Lawler wrote: ↑
Sun Aug 26, 2018 1:20 am
Good stuff, Fretful.
Fretful wrote: ↑
Sat Aug 25, 2018 3:12 pm
...Deciding on what is and is not relevant to sight-reading has been a constant concern during the compiling of this course...
I'd like to mention that the definition of "sight reading" is a potential problem. Many beginners think that "sight reading" means reading staff notation in general rather than reading it at first sight.
I agree with your assessment; in fact, I touch on that very point in the Preface (above).
We need to get something in perspective, though; while actually exercising their profession, musicians hardly sight-read in the sense of reading what they have never clapped eyes on [from heretofore a.k.a.(*)]. Those most famous of sight-readers – orchestral musicians – have either “done” Shostakovich 10 many times before or, in the case of some hardly-ever-played-and-virtually-unknown piece of, say, Boulez, they will spend a considerable time at home preparing and fingering it; they will also benefit from the librarian’s various bowings and markings handed down to them in good time. For us, guitarists, who tend not to play in orchestras, the only time we sight-read in the (*) sense is when we open a score which is brand new to us, and this can only be once; thereafter, we can no longer refer to (*). But, and this is the big BUT, those of us honest enough to admit it will agree that it tends to take us quite a few readings of a new score (of grade 6 and beyond) before we can play through it fairly comfortably while keeping time. As I also mention in the Preface, this is fair enough: the vast majority of instruments tend have a given note in only one place and, where string players are concerned, as mentioned, they will be given various positions in advance (you will never see in any orchestral section a player who is, in bowing terms, “out of synch”, with the rest of their desk.
Those of us (and that’s most!) who remain hesitant even after a few readings are really suffering mostly from problems related to visual, mental, theoretical, musical, AND muscle memory aspects; those are the features this course is, in time, aiming to address.
This brings to mind anecdotes associated with two events, one at which I was present, and the other at which I was not; the latter was related to me by a pianist who plays at a hotel near Birmingham where Daniel Barenboim was staying while on tour with the Berlin Staatskapelle. On a Sunday afternoon, with no performance, he was enjoying the type of pampering a five-star hotel can give guests of notoriety. There was to be given in the hotel a – of all things – piano recital by a local pianist who that morning, having rehearsed his programme in the “morning-room”, saw Barenboim in the lobby and went into complete melt-down at the prospect of having to play in front of the Maestro, even though Barenboim had not suggested he might attend. Be that as it may, the local player went home and gathered his courage, preparing for his mid-afternoon recital, hoping against hope that the great musician would have better things to do than listen to him playing Liszt for the local Liszt Society. The hotel sent a taxi to pick him up and the chauffeur, presumably under no instruction from the hotel who smelled a higher prospect, crashed into a hedge and rendered the pianist unconscious. The news went through the hotel like a bolt from heaven. The manager - to whom the thought had occurred - would not have dreamt of asking their guest star to substitute, but, lo and behold, the famous guest, on seeing and hearing the desolate and now inexpectant crowd wail their disappointment actually volunteered, saying: “If you give me the score, I’ll play his programme for you.”
This was to the hotel like a Thirty Thousand Pound gift out of the blue. An assistant cook was sent on his motorbike to raid the taxi and scavenge the scores which the now somewhat revived but still incapacitated pianist more than gladly surrendered. Barenboim’s only request was to have a “page turner”. The other pianist, having been brought to the hotel for revival, his left arm now in a sling, somewhat brandied-up, declared it an honour to turn the pages for his eminent confrère who instructed him thus: “When I nod, turn the page.”
The opening of the Sonata lay across two pages and, as Barenboim reached the top of the second page, he nodded. But seeing that there was still a whole page to go, the timid colleague did nothing of the sort and the pianist ploughed on, turning the pages himself. At the end of the first movement, Barenboim reiterated his instruction: “I’d like you to turn the page when I nod.”
To which the other retorted: "But you kept nodding before you were anywhere near the bottom of the page." "I know,"
said Barenboim, “but I use the page I am playing to work out the fingerings on the next page.”
Exactly how much of this is apocryphal, I don’t know, but we are, of course, dealing here with a pianist who has also been a top conductor for the last forty or more years, used to read for several hours a day between sixteen and twenty-five staves simultaneously in different clefs …
To return to guitarists, I have never yet seen one who could, at FIRST glance, play a piece, in time, as cleanly as they would in concert and who would not, occasionally stop, frown, lean forward, hand in mid-air, while wondering how to solve a bar or two made mysterious by the odd conundrum; even Jonathan Leathwood cannot do this (and he is reputed to be able to play any piece, even one he has not seen before, while transposing it in any key he chooses on the spot – again, I have not seen this myself, but then nor have I seen the Indian rope trick, despite having been in several parts of India and spoken to many Indians about it).
Unfortunately, I have run out of time (and probably so have you – and patience) and will have to leave the other anecdote (where I was present) for another time.