Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bach's Son on What Makes a Good Performance

What comprises good performance? The ability through singing or playing to make the ear conscious of the true content and affect of a composition.

Any passage can be so radically changed by modifying its performance that it will be scarcely recognizable. . . Most technicians do nothing more than play the notes. And how the continuity and flow of the melody suffer, even when the harmony remain unmolested! . . .

The subject matter of performance is the loudness and softness of tones, touch, the snap, legato and staccato execution, the vibrato, arpeggiation, the holding of tones, the retard and accelerando. Lack of these elements or inept use of them makes a poor performance.

Good performance, then, occurs when one hears all notes and their embellishments played in correct time with fitting volume produced by a touch which is related to the true content of a piece. Herein lies the rounded, pure, flowing manner of playing which makes for clarity and expressiveness.”

                                    ~C.P.E. Bach, Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instrument.

  C.P.E. Bach is reminding all performers to play with expression, good technique and faithfulness to the composer's intent to achieve a good performance. It is interesting how hundreds of years ago, the advice given is the same advice that many teachers give their students today. Always have a piece of music that you are mastering for a good performance and be patient as you are polishing it, it takes time.

Some people have the misconception that professional musicians do not have to work hard at preparing a good performance, but that is just not true to the evidence. If you talk to any professional musician, he will tell you how many hours per day are spent to learn and polish pieces. That does not mean that they do not enjoy it, hard work can produce much enjoyment.

How is your performing coming along? Do not just play like a robot, be expressive and strive to be faithful to what the composer intended.

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