Fundamentally, a pianist is an actor. Like any other musician,
the pianist must deliver lines, intone emotions, and maintain
complete composure in performing these technical feats.
Perfect timing, well thought dynamics, and consistent
contrasts in timbre are needed to convey the structure of
the piece performed. It is aggravating when an actor
fails at this and delivers his lines as though he
does not understand them. A pianist inevitably fails.
I never expect to. I start practicing piano expecting nothing except
to escape boredom through art. Soon enough, I find myself past the
simple, rich, eight-measure introduction to J.S. Bach's
Ricercar a 3 from the Musikalisches Opfer.
I'm plunged into a struggle to play the right notes in some
repetitive, dissonant exercise in three-part harmony.
I compose myself, listening for the secret listener
who must be hiding in the shadows of the adjoining room. Then, as
I listen, I become newly aware of my sinful misrepresentation of
the music. A negative of the necessary intonation appears, and
I follow it, express. I glimpse a thread of the complex
tangle of harmony in the music. I have reached a
local center of enlightenment, the piano swells
with my excitement, the thread-like voices seem to glow with
gratitude for my releasing them, and I see yes, that this piece does
have a structure and beauty I must convey. At the crest of that
wave of emotion comes the crux. I shall never understand
that structure, and I can never properly convey it.
Sometimes, though, my grasp of the music continues beyond that
instant of enlightenment. This has happened to me only once, but that
experience is what fuels me to keep playing the piano. After weeks of
forced abstinence from my instrument, I again played the
Beethoven sonata that I had been practicing for
half a year, and it finally clicked. The rosalia became a series of
calls and answers, the chord sequence progressed oblivious to the
notes between, and transitions disappeared, replaced by
seamless transformations of tone.
With perfect concentration and poise, I played half of the first
movement before it decayed into my usual amateurish cacophony.
I was oblivious. When my piano teacher pointed out the polish the
piece had acquired, I was surprised. I played it again in my head, and
it was good.