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what level do you need to achieve in order to play a difficult piece flawlessly? (Read 1128 times)

Offline paxxx17

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Let's take Chopin's ballade no 1 in G minor as an example of a relatively difficult piece, but nothing extreme (Henle rating 8). Being an amateur pianist that has graduated music high school and continued practising since then, I can play the piece pretty well (for my own standards). I have mastered every technical difficulty, but I always make small errors here and there in difficult parts. However, when I see world-class pianists like Zimerman, they manage to play the whole piece perfectly, apparently without a single error.

I've also heard performances by piano undergraduate degree students, and they also make quite a lot of errors. So, what is the level (i.e. MSc degree, university professor, world class pianist) on which you can play a piece of such technical difficulty perfectly?
Note that I'm not considering qualities like expression, technical ability is the sole parameter.

Thanks!

Offline dogperson

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As your general technical proficiency as well as specific familiarity/ease with playing a particular piece increases, the amount and noticeability  of errors will decrease. Will you ever play error-free? No

If you listen to live performances or unedited performances of virtuoso pianists, you will find very subtle errors. They just make fewer and know how to recover virtually seamlessly.  You can find the bloopers if you hunt for them.

Offline brogers70

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I'd have to say that when I go to hear a concert, the top thought on my mind is not "I sure hope it's free of errors." Obviously too many errors or too gross one can be a distraction, but once they've cleared that hurdle I'm just listening to the music, not proof-reading the performance.

Offline ranjit

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Based on what I've seen, when you get to that level, the general idea behind the music is so clear, so to speak, that minor mistakes are glossed over, and barely perceptible, because they don't distract from the music.

There's an interesting anecdote about a pianist who approached Zimerman asking him to teach him how to play note-perfectly. Zimerman took him on as a student, and told him to think about the music, and the notes would follow automatically. After a few years, the student, who was now playing pretty much note-perfect, remarked that indeed, he was barely even thinking about the notes.

I think this was in an interview by Zimerman on Youtube, which they have since taken off. It was about 40 minutes in length, I'll check if someone else has uploaded it.

Offline ranjit

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I think this was in an interview by Zimerman on Youtube, which they have since taken off. It was about 40 minutes in length, I'll check if someone else has uploaded it.

Found it! Starting at 2:50 in this video.

Offline chrismaninoff

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Hi ranjit,

I have had a few note-perfect performances and many not note-perfect performances haha so I feel I can analyze both types and perhaps offer my insights? 

I think that thinking about level in terms of degree is wrong, first off.  I mean that saying "bachelor's level, master's level, etc" is probably not useful.  If you say something like "Julliard undergrad ca. 1990-1995" then that's a more tangible measurement, but anything broader is too broad.  For example, I have heard a high school student play a program that included Gaspard de la Nuit, the Chopin 3rd Sonata and Liszt etudes, note-perfectly.  I have also heard doctoral students who were generally, I'm afraid to say, sloppy players. 

I think that the Zimerman comment that someone referenced above is the best way to achieve note-perfection.  For myself it has always been when I knew a piece intimately enough that no note was left to chance, and rather, I had an artistic goal and idea for each voice and phrase, such that I could imagine it perfectly in my mind down to the minute details of each muscle movement.  Add a bit of luck to that and I'll give you a "flawless" performance. 

Also I think it's important to note that it doesn't necessarily matter how difficult a piece is--I've played some lieder accompaniments that are DEAD SIMPLE and made horrible mistakes before due to nervousness or over-thinking, whereas one of my best performances was of Gaspard de la Nuit.  My Ondine was note-perfect.

Hope that's useful--this is a nice discussion!  Thanks for bringing up the topic, I'm looking forward to what others have to say :) 
Accompanist and private piano teacher, poetry hobbyist, aspiring gourmet porridge chef.

www.christopherknopppianist.com

Offline ranjit

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I think that the Zimerman comment that someone referenced above is the best way to achieve note-perfection.

I was the one who referenced the Zimerman comment.  :) The question was asked by paxxx17.

Great to hear that it actually works! I was going a bit out of my depth to answer the question as I'm still basically a beginner at the piano myself. I thought the Zimerman quote might prove helpful, which is why I linked it. I would recommend his whole interview -- it's fascinating, especially the sections where he talks about how the music is "lost" due to high fidelity audio recordings.

Offline chrismaninoff

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Oh whoops xD  Thanks for correcting me! 

Yeah, that's one of my favourite interviews ever. I re-listen to it regularly to make sure I don't lose inspiration! 
Accompanist and private piano teacher, poetry hobbyist, aspiring gourmet porridge chef.

www.christopherknopppianist.com

Offline mrcreosote

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Ironically although young students obsess over accuracy, it is the least important thing to get right. 

Expression is the most important - what you make your audience feel - how many cried?

Technical requirements for Expresion are a) speed, b) mastering ppp,  and c) getting tempo/rubato right.

Accuracy will come by itself.




Offline ranjit

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Technical requirements for Expresion are a) speed, b) mastering ppp,  and c) getting tempo/rubato right.

How did you come up with such a specific list of skills? Was this meant to be tongue-in-cheek?

Offline dogperson

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How did you come up with such a specific list of skills? Was this meant to be tongue-in-cheek?

Iím sure it was not intended to be tongue-in-cheek, nor meant to be all-inclusive.  Use this as a beginning list and add other elements of interpretation that need to be included.

Offline mrcreosote

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How did you come up with such a specific list of skills? Was this meant to be tongue-in-cheek?
I actually was being specific from my personal experience:  If I get those key elements right, I'll be able to achieve whatever expression I hope to make.  Even if one only gets rubato right, the results are impressive.

Just trying to sell my opinion that while accuracy should be striven for, it is perhaps the one component that does not contribute significantly to the audience's emotional experience - especially when most have untrained tears, but perfectly feeling hearts.