I used to live near the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. It’s a fabulous place to go almost any day of the week for free performances, recitals, and master classes.
One evening I sat in on part of a voice/piano master class given by Warren Jones, considered one of the finest recital accompanists in the world. (He accompanies Denyce Graves, James Morris, Ruth Ann Swenson, etc.) He’s a hoot to listen to, with his North Carolina drawl and wicked humor. At one point he asked the audience if anyone had a mirror so the baritone he was coaching could see what his mouth was doing. When no one raised a hand he asked, “What? You mean there aren’t any sopranos here?”
He had lots of excellent advice for both the singers and their accompanists, but the point that hit me the most was something he said to a pianist. He had worked for several minutes to get her to ignore her inner metronome and play the music with more flow — to stretch out the phrases. She finally got it, and played the song intro absolutely beautifully. He then said, “I hope she never plays it this way again. Why? Because I don’t want her trying to repeat this. I want her to be creating it new every time she plays it, rather than trying to recreate something that worked in the past.”
Wow. That right there is the difference between putting on a performance and actually communicating.