I wandered through the countryside of Portugal the other day and happened to pass the farm of famous pianist Maria João Pires. Attracted by the sound of piano music, I slipped in through the back door. Le beau hasard. I could listen and watch while she was giving a master class. As I entered, she was just talking about what should drive a pianist, is it his brain or his body?

A big blond lad is playing a staccato when Maria stops him, saying: ‘What do you feel? Feel it with your body, not  (tapping her forehead) with your head – do not hear what I am saying, I’m not talking to you, I don’t exist, you are, you are feeling now, I’m just helping you to feel something – feel it with all your being’. Then she whispers: ‘go go go’. The student plays. She stops him again and says: ’Who is saying that ? You…? Really?’  The student: ‘My brain, my sense of style when I have to play staccato’. Maria: ‘Not good’. A while later, we hear him say that playing should be about ‘giving space’. Maria: ‘Good! The space is given by time. Time…no time … all the world is mine, I don’t have to do, I just feel’.

The Brazilian pianist Caio Pagano  then quotes Mahler: ‘the score is everything you need to know about the music – except the essential’.

Listen to this most interesting fragment of the great documentary : ‘Imagine… being a concert pianist’ of the BBC:

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