A commentary on the common practice of performing music from memory, written by teacher Yiyi Ku:
The issue of memory playing has haunted musicians for centuries. For some, it comes naturally; for others, it is an eternal struggle. Is it necessary to play from memory in order to give a professional, musical and convincing performance? Absolutely not. In fact, it was not the norm to perform from memory in Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven's times. It was Franz Liszt, the 19th century composer and virtuoso pianist, who was the first performer to present an entire recital by memory. (In recent years other musicians have been credited with that title, too, but Liszt was the most influential.) Yes let's all blame him!
I has become standard practice for pianists and vocalists to perform from memory in solo recitals, although the British pianist Dame Myra Hess almost always performed from score, and all musicians have suffered from memory slips of varying degrees in their lifetime. It is every musician's nightmare to forget halfway through a performance. But should this fear stop us from making music and trying to perform our best? Absolutely not. Playing from memory has many advantages, but certainly is not required in order to make beautiful music. The ultimate goal for any musician should be to make and share beautiful music, and if that can be done through playing from memory, it is just a bonus! Today, most recordings are done with the score, to ensure the utmost attention is paid to every detail indicated by the composer, while in recital, playing from memory often helps the performer to concentrate on the music and not be distracted.
Read the full article here.
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