When I was going through my music library to decide which pieces to take with me to Iowa, I came across Robert Muczynski’s Time Pieces for clarinet and piano. I had performed this piece countless times around ten years ago, and I started flipping through the pages and remembering this piece’s significant role in my repertoire. It went with me to several competitions, including Astral Artists and Concert Artists Guild, where I performed it from memory, and I played it dozens of other times in recitals and other venues. As I read through my cues and margin notes, I realized that at some point in our musical journey, we put each piece of music we play back into its proper place in our music library, where it will never be played again.
Stop for a moment and let that sink in – you have already played some pieces for the last time ever. When you put a piece of music away after a recital, competition, or audition, you might not ever pick it up again. (Depending on how much you like the piece of music, that can either be a feeling of relief or poignancy.)
The more I started thinking about this, the more it began shaping my musical outlook. How would you play a piece differently if you knew it was the last time you would perform it? Would you play more intentionally? Would you take greater risks and be less careful? Chances are, your interpretation would be vastly different than if you treated it as another blasé performance in a seemingly never-ending stream of music.
You have no way of knowing when you will give your last performance of a piece. Always play everything from the heart, because you don’t know when the next time you’re going to play each piece again will be…if ever.