A friend called me the other night, telling me about a YouTube video, uploaded by user name th3wing3dpaint3r, titled: “Drama at The Piano: Pianists making unnecessary gestures while playing.” The video does me the honor of being briefly included, among a number of fantastic pianists, and I really enjoyed it because it offers food for thought. Thanks to th3wing3dpaint3r for uploading it.
I would like to offer a few considerations about gestures at the piano. People have different ways to summon up inner energy and emotions. As in life away from the piano, some of us wear their heart on their sleeve. It certainly does not mean that we express more through the music than other, more self-restrained performers, but just as surely it does not mean that our emotions are more superficial.
I think of two Titans like Richter and Michelangeli, and how diametrically different they were in their physical approach to the instrument (apart from the other differences between the two).
I think the only “unnecessary gestures” are those made without any corresponding emotional surges, fabricated artfully with the only purpose of attracting more attention to oneself. When the powerful rush of an emotion or feeling takes you, I don’t see anything wrong with it being reflected on your face and in your body, if it is sincere. I assure you, I have no idea what expressions my face is making while I am playing, and I actually feel a bit self-conscious when I watch my own videos. However, and with perhaps a few exceptions, I don’t think nirvana should be the goal of performing and/or listening to music. In music, we have suffering, desire, happiness, and the whole gamut of human emotion, and we cherish it all.