Thoughts on the Amateur Pianists International Festival

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I find myself completely fascinated by the passion for music that makes people want to continue to be a part of music making: I understand it, of course, because I have made music my life because of my own passion for it. How much more difficult to keep it in your life when you have, for whatever reason, followed a different path but are able to continue to pursue it at a high level.

I think that the popularity of the amateur piano competition circuit (and this is an international phenomenon) is a wonderful testament to the power of music to inspire and motivate. In terms of value, I think the competition offers these pianists an opportunity to know like-minded people, to share their music with an audience that understands and appreciates their passion, to give a goal to work toward, to stimulate creativity and striving.

I'm not sure that the distinction between "amateur" and "professional" is particularly meaningful from an artistic point of view. After all, when J.S. Bach dedicated his Clavier Ubung to "Liebhabern," he was referring to what we call "amateurs." And the pianists for whom Haydn wrote his late sonatas (Marianne von Genzinger, Theresa Bartolozzi) were "amateurs" as well. The potential for wonderful, inspired music-making is not limited to those of us who make performance our "profession" - in the best sense, we should all be "amateurs" - people who do it for love.

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More Schubert

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I was practicing the C-minor Schubert Sonata (D 958) today, in preparation for my planned video recordings in a week and a half, and thinking back on some of the things I’ve been distilling from my own work and from my work with Andre Watts and Richard Goode last fall. All three of us are concerned with the problem of finding the right physical gesture as an analog for a musical gesture; it is interesting to see different ways of getting to (or maybe just talking about?) the same goal.

The opening gesture of the first movement of this sonata is a case in point: I think everyone would agree that it is difficult to produce a consistent and powerful sound in the repeated quarter-note chords of the second and fourth measures.

Schubert music

Andre’s helpful approach (I’ve said similar things to students in the past) involves using the last sixteenth of the first measure as a physical beginning, lifting the hands before that chord, and then using each chord as a springboard to the next, with a certain amount of air visible between the two quarter-note chords. The subsequent gestures are similar, although there is obvious dynamic growth as you climb toward the sixth of the scale (A-flat).

I also liked very much what Richard suggested about the sixteenth note scale in the third measure: that its gestural importance trumped rhythmic precision (something similar should be said about the descending A-flat scale just a few bars later). To get a sense of sweep, drama, power, and direction in the scale requires subtle adjustments to tone, dynamic shape, and rhythm. None of this is all that complicated, as long as you think more of the musical goal than of the technical means to achieve it. (The ear is a good teacher, as my childhood flute teacher, Frederick Baker, often told me.)

The varied repeat of the first theme that begins in bar 21 is a purely Schubertian answer to the often remarked upon Beethovenian tone of the opening. Here we have, as Richard pointed out, a use of accompaniment to set the mood which is very much from the point of view of a composer of Lieder. The initial undercurrents of agitation can be helped with the right not-quite-legato approach to the left hand patterns. The arrival at the A-flat this time (bar 27) leads away from the drama of the opening rather than augmenting it as before. While the accompanimental pattern remains the same, a softer and somewhat more legato sound here can enhance the sweetness of the moment.

The beauty of the second theme, with its two straightforward variations by rhythmic diminution, is enhanced by attention to the pedal points, presented in different registers. The texture here is orchestral, and the use of single pedal notes in the middle register at first, followed by octave pedal notes in the repeat of the first phrase, demands a change of color and balance. At the same time, the rhythm shouldn’t suffer—I was gently chided here by both Richard and Andre for a somewhat cavalier approach to steady tempo which certainly took away from the longer line. The awareness of the pedal points translates into the two variations, where they continue to appear, but are generally off the beat (2nd and 3rd triplet notes; 2nd and 4th sixteenth notes).

The closing theme, with its poignant accented lower neighbors in the accompaniment, should also remain close to the main tempo. It is tempting to stretch for a dynamic effect, but the use of rhythm as a one of the main unifying devices in this sonata indicates that respect for the integrity of the tempo must be maintained.

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Discovering the Conductor Within

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I arrived in Japan on Thursday, the 2nd day of 2014, to play a special housewarming concert for my longtime manager, friend, colleague, Atsuko Nakanishi, on the 3rd ― New Year, new home. On the 5th I knew I was scheduled to play the Mozart B-flat Concerto, K 595, with a chamber orchestra in Yokohama. What I didn’t know, until two days before the first rehearsal, was that I would be working without a conductor. I hadn’t brought my orchestral score of the piece ― all I had with me was a Bärenreiter piano reduction with no instrumentation written in. And, I wouldn’t get to see the orchestral score (having no internet access) until the rehearsal the day before the concert.

