“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”

Monday, February 6, 2012

On Competition

It's Not a Competition:

At J. conservatory, the students of Mme. L. always won the concerto competition. It was expected; it was the norm. The student contestants expected it. Mme expected it. The entire school expected it. Yet, all of the teachers entered their students, pressing them into this futile exercise. X., a friend of mine who studied with Mr. F., prepared the concerto du jour, Mozart Coronation, to the exclusion of virtually all of his other repertoire. He was an obsessive/compulsive personality, as it seems many of the students were in those days (probably still are) and prepared as if his life depended on it. He told me he didn't want to disappoint Mr. F, but I know from other conversations that his unsupportive parents figured in the mix. His mother once visited his room near the school and pronounced it the product of a sick mind. Well, X. told me, maybe this time a different teacher would produce the winning performer. Wouldn't that be an upheaval. Maybe Mr. F. would get the respect he deserves.

The piano faculty assembled, along with Maestro J.M. and his conducting staff. The students congregated in the corridors, where they waited for their time to audition. Some, of course, would be in the practice rooms up to the last possible minute; X. was one of these. As a graduate student, I was somewhat above the fray. I'd lived enough to know that life didn't depend on only one performance, or on any one event, unless that event included being run over by a bus.

X. appeared on the scene just seconds before his appointed time. I was there to listen from outside, as he had asked, and gave him by best thumbs-up smile. He played like an angel. They let him play the entire concerto through, including the cadenzas, which I took to be a good sign. I waited by the stage entrance to congratulate him but when the door opened X. ran right past me muttering "I missed a note, I missed a note" over and over all the way to the men's room, where he vomited violently. X. played like an artist, suffered terribly and the winning contestant did not come from the studio of Mr F. that year. X. was last seen on a Kibbutz in Israel. In this case, the jury lived up to its pretrial publicity.

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