After over 18 months of not accessing the ABRSM, I found that my password (donkeys' years old!) and various other key identification features are no longer valid. By sheer serendipity I live in Stockport, because when I manged to contact my local rep (Alison Burns) I found that she could not have been more helpful or informed.
Why is it that, in an age where communication is so ridiculously easy (when I started teaching full time, there was no internet, email or mobile phone, etc) the only 'help' that anyone is prepared to give nowadays, from energy suppliers, fast-food deliverers and ABRSM, is a slowly-enunciated voice telling me to "go . . . to . . . dooouuubbbllleyoo . . .dooouuubbbllleyoo dooouuubbbllleyoo . . ." etc. followed by the inevitable' RTFM'???
I am personally becoming very disillusioned by the whole set-up of the Associated Board. Instead of being able to HEAR and ASSESS an examinee, examiners now tick boxes implying how many wrong/right notes are articulated, whether the tempo is accurate ( anyone who has heard Otto Klemperer and Arturo Toscanini conduct the same work will understand my bewilderment: their tempi are chalk & cheese, but, my God, they make their case fabulously, but with very different points of view) and similar judgements in tick boxes on every aspect of interpretation and observation of musical instruction directions. A year or two back, I heard Vladimir Horowitz play Chopin's Black Key Étude. I had never heard him play this actual piece previously. Fairly late on in the piece, he played a passage without pedal, which interpretation I had never heard before, nor had I considered it even as a possibility. It was FABULOUS! Now I personally would still use pedal at that point like most other pianists when I play it. But his reading here was breathtaking. Of course, Horowitz' fingers were gold, and his control, magical, and I defend to the death the right of any musician to perform as she/he wishes (I don't have to LIKE it, but liberty here, is all). However, to my mind, an Associated Board official, playing by the rules would mark him down for this indiscretion.
My final point. I really do look out for fine young musicians, who will play music which I wish to hear. When I do hear one of these performers, I am often awe-struck by the scary technique that these young people possess . . . and then I realise that I have heard nothing new or illuminating, fresh or striking, about the work. Jasha Heifetz said, "I have played the D minor Chaconne of Bach for 50 years, and I still don't understand it." He did not mean that literally of course. He meant that he was continually discovering new aspects of this prodigious work, and performing accordingly. Each Heifetz performance I have heard of this piece has highlighted different colours and moods. I attended many Artur Rubinstein recitals (I watched in disbelief as he played Beethoven Piano Concertos 3, 4 & 5 on the same night, in the same concert, at the Royal Festival Hall in the mid 60s). Often, he played Chopin's Polonaise op 53. Never did that piece sound other than fresh, exciting and NEW. Every time I see Barenboim play Beethoven it is as if he has learned the work perfectly, but THIS is his very first public performance of it, and it is going to be THE BEST reading of the work that you will ever hear. It occurs to me that the development of musical exams, from beginners to performance diplomas is becoming such a narrow channel of artistic licence, that it is not surprising that we no longer hear the beautifully different hues created by Cortot, as totally different from the wonderful hues which Lipatti could evoke.
And now I await the moment where I get shot down in flames! It should be fun! I will probably not change my opinion, but I will listen carefully to any comments which anyone wants to make. If any of you agree with me wholeheartedly, that is marvellous. If any of you disagree violently with me, that is even better! Show me where I am wrong. Cheers, Ritz.