Sitting in a Starbucks, after the second (dress) rehearsal and just before the performance, I realize that I should have been conducting my own concertos for years. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the string-section leaders are all friends and colleagues from the Cantus Quartet (I played Dvořák Quintet with them last year), and the Shonan Chamber Orchestra is small, and all of the players play very well. But discovering that conducting is a natural skill for me (having watched others do it for years) is a wonderful surprise.

Two days later, looking back, I’m still exhilarated by the collegial and communicative interaction I experienced standing in front of a small orchestra. It was a special joy to find our way through one of Mozart’s late masterpieces together.

It was refreshing to be a fuller participant in a concerto performance. My usual experience is to show up for the first rehearsal, sit down with the conductor for about 30 minutes to check tempos and potentially tricky ensemble spots, then defer to the conductor to take care of the orchestra while I take care of myself.

With this performance, I worked directly with the orchestra with no intermediary. While I initially felt I needed to make some apologies for my inexperience (and was a bit nervous because of that lack), the rehearsal process was enjoyable and rewarding. I found it generally easy to remember to make eye contact with players before important entrances, and I had no trouble showing ahead of time what character I wanted from an upcoming entrance. The players responded well to the attention and were patient with my occasional mistakes. And, my own playing as a soloist was considerably enlivened by my active shaping of the orchestral tuttis.

Although, as a soloist, I generally know orchestral parts, here I had to get inside the music in a way that I’ve sometimes been too lazy to do. Certainly my extensive experience as a chamber musician was helpful, and I know how to read a score, and I can usually maintain a fairly readable beat pattern. Here, too, it was important to be a colleague—the most rewarding concerto experiences that I’ve had with conductors were ones where soloist, conductor, and orchestra were collaborators, where leadership was shared rather than monolithic.

Should I conduct more? The answer is definitely yes, although my interest in conducting is only as a soloist in concertos and, primarily, the Mozart concertos. I’m tempted, now, to put together a small orchestra with colleagues and students at the University of Colorado to perform an occasional Mozart concerto.

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Subtleties of Schubert, Part 1

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In my sessions with Richard Goode and Andre Watts, we dealt with a number of Schubert-specific sound and notation problems: different degrees of shortness and length implied by staccato dots, staccato dots with slurs, notes without specific articulations, and slurs. One very useful idea that Richard shared with me was that the portato (slurred staccato) effect could be accomplished well by the fingers alone. I’d generally used a combination of short finger attack and pedals; Richard’s suggestion was to play with very close fingers and to control the length of the note entirely that way. There are places where Schubert indicates portato in only one hand, as in the A-major Sonata, D 959, at measure 116 in the first movement. In this case, the pedal is not the best way to achieve this effect as it eliminates the contrast between the right and left hand's articulation.

More complex is the articulation of the opening of the first movement of the G-major Sonata, D 894, where the phrases are each subtly different. Given that Schubert saw publication of this sonata, it seems reasonable to assume that at least some of these differences are intentional. That said, the possibility of achieving true legato octaves in measure 4 continues to elude my average-sized hands, but some differences in approach, shape, and tone should be possible.

Another important Schubert problem is dealing with notated accents. In Schubert’s manuscripts, it is often difficult or impossible to distinguish accents from diminuendo hairpins; different editions make different decisions. If you compare Bärenreiter and Henle, you’ll get the idea quickly enough. One odd result is the frequent crescendo hairpin leading to an accent in a context where the accent looks out of place. In the opening of the G-major Sonata, these issues come up right away, with phrases incorporating dots with slurs, slurs without dots, carats without slurs, and staccato dots without slurs.

The example here is from the first edition (the whole thing is on IMSLP). Not only do you have to make sense of the different ways that the eighth notes are articulated, but you have to wonder if it’s all intentional—it’s certainly intriguing that the second measure of the piece and the fourth system’s fourth measure are articulated differently (no dots the second time), although they are identical music in all other respects. Henle reproduces the text of the first edition in this case; Bärenreiter adds editorial (smaller) staccato dots to make it consistent. For me, it takes a certain effort to distinguish the smaller and larger dots.

