Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com with a really fascinating show that I think you’re going to really appreciate, which is how to reach the last row in a concert hall.
If you’ve ever been to a performance of a world-class pianist, it’s an unforgettable experience. I had the opportunity to hear Vladimir Horowitz on several occasions. The first time was when he made one of his many comebacks, and every time he did this, it was a huge event. This was in 1974, and he was playing a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House. And if you have any idea of the scope of the size of that hall, you wonder how could you possibly play a concert in a hall that big?
I actually camped out at Lincoln Center, the tickets went on sale 6 AM and I got there at nine at night – I was number 311 in line already! Can you imagine? Interesting thing is that about 2:30 in the morning, Horowitz and his wife came by with coffee and donuts for the people waiting camped out there. It was really something. I get tickets and it was limited to only two. And my tickets were way, way up. The amazing thing was he was able to project a sound that came right through to the last row with beauty and singing quality. That was really something.
Well, here’s the interesting thing. Just a couple of months later, I was studying with Constance Keene at the Manhattan School of Music, and she was really good friends with the Horowitz’s. She actually was able to get tickets to a Carnegie Hall Concert he was giving. On this occasion, I was in one of the very front box seats and I could actually hear what he was doing that made it possible for me to enjoy his performance from the last row. Everything was punctuated much bigger.
Have you ever been to a museum and seen a great painting of one of the impressionists? You look from a distance and it’s just gorgeous colors and patterns, and you get up close and see all these angularities to the strokes. It was kind of like that hearing him so close in that front box seat. I could hear what he was doing in order to project to the back of the concert hall. In the video included with this article, I demonstrate this for you. I’ll show you what a delicate way of playing Mozart sounds like and then a way of playing Mozart that would go to the last row of the hall.
In the video above, you’ll hear a perfectly valid and wonderful way to play Mozart with a nice characteristic delicacy. The G major is a 283 Köchel.
Up until recently I’ve been playing it that way and I’ve been experimenting with a completely different way of playing it. Using a lot more arm weight, projecting a bigger sound, one that would carry through in a very large hall. When you listen to the video, compare these different styles.
So it’s not a right or wrong proposition here. And I would say to a great extent, it comes down to where you’re performing. In a big hall, approach a piece by playing bigger and with more arm weight, while punctuating the fast notes. Rather than playing everything in a fluid matter the way I did the first time, lighten up so that you can negotiate them. So that’s the secret. You have to play with more arm weight, more angularity, and punctuate fast passages by detaching the notes from one another so they carry through, even with the reverb of a large hall.
So these are some pointers for you. You’ve got to always listen to the piano and the room you’re playing in so that you can produce a sound that carries through to the last row.
Thanks so much for joining me again. This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com, your online piano store.