A question about advanced students' recitals

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IcedNote
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A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by IcedNote » Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:47 pm

(Let's keep this conversation to the recitals of advanced students...say late undergraduate or graduate music majors...who aspire to be professional musicians.)

Now that I'm into my journey with the Liszt Sonata, I've been reflecting upon the dozens and dozens of student recitals I attended during my 14+ (!) years of music school. And some of the most memorable concerts -- for exactly the wrong reasons -- were the ones where a student poorly performed a piece that was clearly too difficult for them.

But that got me thinking: is there value to that? And if there is value, does it provide more value than performing a piece that's suitably within their abilities?

My thought is that, sure, it's rarely a bad thing to push yourself and set high goals, even if they're perhaps out of reach. And yes, sometimes we do things that we know are too difficult just to see what the results will be.

But then I think about a concert performance, which is what a recital should really be. And then I think about the value of learning how to get a piece "concert ready" to the point where you are able to give the full expression of what you believe the music to be. I think that has a lot of value, too.

So with perhaps those thought as the backdrop, would/do you like to see advanced students tackle too-difficult pieces as a test of their abilities, or would/do you like to see these students play within their means during performance? If you were a performer, which path did you take?

Pedagogically,

-G
Harakiried composer reincarnated as a nonprofit development guy.

jbuck919
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Re: A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:08 pm

I don't know if you're in FB touch with the person we know in common, but he says that he is teaching a course on late Beethoven and that he has students who have played some of those sonatas.He has also always loved Liszt, so maybe I misjudged you.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by John F » Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:04 pm

There is no value in performing badly in public, for whatever reason, and there's no excuse for performing music one knows in advance one can't play or sing competently. That shows disrespect for the music and, I'd say, for the public; it reflects badly not just on the musician's ability but his/her attitude.
John Francis

maestrob
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Re: A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by maestrob » Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:04 pm

A student recital should be treated like a series of auditions. The student should only perform material that he/she has completely mastered. You never know who might be in the audience :) . One impossible note or passage is too many.

Performing music that is beyond your capability shows a lack of respect for your audience, the music and also a lack of musical self-awareness. It's also egotistical and really off-putting for the audience.

In other words, it's a no-no, and brands the performer as not ready for prime time.

John F
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Re: A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by John F » Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:59 am

All this said, there is value in playing or singing any music in private, not just to acquaint yourself with it or perhaps on assignment from your teacher but to find out whether you have what it takes to perform it, and of course to prepare it for performance. No doubt this private work has its own satisfactions - I wouldn't know as I don't play or sing myself. These satisfactions should be reward enough.
John Francis

Donald Isler
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Re: A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by Donald Isler » Wed Jan 11, 2017 10:21 am

I agree with the comments of Maestro and John F. As a teacher I'm very conservative about what I'll let my students perform. if they play pieces in concert that they can't play well they waste the audience's time, accomplish nothing and often feel badly themselves afterwards. That said, it's fine to study, and become acquainted with music you're not up to performing. It's even a good idea, because it may push you to strive farther in its direction.
Donald Isler

IcedNote
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Re: A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by IcedNote » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:28 am

Ah, so from what I gather, as soon as the student takes the stage, they stop being a Student and instead become solely a Performer, meaning that what's expected from them is the same as would be a Professional? It seems pretty rigid when it's stated in such terms, hey? Not that I disagree!

See, it's tough for me, because all through my schooling, professors would tell me "This is where you can experiment...where it's OK to fail." I reckon the same would be true for performers, but maybe not?

-G
Harakiried composer reincarnated as a nonprofit development guy.

