Practice. Let’s talk about it

Posted on May 19th, 2019 by

A page from Sadie Harrison’s ‘Bavad Khair Baqi!’ on my desk. 19 5 19

I love practice. Every night, when everyone else has gone to bed, I set up my work table, with pens, pencil, Verbena tea, pencil sharpeners, mutes, and white-out, and get to work.

I am aware that there are some different ideas as to why musicians practice. There are many reasons, and over the next few days, I will offer some nugatory possibilities.

The first springs from the magnified sliver of music above. I premiered this piece in 2003 and recorded it the same year. I have played it many times since, and judging by the dates on my copy, it has come in for serious attention, on four or five occasions since. By that I mean that, beyond the revision/maintenance work that we do on pieces that we know very well, musicians, will often take time to do serious ‘overhaul’ work on pieces. This is when we can learn more, not about them, but FROM them. I will come back to this in the next installment of this,

Today, I would just like to observe something very straightforward. Practice affords me the chance to pick up on things which I have missed or forgotten. In a complicated drama like Sadie’s piece, fraught with detail on the micro and macro level, I have to work very hard, scrutinising the material, to ensure, first of all , that nothing has been left by the wayside.

And today, I found a note-the E natural highlighted above. It’s almost nothing, a single spark thrown into the aire by the fire and fury of the piece. But I realised that I had allowed it to lapse, had even forgotten it (the E). So today, it was reinstated, and and little roadsign went into my copy.

This is to begin by saying, that the first, basic purpose of practice, is to ensure, that we DONT LEAVE ANYTHING OUT. It’s deeply satisfying to find a detail like this, in a piece that I love, and to restore it!

Listen here to the whole of Bavad Khair Baqi!

Sadie Harrison – Bavad Khair Baqi! Peter Sheppard Skaerved- Violin (Antonio Stradivari 1699)

So, to begin at the beginning. From a physical point of view, violin practice is all about choreography. Every sound produced on the violin requires two actions-the bow drawn at ca.90 degrees to the strings, and the fingers on one or more of four strings. But that’s only the start of it. The bowing is a binary action, ‘up & down’ which means that every melody has to be divided up accordingly. The down bow is, generally more aided by gravity, whilst the up is not. This means, perhaps oddly, that the ‘up’ which takes more work, sounds lighter. If we were scan a melody like a line of poetry, the up-bows, in general, would be the non-ictic syllables in each foot.

My copy of Bach’s Chaconne. I like to mark everything.

Here’s my copy of some Bach. As you will see, I take a completist approach to making copies. There’s a simple reason which I will come to.

Then each note or chord demands a finger, or a combination of fingers. This will also be affected by which of the four strings they are placed on and in which ‘position’. I never think in the traditional ‘numbered positions’, but rather about the hand floating about the fingerboard.

Before I get into the real detail, a few more notes about my notation of fingering and bowing. In the score above, you will see red marks. These indicate where a finger is playing two strings at once ‘covering a fifth’. Although there are 4 strings, each finger, moving across the fingerboard at en exact right-angel to the string, has 7 possible positions on the G,D,A, E and on G&D, D&A, and A&E. The red marks mean that I always know where that fifth interval is. You will notice that there are also green pencil indications. These are free-ringing ‘open’ strings, which gives me an idea of the tintinnabulary aspect of Bach’s writing. The basis of all string playing is the free-ringing string and harmonics. It’s important for me, to recognise how much of this Bach is expecting. So I notate it.

Mid-Chaconne in Nicosia two weeks ago, has arrived. With my favourite bow, by Antonio Airenti, of Genova,31 7 18 Photo by Marius Pavlou

So i was talking about choreography, and this, from a physical point of view, is where the real practice, the exploration comes in. The crucial thing, is the elegant ‘stepping’ of the fingers, woven together with the ‘poise’ of the bow from note to note, phrase to phrase.

J S Bach – D minor Cbaconne

Peter Sheppard Skaerved – Violin. Stradivari ‘Joachim’ 1699

So now it’s time to be rude.


