Breaking down the memorization mystique

Posted on: January 3, 2013

In Tuesday’s (1/1) New York Times, Anthony Tommasini writes, “Over the years I have observed that the rigid protocol in classical music whereby solo performers, especially pianists, are expected to play from memory seems finally, thank goodness, to be loosening its hold. What matters, or should matter, is the quality of the music making, not the means by which an artist renders a fine performance. Increasingly, major pianists like Peter Serkin and Olli Mustonen have sometimes chosen to play a solo work using the printed score. … At major performing institutions attitudes toward playing from memory have opened up. Today the artistic staff at Carnegie Hall would never think of compelling any artist to play from memory. This is a personal artistic choice. But organizations that foster student musicians still mostly insist on standard protocols. Young Concert Artists, which presents exceptional emerging artists in concert, hews to standard practice for its competitive auditions. The requirements state: ‘Concertos and solo repertoire for all instruments and voice must be performed by memory. Scores may be used only in chamber music, sonatas with accompaniment and contemporary works.’ ”

Posted January 3, 2013