Schubert fantasie

In order to hold together the fantastically expansive first movement, having a strong sense of momentum is critical. There are enough overly slow performances out there (with cult followings on YouTube) already—this is music that requires motion; moderato is not adagio. Ernst von Dohnanyi’s approach in his last public recital is refreshingly spontaneous and unpedantic—many thanks to Andre Watts for steering me to this performance. The charm of the underlying dance rhythms in the second theme, the sense of forward motion that is always present, and the naturalness of the phrasing are virtues of this performance:

Of course, it is also easy to hear what are perhaps less than ideal—the opening rhythm is anxious, and the spaciousness of the opening suffers somewhat from what might simply be performance nerves.

Radu Lupu seems to hit a nice happy medium—and with a sound that glows:

Tempo unity is a big issue in any Schubert movement, of course, but this movement, with its spare writing and long-breathed phrases is especially difficult in this respect. And, when you think about how to do this while also controlling sound, balance, and articulation, and you’re playing in front of a famous pianist whom you admire . . . well, it’s easy enough to find yourself dealing with a certain amount of nervous tension, which prevents you from doing any of these things.

One especially memorable moment from my sessions with Richard involved the second movement of the G-major Sonata. After I’d played through the movement, Richard suggested that the opening could use a simpler, more song-like rhythmic treatment—I’d tended to feel it with a fair bit of dancing lilt—and proceeded to sit down and play it absolutely exquisitely with a far more straightforward sense of the pulse than I had managed. I was reminded of how important it is to support the sound in order to play the rhythm: often rhythmic flexibility is needed to overcome sonic inconsistency; when the sound is better, the rhythm fixes itself.

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Learning, or...what I did on sabbatical, part 1

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Comfortable in academia, playing for the appreciative audience in Boulder, teaching my students at the University of Colorado, it’s easy to stay unchallenged in my comfort zone. But it’s important to remember how easy it is to be part of an echo chamber, with feedback circular and outside influence limited. We perform the repertoire we’re comfortable in, and the audience applauds. We teach what we’ve always known, and our students reflect it back, reinforcing what we’ve already known and making us even more comfortable saying and doing the same thing. We tell students something, they make it work, and then in turn they repeat it in comments to other students in studio class—a perfect circle, hermetic, a kind of black hole of pedagogy. It was time for this professor and performer to climb out of his comfort zone and play for a couple of admired colleagues—to remember how to be a student again.

Schubert’s late works have always appealed to me as a listener—the cello quintet, Winterreise, and (of course) the last piano sonatas and the two piano trios. The combination of Schubert’s lyricism and color sense with his highly personal mastering of larger forms at the end of his short life makes these pieces desert-island worthy for me. About a year ago, I heard a performance of the Schubert “Great” C-major Symphony by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jaap van Zweden that compellingly reminded me of the rhythmic strength and musical vitality of that piece, and offered me a nudge to explore the three of Schubert’s final four sonatas that I’d never learned and performed: the G-major Sonata (D 894; 1826), and the C-minor and A-major Sonatas (D 958, D 959; 1828). Each of these pieces offers its own challenges, from the control of stillness of the first movement of D 894 to the combination of virtuosity, stamina, and rhythmic control in the finale of D 958.

Schubert’s piano writing is extraordinarily beautiful and was completely original in its time. From his earliest song accompaniments, Schubert composed more colorfully for the piano than any of his predecessors and contemporaries, including Beethoven. He grew up at a time when the piano was coming into its own, and it is clear that he took to the possibilities of the instrument as a “native speaker.” For so long, I’ve heard pianists talk about the awkwardness of Schubert’s writing, and I’ll acknowledge that he’ll certainly ask the impossible from time to time. What is far more important, though, is that he understands how to make the instrument sing in a way that was to influence all of the important figures of the next generation, including Liszt, Schumann, and Chopin, and, in the generation after, Brahms.

So, feeling so strongly about the inherent wonderfulness of this repertoire, what was I, past the age of 50, doing having only performed a few of the solo piano works by this master? I’d had some success with the A-minor Sonata, op. 42, and with the great B-flat major Sonata, D 960, the occasional Impromptu; otherwise only chamber music and a few songs. It was time to dig in, and dig in hard. Learn three sonatas in a few months and have lessons on them with two people whose Schubert playing I’d admired for many years: Richard Goode and Andre Watts. Along with lessons, I planned on several performances as well as video recordings of each of these works—continuing into my return to “real life” after my sabbatical period.

