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cmb13 Offline OP
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There are good pianists, and there are outstanding pianists. What characteristics would you say defines the latter? What differentiates the interpretation of a piece and elevates it beyond good or great to the level of truly inspiring? Clearly, the notes have to be there, the timing has to be on, and the technique is a must. However, sometimes you hear something that sings, shines, and you just feel that you've heard something really special. Is it intangible? Excellent differentiation of dynamics? Ability to bring a quality of tone that others cannot?


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IMHO
It is an intangible combination of all interpretative elements but the bottom line is that it is not a sterile performance but one where the pianist has a vision of and love of the music that is communicated to the audience

When this happens, occasional missed notes become irrelevant

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For me, an outstanding performing is the opposite of "I've heard it all before."

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I think that there are outstanding performances. Pianist are not necessarily outstanding all the time. I have heard really great performances of certain pieces by relatively unknown pianists and vice versa average performances (average by comparison with their peers, a top pianist remains such whatever he or she plays) by great reknowned pianists.

Technique is the one element that is not a criteria, it is a given. In fact when i listen to a piece and i start thinking that the pianist has great technique, it usually is not a good sign. When i listen to Rubinstein, i never consider wether his technique is better or lower than someone else, because it does not matter. What matters is the end result.

For me an outstanding performance is one where there is an overall consistency and the piece has a meaning, a sort of leading storyline, in a conceptual way, that unfolds during the execution. There isnt just one element but a combination of tempo, phrasing, voicing, quality of tone, architecture, voice leading. Then for some pieces, it is the ability of the player to generate an emotion,, when i forget the technique and only listen to how the player is unfolding his narrative.

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Great answers. That, then, is something to aspire to.


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When I get lost in the performance. No thoughts at all about the playing, just completely transfixed.

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Originally Posted by KevinM
When I get lost in the performance. No thoughts at all about the playing, just completely transfixed.


Exactly. If I am completely blown away by the overall feeling of the piece while I am hearing it- yes, then this is what makes a pianist a better performer for that piece, than another. It is also helpful to compare recordings and even among amateur YT pianists you can tell the difference- even if all of them have 95-100% of the correct notes and tempo/dynamics, there is always a slight difference on how the notes are strung together by each pianist. I love Martha Argerich's performance of many pieces than Valentina Lisitsa. I love Valentina Lisitsa's performance of Beethoven Sonatas but I am not not as emotionally "moved" from her performance of Chopin Nocturnes as I am from those same noctures as played by Idil Biret. I love Brahms if its played by Radu Lupu but when Murray Perahia plays the same piece, ugh I cant put my finger on it but it doesnt leave me as moved as Lupu's performance..

So for me, its definitely about how I feel after I listen to their performance. If its comparing amateur performers, its a little easier to compare as there are more things at play like missing/incorrect notes, ackward pauses/hesitations, uneven passages, erratic tempo/dyanamics etc that all affect the overall flow of the piece to a listener.


Last edited by AssociateX; 01/06/20 05:38 PM.

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Originally Posted by KevinM
When I get lost in the performance. No thoughts at all about the playing, just completely transfixed.

Yes! That's it. There are people who can move me to tears.

At a certain level, practically all pianists are technically brilliant. A lot of who we think are "the best" is down to personal taste, and how each of us responds to individual style, approach, musicality etc.


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Originally Posted by johnstaf
For me, an outstanding performing is the opposite of "I've heard it all before."





Amazingly this performance guaranteed him another 8 years in office.

Not to be undone


Last edited by Jethro; 01/07/20 09:01 PM.

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Fairly certain I've played that very same piano at St Pancras in London, and no that wasn't me. I don't think I'd want to give anyone the thought that I could be that vile person.


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Funny.... but some of my threads have been locked by going down this path so let’s not comment further on those videos, please.


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Preconception and expectation bias have a role to play.

Often, it's not so much how it's played, but who plays it. I think there's an element of the accretion of reputation. A few competitions won here. The endorsement of peers and mentors. Good reviews. Slowly (or, sometimes, swiftly) a performer develops a name and their performances are esteemed.

Yes, this is cynical. It's not the whole story, but it has a part to play.


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Originally Posted by cmb13
There are good pianists, and there are outstanding pianists. What characteristics would you say defines the latter? What differentiates the interpretation of a piece and elevates it beyond good or great to the level of truly inspiring? Clearly, the notes have to be there, the timing has to be on, and the technique is a must. However, sometimes you hear something that sings, shines, and you just feel that you've heard something really special. Is it intangible? Excellent differentiation of dynamics? Ability to bring a quality of tone that others cannot?


I wouldn't call it "intangible", but it's hard to put into words. To me, an outstanding pianist is someone who speaks to me directly. When I listen to their playing, it resonates in my body in a way that is both comforting and also challenging. It's not about the notes or the technique, but it is about the timing and the energy. Wrong notes do not harm a performance for me, unless the pianist reacts to them by changing the energy.

This can be quite personal. There are famous pianists who make me uncomfortable, and I don't look at them as models of how to play.

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Originally Posted by L'Orfeo
Preconception and expectation bias have a role to play.

Often, it's not so much how it's played, but who plays it. I think there's an element of the accretion of reputation. A few competitions won here. The endorsement of peers and mentors. Good reviews. Slowly (or, sometimes, swiftly) a performer develops a name and their performances are esteemed.

Yes, this is cynical. It's not the whole story, but it has a part to play.



I don't really think so. I often find the biggest stars disappointing.

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Originally Posted by johnstaf
Originally Posted by L'Orfeo
Preconception and expectation bias have a role to play.

Often, it's not so much how it's played, but who plays it. I think there's an element of the accretion of reputation. A few competitions won here. The endorsement of peers and mentors. Good reviews. Slowly (or, sometimes, swiftly) a performer develops a name and their performances are esteemed.

Yes, this is cynical. It's not the whole story, but it has a part to play.



I don't really think so. I often find the biggest stars disappointing.


I don’t agree, either. If it was pre-conceived reputation, we would love everything the big-name pianist plays rather than discriminating they may be great for Chopin but not as good with Beethoven.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
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