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In Performance: Christopher Taylor's Goldbergs

In today's Washington Post: Christopher Taylor plays the Goldberg Variations, by Anne Midgette.

* * *

Reflections before the concert: I was struck that, during Taylor's introductory remarks about the special two-manual piano he was using, the audience kept laughing after statements that really weren't that funny -- often factual statements that Taylor delivered engagingly, but that seemed to read, to some people, as punchlines.

My suspicion was that at least some of the laughter reflected polite incomprehension. Taylor didn't always fully explain his "explanations." He was talking about things that were so obvious to him that he sometimes forgot to point out the connections. Explaining a special pedal that locked the two keyboards together, he said "This enables you to do things like this," and demonstrated the multi-octave chords he could play -- but didn't tell the audience what they should be listening for. Or, mentioning that the backs of the keys of the lower manual are raised so that the white and black keys are at the same height, he pointed out that this let you play a chromatic glissando, and demonstrated -- but didn't explain the difference between this and a regular glissando on the piano, with white keys only.

It cast interesting light, for me, on the question of talking to the audience. Something certainly came across here, in that the audience liked Taylor. But I'm not sure he was communicating everything he thought he was; and I wonder if to some people it only reinforced the idea that music is a little bit arcane, or beyond their own comprehension.

Was anyone there who had a different view? Any other thoughts about the ups and downs of reaching out to the audience?

By Anne Midgette  |  October 16, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews , random musings  
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"Any other thoughts about the ups and downs of reaching out to the audience?"

Yes. Play -- beautifully. Or as someone once famously put it: "Shut up and sing!"


Posted by: ACDouglas1 | October 16, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Unlike Mr. Douglas, I often enjoy remarks by performers and conductors before a piece (though they should be kept relatively brief). Leonard Slatkin was particularly good at this during his NSO tenure, often both infomative and witty (when introducing a piece by Webern, he broke the ice by saying "Yes, this is the music you hate," then giving a short, lucid commentary).

I agree with your assessment of Christopher Taylor's remarks, Ann. He was ingratiating without being all that clear, but then, he is a math/philosophy/computer guy. More importantly, I thought the concert was very exciting (though the woman behind me thought it was a "travesty of Bach.")

I would have preferred no intermission -- it does dilute the experience a bit, though obviously easy for us listeners to say.

Sam Soopper

Posted by: geranuk | October 16, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

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