Notes vs Music

We were beginning a recording of works by a lesser-known English Baroque composer, with little time and a lot of concerti grossi ahead of us. There was (as is too often the case, especially in the UK) not enough time to actually rehearse and record the music so we had to look only at a few representative parts and then just play the stuff. The engineer would tell us which bits he probably couldn’t fix in the editing suite and we would get a second pass at those. With a familiar composer, you can guess what is coming up to a certain degree, knowing their language. This music however was full of charming but unexpected eccentricities. Our inspired director advised us to

“play the music and get the notes right by accident!”

An incredibly useful and succinct point, and one that I have beneficially borne in mind ever since. The music is the important bit, not to be confused with the notes which are mere detail. The more technically demanding the notes, the less attention a player can find themselves devoting to the bigger picture unless they are vigilant. As an esteemed colleague is fond of saying, in a phrase which appears comicly self-effacing but is actually  quite profound:

“the notes are just a guide”

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