Is There Any Pianist Who Doesn't Play From Memory?


Dear pianists;

We have molds that we can't break,

What if I'm criticized with the anxiety, the resistance to change, the thought that it should go like this...

You know the works of Liszt. How much acrobatic he wanted, those devilish passages that come from time to time, as if walking on a thin tightrope, the use of abundant octaves and the uneasiness it created for the performer, the breathtaking and dizzying effect for the listener...

You sure admire Chopin's works. It will take your breath away while listening to its unique themes, which sometimes intensify and sometimes attract attention with their simplicity. When you hear the long decorations (fioritura) in their improvisational style, which hypnotize not only the listener but also the performer, you think, “Here is Chopin's elegance”.

You will immediately recognize the works of Brahms. The flawless use of intertwined themes, the astonishing richness of its harmonies and its impressive musical setup form its portrait in your eyes…

When you hear Beethoven, you say "okay", "the embodiment of the pursuit of perfection in music".

Mozart? The most transparent form of music… If you had his music in your hands on a page, you would see the back of that page. Works that are quite understandable and simple for the listener, but difficult and unmistakable for the performer…

Bach... Not only a composer who left his mark on music history, but also a mathematical genius... He processes every note in his music in such a way. He constructs every detail so cleverly. Every time you listen to it, every time you perform, your admiration for his music increases.

Each composer has his own unique signature in the language of music. While you are listening, sometimes colors appear before your eyes, sometimes different emotions from each other. You get teary-eyed at a sad theme, and you feel very enthusiastic with an anthem. It is a portrait of war that is sometimes drawn or a love story spilled from the fingers.


If a performer can include you in the musical world created by the works of composers, make you experience every emotion to the fullest and help a picture appear in your mind, should whether or not he play the heartbeat be a criterion for his performance? Do you doubt the quality of that performer or the atmosphere he creates when he doesn't memorize? Or “Oh dear, what you call a pianist plays by heart. Is there such a thing?” would you say?

A few years ago I read in an article that Liszt wrote in a letter to Marie d'Agoult that he memorized Hungarian Rhapsodies to avoid missing notes in the big jumps, but was worried that it might set an example for the next generation of pianists, and I've been thinking about it for a long time. I took up the pen to share my thoughts on this subject.

The subject of memorization can be evaluated in three branches as concerts, competitions and exams in academic terms. Especially for competitions and exams, it would be healthier to deal with it from different perspectives, which has now come to the point of being discussed even for competitions. On the other hand, while examining the subject through performance artists, I would like to express that I think that the question of whether or not to play the rote may vary in line with the purpose and repertoire of each concert or recital.

I must say that a rote performance provides the necessary concentration for us to reveal both the structural and musical setup of the works. In addition, as Liszt mentioned in his letter, we can achieve a much cleaner, even flawless performance, if our eyes are not on the note but in our hands in the difficult passages of the works. Mephisto Waltzthose skipping passages of or Sonata in B MinorIt must be impossible to play cleanly without memorizing those difficult octaves.


Let's say we will feel safe if the note is in front of us, and that confidence will be reflected in our performance and pave the way for us to reach a more convincing performance. Let's say we forget where we are not sure about the memorization, and we worry that our musical setup will be damaged, our concentration will break, and even this will cause a collapse in our performance. Let's just say our preparation period was very short. After all, only "concert pianistOur artists with ” do not come out. Let's not forget the concerts given by our academics, who spend most of their hours and days with their academic studies. While a concert pianist has time to study the piano for 6-8 hours a day, an academic unfortunately cannot allocate that much time to his instrument. What if that note stays on the music stand? Are there fewer musicians?


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