Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about the two different kinds of encores. There are fundamentally two different types of moods you want to create in encores, and I’m going to get into that. But first I want to start with a personal reflection for you.
My father, Morton Estrin, had such a profound effect upon me.
I want to talk a little bit about my father’s experiences as a performer. As much as he performed, he got extremely nervous for performances. And when he would walk out on stage, it was a terrifying experience for him! He would get so nervous, his pedal foot would shake. I remember watching him perform and feeling so badly for him. There he was, trying to control things, and his foot was going up and down like crazy! It was once kind of funny, in retrospect. In one of his New York recitals, the reviewer commented on his beautiful performance and his “fluttering pedal technique.” Little did he know it was nothing intentional. It was something my father fought with his whole career. And the way he overcame it was very interesting. For him, the easiest thing to start a program with was something really heroic. He could go out there and play the most bombastic virtuosic music right from the get go. With that, he didn’t have any trouble. But to go out and start a program with a delicate piece, like something of Mozart, or a Schubert Impromptu, was extremely challenging for him. With that very delicate music, any little motion of any part of the body has such profound effects. He worked really hard to overcome this and was proud of himself that he could go out on stage and play something delicate as an opener for a program. Because programmatically, he wanted to be able to have architecture and not just start with the most heroic piece. Usually you want a big finish at the end of your program.
What was interesting about my father’s performances, we would always go backstage at intermission and hug him and tell him how beautiful it sounded. He couldn’t even believe it because he was so terrorized up there for the first half! But in the second half, he would relax. By the time he got to the end of the program, he was in his element. He would play encore after encore and the audience would cheer for more! He would play five, six encores, as many as the audience wanted. And at that point he could do anything. He had no nerves left whatsoever. It was a thrilling experience for everyone who heard him!
There are two different types of encores.
When a program ends and you come out for an encore, the audience has been through a whole program. You want to charge them up! So you play something like a Chopin etude, something virtuosic and energetic. But what if the program ended with something big and dynamic and it’s already a blockbuster at the end of the program? That’s when you want to flip it and come out with a poetic encore, maybe a Chopin Nocturne or Prelude. That could be just the mood you’re looking for.
My father recorded the Scriabin Etudes Opus 8.
It was the first modern recording of the complete Opus 8, and it won record of the year. You can find them on YouTube. His performances don’t sound like etudes. They are rich musical experiences. He didn’t play them as just technical exercises. He played them for the gorgeous music that this early Scriabin is. The Opus 8 was very different from later Scriabin where he explored very sophisticated harmonies that bordered on atonality. Early Scriabin is sometimes compared to Chopin. It really has a voice all its own, but it’s quite chromatic, beautiful romantic music that is extremely emotional. I got to hear my father play them in New York at Lincoln Center. It holds a very special meaning for me.
I’m going to play the D-sharp minor Etude from Opus 8 which is the last of the set. Then, just as if the program ended heroically, because that is an incredible blockbuster piece, I’m going to go right into a movement of Debussy from the Children’s Corner Suite, The Little Shepherd, which was my mother’s favorite piece. I would play it for her as an encore. So this is very special and a personal performance for you. You can listen to the accompanying video. I hope you enjoy it.
Those are two completely different types of encores. What is appropriate depends upon your programming. So remember, if you’ve already pulled out all the stops, and you’ve ended really big, then bring it down and show poetry and express intimate feelings. Show what you can do to the soul! On the other hand, if the program ends with something long and melodic like a Schubert Sonata with beautiful architecture, then you’ll want to charge people up with your encore so they leave the hall with energy. Judging your encores is very important. Sometimes you can even have two or three encores prepared. Or maybe you’re brave enough and you have an audience that’s enthusiastic enough so you can play a bunch of encores like my father used to do!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this. Thanks again for joining me! I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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