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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Win or Lose. By John von Daler

                Mr. Da Vinci, I find the young lady's smile unconvincing. Perhaps you should have made her think of something more pleasant while you were painting, said the third judge looking over his glasses at the notes he had taken.
But your colors are more well-thought-out then those of Mr. van Gogh, who seems to me to be over the top and quite far out in his choice of pigments. As for Mr. Rembrandt, the judge said turning towards the turban-clad old gentleman, why did you in fact choose that ugly old fellow as your subject?
                We are listening in on the yearly art competition for professional painters. Or what it might have sounded like if it had taken place with the best artists of each and every age. Happily the affair only exists in my mind. Do we need to know who is best? Does it really matter?
                Music competitions where young soloists compete to win in order to kick-start their careers depress me. In my opinion the young instrumentalists ought to play beautifully within the work and for their audience, not "better" or "worse" than everybody else. How can you compare two editions of one concerto played almost perfectly and interpreted in two completely different but completely legitimate ways?
                 I once played in (the back of) an orchestra where Anne-Sophia Mutter was the soloist in Beethoven's Violin Concerto. This particular piece is based in part on a kind of folk melody, a wooden-shoe kind of ditty that Beethoven ingeniously turns into a whole intricate work. Ms. Mutter beautifully formed the melody into small pearls on a string - it was not at all like folk music. But I have also heard other soloists bring out the heavy dance characteristics with great aplomb. Should I choose between them to decide which is better? Does it really matter? Should we weigh, calibrate and standardize beauty in order to find a winner?
                I would rather have a bus full of beautiful losers.

                My book, Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude (WiDo Publishing) is now available. Order through, the publisher or your local bookstore. Click to buy Pieces at the top of the blog. Please feel free to write a short review of the book in your own language at or GoodReads. Thanks for your support!


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