Memorization is ingrained in the protocol of classical music performance. Singers, solo pianists and concerto soloists are usually expected to play "by heart." However, trios, string quartets and larger ensembles almost never play from memory (with occasional exceptions). But these rules, which evolved over time, may not stand up to close scrutiny. Some musicians find memorization liberating, but others say it inhibits, creating an unnecessary fear of forgetting the music. On this week's episode, we get two views on the topic.
The concert pianist and writer Stephen Hough says he thinks it's time to reconsider the conventions around memorization. He asks, "Isn't it most important that we play our best? And if we really play our best with a score in front of us – or these days an iPad in front of us – perhaps we shouldn't pay too much attention to this."
Hough notes with some amusement that audience members will frequently approach him backstage and express amazement at how he remembered