So today I’d like to talk about memory and piano performance. A problem, which scares all of us, amateurs as professionals. Since Liszt, “the inventor” of modern recital, it has become compulsory to do without score on stage. Did Liszt had in mind that he was going to torment generations of pianists? I don’t hope so, but the result is here: we must play by heart.
Not that easy… each one has it’s own tricks to memorize scores (I will come back about my tricks on a next post). Everybody works differently, but we are all unanimous on one point: this work is titanic. Non-pianists certainly think it’s about to learn notes. Yes, of course, but not only this. It’s also necessary to learn phrasing, rhythms, dynamic indications and, above all, not forget anything. The whole thing during 80 minutes, without the possibility to interrupt or do again. In short, there are good reasons to stress out, aren’t there?
Some chose an other perspective: make the score in recitals reappear. It’s the case of Sviatoslav Richter in the 1980′s, or nowadays, of Alexandre Tharaud. Memory is the most stressing element during a concert, but enables a freedom I have never found while performing with a score. During these recitals indeed, the score almost embarrassed me, attracting my eye while I didn’t need to look at it.
Playing from memory compels us to know precisely each detail of a text, and if it’s not that easy, the work is really beneficial. Unfortunately, even if we know the text from top to bottom, the accident during a concert can always happen…