Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why Don't I Go to Piano Recitals?

I went to Ricker Choi's piano concert last Friday (Nov 21).  www.rickerchoi.com  Yes, this was an anomoly, but considering I knew one of the performers (Barbara Fris, soprano, I didn't know) maybe it's not too strange.  It did make me think about a few things:  performance, composition, and current piano music appreciation.  The latter is what I'll touch on first -- or the lack of it.

My first realization:  piano concerts are asynchronous with popular culture.  I thought it would be hard to get a friend to come watch with me (I think I'm right, but let me know if I'm wrong -- drop me a note if you'd consider joining me next time).  In the show, I sat next to 2 young, giggly Taiwanese women.  One of them admitted "I was dragged here by my friend."  One of the friends was a piano performer.  Then there was a short woman in the ticket line-up next to me flirting with me by asking:  "So, are you a musician?"  I was, and of course found out she was.  And more musicians:  the guy on my left was Ricker's friend and a U of T music composition grad student -- hence perhaps there was a social-professional interest in attending, and not strictly an enjoyment factor.  (BTW: Mark has some interesting work -- he wrote an Opera to Hamlet -- here's a short clip).   www.markrichardscomposer.com

I digresss.  My point is there seems to be a rather narrow range of people who would attend such a concert.  But I don't know why.  Perhaps in general, "classical music" (or really piano music from the 16th through the 20th centuries)  is reinterpretation upon reinterpretation of past musical works decreases its relevance and freshness as articulated over bubble tea by the ever-thoughtful Wei Hong.

Back to the concert.  Clearly Ricker is very talented:  He started piano at 13, got his ARCT by 18 (yes, wow!).  2nd place in an international Piano competition in Boston earlier this year (though he humbly asserts on his website this is for non-professional musicians).  His Ravel La Valse was top-notch -- evoking World-War One angst and chaos in a technically complex and polished performance.  All I could wonder is why Ravel would compose such a piece.  Dynamic, dissonant and disturbing.  Yes, disturbing.  But based on audience reaction, I don't think anyone else found it disturbing (only my deepest respect to my buddy Ricker):  HUGE APPLAUSE.  Obivously for the performer and not the composition.  Somehow the audience could separate the two pieces:  the performance, and the music.  I did not or perhaps chose not to.  I was, unusually, listening to the whole.  And the composition which started out reasonable, eventually became so dark (take a listen -- this will give you a feel for what I heard -- and you can let me know what you think).  I sat there questioning the audience's judgement. 
They appreciated the performer at the expense of judging the composition.  How dare I say this?  And how strange of me to do so.  Composition and performance go hand in hand, do they not?  So why should this be any different?  As if banging on the keyboard with such high levels of technical precision which was so amazingly impressive (yes it was) was the main thing.  Maybe it is when that happens...but as a performance (in the same vein as judging a musical, or a sketch show), somehow I feel that the composition and writing needs to be judged as much as the performance.  This isn't something I would have thought before -- but somehow, this view feels right.  Any takers on this topic?

Posted via email from middledragon's posterous


Post a Comment

<< Home