The main purpose of fingering is not to move around the fingerboard. It’s not to press notes down. Good fingering is not that which allows the player to whizz around as slickly as possible. The high point of left hand technique is not the ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’ or the 10ths from Paganini ‘3rd Caprice’, as impressive as those are, without question. The purpose of fingering, on a string instrument, in concert with the action of the bow, is in part to enable the subtleties of stress, catch, release, accent, elision, caesura, and so on, which are the stock in trade of poetry, of rhetoric, of speech, and ideally, of singing. Listen to a great rapper in action, and it’s not just a stream of words, however fast, however dazzling. It’s not just rhyme, it’s not just rhythm, and it’s not just percussion. There’s a lot more going on, to do with the resistance of moving from one word to another, from syllable to syllable, consonant to vowel, glottal stops, piled up consonants and so on. Fingering enables this, empowers this, if we allow it to. Louis Krasner said to me:

The perfect fingering should leave the player feeling like they are clinging to the side of a mountain side by their finger nails

Louis Krasner to PSS 1988

Louis Krasner at NEC Boston. Photo: PSS

So, here’s me being rude. I hear young players talking about the ‘magic’ fingerings which their teachers have given them. Without exception, these are seen as magic because, they ‘work really well in a concert’, ‘enable me to play faster’, ‘sound brilliant’. These are not my quotes. And, I can hear it in the playing. Very efficient, very facile, but lacking the sense of the hand going deep into the fingerboard (listen to the open of Prokofiev 1 played by Stern) or myriad subtleties of fingerplacement and replacement (listen to Neveu playing Debussy ‘Ménestrels’), just to give two examples. Or, of course, every note of Louis Krasner’s recording of the Berg Concerto under Webern. There’s such a lot going on, and it is the result of deep thought about, in small part, what the fingers and the left hand can do, sonically.

A page from my performing score of George Rochberg’s ‘Caprice Variations’ ca 2000-this was my second working score of this piece-these four pages are reduced onto one of A4 Just a mnemonic of the work.

I would suggest that violinists take notice of harp players and rock climbers. In both cases, there’s a clear distinction between planning, application, and execution. The greatest ‘boulderer’ today, is without doubt, the young Slovenian Janja Garnbret. Watch some of this.

Garnbret’s impact on the bouldering world, has been a little like the arrival of the 16 year old Jascha Heifetz in 1917, when famously Mischa Elman turned to Leopold Godowsky and said, “It’s hot in here, isn’t it?” Quick as a flash, Godowsky retorted, “No Mischa. Not for pianists.” To put this in context, in the past year, Garmbret has climbed 61 routes in international competion, and only tapped out of 3 of them. It’s unheard-of. But her success is not just due to a facile technique, but an analytical approach to ‘sending’ a route, a combination of relentless practice and planning when presented with each challenge.

And harpists: In order to play anything of any harmonic complexity, a harpist must first of all map out the combinations of pedalling. Each pedal, of course, enables the string to be displaced by a semitone in each direction. Watch a harpist sitting with a score, mapping out the next of pedalling, then working the fingering into that, adjusting the enharmonic possibilities of different pedalling/fingering combinations. And again, this is before the subtle work begins. The results can be extraordinary. Listen here to the great Dutch harpist Godelieve Schrama, playing Scarlatti:

This is so much more than just fingering, moving easily around the instrument. For a hint at what I will be getting at, you could whizz over to some of my rantings about Mozart HERE

So the question is: what are we looking for? It’s a fundamental one for any artist, and the answer, very often is, from the writer, the painter, the sculptor or the musician, “I don’t know what it is, but I know it, when I see it.” I sometimes think that we musicians don’t listen carefully enough to the way that other artists work, to the way that they talk about their work, about the way they use the word ‘practice.’ It’s clear that they are referring to private world, a place where decisions are made as to what parts of that private world might become public, if any.

First night of practice, Longyearbyen, 78/15 degrees.

I need to take a step back, and introduce another element into this discussion. Ethics. I am not sure when it happened, but at some point in my early training, it was made clear to me, that the question of good and bad violin playing, there was exactly that. ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and that these essentials should lead us, in the most pragmatic of decisions, over how we put the fingers on the string, the use the bow. At it’s most specious level, this was a question of not cutting corners, and at its most elevated, was illuminated by Keat’s ‘beauty/truth’ paradigm.

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, —that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”.

