Yesterday I was at a conference about creativity in performance. There were many interesting speakers, several of whom told anecdotes to make their points clear.
At one point we were talking about the curious blend of involvement and detachment that seems to be necessary for high-level performance. Involvement alone is not as helpful as you might imagine, and of course detachment alone is a disaster. But many great performers seems to balance the two in a mysterious and energising way.
Someone told a story about a great pianist who played a wonderful recital which was very poorly attended. Afterwards, a listener went backstage to congratulate the pianist. He said, ‘Maestro, it’s such a terrible shame that there were so few people in the audience. There can only have been about twenty people.’
‘There were twenty-seven people in the audience’, replied the great man. ‘I counted them during the slow movement.’