notes requires much patience, then, next moment you hear something sublime. I don't think performances can be of the highest standard at all times. That would be amazing, but people pull poor Cortot to pieces because of his inaccuracies, and that is just not fair. Half of the undergraduates have never listened to Schnabel, whose recordings could be very accurate.' Although even his technique lets him down in Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata. The glories of his phrasing and touch in the slow movements are where he shines through.

In a broadcast, Moiseiwitsch stated his admiration for young pianists' techniques, but questioned their lack of a true singing tone. 'I would sometimes like to "steal" some of their techniques', Driver comments. 'When I was young, I heard a Russian player taking part in a competition. He had an amazing technique, but no sense of style: if only I could achieve his extraordinary speeds and clarity. I suddenly thought -- make use of it. But it was more important to consider what would derive from it in years to come; and, what will audiences remember in your own playing? Will it speak to them?'

'In preparation, I don't go in for exercises, although I do go in phases -- playing Chopin, Liszt or Scriabin Studies. I see no point in playing exercises gratuitously -- there there must be a reason. If am unhappy with the way the fourth finger in my left hand is working, I will do something about it. My advice to other pianists is to gear such matters to a purpose, but after playing scales endlessly for a week that problematical arpeggio in the score can still sound awful! One must remember, though, that this has little to do with the composer and his music. Thirty percent, perhaps, but the remainder concerns making it work artistically.

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Copyright © 15 April 2003 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK


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