Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Magpie!

Shakespeare has been described as an intellectual magpie, stealing from others and not beholden to one method of writing a play.  He was known to steal plots from various sources and vastly improve them dramatically.

Bach could be thought of this way, too.  He was very knowledgeable about Vivaldi's music and earlier music as well as the styles current in his day. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was to take old forms and contemporary styles and write the best examples of them the world ever produced.

Steal from the best!

In my own humble way I like to follow this way of operating.  I like to take what's best from a performance and try to incorporate it in my own to see if it works for my situation. 

I'm not afraid to look for something compelling anywhere -- even in a performer I don't usually care for.  There's almost always something useful to be found in others' performances -- even if it's just an example of what not to do!

Naturally, I'll go to performers I really admire first and glean what I can from them. Although, even with them you can't use everything.

For instance, in a previous post I singled out Walter Guetter's Firebird for praise.  http://www.stokowski.org/sitebuilderfiles/351125_Firebird_p2_UK.mp3 
I hope you'll listen to it. 

Here's what I get out of it:
  • A beautiful sound; very clear and ringing
  • Dead-on intonation
  • Smooth legato
What I don't like about it:
  • The 2-bar phrasing
  • The vibrato is too fast and intense
My job here is to co-opt what I admire and translate it in my own performance and leave what's unnecessary or distracting.

I believe too often musicians are quick to dismiss a performance if they hear something they don't like.  Poor recording quality has kept many from learning from the great artists of the past.  Glaringly bad intonation or tone quality may cause you to ignore revelatory phrasing or brilliant technique.

Be like the magpie and build your nest from the things you "steal" from others!

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