Advertising and Web Hosting on Woodwind.Org!

Klarinet Archive - Posting 000263.txt from 1998/03

From: "Karl Krelove" <>
Subj: Re: Memorization
Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 14:42:06 -0500

-----Original Message-----
From: Roger Garrett <>
Date: Wednesday, March 04, 1998 5:29 PM
Subject: Re: Memorization
>Roger Garrett wrote:
>I had the fortune of attending a Vienna Phil. performance of Mahler's 5th
>Symphony, preceded by Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.....what a great
>combination by the way! Bernstein conducted the entire program without
>music in front of him.......and he was simply amazing and brilliant in his
>inspiration of the orchestra........eyes were watching him frequently.
>Throughout the Mahler. In the Mozart, the soloist played from memory - a
>beautiful rendition - slowest second movement I have ever heard! The lack
>of music really wasn't a problem for me.
>By the way, the term, "playing from memory" is a bit misleading. It
>implies that a person is playing what they see in their mind's
>eye.....such as the musical notation. This is not really what happens -
>or should happen. Musicl memory refers to the ability of the brain to
>transmit the music directly to the fingers and other tools that are
>producing the to bypass actual thought about the specific
>notes and rhythms.

Bernstein, from many anecdotes I've read, had an exceptional ability to
memorize music very quickly. According to some accounts, he did in fact have
a "photographic memory," meaning that he actually did visualize a score
almost on sight. We have no way, of course, to know how various people
memorize. Some conductors of old memorized out of necessity because of poor
eyesight (contact lenses were I suppose less efficient or comfortable than
today's, and glasses can pose problems of comfort and, for some, vanity).
Toscanini was one well known example. Eugene Ormandy was another. I have no
first hand experience to base testimony that either Bernstein or Toscanini
ever had memory slips that adversely affected performances, and their
reputations didn't include the tendency to need bailing out by their
orchestras. Ormandy, on the other hand, almost brought two performances (of
different works) in which I was personally involved to a grinding halt
because of serious memory lapses, and stories were told by many others in
Philadelphia about similar snafus throughout his career. The point I am
lumbering toward is that individual people have different capacities for
memorizing and different ways of doing it. If it is easy for a performer and
he/she can rely invariably on his/her memory, then it doesn't constitute a
distraction for that individual and he or she may actually feel more

Whenever I try to memorize anything, the effort itself generates enough
anxiety that lapses almost become pre-ordained. I am a much better performer
with music in front of me even if I don't look at it most of the time. But
then I have rarely gotten to perform anything from the solo repertoire more
than once or twice. I recall that when I saw Isaac Stern perform the
Beethoven Violin Concerto years ago, he did it from memory - it was one of
countless performances and more rehearsals in which he played it over his
career. When I saw him do a more obscure Viotti concerto back in my high
school days, he played from printed music. It may have been the first
concert tour on which he did that piece and maybe he didn't yet feel certain
enough of it to take the chance.

     Copyright © Woodwind.Org, Inc. All Rights Reserved    Privacy Policy    Contact