Friday, May 17, 2013

Performance Clunkers

Thanks to Norman Lebrecht for this somewhat amusing clip:

Of course the first one is not a mishap, just Victor Borge, music's greatest comedian. The rest of the clips are examples of great pianists getting sloppy and playing some wrong notes. Call them inadvertent  acciaccaturas! Now if we had a similar video compilation for guitarists it would be much worse because the mechanism of the piano prevents you from a lot of the mistakes that are possible on guitar.

Just about every mistake we hear in the clip is caused by the pianist choosing a tempo that is too fast. The classic sins of the pianist are rushing the tempo and over-using the pedal to hide sloppy playing. The classic sins of the guitarist are weak, feeble tone and clumsy phrasing. The classic sins of the singer are singing out of tune. Of course, with the judicious use of Auto-tune this is no longer a problem in pop music.

Oddly enough, a search on YouTube does not reveal any compilation of classical guitar clunkers. I could probably put together lots from my own concerts, but that would be way too time-consuming. Thank goodness!!

Jack Duarte, the guitarist, critic and composer, used to tell this joke about a very common ornament that some guitarists used to play. In German it was known as the "schlippe" and in French (you have to imagine the accent) as "heuooops!" The ornament is defined as landing on a note near the note you actually wanted to land on and then quickly sliding to the correct note. If only I could find a nice example for you!

Instead, let's have a couple of examples of some nice clean piano and guitar playing. Here is Grigory Sokolov with "La Poule" by Rameau, originally for harpsichord:

Here is Manuel Barrueco with the prelude to the First Cello Suite by Bach. If you listen very closely you will hear a tiny mistake at the 15 second mark. But this is very clean playing.

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