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#2935017 01/16/20 09:35 PM
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I've never been clear about what this means or why some people think it's a positive for a performer.

I think for some people it means playing faster or taking more technical risk than one might feel safe doing for the sake of desired musical effect. To me that just equates with not having solved the technical problems in a piece. It's not necessarily bad but OTOH it's not really something to praise.

For others, I think it means choosing an interpretation on the fly that may seem controversial to an audience or critic. I'm also not convinced this is anything positive since I think an interpretation should be mostly thought out beforehand and only change in small ways, if at all, during a performance. If an interpretation is planned ahead of time but may be controversial I don't think that's positive or negative, but I don't think an interpretation has to be unusual to be good.

So, in summary I don't see anything positive in saying that a pianist "took chances" during a performance. What do you think "taking chances" means and is it something positive?

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What I consider as ‘taking chances’ means a variation in the interpretation from the absolute standard. Picture a large dart board with the center bullseye being the standard, but ‘taking chances’ would still be hitting the Target but not exactly at the bull’s-eye. Yes, I considerate it to be positive


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Originally Posted by dogperson
What I consider as ‘taking chances’ means a variation in the interpretation from the absolute standard. Picture a large dart board with the center bullseye being the standard, but ‘taking chances’ would still be hitting the Target but not exactly at the bull’s-eye. Yes, I considerate it to be positive
I like your dartboard analogy. Why do you think a different interpretation is a positive?

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by dogperson
What I consider as ‘taking chances’ means a variation in the interpretation from the absolute standard. Picture a large dart board with the center bullseye being the standard, but ‘taking chances’ would still be hitting the Target but not exactly at the bull’s-eye. Yes, I considerate it to be positive
I like your dartboard analogy. Why do you think a different interpretation is a positive?


A different interpretation is personal: it shows the performer is not just copying what someone else has done, but has given thought to the music. To hear it feels like a wave of fresh air.

Last edited by dogperson; 01/16/20 10:41 PM.

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I can answer for improvisation because that is my main musical activity, and I take every possible risk. If I stopped to think about crashing physically in the process of getting an idea out I would never develop. The same applies in the execution of experimental ideas. If I did not constantly reach out in every aspect of music, try new sounds and playing forms, I would stand still, no fun at all, and in that case I would just as soon employ myself in the garden. In fact, true technical crashes, bad enough to require editing out, have been very rare indeed. I hardly ever perform and have only a small repertoire of a hundred or so pieces, so I just improvise and go for it at every moment.


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In an ensemble, even as small as a duo, using a less conservative interpretation that might make considerable use of rubato or other rhythmic liberties would be taking chances with the interpretation because the players need to stay together in the rhythm.


Repertoire interests: early Baroque through early Romantic eras.
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I think if taking chances as meaning just "going for it". Some pianists as highly skilled as they are may have musical ideas they want to express during a performance but rather than taking that risk they hold back and put on a more conservative show- a safer performance and rather than transcending that fear and offering what Helene Grimaud recently referred to as a performance "that alters time" and that is there for a fleeting moment and one that maybe never can be repeated again- they give a performance that is canned, safe, and expected rather than taking chances and saying what they really want to say. I think it means letting go of all your inhibitions and give the performance of a lifetime expressing yourself exactly as you want to express yourself.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
So, in summary I don't see anything positive in saying that a pianist "took chances" during a performance. What do you think "taking chances" means and is it something positive?

I think it’s important to make the distinction between taking chances technically and taking chances musically.

Taking chances with your technique during a performance is idiotic. Either you can do it or you can’t. Can you perform pieces at the edge of your technical ability? Sure! Is it smart? No way. In fact, if you want to create a pleasing performance for the audience (and not just be another student recital wannabe) then the piece should be well within your technical foundation so that you have technical head room to perform a piece comfortably, easily adjust for mistakes and ... take chances musically.

When Horowitz spoke about taking chances, you sure as heck can bet his technique was rock-solid and he could play all those pieces better technically than 99% of people out there. But that’s not what makes a good performance. People didn’t line up to just to hear technique (though I’m sure some did). People lined up to hear how he took chances with the lines and phrases in the music. Did he decide to bring out the singing line or did he emphasize the harmony instead? Did he use high dynamics in certain phrases or did he make it more mono-chrome. Does he play with the rhythm, did he emphasize the 1st, 2nd or 3rd beat; did he use Rubato? Did he improvise a bit there on the repeat and try to show off? Etc. And of course he is judged musically by the audience for these choices/chances he is taking with the music. Either the audience members find it musically pleasing or not.

