I was recently part of the jury for an international competition. I thus had the chance to listen to a large number of pianists, often tackling the performance of the same piece, and I was able to understand better what exactly it is that strikes and fascinates me while listening to a musician: the power of the ideas that he/she is able to express during the performance. The stronger the ideas, the more convincing they are. And the more convincing they are, the more they are coherent with what is written on the score and with the fundamental principles of western music: respect for the tension created by the harmonies and intervals, clarity in giving plastic form to the phrases, the dramatic and narrative management of the form. These are, of course, the priorities a performer should pursue both while studying and playing in public, whether for a competition or a concerto (also because there should be no difference of approach between the two situations). But, after speaking with some of the eliminated contestants, I noted that many of them were convinced they failed to pass the trial due to material errors: wrong notes or memory blanks, as if a competition was like an obstacle course, where the errors are summed and the person who has made a “clean run” wins.
This rarely happens during a competition, in which the contestants are actually fraught with a sense of responsibility that risks distracting their attention from the purely musical and artistic principals. On the contrary, even a clear mistake can easily be overlooked when the performance is involving, intense, and sincere. Only in these cases does total empathy take place between performer and music, and when this happens the same can occur between the listener and the music.
The sharing of live music, whether during a concert, a competition, a lesson or a trade show, is invariably a special moment. This is why also the program of events of Cremona Musica, with which I had the honor of collaborating in 2014, presents countless opportunities to share music through direct meetings with artists, organizers, teachers and experts, in the assurance that this is the best channel to experience music in the most intense and involving way.