Since my last post, I’ve heard from a number of fellow pianists who don’t play from memory because they specialise in song recitals or chamber music, and have a vast and ever-changing repertoire. They point out that one good reason to experiment with playing from an iPad is that one could dispense with the services of a page-turner.
Pianists who play from the music have always been in a curious situation, because either they have to turn the pages themselves, thus possibly missing out a few notes at the end of every other page, or they have to have someone – often a stranger – sitting beside them to turn their pages for them. It is actually quite an odd experience to have someone at your left elbow throughout the concert, standing up each time a page needs to be turned, leaning across in front of you to turn the page, and sitting down again (hopefully without creaking the chair). This movement occurs in the pianist’s peripheral vision every minute or two during the concert, and is often etched into the memory.
Many page-turners are incredibly skilful at being quick, quiet and accurate in their movements, and lots of them go beyond the call of duty in being supportive and kind as well, but all the same it’s a strange situation. Other instrumentalists don’t need page-turners, or not nearly so much, because they play single lines and their parts have far fewer pages. They also usually have more bars of rest where they can turn their own pages. But pianists are often playing continuously, from scores with forty or fifty pages. Let’s say there are three such works in the evening: that means their page-turner will have to stand up, turn the page and sit down again about 70 times. Bobbing up and down, page-turners are a major visual ingredient of a concert, and sometimes audiences get quite mesmerised by the sight of them. So I can see why the iPad may offer a tempting alternative.