John F
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Re: A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by John F » Thu Jan 12, 2017 1:06 pm

IcedNote wrote:Ah, so from what I gather, as soon as the student takes the stage, they stop being a Student and instead become solely a Performer, meaning that what's expected from them is the same as would be a Professional?
As soon as anybody takes the stage and performs, speaks, or whatever before an audience, for the moment they are performers. It's not about student vs. professional, many performers are amateurs, meaning they aren't paid for what they do. For example myself; when I speak to an audience or go on the radio with its invisible but real audience, I become a performer and must do whatever I do at least competently and actually better than that. With those who want to become professionals, such as students at a school of music, it's all the more important that they always perform in public at what you call a professional level. Why wouldn't it be?
IcedNote wrote:See, it's tough for me, because all through my schooling, professors would tell me "This is where you can experiment...where it's OK to fail." I reckon the same would be true for performers, but maybe not?
Professors of what? I'll bet your professors never told you that it's OK to fail their course. :wink:

In some activities, failure is normal. Baseball players fail to get a hit 3/4 of their times at bat, and in politics, more than half the candidates lose. It's true even of life in general, isn't it? The sports writer Grantland Rice coined a maxim that goes beyond sports:

For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name,
He marks – not that you won or lost – but how you played the Game

But the public performance of classical music is not a sport, it isn't about winning or losing but about art. Standards of success and failure may differ, but by whatever standard, it's never OK to fail.
John Francis

IcedNote
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Re: A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by IcedNote » Sun Jan 15, 2017 9:10 pm

John F wrote:But the public performance of classical music is not a sport, it isn't about winning or losing but about art. Standards of success and failure may differ, but by whatever standard, it's never OK to fail.
I disagree. Art is, in large part, the product of experimentation. And certain experiments are going to fail. But you learn from those failures. Kind of like you don't really know where to draw the line until you've crossed it. So I have no problem at all with advanced students trying certain, say, interpretive techniques on a piece to see if they can unlock something, either in the music itself or in their own playing. In fact, I'd encourage it. And as a composer, I absolutely tried new things in pieces to see if I could find something that worked. And sometimes the whole piece wouldn't really come out right, but I'd learn much that could be altered and used in a following piece.

So yes, it's absolutely OK to fail.

-G
Harakiried composer reincarnated as a nonprofit development guy.

John F
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Re: A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by John F » Sun Jan 15, 2017 9:54 pm

Experimentation, or improvisation, in performance is fine - indeed, opportunities for improvisation are built into much classical music. But that's no justification for failure in a public performance, which I believe is our topic here, and which all but you apparently agree is not fine. Experiment in the studio by all means, experiment in rehearsal, but when you go onto the platform before an audience, if you're going to improvise, don't botch it.
John Francis

IcedNote
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Re: A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by IcedNote » Sun Jan 15, 2017 10:22 pm

John F wrote:Experimentation, or improvisation, in performance is fine - indeed, opportunities for improvisation are built into much classical music. But that's no justification for failure in a public performance, which I believe is our topic here, and which all but you apparently agree is not fine. Experiment in the studio by all means, experiment in rehearsal, but when you go onto the platform before an audience, if you're going to improvise, don't botch it.
Ah! OK. I thought your previous post was going a bit off-topic and applying to all university study. My bad. :D

-G
Harakiried composer reincarnated as a nonprofit development guy.

IcedNote
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Re: A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by IcedNote » Sun Jan 15, 2017 10:28 pm

Although I'd still say that "failure" in composition on the stage is perfectly acceptable. The fact is, we composers often don't know what the hell the piece is REALLY going to sound like until rehearsals begin. And by then...well...might as well perform the damn thing... :? :mrgreen:

-G
Harakiried composer reincarnated as a nonprofit development guy.

John F
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Re: A question about advanced students' recitals

Post by John F » Mon Jan 16, 2017 4:52 am

You know, I get the impression now that we, or at least I, don't really know what we're talking about. What is a specific example of an "experiment" that a performer might make in a public recital, and what does it mean to say the experiment failed? Without at least one specific example, it's all too abstract. I assume you don't mean a singer attempting a high E in performance that she has never sung before. If she tried that in Parma, and failed, the poor thing would be booed off the stage.

Composition is an entirely different matter from the performance of an existing composition. There are passages or complete works in the repertoire that can fairly be described as experimental; Milton Babbitt described his own music as experimental, and went so far as to say that the audience's response, or even the presence of an audience, is irrelevant. What it would mean for such an experiment to "fail," I don't understand, unless the piece is technically incompetent as Mozart's Musical Joke intentionally is. But since this isn't our topic, I won't pursue it.
John Francis

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