Ode on a Grecian Urn BY JOHN KEATS

This was drummed into me, from the earliest age, that the hunt for truth in beauty, beauty in truth, has been handed to us as an obligation, as a sacred trust, and that trust shone a clear light on the path that should be taken in the pursuit of our art. Of course, a little later, in my early teens, the encounter with Wilfred Owen’s Strange Meeting. added another vital element, that of mystery.

I went hunting wild /After the wildest beauty in the world,/ Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair, /But mocks the steady running of the hour, /And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.

The Poems of Wilfred Owen, edited by Jon Stallworthy (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1986)

The daily labour of practice, it seems to me, revolves around trying to reconcile these apparently irreconcilable demands, and that that struggle behoved us to take the hardest track, the stony path, for no other reason that we were obligated to do it.

So night after night, and sometimes, as in the picture above, those nights are as bright as day. I set out my practice table, get the violin out, and try to organise my imagination and my hands according to these frightening strictures, the understanding that no amount of work was ever going to be enough, on the one hand, and, on the other, that we are looking for something completely unquantifiable, as elusive as it is quotidien. Inspiration.

There’s a common misconception that musicians live in houses filled with music. I can assure you that this very often, not the case. Practice itself, particularly of the violin, is a painstaking process, which would be as entertaining as listening to someone quilting (without the attendant story-telling). It has a fascinating relationship to rehearsal, most particularly when rehearsal gets close, in spirit, to the rehearsal process. So here’s a general rule: the less rehearsal time there is for a concert, the more noisy the rehearsal will be, the more music-making there will be. When there is plenty of time, or, and this the situation I seek, the colaborators have worked together in great detail, for many years, the rehearsal itself will come closest to the almost-silent nature of practice.

From where I sit. Mihailo Trandafilovski, composer violinist, in action. 12 5 16

I am writing this waiting to rehearse with the composer violinist Mihailo Trandafilovski. Mihailo and I have collaborated for 13 years. This means that we have worked together in enormous detail, for thousands of hours. Today we will work on pieces that we have played together many times by Scelsi, Telemann, and Mihailo himself. This means that the rehearsal will consist of the latest stage in an ongoing conversation. It’s not a question of ‘getting it right’ but rather spending a certain amount of time with the materials, weighing up possibilities, chit-chat about and around the music, and listening. Some years ago, a musicologist spent some time observing our rehearsals, and noted the preponderance of laughter and what she calls ‘musicking’. She presented the results in pie-charts (which elicited more laughter).

Rehearsal with MIhailo Trandafilovski 26 5 19

Looking at yesterday’s rehearsal, it’s instructive to break down some of the technical elements that go into a rehearsal and practice. Some of the points discussed are very prosaic. For instance, we were rehearsing Giacinto Scelsi’s Arc-en-Ciel (again, a piece we have played many many times). At the beginning of the score, the composer suggests retuning the D string of the violin, to make some of the stretches easier (not as is often the case, for colouristic reasons). I asked: ‘Do we do this?’ , and got the response, ‘No, we don’t need to….do you have a problem with the stretch?’. So, an element of the work is reminiscence, checking the basic practical elements. These practical elements can be astonishingly prosaic. Mihailo: ‘I still have problems with these page turns. They will be a mess today, but I will sort them out by Saturday.’ It’s important to note, as this shows, that some bits of rehearsal do not fix problems in the moment, but work through a check-list of things that WILL be right (‘don’t worry’). Then they were broader, but important observations. Me: ‘You know, it’s crochet 94, I think we have tended to play it slower’ Mihailo-flipping through the score as I speak:’Yes …oh my god… it’s meant to be 3 minutes 26….and I have a note here that we take 4 minutes—-where did that come from ?’ ‘I don’t know’ [we play the piece] ‘It’s better faster’. Its worth noting, that at no point in the discussion around the piece do we discuss fundamentals – intonation, colour, timbre, rhythm, dynamics etc. The ‘discussion’, if you can call it that, is in the playing, which is not a read-through, and not a performance. but rather a tightly observed execution of our version of the score, if you like, assayed.