And of course you don’t need to be Horowitz to take chances musically in a performance. You just need to find a piece that’s comfortably inside your technical level - so you can take chances with it musically.


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Originally Posted by Groove On
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
So, in summary I don't see anything positive in saying that a pianist "took chances" during a performance. What do you think "taking chances" means and is it something positive?

I think it’s important to make the distinction between taking chances technically and taking chances musically.

Taking chances with your technique during a performance is idiotic. Either you can do it or you can’t. Can you perform pieces at the edge of your technical ability? Sure! Is it smart? No way. In fact, if you want to create a pleasing performance for the audience (and not just be another student recital wannabe) then the piece should be well within your technical foundation so that you have technical head room to perform a piece comfortably, easily adjust for mistakes and ... take chances musically.

When Horowitz spoke about taking chances, you sure as heck can bet his technique was rock-solid and he could play all those pieces better technically than 99% of people out there. But that’s not what makes a good performance. People didn’t line up to just to hear technique (though I’m sure some did). People lined up to hear how he took chances with the lines and phrases in the music. Did he decide to bring out the singing line or did he emphasize the harmony instead? Did he use high dynamics in certain phrases or did he make it more mono-chrome. Does he play with the rhythm, did he emphasize the 1st, 2nd or 3rd beat; did he use Rubato? Did he improvise a bit there on the repeat and try to show off? Etc. And of course he is judged musically by the audience for these choices/chances he is taking with the music. Either the audience members find it musically pleasing or not.

And of course you don’t need to be Horowitz to take chances musically in a performance. You just need to find a piece that’s comfortably inside your technical level - so you can take chances with it musically.

Whenever I personally give a public performance it is with easier pieces and ones that I can express myself fully and comfortably. I also figure out who I am playing for. If it's an uneducated crowd I might take more risk. If it's an educated crowd I'm pulling out the more simple stuff. My teacher asked me yesterday after having finally done a full read through of the Chaconne in D Minor why wouldn't I want to perform the whole piece through. Well, that would be 18-20 minutes of anxiety, but in reality it's the anticipation anxiety before the performance that gets me. Fell on deaf ears. Apparently now I have to practice the whole piece through every 3 days as we polish it in lessons. I think she's in cahoots with the director of the school. When we were at a group practice a few weeks ago I played a small section for the group and she said, "I think we're going to have you play the whole piece through next time". I laughed at her but she didn't laugh back. cry

Can someone advise her that we are taking unnecessary chances??? It's supposed to be about the journey!

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Originally Posted by Jethro
Can someone advise her that we are taking unnecessary chances??? It's supposed to be about the journey!

Well recitals are good for that. They give you experience so you can better see the performance possibilities.

In meme land:
Recital - “Hey look what I can do!”
Performance - “Hold my beer.”


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Originally Posted by Groove On
Originally Posted by Jethro
Can someone advise her that we are taking unnecessary chances??? It's supposed to be about the journey!

Well recitals are good for that. They give you experience so you can better see the performance possibilities.

In meme land:
Recital - “Hey look what I can do!”
Performance - “Hold my beer.”

I don't know if I want anyone to know what I can do or hold my beer. I've always only played for myself or a very close set of friends but usually just myself and my immediate family. I didn't return to school to perform just to reignite and old passion of mine. My teacher(s) have asked me several don't you want to share or why else would you play the piano? I told them I honestly just love music and to recreate it myself is just enjoyable for me. I love to both play and hear it or listen to someone else play, but performing it has never been a desire for me in fact it's the exact opposite. But to be honest there is a part of me that would love to share music if it didn't make me so uncomfortable. It almost appears I'm just stressing myself for nothing. Sometimes I've asked myself in group performances why am I doing this when it makes me feel so uncomfortable? Kinda like, I'd like to share this with you but this is not my thing. Honestly the only reason why I show up for group classes and give a performance is because I don't want to hurt the director's feelings, but I would rather not be there. Isn't that nuts? Then there are those who want to show off and I think they are crazy.

