Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Why I Could Never be a Soloist

I suppose it is every young musician's dream to have a career as a soloist: to be able to travel from city to city playing concerts, sometimes playing with orchestra, and sometimes playing recitals. I suppose that soloists are "wired" to have a certain repertoire that they play over and over again, honing and improving their interpretations from concert to concert, delving deeper and deeper into the pieces they play. It is a fulfilling (but often lonely) life for a select group of people.

I am not wired that way. Actually, when I play a recital it is kind of like an information "dump." I work and work (and work and work) on a group of pieces, and then the performance is like a release. I do everything in my power (technically and musically) to make the experience meaningful, sometimes working for months and months to acquire the technique to play the music at hand; and then, after the concert, I am free to forget everything and move on. I can still enjoy the music while it runs through my head, or even my fingers, but I appreciate it from a distance. It is no longer my responsibility to bring it to life. Perhaps I might return to a piece or two in a number of years, but it would only be for a visit, not for a performance. There is much great music to learn and perform, and the practical lifespan of a musician is finite.

There are, of course, pieces of music that I will never perform, but I practice all the time, like solo Bach, a handful of concertos, and an array of etudes and caprices. These are like members of my family, and my experience with them is extremely special and private.

I prefer to be monogamous in my personal life, and to practice poly-whatever (is there a term?) in my recital playing (and, I suppose my musical life in general) than to have to endure life the other way around. Perhaps I am a musical equivalent of a Don Giovanni, and infinite possibilities await me after my evening with Bach, Bantock, and Cui. There is even space to write music now.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I do not understand the conflation and comparison between a monogamous relationship with your husband, on the one hand, and your "sleeping around" with composers' music on the other. Are you not also by this logic "promiscuous" in the foods you prepare and consume, the books your read, the students you teach, and so on? Please explain your choice of monogamy versus promiscuity as regards music?

Elaine Fine said...

Perhaps it is better to put it this way: I like continuity and commitment in my normal life, but in my musical life I like constant change. It would be very difficult for me to have a repertoire consisting of a set number of pieces that I perform many, many, many times. Perhaps it is because performances would eventually end up being more about me than about the music.

Michael Leddy said...

I guess I’m glad I’m not a composer. : )

Anna Ciaccio said...

"I am free to forget everything and move on." How can you forget about the pieces you have performed, or worked on? I have such a commitment to all of the pieces that I have played. They are connected to a certain time in my life, a certain performance, etc. It is true that music is not about you, but you can definitely draw you from music.

Elaine Fine said...

Perhaps you could be a soloist, Anna!

Caitlyn said...

It sounds like everyone is just trying to be harsh on your opinion. You did clearly say this is why a career as a soloist is not meant for you. I understand that sense you get after you give a performance. Its a time of achievement but at the same time you're ready to explore new material. I usually with give a solo performance on specific repertoire and then set it aside for a while. Generally it comes back into use for a competition or other performance later on down the road.