I remember reading a legendary performer once say that no two performances are alike. When I starting studying the piano I recorded some of my practice sessions to hear how I was playing without the distraction of making the music.
The great musician was right, not only were all my repetitions different, I couldn't make my performances sound the same if I tried.
When the young competitors in the San Antonio International Piano Competition sit down in Ruth Taylor Recital Hall they may have five-hundred performances of a work in their head and hands, but it doesn't mean they know exactly how the music will come out under the pressure of performance.
That is what makes live music so special. It could be the rendition of a lifetime or the third try in the practice room thirty minutes prior.
Ravel's minor masterpiece
This Sunday we continue with performances from the semi-final round recorded last October, starting with Maurice Ravel's "Sonatine," which was composed about the same time as his "Miroirs," but with a different motivation.
A Musical magazine offered 100 francs to the winner of a contest that composed the best first movement of a Sonatine with the proviso that the work had to be 75 bars long. Ravel was the only entrant and lost the contest because his submission was a few bars too long.
It makes you wonder if the magazine was that cheap or if they were that strict that they couldn't give their only entrant a bit of a break. The composer figured that with a third of the work into the piece he might as well finish it, and by doing so gave music lovers a minor masterpiece.
A Titan's dedication
A contestant could zip off a piece of short music and let their fingers do the talking, but when it comes to the Titan from Bonn, you need the same work ethic as the composer when the work slowly came into being.
The late works of Beethoven are an excuse to delve deeply into the music and make the most of it, even if the pieces are short and go by the somewhat dismissive title of bagatelle.
The "Opus 126" was the composer's last music for the piano, and was a work he was proud of. Great interpreters have recorded this music, and a young competitor from last years SAIPC played all six bagatelles, in order, just like Beethoven wanted it.
To end the program, we have more music from Isaac Albeniz, who suffered from Bright's disease and died of kidney failure just short of his 49th birthday. Fortunately for us he lived just long enough to finish his masterwork, the four books of piano music, "Iberia."
We will feature the three pieces from book two, which includes music inspired by Ronda, a town in western Andalusia that suggests a flamenco dance. The second piece, "Almeria," is inspired by the seaport of the same name and gives up a bit of gypsy music. The third and most familiar of book two is "Triana," the old gypsy quarter in Seville with it's imitations of guitars, castanets and foot stomps; this work honors a true cradle of Flamenco music.
Hear The Piano this Sunday at 5 p.m. on KPAC & KTXI.