The work begins here, my practice desk in Stillwater MN. 111116

The notion of ‘assaying’ brings me back to practice. I love that the bifurcation etymologies of ‘assay’ ‘essay’ ‘assess’ ‘assaier’ ‘ essayer’ have revealed tiny differences in our assesment procedures. When we practice, we are trying to assess what we have (our assets-which are linked), so we try things out (essayer) and weigh up the results (assay). Hidden behind this is the idea of assaying gold, which in metallurgy is done using ‘cupellation’ – where the metal is heated to separate the noble metals, gold, from the base: lead, copper, zinc, arsenic, antimony or bismuth, present in the ore. But of course silver, is assayed by ‘titration’, the slow addition of a known concentration of the ‘titrant’ to a known volume of another solution of unknown concentration until the reaction is neutralised.

These processes are useful analogies to the practice. It’s all about purity, separating the base from the noble, looking for the true. Of course, this pre-supposes that what we are hunting for is ‘noble’ or ‘pure’, and there the metaphor becomes uncomfortable.

Process: Three fully worked parts of Judith Bingham’s ‘The Lost Works of Paganini’, written for me in 2006-7
Judith Bingham – Cholera Fantasy (The Lost Works of Paganini) Live Performance by PSS

So lets go into a little detail. There are many ‘machines’ that I use in the study and practice process, which with any piece of music in my repertoire, is ongoing. Once a musician has started working on a composition, it’s always being re-thought. And yes that process can be deep below the surface, in the months between its reappearance on the practice desk.

However it’s a good idea to think about ‘good practice’, in the broadest sense. I have one guiding principle , which is that ‘technique’ is not a box of tricks which can be, or should be, exported from one piece to another, or one composer to another. It seems to me, that we are bound to remake our approach to the instrument, to harmony, to colour, to rhetoric, with each work studied. Sui generis playing is as unacceptable as sight-reading, and there’s too much of it out there.

There’s no right way to approach a new, or old work. But there are a number of approaches which I believe are valid, and I will start describing them here, in no particular order or hierarchy. In the long run, I aim to bring all of them to bear on a piece of music, and I am never quite sure which I will use to start with, until I sit down with the instrument, the score and the reading lamp.

I will begin with what might be called the motive-complete approach. Having worked so closely with composers for so many years, I am mildly obsessive about finding ways that my practice process might reach the compositional process, mirror it, as closely as possible. Please note, I am not talking about the workshop/collaborative exploration that fascinates me here, just how one gets under one of the skins of a piece.

It really doesn’t matter where I choose to enter a score-and lets presume for now, that this just focuses on the study of a work for violin alone (which eschews the question of how this relates to a full score of a chamber or concertante work). I apologise if this sounds like a recipe.

Choose any figure, small or large, significant or trivial, from the movement in question. Study it in the closest possible technical detail you can. If there seems to be bowing and fingering the composer might have had in mind (and in the case of composers such as Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Bach… I could go on… that is usually the case), decide what position you are going to take on that (use it or reject it-just make an active decision). When you have exhausted all the possibilities with your motif, or gesture, find its relatives in the score. Begin with the duplicates, its siblings, then move to cousins, first and second, and so on, until you find, or think, that you have run out of related or linked material. Then choose another figure, and repeat the process. Keep repeating, until you find you have worked on every corner of the movement in question. In 9 times out of 10, the process will result in a few orphans; you will get to the end of the hunt for relations and find that few gestures don’t fit, don’t seem to belong. Talking with composes about such remnants, it is not uncommon to find that these are the original stimulus for the movement, like the grain of grit which irritates the oyster into producing the pearl, the artistic equivalent of a stone in a walking boot. In the case of multi-movement, sectional through-composed pieces (such as a Bartók string quartet) these lonely figures, have a proleptic function, the musical equivalent of deja-vu: the simple analytical practice process throws them into sharp relief.

The reason that I like this technique, is that one of the results is that technical solutions, or possibilities, will be integrated, helping to ground expression deep in the music itself, as opposed to applying it like grease-paint after the work has been done. It allows me to have a working relationship with the elements of a piece, and pushes the physical, manual, physiological work into the same space as the conceptual.

