Saturday, April 08, 2006

Playing With the Greatest of Ease

Many members of this new generation of prominent young string players (people in their twenties, mostly) seem to have benefited from excellent teachers who have managed to nearly eliminate any sort of tension or difficulty in their playing. They have techniques that are completely flexible and they seem to be in complete control of applying intricate musical nuances at any time. They are well versed in various kinds of "stylistic" playing (baroque style, tango style, bluegrass style, jazz style), and they know the ins and outs of playing chamber music because they have had oodles of opportunities to play at string camps and music festivals. They have had the benefits of reading magazines like "Strings," have had college courses to help alleviate performance anxiety, and have the world at their fingertips via cell phones and the internet. Some of them have even taken courses in the "business of music," and many of them are able to play on reasonably-priced instruments made by contemporary makers.

The road ahead for these players is by all means not rosy because of the demographics of the audience for classical music, but this generation seems to have a "leg up" on my generation of musicians who were in their twenties around twenty years ago.

Much of the repertoire for strings--particularly music from the later classical period and the romantic period, involves music written by composers who infused their music with some sort of personal emotional struggle. Those that didn't (like Mendelssohn) sought to depict the emotional struggle of others, or simply the emotional struggle in the music he respected.

Here is my question: When music that, at its essence, is "about" emotional struggle and ultimate existential questions becomes easy to play because of technical advances in the instrumental approach, does the substance suffer?

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