When you’ve developed a performance piece, or even just something you’ve learned which you like to play on your own, it may be easy to simply draw on your memory of the way the composition goes, and bring it out and replicate it.
Or it may turn out to be a big challenge to reconstruct all the details in the way you intended originally, and you have to struggle to get it right.
But what is the music actually there for? I like to think that it’s something that you do as part of your present experience. So when you pull it out of your memory, it’s best to let the details become a part of your authentic present life!
When I’m practicing, or when I’m playing in an informal public setting, or when I’m doing a full-blown concert, I try to use the planned musical selection as a platform for my life as I’m living it right now. Even in front of other people (or, perhaps more so, even when I’m alone with my own thoughts) I intuitively enter into the world of the music’s wondrous structure and textures to live my life out from moment to moment in the phrases --- or, in another sense, I let the phrases be an outworking of my own present reality.
Thus every time I play a piece it has a certain new life of its own: faster or slower, more emphatic or more mellow, consistent and even or dynamic and capricious, beautiful or compelling, etc., etc. Sometimes I find that it moves my own soul almost to the point of tears, and other times I find it to be almost comical in its fantasies. The same piece! Maybe one that I feel that I’ve played too many times along the way, even.
So each arrangement has the potential of creating a whole new mood or message, as the new moment arises! And the listeners, if there are any in the particular setting, can often sense that this is a special time, and some of them even consciously receive the very present thematic approach as real enrichment of their own lives.
Then… if the work is not easy to do well because of its relative newness, unfamiliarity, or inherent difficulty, can we still take this approach? Yes, I would say so. Although I do not at all like to play a less familiar work in public, still, if it fits the moment well I must persevere to throw myself into what I have of the tune and make it sing as much as I can, perhaps modifying something about it (like playing it more slowly than I wish!) to make the moment as meaningful as possible.
I encourage my fellow musicians to avoid any kind of rote replication of their repertoire. Regardless of genre, let the playing always arrive into the present as something with real and new life!