Friday, January 30, 2009

Shut up and play

Herewith we kick off an occasional, recurring feature on the dumb things musicians say. Which, nothing against these musicians. We will view these quotes with affection specifically because the people who utter them are so gifted. It is a pleasure to realize that fine musicians are capable of uttering dumb things. It makes them human.

Today's quote comes to us courtesy of William Kapell, the immensely gifted pianist tragically killed in a plane crash in 1951, when he was only 31.

"Music isn't enough. Performers aren't enough. There must be someone who loves music as much as life. For you, and remember this always, those of us with something urgent to say, we give everything."

Now, I greatly admire Kapell's playing. He was a good friend of Leonard Pennario's, too, which makes me like him as a person. I certainly sympathize with the tendency to take the above quote seriously, he wrote it in a letter to a friend shortly before he died.

But not long ago I found myself staring at that utterance, thinking, "Huh??"

"Music isn't enough. Performers aren't enough." What alcohol-induced ramblings are these? Mr. Kapell, with all due respect ...

Shut up and play.


  1. OK, when you started this blog, you said it was all right to disagree.

    One of the things I have always found endearing about you is that, like me, you love music in such a deeply committed way that music is like life itself. An addiction. I think Kapell is saying that his target audience is people like that, not those who use it as one of the perks available to the upper crust. There are people (and there were more in the past), who went to the symphony and the opera to be seen and to keep up appearances...nothing more. So in that sense, he means that performers and music itself aren't enough; they need committed, loving and understanding listeners.

    I've rambled because I can't play anywhere near as well as Kapell. I wish I could.

  2. Prof. G, now I feel bad, having told William Kapell to shut up and play! Was that really what he was saying? Why didn't he say it the way you did?

  3. Probably because he played better than he could write.