In the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time surfing YouTube trying to find videos of pieces that I was going to perform on my recital. This is a usual practice for any musician, to see how other artists interpret music, use the stage, and so on. I had chosen a few pieces that had some tricky counting between the piano and the vocalist, and I could not for the life of me find a perfect performance to listen to to get the interaction between the vocalist and pianist into my head. I would find something that sounded good, and then realise that the pianist skipped a triplet or the vocalist came in half a beat late; think that this recording of Nocturne in C# minor was great until he slipped over the run near the end. Eventually, I realised that had I not been studying the music myself, I never would have known. Furthermore, I realised that even though I knew the music and knew that the performer made a minor error, often I still enjoyed the performance. Sure, the girl who sang Telephone messed up the bizarre triplets in the second half, but her staging and interaction with the pianist was so hysterical that I didn’t even mind. The lady I watched performing a Ned Rorem piece switched the words around, but the performance was so gripping that it didn’t really detract from it.
I’m not by any means saying that you shouldn’t strive for perfection. I think if you strive for something unattainable you may not achieve it, but you’ll be better off than if you do meet goals that aren’t high anyway. At a certain point after two or three hours too many in a practice room, I realised that the successfulness of art isn’t really about perfection. I know that this sounds sort of obvious, but I think that as classical musicians we often spend far too much time trying to flawlessly reproduce Bach’s exact counterpoint or perfectly execute a two octave run and not enough time focusing on what exactly our music means to us. Technique is a valuable skill and obviously quite imperative to being a successful musician, but at a certain point it becomes entirely secondary to expression.
So anyway, my quest for the perfect performance was sort of in vain, but I did find something arguably better- I was able to be at peace with the fact that I wasn’t going to be perfect either, but at least I could have a really great time sharing music with everyone who heard.
Thanks so much to everyone who came out to support me! Here are some selections from my recital in case you would like to hear. The first two pieces are in German, but everything else is in English.