Sunday, August 7, 2011

On The High Cs

It has long been my opinion that in order for an artist to be able to perform, she needs Conviction, Control, Courage, Confidence, Composure, and Concentration.  To a great degree, these are overlapping attitudes.  Conviction is simply the foundation upon which careers (and lives) are built – it is the belief that what one is doing is worth doing to the best of one’s ability.  (Oprah Winfrey once said that you are what you believe. She knows that for sure.)  Before one can convince an audience, one has to be self-convinced.  You might question Leila Josefowicz’ interpretations but not her conviction – it is there in spades.  Then comes Control – that is the same as knowledge or technique – if one cannot exert full control over one’s physical preparedness – control over intonation, rhythm, and tone problems - then one is actually not ready to do the job.  Courage enables us to take that first step onto the stage.  However, Courage comes in varying degrees.  Some of us can muster enough of it to perform in groups, though not as soloists or conductors.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Isaac Stern called it arrogance and perhaps, in his case, that’s what it was.  Confidence is an attitude that convinces others that you know you can succeed, but it comes after one takes that first step.  Composure is an attitude which overcomes panic.  Ivan Galamian’s solo career didn’t pan out because he was terror-stricken at the thought of playing in front of an audience.  Fear can undermine even the best-prepared, best-trained artist.  Finally comes Concentration.  Imagine going out to play Beethoven or Mendelssohn with great conviction, control, confidence, courage, and composure, but then focusing your attention on the conductor’s very loose bow tie or the second clarinet’s flat tuning or the Principal cellist’s unpolished shoes or the fidgety little boy in the front row.  This is how tiny, little lapses enter a performance.  This is how careers get destroyed.  There are critics out there who know how the music should go – they talk and they write and they tell people who care about these things.  However, these factors only make a career feasible.  Sustainability is another matter. 

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