From time to time, all performers, even great ones, find themselves opening a concert or stage production in a less than optimal way. It might be a case of slight memory lapses, or singers missing notes, instrumentalists just out of kilter, or an overall feeling of lack of inspiration. These are all things that can discomfort and disengage an audience and completely throw a performer – if the performer allows that to happen. But it needn’t be a disastrous night. This is where your years of training and artistic professionalism kick in.
In the 1970s I attended a concert given by pianist Daniel Barenboim in Munich. He started his recital with a Beethoven sonata, one of the Opus 10. Everything was wrong; it wasn’t just a case of split notes, if he hit a right note in the opening minutes (and it seemed like half an hour!) I didn’t hear it. Audience members looked at each other in amazement. Had he come straight from a feast with many bottles of wine? Would he fall off the piano stool? Yet somehow the performance was unmistakably Beethoven, as though a reincarnated Beethoven, totally deaf, was thrashing about on the keyboard. The exposition was bizarre, but by the repeat, Barenboim’s artistic professionalism had kicked in and the movement came back on track. The second and third movements were pure joy. Talk about a live performance. It was magical and one no one there will ever forget it.