Nicola Matteis- D minor Allende -At the Practice Desk Recording. PSS. 30 5 19

Vital tools. Score. Bow, Pens and pencils, Timer, and microphone (and white out)

So this morning, another approach. The question of practice is linked, in many people’s minds, to that of ‘interpretation’. It’s a personal position, but I don’t practise in order to develop or refine whatever an ‘interpretation’ might be. But sometimes, practice will include a lot of what might pass as actual playing, although not bordering on performance, such as the 5 minutes of Matteis – which is just an open mic. at my desk this morning. That’s just a segment lifted from guietly rotating around this short piece of music. By rotating, I simply mean ambling through the music, taking advantage of the repeat signs, ‘petites reprises’ (choosing to play a phrase, or motif more than once), and opportunities to decorate – aided by Matteis’ own proffering of a version ‘a due corde’ (‘on two strings’). I would not really be able to say what I am doing, dropping a turn or mordent in here, an extra bass note there, a scale here, seeing what comes to mind and hand. I am not even sure how or why I would make the decision to stop: It’s like exploring a room in a wonderful old building. I might walk around, look at a few of the pictures, admire a piece of furniture, a letter left on a writing table, momentarily note the view from a desk, have a conversation about who had been there, and then choose to leave it – knowing that there is chance of coming back , and that I will start to enjoy it more, initially using the tool of memory, but increasingly as an imaginative, space. For instance, I have a whole cast of ghosts who inhabit the ground floor salon of Sir John Soane’s house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, but they took up residence after I lef, and are never actually there when I visit. This morning’s kind of practice , is I think, enables this kind of fantasy – for me, anyway.

Puzzling it out. 6 6 19

It’s been a week, since I last added anything to this, and as I have a concert tomorrow evening, I thought that it might be a good to talk a little about performance preparation. Now, I am afraid that I am not going to talk about some of the things that people find useful, and interesting, pertaining to the anxiety about,and during performance. I have always found the stage to be the most comforting, freeing, and homelike place, inasmuch as it can be said to be a place at all. But that is with the proviso that that sense of home is linked to the way that I like to put concerts together.

First of all, an admission. I don’t like giving the same concerts twice. I don’t do it. However, I love reassembling pieces in different orders and contexts, and seeing what happens. Play a group of works you know well in a new gathering, or order, and each piece will reveal something new. With solo concerts, I prefer (and this is much easier when I am running concerts the way I want to run them), to make a musical ‘menu’ from which the programme will be chosen, and in the days running up to the performance, to pull them into tight focus, and to allow a theme, or a mode if you like, to emerge from the result.

C17th Hourglass/Sermon Timer. St Vedests. Foster Lane 15 2 17

The foundation of this process, is time. The shallowest and most important aspect of Time, for a concert, is the exact length that the concert will take. This might sound trite, but for me, it is important, especially if I am making a programme of short pieces, to build a real feeling of how the arrangement and presentation of these pieces might fit into the exact time allotted for the concert. Vitruvius gives this notion its Greek moniker, Diathesis or arrangement, the art of ‘putting things in their proper places’. Vitruvius notes that the crucial tools for this process are ‘Reflection’, ‘careful and laborious thought’ and ‘Invention’.

In the 17th and 18th Centuries, pulpits had hourglasses, mounted so that both the minister and his congregation, might see them. This meant that the observing of time, and the move towards the final ‘cadence’ of the homily, was shared.

I find this very useful. If, as tomorrow, I am practising a concert which is one hour long, from start to finish, I need to make decisions about the choices and the performance of the pieces, that takes that into account. So, as you can see from the very prosaic picture of today’s practice notebook, this demands a timer, which I use to decide what-comes-when, and perhaps more importantly (and this is always a question when playing music which uses repeats and ‘reprises’ to give space for embellishment and ornament) the relationship between the form of the concert and the internal forms of each piece.

If you will excuse my being a little dry, I would like to go a little further. Most later baroque suites are made up of groups of dances, which might be ‘Allemande-Corrente-Sarabanda-Giga’ (Stately – Scampering – Poised – Dashing -{for sake of argument}). Now, each of these will be in what we will call binary form ‘AB’ with a repeat in the middle and at the end, so, conventionally, they might be played either AABB, AB, AAB, or maybe ABB. Playing the whole group of pieces AABB will double its length. Playing the 1st and 3rd movements (which are slower, and therefore, longer) thus will increase the length of the whole far more than playing movements 2 and 4 thus. So already there’s an interesting set of choices and options, both time-wise, and even at this level of abstraction, aesthetically.

