Wednesday, July 27, 2022
HomeWales MusicMusicians are doing encores all improper, says Richard Morrison

Musicians are doing encores all improper, says Richard Morrison

I by no means hear an encore in a live performance corridor with out considering of Oliver Twist. ‘Please, sir, I need some extra,’ the boy cried – ‘determined with starvation, and reckless with distress’, as Dickens put it. Elsewhere on this subject we report that Daniel Barenboim has simply recorded an entire album of encores. Presumably his legion of followers don’t really feel reckless with distress, however are they determined with starvation for extra charming ivory-ticklers from a performer who has already recorded umpteen albums of all conceivable repertoire?

In actual fact, how typically is an viewers actually hungry to listen to extra from a soloist who has already entertained them for an entire recital or a concerto? Or has the ritual of an encore simply turn into one other of these stale conventions baked into attending a classical live performance?

Simply as soon as in 50 years of concert-going have I heard an encore so thrilling, so life-enhancing, that your complete viewers rose to acclaim it – not when it had completed, however whereas it was nonetheless happening. It was the summer season of 1987, and Vladimir Horowitz (who hadn’t performed in public for a number of years) was on a farewell tour of Europe. I had interviewed him just a few days earlier than his Royal Competition Corridor live performance and was frankly sceptical concerning the mission. To be blunt, the Russian virtuoso, then 84, appeared senile.

Properly, how improper are you able to be? I don’t know what they slipped into his tea, however his London recital was phenomenal. It was as if the many years had rolled again and people well-known flat fingers had been racing around the keys prefer it was 1928.

Then he performed the primary of a number of encores – Chopin’s ‘Heroic’ Polonaise in A flat. When he reached the pulsating E main center part, and his left hand began pumping out that descending ostinato in octaves at breakneck pace, an astonishing factor occurred. One after the other, then row by row, folks began to rise to their ft. Some even lifted their arms, as if transfixed by some celestial energy. Lengthy earlier than Horowitz had performed the ultimate notes, an unlimited roar from the group drowned out the piano.

Maybe being there spoilt me, as a result of most encores I’ve heard since then strike me as routine, and even perfunctory. Typically with out bothering even to announce what the music is, the soloist wheels out a chunk that – shock, shock – is featured on his or her newest album. And the poor previous orchestra has to sit down there silent and bored, although with their faces fastidiously radiating well mannered curiosity.

Thank heavens that some youthful soloists – those that dare to be totally different and are subsequently normally labelled as ‘mavericks’ – have began to rethink the entire nature of encores. On the BBC Proms just a few years in the past, Pekka Kuusisto set the pattern. After a efficiency of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto he launched right into a spirited rendition of a Finnish folksong (‘courting from the times when Russia was a part of Larger Finland,’ he quipped). What’s extra, he bought the orchestra and viewers taking part in and clapping as nicely. On the Proms final yr, Patricia Kopatchinskaja went even additional. As an alternative of ready until ‘encore time’ to play some people music, she inserted it earlier than and through her efficiency of Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2, thus revealing the inspiration behind the concerto.

That made me assume. When encores work, they work for 3 causes. First, they ambush the viewers. Secondly, they offer the performer the chance to talk, and thus set up a special form of bridge to the listeners. And thirdly, they reveal an sudden side of the performer’s musicality or persona.

However performers might do all of that in a live performance in the event that they had been daring sufficient. They don’t have to attend for ‘encore time’. They may converse to their audiences, stating what to take heed to in items, or explaining why they’re specifically drawn to this music. They usually might shock the general public with unscheduled additions, simply as Kopatchinskaja did.

Not solely would that convey extra of a way of spontaneity into classical music – one thing which may appeal to youthful folks accustomed to the informal ambiance of rock gigs. It could additionally enable soloists to disclose extra of their characters and their particular passions than is feasible throughout the corseted confines of a standard live performance programme.

Wouldn’t you like to see that sense of journey in our live performance halls? Not on a regular basis, however way more recurrently. It could be a breath of recent air. In actual fact, you would possibly even discover me shouting ‘encore!’.

Picture by Getty Pictures



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