Three things ought to be your focus as you prepare for a performance. Your audience wants to hear a message, a line, and a pulse.
Be sure of what you want to say. If your message is only notes, you better not miss any. But if you can tell a story, that's what they'll hear. A beautifully phrased line sustains interest, but static notes get stale fast. A consistent pulse gives stability, but tempos that are all over the place are annoying and rob you of the interest you want to capture.
So, keep your goals simple: Say something, go somewhere, and keep it steady.
Say something. Some sort of programmatic theme should be your focus as your music unfolds. Bring the listeners along with you. Exaggerate for drama. Give yourself completely to the message of each moment. Play confidently without being cautious. Look for all the magic moments you can find. Ensure that the audience receives your message clearly. That's why you're there.
Go somewhere. Find the high points in the music, and build your performance to make each one special. Look for the loudest moment, the highest moment, the softest and lowest moment. Bring out the sumptuous, the bazaar, the elegant, the brutal, and the sweet. You'll need these highlighted features to mark your performance as legendary. Go very soft, go very loud, go very dramatic, but always go very something. Ordinary and mundane are not what you want remembered about your work.
Keep it steady. The mark of immaturity is rushing and unsteady tempos. Deliver a rhythmically rock solid performance, and everyone will assume you are a seasoned pro. Good rhythm doesn't require great chops. Just be steady! There's a place for rubato and waxing rhapsodic, but usually not. Be a metronome and you'll stand out.
Your journey will be fun when you have something to say, somewhere to go, and steadiness in your pursuit.
So simply stated. Thanks! With festival coming up for my students, I'll be sure to pass along the info. Especially regarding the pulse. It's not just their teacher demanding they keep the beat steady, but its what an audience WANTS to hear. Thanks again!
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