- the virtuoso pianists, violinists and other -ists who take the stage, bow, glance at the conductor and launch into 30 or 40 minutes worth of concerto, with no printed music in sight. Beethoven's 5th piano concerto - the 'Emperor' - keeps the soloist busy for 38 minutes - about par for the course. It's an astonishing feat of memory. But memory of what, exactly? Partly 'muscle memory,' where your arms/hands/fingers know where to go next; partly 'score memory,' where you 'see' the printed music unrolling in your imagination; partly 'sound memory,' where you 'hear' what's coming next and play it.
Whatever, it's an amazing. almost eerie ability . . . that occasionally goes wrong!
I wish the following little story was true, but it seems 'too good to be true' somehow.
The Russian pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninov was accompanying a violinist in a performance of somebody-or-others sonata for violin and piano. Two virtuosi who, whilst combining superbly as musicians, did not get on with each other particularly well off stage. The violinist was playing from memory; Rachmaninov, at the piano, was playing from score. The violinist sensed his memory was about to let him down; he was losing his place in the music. Disaster! Still playing, but getting closer to, as you might say, his collapse point, he edged toward the piano and, in a rest passage, indicated the score with the tip of his bow and muttered to Rachmaninov 'Where are we?'
Rachmaninov leered, and said 'We're in the Carnegie Hall.'
Read a medley of responses to the Poets and Storytellers' prompt here.