Ask Harry WimmerQ & A#10

I wish I could be comfortable
with playing from memory!
  Q. I wish I could be comfortable with playing from memory! Is it really essential?

A. I remember Rostropovich telling a student at a master class, "Stop making love
to your music stand!" On the other hand, many fine conductors and instrumentalists,
including the legendary pianist Myra Hess, often had the music in view, with no apparent
lessening of the audience's enjoyment.

On this vast subject of memory, a few practical points could be made within the scope
of this brief reply:

1. To increase memory comfort::

From your first practice sessions begin to commit to memory phrases and their links.

b. Use every type of memory: musical content (melody, harmony, rhythm, structure),
photographic (visual), tactile (fingerings, bowings, string crossing, shifts etc.).

Play the piece "in your head" note by note away from the instrument
with correct fingerings and bowings.

d. Write out every note, fingering and bowing!

e. At the performance, having previously prepared all these memory-links,
you must monitor what you are doing at the moment, while letting the
memory-links carry you forward automatically.

2. If, in the end, you decide to play from the music:

a. Have the music-stand there mainly for reference: don't stare at every last note;
you don't need to.

b. If possible, place the stand to the side and as low as practicable
so that it doesn't block the audience view or the cello sound.

c. Spend time to 'fix' page turns so that they work smoothly and don't distract
the audience.


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