Those were the words my dad used to trot out when I had a piano or violin exam and I got nervous. It seemed kind of unfair. You're shipped in to strut your scales in front of a glum stranger on a chilly day with no warm-up, to say nothing of the sight-reading, which was always an odd and unmusical piece written specifically to catch you out... Ugh. It was all right for Dad. He didn't have to play. "Don't make such a cadenza of it," he'd say. Or alternatively, "Don't make such a matzo-pudding..." I can't explain the matzo-pudding, having never eaten one, but the cadenza implication is clear: it's the musical equivalent of throwing one huge wobbly.
I couldn't help a nostalgic smile when it turned out that some high-profile appearances by Claudio Abbado and Helene Grimaud are now not going to happen because, allegedly, they have had a fallout over a cadenza. One of the happier side-effects is that in the opening concerts of the Lucerne Festival next week, Grimaud is being replaced by RADU LUPU, who is not the kind of guy you expect to catch as stand-in, but rather someone whose appearances you make damn sure you book for a year in advance. And I'm going to be there. I'm fond of Helene, but if I could choose any living pianist to hear play Brahms 1 in concert, it really would be Lupu.
The cadenza in question, though, is not for Brahms, but for a Mozart concerto. Apparently the pair had "artistic differences". Now, we've been trying to work out how a conductor and soloist could manage to fall out over a cadenza. Isn't this the moment at which the conductor stands back and lets the soloist do her own thing, whatever it may be? And given the scale of the concerts she's now missing - huge dates with ticket prices to match, and, one imagines, contractual obligations and appropriate fees - it must be a pretty awkward spat. Someone suggested to my colleague at the Indy that the pair "needed a break from each other".
Or...are they just making too much of a cadenza?
Still, if anyone's going to make a matzo-pudding about artistic differences, it would probably have to be in Mozart. Let's have a look at their different approaches.
Here's Grimaud playing some Mozart at Suntory Hall, Tokyo.
And now here is Maestro Abbado - who, if you remember, JDCMB readers voted "Greatest Living Conductor" in a poll a few years back - with the Berlin Phil in the Overture to Le nozze di Figaro.