Improv Quote of the Day: Is That the Way You Feel About My Music?

Deutsch: Paul Hindemith, 1895-1963, deutscher ...

Paul Hindemith

When a composer creates a masterpiece, my job is not to recreate it; it’s to try to create another masterpiece even greater than what the composer wrote. I experienced this many times when working with contemporary composers. For example, in 1959 I was asked to play the Hindemith Concerto in Carnegie Hall with Hindemith conducting the New York Philharmonic. I knew how dogmatic Hindemith could be so I made sure that I followed his score to the letter, including his metronome indications. When I was ready my manager told me that Hindemith wanted to hear me play his concerto well before the concert. So I went to Hindemith’s hotel room in New York and knocked on the door. When he opened the door I could tell by his expression that he remembered our fight back at Yale. Then he invited me in and said, “Parisot, play my concerto.” I then played the whole concerto, facing him while he conducted. When we finished, he kept his head down, still looking at the score. I waited a bit too long, and finally asked, “Mr. Hindemith, what did you think?” He said, “Parisot, you play my concerto very well. You even respect the fingerings and bowings of my brother, who was a cellist. But I’d like to ask you one question. Is that the way you feel my music?”

I replied, “Not at all! I was just trying to obey what you wrote.”

He said, “Okay, we still have ten days. Why don’t you come back in a few days and play it the way you really want to?” I couldn’t believe my ears! Fortunately, I had the habit of learning a piece in three or four different ways, so I didn’t panic. A few days later I returned and this time I turned away from him, letting him follow me this time, and I played the concerto how I really wanted to. I put in a rubato here and there, took a little more time in other places, and when I finished, he said, “Bravo, Parisot!”

So what I’m saying is that the written notes are just the beginning, because it’s impossible to transmit one’s artistic vision and feelings to another human being through notes on a page, or even person-to-person.

Photograph of Aldo Parisot taken at May 2005 C...

Photograph of Aldo Parisot taken at May 2005 Commencement, New Haven, CT (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

–Aldo Parisot, Brazilian cellist