Wimbledon and how to be a virtuoso

In the paper today I came across advice by tennis star Tim Henman (ok, he’s not Roger Federer, but he still knows a lot about tennis). With barely an edit, I gave it to an immensely talented student who somehow invariably falters when it comes to playing in front of an audience.

So, to quote/paraphrase TH:

1. The most basic need in performing is to stay in the present tense. You can’t change what’s just been played and you can’t worry about what’s coming. The thing is to play each moment to the best of your ability and not let either previous slips or future concerns distract you.

2. Absolutely maintain your focus on the moment. It’s so easy to let your mind wander, and the way to combat this is to make a conscious effort to think about something relevant – like the quality of sound or shape of a phrase. Be master of your own mind and insist it is always on the music.

3. Trust your instinct – playing by instinct can be a good thing in those moments when there just isn’t time to think. It need hardly be said that is absolutely not the same as playing unthinkingly from habit! Instinct only works when there is solid preparation and understanding behind it. And it may just create a wonderful moment of pure inspiration.

So, for those pianists who haven’t quite got what it takes to become international virtuosi – there’s always Wimbledon