In late August, I traveled to New York to work with Richard Goode. He generously agreed to spend three afternoons with me, allowing adequate time to share ideas on each of the three sonatas. So what did I learn? That many of Richard’s comments were precisely the comments I make to my own students, particularly having to do with momentum, dealing with expression in the context of a strong underlying rhythmic pulse, keeping the hands close to the keys, and paying close attention to details of articulation and dynamics. How disconcerting, but also how illuminating: to realize that, to outside objective ears, I’m dealing with the same problems that I point out instantly in my own students’ performances. Moral: it’s always easier to hear others’ problems than your own. A good life lesson!

A month later, I went to Bloomington, Indiana, to meet with Andre Watts. During two very intense days of work, we covered the same sonatas, but from different angles. Andre’s approach to the instrument is different from mine, so it was illuminating to see how he made things work. Where I have tended to address the keyboard always from the key itself, he works more from a certain distance above the key. Physical gestures are larger, which create a certain freedom of motion that I have not always had. And, Andre’s laser focus on issues of evenness, intent, and shape was an ear-opener for me, pointing out latent and not-so-latent issues of sloppiness that I’d obviously evaded.

In my next posting, I’ll deal with some of the details of these scores.

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Looking Back - Recording Bach

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Looking back, now that the boxes of CDs nested in their cellophane cocoons with their lovely blue booklets are a fait accompli, the time I’ve spent with Bach’s Partitas has been ear opening, mind expanding—a wonderful learning experience. Yesterday I performed the first Partita for a small, appreciative, and attentive audience in a salon in Japan, and enjoyed re-creating this music once again. Each performance, as I am still learning, has the potential to be its own wonderful adventure. Especially with this repertoire, I feel like I am living and breathing with the music, creating a new organism with each time I begin. No two performances come out the same—different ornaments demand to be heard, articulations are more or less sharply characterized, arpeggios move with a life of their own, the inner voice of the dance asks to be introduced in a different way.

I posted a couple of brief explanatory videos about my approach to the Partitas on YouTube the other day ( on Articulation and Expression and Sinfonia of Bach's Second Partita), and a user responded with a lovely comment about Bach: “I have always found it hard to believe that the mind which produced these wonderful works could have been as rigid as modern interpretations suggest and conservatories demand!”

It makes me think: what do we as teachers demand? What do we as performers do? Do we make our students brave enough to defy what they think is the received wisdom? After all, we professor types talk a good game about projecting the character of the music, and yet students are shy about really doing it. I have a hard enough time being self-confident enough to free myself of the need to be “correct.” After all, with our classical training, we’ve been indoctrinated since childhood into the cult of playing the right notes and the right rhythms; what happens to that when we try to give ourselves permission to improvise? It is unsettling to throw yourself in harm’s way: what if the spontaneously generated ornament or figure fails to spin properly? What if those notes on the piano won’t respond quickly enough? Even worse, what if I fall out of the pulse or the harmony while making something up?

Beyond the philosophy of recording lies the problem of performing. As I wrote in the CD booklet for the Partitas, “In recording the Partitas, I have sought the freedom of live performance. The recording sessions were an opportunity to produce multiple versions of the individual movements, experimenting with embellishments, pacing, and the subtleties of rhythmic treatment that bring these dance-inspired pieces to life. I wanted the result to feel spontaneous—a snapshot of the moment of performance, rather than the definitive last word.”

Of course, performance is the real thing; recording is inherently artificial, frozen, each play the same. But the experience of trying things repeatedly in recording sessions (after a great deal of preparation to develop an appropriate vocabulary of embellishments) has made me more willing to take risks in performance. I have nothing but admiration for someone like Robert Levin who manages to both produce high-level scholarly investigations of embellishment and extemporize in the musical language of the late eighteenth century to an equally high standard. That level of intellectual and physical fluency represents a kind of genius I can only aspire to—something like bilingualism, or at least the gift for multi-lingual fluency (written as I continue to try to function in Japanese at even a rudimentary level after more than twenty years of travel to Japan).

So, my recorded versions of Bach’s Partitas are cocooned in their packages, the ephemeral moments of music and improvisation captured in one version, ready to spread their colorful wings the same way a thousand times. But I will go on and continue to perform this and lots of other music. And no two performances will be the same, no two sets of wings identical in color and pattern. And I hope I am daring enough to be spontaneous no matter what I am playing, and that I can inspire my students at least to do the same: performers shouldn’t just re-create the music, they should transform it.


