Right — and wrong — ways to use a score
There are several points of view on solo performance from memory. Mine is that whoever needs a score should use one for the entire program. Otherwise it looks to the audience as if the soloist hasn’t quite learned everything, or considers one piece more worth taking time to memorize than another.
Examples of wrong score use (1) and right (2), at two Tanglewood concerts:
1: Thursday’s interesting recital in Ozawa Hall by the German- and Spanish-speaking mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink (pictured, with pianist Anthony Spiri), who has creamy tone, excellent pitch and two mother tongues in which to sing. The first half was lieder (songs) by Robert and Clara Schumann. Clara, perhaps the best concert pianist of her day and mother of seven, was a talented composer whose career was cut short when she was made to realize that composing was unbecoming to a woman. (Makes smoke come out of your ears, doesn’t it?)
Fink sang Robert’s songs from memory, including the cycle “Frauenliebe und leben” (“Women’s love and life”), among the most insipid poems ever set to glorious melody. The young singing character is enraptured by the wedding ring and the baby: nothing could be more exalted than figuratively arranging the ground under her husband’s feet — an acceptable attitude in Schumann’s times.
But for Clara’s equally lovely songs, set to first-rate poetry — some set later by Mahler — Fink used a score on a low stand . When she came to places she was unsure of, she swooped forward for a peek. Message to listeners: Clara’s stuff isn’t worth memorizing, but let’s throw it in anyway, it’s a nice couples thing. Fink must love this music, who wouldn’t? Too bad she played it small.
2: Friday’s Boston Symphony concert in the Koussevitzky Music Shed, pianist Richard Goode in Mozart’s rarely-heard Concerto K. 449 (conducted with heft and gravitas by Christoph Von Dohnanyi, whom I couldn’t wait to hear again Sunday in Beethoven and Dvorak). Goode, really smart, manages to channel his eccentricity into splendid pianism. He used a score for this substantial piece, but something looked odd — what had he done to it? I ran up to the stage afterward to catch a glimpse: he’d cut up the pages and pasted each line onto his own blanks, according to where he wanted to turn the pages.
Now that is creative score use, and as a bonus, no page-turner is needed.