I played Chopin’s 3rd Ballade in a recital around 3 years ago by memory, but had a memory blank right in the middle. My hands came off the keyboard and it seemed like time had stopped. Fortunately, the part of my brain that was still working remembered to go back to the beginning of the section I was on and start again from that point. I really don’t know how I did manage then to play to the end, because I felt very weird after that. And of course, I cursed myself all the way home, because I knew that piece well and shouldn’t have had that problem.
That's basically what has happened to me a few times now. When at home, I can play the piece from memory without any probelms whatsoever. About fourteen years ago I was playing a recital with a real killer programme. In addition to that I was suffering from a really bad cold and in a certain passage of Weber's "Aufforderung zum Tanz" I suddenly couldn't remember the right hand anymore. I could still remember the chords in the left hand, so I started playing a few scales in the right hand until I reached the end of the passage. And yesterday something similar happened in the second movement of Beethoven's Pathétique. I didn't stop playing, I just kept going and it was only a matter of one or two bars, but it always seems like ages....
But I do agree that it looks more professional to play without the music. It just sort of looks better, but really ‘looks’ don’t matter, right? And darn my stupid memory - I can’t remember who it was, but I saw one of the big shots perform about a year or two ago, either Pollini, Perahia, or Brendel – and they used music for a piece that lasted over 20 minutes. But the rest of the concert he played without music.
Well, I know that Richter used music. A former teacher of mine once went to a Richter recital in Cologne, Gernmany. It was like the lights went out, someone switched on the lamp at the piano, Richter came and played Liszt all evening - using music.
I’ve been seeing more and more players using music, so maybe it is getting more acceptable. I hope so, because I used music at my last two recitals but still made a bunch of mistakes.
Ten minutes before the recital yesterday, I spontaneously decided to use music for the Kinderszenen and Brahms Intermezzi, although I'd been playing them from memory for months. And minor mistakes were made as well...
But then again this is live music and, as a teacher of mine once said, if people want no mistakes, they'd better get a CD.
Daniel Hoehr wrote:
or you start wondering what the hell you are supposed to be doing in the next bar (no pun intended)
Are you sure about that? How many drinks did you have after your recital?
Believe it or not, I did have two or three glasses of cold fruit tea last night because I found other ways
of relieving the post-recital tension