Nine Lessons and Carols 5

One of my favourite concert performances this year was that given by András Schiff at the BBC proms. He sat down at a piano and played through book one of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier. That was it. One man on stage with a piano, no introduction, no explanations, he simply played one piece after the other.

Modesty aside, I’m a good piano player. I’m very good. I practice, I try out new things and I get better all the time. And the better I get, the more I’m aware of the gap between me and people like Schiff. Though I can play the pieces he played, I will never play them so well, nor so effortlessly. That’s not me being modest, that’s simple fact. Schiff has practised more than me, he has more talent than me. The more I play, the more I listen to someone like him, the more aware I am of it.

But knowing that is not a reason for me to ever stop playing or performing. I don’t play to be the best, though that doesn’t stop me trying to get better. I don’t expect the audience to hang on my every note, I know they’re only listening some of the time. Sometimes they’re not listening at all. Every performer has experienced this.

And so what? Not everyone can be the best, but everyone can enjoy what they’re doing, and everyone can seek to improve.

We also serve who only stand and wait.

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