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Recording Brahms

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In the midst of the not-quite-last part of a full, rich summer, I’m in the countryside along the English-Welsh border working on a recording project with my wonderful friends and colleagues, violist Geri Walther and cellist Andras Fejer of the Takács Quartet. We’re recording the Brahms Clarinet Trio (with the composer-sanctioned viola part in place of the clarinet) and the two Brahms sonatas for viola and piano (originally for clarinet as well). Our production team we are working with, Andrew Keener (producer) and Simon Eadon (engineer), make everything seem easy.

WyastoneThis is my second time working with this technical team and this venue (Wyastone Leys). The last project, two Beethoven violin sonatas with Ed Dusinberre (also of the Takács Quartet), was a great success in every way.

The role of the producer is interesting to me. We assume that classical musicians go into the studio, play through the music a few times; and, after a few magical edits, the project is done. While that describes the process at a simple level, the reality is more complex. The producer is part of the artistic team, helping to coax and cajole the best possible artistic result from the performer(s). Not only does he have to be attentive to obvious things like wrong notes or rhythms, out of tune moments and ensemble flaws, he also must be able to imagine the final result and make sure that all of the parts of a beautiful, musical performance are available for assembly into the final product. This requires someone with intrinsically musical and artistic expertise. And in a chamber music recording, the producer also has to be a teacher and a diplomat, able to gently steer the performers and handle the ever-changing interpersonal dynamics of the group.

 Wye ValleyAndrew, our producer, is certainly one of the best in the recording industry, with vast experience working with soloists, chamber groups, and orchestras. With him, we know we are in good hands, and can trust his judgment on a wide range of issues technical and musical. I find myself always encouraged to do my best (to do better than perhaps I could have imagined), often in subtle ways. A wonderful and easy collaboration with my fellow musicians (“esteemed colleagues,” as our cellist Andras likes to say) is enhanced and deepened through Andrew's thoughtful participation in the process. And Simon, our engineer, somehow captures the most beautiful sound imaginable! I am struck during playback by the warmth and presence that I am hearing—it is a kind of magic to think that the music sounds better on the playback than when you are playing it yourself!

It's the ambience of this beautiful and quiet countryside of the Wye Valley that completes the special experience of this project. Brahms was a composer who enjoyed his summers in the countryside, and one can’t help but think that he would have appreciated this place, where the loudest nighttime sounds are the bleating of the sheep behind the hotel.  It is a pleasure to be able to explore the area on foot (running or walking) and enjoy the rolling hills of the Welsh borderlands. 

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The Next Step

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Last week I recorded Bach’s Six Partitas. The sessions went beautifully—the hall, my home field, so to speak, was Grusin Music Hall at the University of Colorado; the piano was CU’s best concert grand, brought up to recording standard by Robert Cloutier, our head piano technician. I brought in an old friend and longtime colleague, Richard Price of Candlewood Digital, from Connecticut to produce the sessions.

After three days of intense work, and few interruptions (only a loud drill putting in new water lines under Broadway on our last day), Richard and I are confident that there is plenty of wonderful material to work with for the next phase of the project. Richard, as producer, will put together what he thinks are the best versions of each movement of each Partita. I have often  made my own selections for recordings, but I prefer to do it this way: to be able to listen with fresh ears after a couple of months have passed and hear what the producer has selected.

One of my challenges of this project was to be sure I was well prepared to play the pieces in multiple versions. One of the producer’s challenges will be to choose from these multiple possibilities, to make sure that the best improvisations in the repeats end up on the final master. After intensely preparing for the recording sessions for a year, I now look forward to having a little distance from the Partitas (except for the Fifth, which I am performing a couple of times during the summer).

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In just a few days, I’ll begin recording the six Bach Partitas. I spent the last three days focused on a completely different project—a recording with Clavier Trio of Brahms, Haydn, and Schoenfield piano trios. We worked in the beautiful acoustics of Ed Landreth Auditorium at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, where our cellist, Jesus Castro-Balbi, is a professor. Recording chamber music is challenging because all three players have to be satisfied with their performances at the same time—in tune, musical, with the right articulations, and together.