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Originally Posted by Jethro



To be honest there is part of me that would love to share music if it didn't make me so uncomfortable. It almost appears I'm just stressing myself for nothing. Sometimes I've asked myself in group performances why am I doing this when it makes me feel so uncomfortable? Kinda like, I'd like to share this with you but this is not my thing. Honestly the only reason why I show up for group classes and give a performance is because I don't want to hurt the director's feelings, but I would rather not be there. Isn't that nuts? Then there are those who want to show off and I think they are crazy.


Oh this resonates so strongly with me. I dreamed of becoming a concert pianist and went through every step of the process, from eight hours a day practicing to eventually graduating from Juilliard. THEN I realized ( very slowly .. since I resisted the thought ... ) that I absolutely hated performing in public. All those years of practicing and planning and then to discover I had such an aversion to performing that my mind began to go blank when confronted with a piano and that black pit containing an audience.

I gave up the battle and switched to art and journalism and spent twenty years in India. After I came back to the West I couldn't resist having a piano in my home and gradually began to spend more time at those keys. And gradually realized how much I loved it. Then I began learning more about my favorite pianist, Glenn Gould ... and discovered that he too hated public performing and stopped appearing in public quite early in his career, which he then devoted to recording. He was among the first to understand the benefits of meticulous editing and openly shared his opinion that the recorded music should be "perfect". No room for the inevitable small slips that even the best concert pianist does experience.

Added to that serendipitous discovery was something I learned from a Hindu text .. The Bhagavad Gita. That is to "work without regards for the fruits of your labour". At first that would seem just more struggle towards that perfect and elusive perfect piano performance. But studied in depth it means something much more profound.

It means to enjoy the "process" of what ever you are attempting to do, without fretting over the rewards. Or possible outcomes. To "enjoy" your work. And that is indeed the secret of all the great creative geniuses. They "LOVE" their work. They forget to eat or sleep or bathe ... they enter their own Universe of creation. They enjoy correcting errors and editing and all the details which so frustrate most people.

I agree. Forget about performing ... do what you're doing. Enjoying your music, loving the moments where you create divine sounds.

And if you feel "guilty" about not sharing, then share your work on YouTube. I learned to film and tape and edit ... and began by posting my own compositions for students. And I enjoy every tiny detail of the process, from composing the music to cutting out single notes and making accurate splices when necessary. I LOVE it! laugh

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‘Taking chances’ does not require a performance—- but can also include playing just for yourself, can’t it? I think we are remiss if we don’t think that way. It should be how you approach the music—- whether or not your ears are the only ones hearing it. 😊

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Originally Posted by dogperson
‘Taking chances’ does not require a performance—- but can also include playing just for yourself, can’t it? I think we are remiss if we don’t think that way. It should be how you approach the music—- whether or not your ears are the only ones hearing it. 😊

There's no risk involved if you're just playing for yourself, the worse that happens is you go get some ice cream. Compare that to getting up on-stage in front of an audience patiently waiting to be entertained. That can be terrifying, traumatizing and deeply disappointing - even for seasoned professionals.

Vice versa if you're playing for yourself and something you tried works, you can just go get some ice cream. But if you do the same on-stage and connect with the audience, the feeling can be exhilarating beyond belief, something you may clearly remember for the rest of your life.

So no - trying new things when just playing for yourself doesn't fall under the same thing as risking it all in front of a live audience.


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Of course, taking risks playing for an audience Is sn entirely different level of risk taking than playing by yourself. But I do think the ability and willingness to take risks in front of an audience starts at home when you practice. It’s very easy to get into the ‘copy mode’ when we are learning new music, rather than taking risks with the interpretation.

If you don’t experiment at home, I don’t see how you could possibly do that in public.

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The advice I constantly hear from my teacher is to own every performance, even when I'm rehearsing by myself. Not the same thing as "taking chances", obviously, but it does, I think, encapsulate the positive elements involved in interpretive experimentation, which may be what a lot of people are thinking when they talk about taking chances.

As for taking chances in the technical sense, I totally agree with whoever said that's crazy earlier in the thread; I would politely suggest that such activity is suicidally reckless in a live performance and an indication that whoever's doing it doesn't belong on a stage. shocked crazy


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Originally Posted by SiFi
The advice I constantly hear from my teacher is to own every performance, even when I'm rehearsing by myself. Not the same thing as "taking chances", obviously, but it does, I think, encapsulate the positive elements involved in interpretive experimentation, which may be what a lot of people are thinking when they talk about taking chances.

