Posts Tagged ‘Bernard Holland’

lookspan_LangLang (New York Times)lookspan_langlang (New York Times) 

After an extended break from blogging, I’ve decided to post a link and a few thoughts from a music review in this week’s NY Times. Critic Bernard Holland tells us what he thinks about the current climate bringing up today’s young pianists and world performers in his piece When Histrionics Undermine the Music and the Pianist:  

Wandering from one television channel to the next the other day, I came across young people playing the piano. One man, bearded and a little hefty, rippled through a Beethoven sonata, sharing with the camera complicit smiles, exultant grimaces, gazes to the right and left, and a gentle swaying from side to side.     

The next, a young woman, sat down to Schumann, bending her back, lifting her head and gazing straight up. Maybe God was sitting in the rafters just above her, and she was using the opportunity to say hello. Both pianists were perfectly fluent. They kept time, played the right notes and sounded expressive when they were supposed to.  

I had to turn away. I could listen, but I couldn’t watch. Two performers, four glazed eyes and four waving arms were too much for my stomach. And if someone with a lifelong love for the piano repertory has this kind of reaction, what about those coming to classical music from the outside? Think of the smart young people ready to believe, filled with curiosity and good thoughts, and imagine with what astonishment and amusement they must come away from such scenes.  

It’s another reason classical music is not reaching more young people: not because of how it sounds, but because of how it looks. Even worse, lugubrious gymnastics like these advertise the feelings of performers, not of Beethoven or Schumann. Music is asked to stand in line and wait its turn.  

I love Holland’s suggestion for teaching students in the studio:  

Serious theater in the wrong hands turns unintentionally into physical comedy. I have always wanted to make athletically inclined students sit in a chair away from the piano, writhe to their heart’s content and then ask themselves what they just heard.  

He has a couple of other suggestions for piano instructors to try with their students:  

1.       For those students prone to feign melodrama from their piano bench, why not restrain them and force them to watch videos of Arthur Rubenstein, whose economy of body movement allowed for optimum finesse in musicality?  

2.      Hire a team of consultants, ‘…time-and-motion experts…who could point out the flailing arm, the bulging eye and balletic upper torso are extraneous work in a business best devoted to doing the most with the least.’    

And then he proffers this little gem, echoing words of wisdom most of us pianists have learned from our best piano professors and musical mentors:  

And a note to the larger ego: playing the discreet middleman does not sacrifice the spotlight. It is neither meekness nor submission nor self-effacement. At the end of the day, whom do we take more seriously, Rubinstein or Lang Lang?  



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