Before I can sit down and record the Bach, I still have a weekend ahead of performing the Rachmaninoff Paganini Rhapsody with the Fort Collins Symphony in Colorado with Wes Kenney. And after the Bach recordings, I’ll be rapidly shifting gears once again in order to focus on Brahms with my colleagues Geraldine Walther and Andras Fejer.

Somehow, this kind of variety helps me focus on my work. I’ve never been particularly content to work on one thing at a time. And, since I’ve been preparing for the Bach recording project for over a year now, I’ve had ample time to let the music settle in. This morning, I went over the Sixth Partita, thinking about pacing, ornamentation, sound, and security. I’ve memorized all of this music, although I will have scores close at hand throughout the sessions. I find that I can listen better when I’m not having to look at the score. (In fact, I was surprised during the trio recordings this week at how many times I was not looking at the score while we recorded, even though I had a page turner present and could have been reading from the music the whole time.) With Bach, the fugal Gigues are particularly challenging to perform from memory, and I sometimes find myself second-guessing my own knowledge of the score while playing. It will be interesting to see what balance I end up striking in the recording sessions between using score and not using score—it’s hard to predict, in fact.

Another factor that is hard to predict is how I will respond in the moment to the piano and the hall. Although I’m recording in a very familiar locale for me, Grusin Music Hall at the University of Colorado, I know that I listen differently in recording sessions than at any other time. Recordings bring on a hyper-awareness of sound and silence, an intensified sense of the length and endings of notes, along with a sense of responsibility and finality about the interpretation that can be both inspiring and inhibiting.

My colleague Patrick Mason gave a wonderful commencement address at the University of Colorado College of Music last week. He talked about education, life, and professional situations in terms of hurdles to be leapt. And he finished with a wonderful narration of what it’s like to see the next hurdle—to accelerate, to run, to prepare to jump. I’m looking forward to my leaping this inspiring hurdle of Bach next week. I can’t quite see what lies on the other side yet!

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Recording the Bach Partitas

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In just a few weeks, I’ll sit down at the piano in the University of Colorado’s Grusin Music Hall, and begin recording Bach’s Six Partitas. As I’ve planned and prepared for this project, I’ve given plenty of thought to it. The first question to ask, of course, is why? Does the world need another recording of this music? Do we need another recording of these pieces conceived in the eighteenth century to be played on the harpsichord?

Obviously, I believe that the answers are yes, but it’s hard not to feel like the whole endeavor is an act of hubris or pure vanity. It’s easy enough to be intimidated by great repertoire, and by all the great performances that already exist. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to many recordings, and of enjoying many of them. Even after that, I think I bring something of my own to the table—something that I want to share with an audience. This music is filled with humanity. One of the great musical minds of history bent his will to summing up courtly dance music in stylized versions for keyboard. The result is a fascinating mix of dance, song, and intellect.

And I hope to contribute an essentially human performance. One of the hardest things to capture in recordings of classical repertoire is the sense of improvisation, the spontaneity of the inspiration of a moment. In our search for perfection of execution, we lose sight of the real reason for the music in the first place.

One of our doctoral students in piano, Pia Bose, recently gave a presentation that introduced me to the concept of “embodied perception” –something that the Swiss composer Frank Martin derived from his work with Dalcroze and the concepts behind eurhythmics. I thought this was a wonderful connection with all music, of course, but with the dance suites of the Baroque era in particular. After all, what is it to play a Bach Courante or Sarabande, but to embody the idea of the dance, and to have the sense of improvising a melody, of ornamenting the rhythm and harmony, to bring the spirit of the bodily motion inherent in the swing of the dance to life?

So, going into these recording sessions, I need to practice what? I need to practice making the music up each time I play through it. I need to develop a repertoire of breathing, of rhythmic choices, of rhythmic understanding to encompass the range of expression inherent in, for example, a dotted rhythm. How rich this music is in different kinds of dotted rhythms, none of which really should sound precisely the same. I need to have the courage to employ the slight swing of the French notes inégales, where evenly notated scales are given a charm and expression by making them uneven. It is hard for us as “classically trained” musicians to let go of our adherence to a pedantic reading of a score. It is liberating to see that even shortly after the publication of Bach’s Partitas, members of his circle were adding notes and ornament to the “original.” In fact, the vaunted Urtext is provisional—it is only the momentary state of the music at the time that the composer put it down. Every performer and performance creates a different state. Performance and recording require the courage and strength to be free.

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