Opening Up The Flood Gates

This week I wrote a transcription of Saint-Saëns’ “The Swan” for tenor saxophone and piano.   After finishing the piece, I turned to YouTube to listen to various interpretations of the work.   I listened to a few cello & piano versions and then moved on to a couple of solo piano recordings, including one of Rachmaninoff himself tickling the old ivories!

I stumbled upon another solo piano recording, this one performed by Italian pianist Marco Falossi.  He performs the Godowsky solo piano arrangement of the Saint- Saëns, and originally I didn’t pay much attention to it after realizing that it wasn’t the original version, from which I was working.  I minimized the browser to work on something else and returned to it later, intending to listen to a couple more performances.  For some reason I wandered down the page and encountered the comments posted in response to Falossi’s video – only 5 comments, but boy do they pack a punch.

I would invite you to read the comments below first, and then listen to the performance.  Reading the comments will certainly give you an expectation of what the performance may offer.  Here are the comments from the YouTube page:

I think he wasn’t ready to play this in public…. He looks very uncomfortable with it…. and so much is lost as a result, unfortunately. He does have remarkable abilities, though, which I admire, just not this performance.

Unfortunately I have to agree with gbosey. Your technique is obviously excellent (at least compared with mine). May be you are stressed playing in front of an audience? The recording quality is horrendous

I heard a Stephen Hough recording of this. I thought it was absolutely magic and masterly playing of what should be a magically played piece.

It’s such a shame when someone has the technical ability to navigate these complex works but chooses to toss them off like this as though they were playing for an easily-bored cafe audience – afraid to give the work the introspective reading it deserves. Technique: 7 Interpretation: -2

this is really terrible. sounds like you’re rushing through every note like you just want to finish this. hand position reminds me of kids hopping around villages.

Now watch and listen to Falossi’s performance for yourself here.  What is your reaction to the performance, especially after having read comments first?

When I listen to Falossi’s performance, my reaction is that this is a solid performance with sensitivity, polish, and musicality.  There is some background noise which distorts the sound a bit, but in terms of Falossi’s performance quality, I would give it an excellent rating.  Oh, and let’s not overlook the fact that he played this from memory.

Because I wanted to chase this down the rabbit hole just a bit, I clicked on each of the oh-so-complimentary names above to see if I could find out who they were.  Perhaps they are all renown music critics, or concert pianists, right?  Ok, unlikely, I know.   With the sparse information available on YouTube, it is difficult to draw any conclusions about these folks and their music credentials.  I will say that several of their own channels contain musical videos situated amongst other interesting topics such as “how to get a six pack in 3 minutes.”

This kind of internet criticism raises all kinds of interesting questions, and I would love to get your reactions to these issues.  First, we have to recognize that everyone is of course entitled to their opinion.  I understand that not everyone will agree that Falossi’s performance is great, or even good.  But does it really warrant the kind of criticism offered above?  I’m all for striving for excellence, but if this performance is “really terrible,” then what does even “decent” sound like?

From the performers perspective, one of the first questions we ask when someone (whom we don’t know) offers a scathing review is – “who are they?” In other words, what qualifies them to make such a statement?  However, is this important, or just an elitist and defensive response?

YouTube and other internet services seem to bring the world’s people closer together, if only for the two minutes we spend watching a particular video.  But it also opens up the flood gates for input and comment in a very public way.  We often say that we want to know our audience better and understand what they want, but are we prepared to accept or respond to Joe the Plumber’s uncensored review of our performance?

There are many sides to this issue, and I have only touched on a few here.  I would love to hear what others think, as long as you don’t say that my writing reminds you of “kids hopping around villages!”

About the author

Stephen Danyew
Stephen Danyew

Steve Danyew is a composer, saxophonist, teacher, and arts administrator based in Rochester, NY. Danyew composes works for chamber ensembles, large instrumental ensembles, choirs and more, and currently serves as Managing Editor of His music has been hailed as “startlingly beautiful” and “undeniably well crafted and communicative” by the Miami Herald, and has been praised as possessing “sensitivity, skill and tremendous sophistication” by the Kansas City Independent. Steve received a B.M. cum laude, Pi Kappa Lambda from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami and holds an M.M. in Composition and Certificate in Arts Leadership from the Eastman School of Music.


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  • I agree with Neil. Bob Johanson, the former CEO of the Institute for the Future, forecasts about how future reviewers will be the consumers. Just look at Amazon and other similar sites right now. We even rate the help section of a software program. Was it useful? Etc. This also happens with stock tips. Penny stock brokers can pump a stock on numerous chat places then dump it. Dangerous stuff where bullies with the biggest mouths can get a soap box.

  • I don’t lose sleep over this. Everyone over the age of 14 realizes that internet anonymity breeds (enables) moronic behavior, which includes unintelligible,unreasonable and cruel criticism. As you say, if you look at what else these “critics” are viewing, you understand they are mostly kids or semi-functional adults. The answer, of course, is to disable the comment function on Youtube.
    I should also point out that there is a Like/Dislike function on videos and the tally is 18 votes, 16 likes and 2 dislikes. None of the 16 “likes” opted to comment. Go figure.

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