In general, however, earlier baroque dance movements, present a different, wider set of options, more decisions which might, or might not be taken. For instance, the dance movements of G B Vitali’s Partite Diversi which I am playing tomorrow, only have repeat signs at the end of the movements. on the surface, this suggests that the Wiederholen is the whole movement again, with the expected ornaments and divisions. But, spend any time with this music, and you will become aware of all the potential inner repeats and loopbacks, which brings one to understand that the finial repeat sign is, or might be, just as much an indication that this is permissible, or desirable. The potential length of any such movement, or groupings of movements, is a movable feast, and the structure of one piece, one movement, and the choices we make about the seemingly trivial issue of repeats, has dynamic implications for the pieces juxtaposing and surrounding it in the chosen shape of any programme.

John Cusak, as ‘Rob Gordon’ in High Fidelity (2000)

I often find myself thinking about High Fidelity (sorry, I love the film). where John Cusack’s character Rob explains that “the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.” This is precisely the process which I go through in the close-to-the-concert period of practice.

As I work through the pieces, with timer to hand, there’s winnowing , which I find fascinating. Things get dropped, literally, on the floor by my practice desk. Some one one said that ‘Good strategy is closing doors’. Practice, over the long term, consist of opening as many doors as possible, closing some of them as you prepare to be public, and, as often as not, finding that the music, the audience, the acoustic, even you, will open new and different doors in performance.

So, for now, I will leave you with the thought, that the way we execute and experience any piece of music is directly, and positively, affected by how we creatively engage with our literal and figurative hour on the stage. If you are playing x number of pieces in one hour, you will have to decide, once you have come up with a possible solution for the arrangement and local structure of the music, how much of the time available to you, will be given over to the audience. Play ten pieces two minutes long, and you do not have a twenty minute concert: allowing for coming on, and going off at the end, and conservatively, 15 seconds of applause for each piece, added to the 5 seconds or so before you play each work, and you have 25-26 minutes, and that is not counting for the possibility that you say something. There are three ways of dealing with this – either you can accept it, and limit your pieces accordingly, or like the old recording artists playing fast to fit into the limits of one wax cylinder, play faster, or you can actively control (as sweetly as possible) the ‘audience incursions’.

Knowing how this works, planning for it, is a vital part of the practice process, and the preparation that we need to do to. Shakespeare, of course, was powerfully aware of this, and the horror of getting it wrong:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage 
And then is heard no more: it is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing. 
[Enter a Messenger]
Thou comest to use thy tongue; thy story quickly.

Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5

And note, that for all Macbeth/Shakespeare’s paranoia about messing up the ‘hour upon the stage’, there’s one thing they/we don’t want, an interloper- ‘enter a messenger’ – setting our preparations and timings adrift. They will be off stage, spit-spot: ‘Thy story quickly’!

Workshop materials11pm Schaeffergaarden, Jaegersborg. 15th r-for concert celebrating Sven Hastein-Mikkelsen-on the desk Sibelius, Lars Bagger, Sadie Harrison, Ole Bull, Nielsen, Abrahamsen, and the Havstein Mikkelsen’s work 2013

A vital part of practice is what happens after a performance. Just to note one thing: from my point of view, practice is not aimed at the concert, but performances (and recordings) are staging points along the way of our relationship with the music we choose to play. The vital, practical, observation about performing, is that we do all of this work, move the piece into the concert space, the acoustic, the light, the airspace, and, most importantly, the dialogue with the audience, and, without exception, however well we know the piece or pieces that we are playing, something different will happen, inspired all the factors, and with the heightening of perception which goes along with the ‘no-take-twoness’ of the concert stage.

For me, there is an important practice stage which comes after the concert. If I am playing in London, people will come back to our apartment, and there will be food, and drink and conversation and laughter, which sets up the long night that follows a performance when everyone else has gone to sleep. I never pick up the instrument that night, but some sort of ‘run-through’ takes place. Any player will be able to remember every moment, what happened technically, structurally, the changes of light in the room, how people were sitting, when there were shifts in attention, in concentration, both individual and shared. And then there’s the auto-flagellation. Naturally some of this will be to do with technical inadequacies, but more will be to with honesty, cowardice, integrity and cheating. These are the things that we hate ourselves for, and part of the post-concert ‘de-brief, because this is what it is, is to own up to these solecisms and analyse why they happened. The reasons can stretch from lactosis through to fear, but they are always interesting and worthy of addressing, for one reason, and one reason only, to serve the music better next time.