As for taking chances in the technical sense, I totally agree with whoever said that's crazy earlier in the thread; I would politely suggest that such activity is suicidally reckless in a live performance and an indication that whoever's doing it doesn't belong on a stage. shocked crazy

I think taking chances means even technically just means going for it. Horowitz, Rubenstein, Algerich, all made numerous mistakes when they played in public but they were always performing at their peak and sometimes even playing certain sections at the edge. Anyone watching them perform doesn't want a canned performance. They may have played a difficult section with ease and perfectly in practice but under performance conditions it would be risky under pressure. Taking chances means they just went for it it doesn't mean doing something technical that they have never done before, and if they make a mistake which even the greatest did (missing notes, hitting the wrong notes) they learned to live with it, but they don't hold anything back and release their inhibitions. I don't go to live performances to watch a world class performer perform safe, easy, and without passion. I could listen to a CD if I wanted that.

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Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
Originally Posted by Jethro



To be honest there is part of me that would love to share music if it didn't make me so uncomfortable. It almost appears I'm just stressing myself for nothing. Sometimes I've asked myself in group performances why am I doing this when it makes me feel so uncomfortable? Kinda like, I'd like to share this with you but this is not my thing. Honestly the only reason why I show up for group classes and give a performance is because I don't want to hurt the director's feelings, but I would rather not be there. Isn't that nuts? Then there are those who want to show off and I think they are crazy.


Oh this resonates so strongly with me. I dreamed of becoming a concert pianist and went through every step of the process, from eight hours a day practicing to eventually graduating from Juilliard. THEN I realized ( very slowly .. since I resisted the thought ... ) that I absolutely hated performing in public. All those years of practicing and planning and then to discover I had such an aversion to performing that my mind began to go blank when confronted with a piano and that black pit containing an audience.

I gave up the battle and switched to art and journalism and spent twenty years in India. After I came back to the West I couldn't resist having a piano in my home and gradually began to spend more time at those keys. And gradually realized how much I loved it. Then I began learning more about my favorite pianist, Glenn Gould ... and discovered that he too hated public performing and stopped appearing in public quite early in his career, which he then devoted to recording. He was among the first to understand the benefits of meticulous editing and openly shared his opinion that the recorded music should be "perfect". No room for the inevitable small slips that even the best concert pianist does experience.

Added to that serendipitous discovery was something I learned from a Hindu text .. The Bhagavad Gita. That is to "work without regards for the fruits of your labour". At first that would seem just more struggle towards that perfect and elusive perfect piano performance. But studied in depth it means something much more profound.

It means to enjoy the "process" of what ever you are attempting to do, without fretting over the rewards. Or possible outcomes. To "enjoy" your work. And that is indeed the secret of all the great creative geniuses. They "LOVE" their work. They forget to eat or sleep or bathe ... they enter their own Universe of creation. They enjoy correcting errors and editing and all the details which so frustrate most people.

I agree. Forget about performing ... do what you're doing. Enjoying your music, loving the moments where you create divine sounds.

And if you feel "guilty" about not sharing, then share your work on YouTube. I learned to film and tape and edit ... and began by posting my own compositions for students. And I enjoy every tiny detail of the process, from composing the music to cutting out single notes and making accurate splices when necessary. I LOVE it! laugh


Thank you for your advice. It makes me feel a lot better knowing that someone as accomplished as you is at ease with yourself on how to approach your music. That's its not just me that feels this way. Enjoying the journey, I think that's what it's all about!

Last edited by Jethro; 01/17/20 11:10 AM.
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Originally Posted by SiFi
The advice I constantly hear from my teacher is to own every performance, even when I'm rehearsing by myself.

Vladimir Horowitz "Without false modesty, I feel that, when I'm on the stage, I'm the king, the boss of the situation"


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Originally Posted by Groove On
Originally Posted by SiFi
The advice I constantly hear from my teacher is to own every performance, even when I'm rehearsing by myself.

Vladimir Horowitz "Without false modesty, I feel that, when I'm on the stage, I'm the king, the boss of the situation"



And that's what playing without inhibitions and with supreme confidence is all about!. I lack that in every sense of the word. I'm like the perfect anti-Lang Lang. I turtle hiding in its shell.

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