Jonathan Goodman

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Random thoughts

"Do you think Beethoven was a good composer?" The brilliant pianist Andras Schiff asked a student this question in a masterclass. The student answered correctly and the master continued calmly: "Then why do you ignore the music?" The student was hitting the notes perfectly. He was just ignoring was the dynamic markings (when to play loud or soft), the rests between notes (gaps of quiet between notes), and phrase markings (what notes to connect as though singing in one breath). Most professional performers ignore them too. Here is Daniel Barenboim (go to minute 2) ignoring Beethoven's direction that the start of the fast section be played quietly on the up and get louded on the down. He's just loud. Here's Andras Schiff (minute 8:20) following the dynamics: soft on the up, swell the volume on the way down.
Beethoven's dynamics (soft up, loud down) create tension. Here's Tina Turner explaining that. Why do classical pianists take decades to perfect their technique only to ignore the score and give dull performances? You could criticize "the system" that values note perfection over musicality, but you also could ask: "What's in it for them?" None of them has the subtlty of Keith Jarrett. They could be having more fun.