What ignites you? This question was recently raised during a lunch I attended and it got me thinking about the true motivation of our acts and how artists motivate their output.
Traveling ignites me and hearing well-known artists perform and seeing the big names and star pianists I idolise in action remains my ultimate treat. Between my performing obligations I sometimes try and spoil myself with some world-class performances by colleagues.
I recently had the joy of attending an interview with Pierre-Laurent Aimard in Amsterdam where he spoke about the art of compiling a programme ahead of performing a solo recital the same day. He was clearly ignited by both new music and the canon of standard piano repertoire. His main concern was performing cohesive and musically satisfying programmes. This illustrated his true quest for artistry and honest intentions for performing music and communicating a lasting impression, rather than stunning the audience with his talent and abilities. He made it very clear that the number of audience members was not at all a priority for him when considering a new programme. This is a luxury some might argue and yet the popular star pianists of the day seem to only play music that will attract the masses. The age old dispute between art and popular entertainment I guess.
Hearing two more idols in the following days included Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Dame Mitsuko Uchida. I was struck by the realness of their musicianship which illustrated vulnerable and very honest music making in contrast to flawless and inevitable sounding recordings by some other super heroes of classic music. It reminded me of the power of our intentions when making music and how responsible we should be in planning and preparing before we release the fruits of our labour on stage. Inspiration does not come in a more pure form than this for me.
Living in South Africa sometimes make me feel worlds removed from Europe and the USA, but with the internet and flights making it possible to have dinner in Zurich and breakfast in Bloemfontein I have come to realise it is possible to be ignited more often if one has the means and the health to do it. I now know how small the world can be and that I am only a plain ticket away from these experiences and feel most fortunate to experience this. If you have a bucket list of performers or artists you want to hear before it is too late I cannot urge you strongly enough to do it. Go!