About This Site

Too many modern-day classical performers succumb to solipsism. They don't seem to realize that the development of an individual style starts with studying the the key figures from the past. Can genius flower in a violinist who's never heard Ysaye or Kreisler, a pianist to whom Marguerite Long or Simon Barere is not a househould name, or a singer who looks at you quizzically when you mention Nellie Melba or Rosa Ponselle? I think so, yes; genetics does seem to play a significant role in talent acquisition. But a knowledge of tradition and an ability to adapt elements of differing styles into one's own work can only increase its depth and complexity. History bears this out: it was none other than Mozart, often cited as the greatest musical genius of all time, who wrote: "There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times."

My primary aim with this Web site is to show that music criticism and performance are not mutually exclusive categories but are two sides of the same coin. That is, gaining proficiency in one can only improve one's skill in the other. As a pianist, I have found this particularly applicable. On the piano, sound is an illusion; the performer must attempt to transform percussion into countoured lines, sparkling passagework, and balanced textures. Pianists sometimes have to simulate individual instruments, like the voice or cello, sometimes an entire orchestra, as in the works of Liszt, Ravel, or Rachmaninoff. All the more reason for the pianist to listen to, analyze, and reflect on performances from a wide range of disciplines. 

I should probably add the disclaimer that I'm only an amateur who loves both the critical and performing aspects of music. By criticizing the work of others, I am in no way claiming to be on the same level. Really, it's just a topic I enjoy writing about, whether it's scribbling performance notes for my CDs or spewing my opinionated thoughts about the achievements or debacles of others.

My real hopeprobably a vain one at this pointis that classical music doesn't just go the way of the dinosaur. It's a sad thing that most of humanity doesn't seem to be able to relate to much more than caterwauling, twanging guitars, and simplistic harmonies. Why not search out the works of the great classical masters? Their work is as relevant now as it was then and has much more food for the soul. Look closer.

joseph_renouf@hotmail.com      © Joseph Renouf 2012-2016