Sep. 5, 2015

Touch, Part V

(continued from Part IV)

There's something else that should be mentioned here in connection with authenticity of touch, and it has to do with attitude.  Most people attend organ recitals because they love and appreciate the gift and beauty of music and seize whatever opportunities they have to hear it, learn from it, and experience the change it makes in them for the better.  There are some however, a very small minority of narrow minded and musically limited individuals, who unfortunately seem to come there with their bottles of vitriol as self-righteous "know it alls."  These are the sadly predictable, hypercritical, pseudo-aficionados who, by taking sides, revel in keeping the mechanical action vs. electro-pneumatic Biggs-Fox no-win war of the 20th century alive.  These relentless iconoclasts, by lambasting the way they hear things performed, ruin the joy of music for the rest, make the visit unpleasant, and do the rest of the audience a great disservice.  They are in general denial of the fact that some beautiful and very moving renditions of Baroque organ masterpieces have been performed all over the world by some very inspired performers who were not strict devotees of any school.

It helps here to keep one's perspective.  Communicating a language of warmth and meaning through the wonderment of music is what's important.  Whether the performance of a Bach piece happens to be "stylistically correct" or not, many in the audience will nevertheless enjoy it, and that is what counts.  Not every wonderful encounter with music has to be a lesson in performance practice.  Most in the audience don't care if the performance is "stylistically correct" or not.  They don't care if the performer plays everything broken, everything legato, uses thumbs on sharps, plays pedal scales with the hands, plays manual scales with the feet, sways on the bench, wears a mask, makes faces, chews gum, wears ear protection, wags their head, rolls their eyes, sticks their tongue out, waves their hands, wears cowboy boots, works barefoot, or coughs their way through the whole thing [See blog, Mannerisms].  They only want to hear music that pulsates, breathes with life, and moves them, even thrills them, and hear it clearly.  The technique used to produce that music is of no interest to them.  Authenticity is a good starting point for further personal interpretation, but good taste and balance needs to be present all the time.  The authentic-only attitude is no better than a Bach-only attitude.  Authenticity can also be a favorable hiding place for mediocrity.  This is not to say that "authentic" performance should be discouraged or even exclusively promoted.  But everything an organist does should be secondary to the production of music, and the message is more important than the medium.