What is a wrong musician

BR CLASSIC

On the day of the mistake The wrong tone - friend or foe?

08/14/2020 by Uta Sailer, online editing: René Gröger

No musician likes to talk about the mistakes that have already been made. A twisted tone? A pecking horn? A botched run on the piano? Everyone has experienced this before: opera singers, instrumental soloists, orchestral musicians, conductors, jazz musicians. And yet flawlessness seems to be the sacred cow of the classical music scene. Time to take a closer look at the "nasty slip-ups".

If you've sung a wrong phrase, suddenly a completely different kind of attention arises. And then a mistake can turn into something really great.
Christiane Karg, soprano

The orchestra: safe haven or snake pit?

It should be helpful, noble and good: classical music. Without corners and edges, easy to consume and please always at the highest level. The audience's expectations are extremely high, spurred on by the highly polished CDs. The music critics anyway: with common joy they rush over and over again on the small mistakes in the middle of a great concert. If you add the demands of passionate musicians, there is threefold pressure. For many orchestra members this is everyday life, says Frank Reinecke from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra: "Art is sacred. As a kind of altar boy, we have to embody perfection in some way, even if we can't do it at all," he says Double bass player. "From this we have an insane claim to ourselves." This claim sometimes leads to a serious proportion of orchestra musicians trying to numb their fear of making mistakes with beta blockers or drugs. Horn player Ulrich Haider of the Munich Philharmonic therefore sees a need for support: "In many cases it would be good to work therapeutically." However, the problem has so far been skilfully hushed up in order not to scratch the paint on the classic scene.

We are all experts in self-tearing. There is no end to this.
Frank Reinecke, double bass player in the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

Soloists: lonely top?

Seeing mistakes left: the soprano Christiane Karg | Image source: Steven Haberland

Healthy nervousness is one thing, paralyzing fear of making mistakes is another. In the latter case, action is required to get the fear under control. Oboist Albrecht Mayer knows the pitfalls along the way: "If you get annoyed in a concert that one mistake happens, the next one happens immediately. You smile and then it goes on. But that is a painful process that you have to train yourself to . " The good news is that you can develop serenity through the experience of a mistake, like the soprano Christiane Karg: "I fell once during the recitative and lost both shoes. I then put on my shoes and then sang my aria - as well as I've never sung it before. " In this way, the mistake can act as a release: Take the pressure off, vote free.

You shoot bucks at every concert. That is just part of it.

The difficult definition of the bug

In the Duden it is written in black and white: "Mistake: something that is wrong, wrong decision, measure; mistake; bad quality, deficiency". But what is wrong, erroneous, bad, inadequate - that is in the eye of the beholder. Theo Wehner, professor emeritus for economic and organizational psychology and error researcher therefore defines the error as "a failure to achieve a goal." So the perception of what a mistake is does not lie solely in a set norm that has to be met: musical text, performance tradition, audience expectation. Rather, the musician himself sets the framework for what is experienced as a mistake. If your own goal is set realistically, the likelihood of it coming decreases. But if the error does occur, it is worth taking a look. Because, according to Theo Wehner, "an innovation cannot be imagined without some kind of irritation at the beginning. There is only development with mistakes. The mistakes tend to be correct. It is, so to speak, a slip on some surface into a better shape."

Conductors: psychologists at the lectern

The 93-year-old conductor Herbert Blomstedt is still regularly on the podium. | Source: © SF / Marco Borrelli Roaring tyrants or empathetic teamworkers: conductors also have enormous power when it comes to dealing with mistakes. There are those who expose individual orchestra members when they have made a mistake and thus lay the foundation for massive psychological problems. And there are those who elegantly ignore it in the rehearsal and later have a respectful conversation with the musicians in private. Others look at themselves, like the 93-year-old conductor Herbert Blomstedt: "When something happens in the orchestra, I always think: What kind of mistake have I made? That is the sign of a real artist that he is aware of his own mistakes is aware and tries to get ahead. You can also use a mistake as a springboard - an opportunity to start over. "

You have to try to do something particularly beautiful - and not just avoid mistakes.
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor

It is also important to weigh up the following: What good is it for the conductor if, during a concert, he punishes a musician who has just failed with an evil eye? The path taken by the conductor Franz Welser-Möst could be psychologically more valuable: "If someone makes a mistake, I pretend I haven't heard it. As a conductor, you can simply help psychologically so as not to spread fear and panic. You can't undo it anyway. "

If you want to master the mistake, you practice early

Sweaty hands, trembling knees: Most of the time, the musicians are scared of making a mistake - by ambitious parents or strict teachers who do not regard mistakes as a welcome part of the learning process, but paint them on the wall as a specter. So-called negative knowledge is built up through mistakes. We experience how something doesn't work and at the same time learn how something works. So let us meet the mistake on a friendly basis: openly, interested and with a childlike love of discovery.

Broadcast: "Piazza" on August 15, 2020 from 8:05 am on BR-KLASSIK