Why I f’ed up: thoughts on performance anxiety (Part 1)

Assuming one is adequately prepared, why do mistakes still happen in performance? Some possibilities from my personal experience:

a) Distraction: Thinking about something non-musically related and performing on auto-pilot. Sometimes auto-pilot works just fine, but switching focus back to music is when things go wrong.

b) Evaluation: Thinking, “That could’ve been better,” or “This is going well!” Whether positive or negative, evaluation means I’m thinking about what already happened instead of listening and being in the moment. Not much different from a) in effect.

c) Self-doubt: Thinking, “Do I remember the fingering/notes here?” “Can I play this part?” Obviously the answer is “yes,” but the second I doubt it, I screw it up.

d) Forgetting: Some things require extra concentration or intentional counting to execute, and I don’t remember to do it unless it’s written in my score. (I’m sorry to report this worsens with age.)

e) Accidents: Sometimes mistakes just happen because we’re human.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Strategies to avoid f’ing up!

Repertoire List: 2015-2016 Academic Year

Song cycles, sonatas, concertos, etc. were performed in their entirety unless otherwise specified.

Works performed in public:

Argento “who knows if the moon’s a balloon” from Songs About Spring
Bacewicz Three Arabic Songs
Barber Cello Sonata, Op. 6
Berlioz “Le Vin de Syracuse” from Béatrice et Bénédict
Bernstein I Hate Music
Bizet La coccinelle
Bizet Tarantelle
Brahms Clarinet Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 120, No. 2
Brahms “Der Kranz” from Romanzen und Gesäng, Op. 84
Brahms Spanisches Lied, Op. 6
Brahms “Vergebliches Ständchen” from Romanzen und Gesäng, Op. 84
Chabrier Les cigales
Chopin arr. Nathan Milstein Nocturne in c-sharp minor, Op. posth. for violin and piano
Copland Clarinet Concerto
Debussy “C’est l’extase” from Ariettes oubliées
Debussy Première Rhapsodie
Eshpai “Rhapsody” from Hungarian Tunes
Fauré Les berceaux, Op. 23, No. 1
Franck Violin Sonata in A major
Gluck “O del mio dolce ardor” from Paride ed Elena
Hahn Si mes vers avaient des aile
Handel “Hence, Iris, hence away” from Semele
Handel “Non disperar” from Giulio Cesare
Hindemith Kammermusik No. 3, Op. 36, No. 2
Ives Violin Sonata No. 3
Koussevitzky Chanson Triste, Op. 2
Koussevitzky Valse Miniature, Op 1, No.2
Kreisler Tambourin Chinois
Massenet “Ah, douce enfant” from Cendrillon
Mendelssohn “You spotted snakes” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Moore “Willow Song” from The Ballad of Baby Doe
Mozart “Durch Zärtlichkeit” from Die Entführung aus dem Serail
Porter “Another Op’nin’, Another Show” from Kiss Me, Kate
Poulenc “C” from Deux Poèmes d’Aragon
Poulenc “La sauterelle” from Le bestiaire
Prokofiev “Waltz” from Cinderella
Ravel “Le grillon” from Histoires naturelles
Ravel Violin Sonata in G major
Respighi Pioggia
Rossini “Anzoleta avanti la regata” from La regata veneziana
Rossini Canzonetta Spagnuola
Rossini “La danza” from Les soirées musicales
Rossini “La partenza” from Les soirées musicales
Rossini Nizza
Scarlatti Già il sole dal Gange
Schubert “Der Neugierige” from Die schöne Müllerin
Schubert “Die Männer sind méchant” from Refrainlieder, D 866
Schubert Gretchen am Spinnrade, D 118
Schubert Rastlose Liebe, D 138
Schumann “Die Rose, die Lilie” from Dichterliebe, Op. 48
Schumann “Ich will meine Seele tauchen” from Dichterliebe, Op. 48
Shearing “It was a lover and his lass” from Songs and Sonnets
Shearing “Who is Silvia?” from Songs and Sonnets
Strauss Ständchen, Op. 17
Stravinsky “Divertimento” from The Fairy’s Kiss
Tartini Violin Sonata in g minor, “Devil’s Trill”
Tubin Concerto for Double Bass (1948)
Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music
Vaughan Williams “Whither must I wander?” from Songs of Travel
Wolf “Die Spröde” from Goethe Lieder

Works prepared for competitions, masterclasses, and recordings:

Bach “Ich folge dir gleichfalls” from St. John Passion, BWV 245
Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 83 (Allegro non troppo)
Debussy “Il pleure dans mon cœur” from Ariettes oubliées
Donaudy O del mio amato ben
Handel “Lasica ch’io pianga” from Rinaldo
Handel “Si, tra i ceppi” from Berenice
Hoiby “Lady of the Harbor” from Three Women
Mahler “Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft” from Rückert Lieder
Offenbach “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour” from Les contes d’Hoffmann
Previn “Sea Air” from A Streetcar Named Desire
Rossini “Cruda sorte!…Già so per pratica” from L’italiana in Algeri
Rossini “L’invito” from Les soirées musicales

Greatest hits since 2010:

Barber Sure on this shining night, Op.13, No. 3
Brahms Clarinet Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 120
Brahms Vergebliches Ständchen
Gluck O del mio dolce ardor
Parisotti Se tu m’ami

10 things that keep a collaborative pianist up at night

  1. Potential page-turning catastrophes
  2. Which all-black outfit should I wear tomorrow?
  3. Devising ways to keep my hands warm
  4. Do I practice too much?
  5. Do I practice too little?
  6. M.130–137 of the second movement of the Franck violin sonata
  7. How can I make more money?
  8. Oh, the pieces I could play with larger hands!
  9. Do I have enough binders? I should buy more binders.
  10. Crippling self-doubt