After preliminary rounds of Juilliard piano concerto competitions — judged by the faculty, final rounds were judged by outside musicians — one ritual always surprised me. After the voting, and after the announcement of the names of three or four pianists who would advance to the final round, hands were shaken, backs slapped. “Congratulations Herbert!” “Congratulations Marty!” The teachers of the winning students were congratulated, almost as if they had played in the competition themselves.
Last Saturday night, I was the itinerant piano teacher, not traveling to teach, but traveling to listen to two of my students slated to perform at almost exactly the same time. After hearing the first half of a graduation recital played by a student at New England Conservatory (Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin), I bolted from the hall, got into the car (8:31 p.m.), and expeditiously drove to Harvard. I parked in an approximately legal space, and rushed into Paine Hall where intermission was ending (8:51 p.m.). Then my student appeared to perform Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, with one of the Harvard orchestras.
We can’t really take credit for our students’ playing, anymore than we can disavow it when it’s not good. Perhaps it was the frenzy of driving, or the high quality of the playing last Saturday, I was riveted by the doing of these performances, my palms moist (perhaps “entraining” cognitive psychologists might say) — almost is if I was giving the concerts myself.