Ce pianiste joue toujours sans partition.

Ce pianiste joue toujours sans partition.

suh peeYAA-neest zhoo too-zhoor sah paar-tee-seeYAW. Click below to hear this.*

That pianist always plays from memory.

Or, as we also say in English, without a score. How a piece of printed or handwritten music acquired the name of score in English, I can’t explain. It’s nothing to do with keeping score!

But in French, it’s quite clear. It’s une partition, which comes from the Latin word meaning to divide. Have you ever looked carefully at a musical partition? If you haven’t been trained in reading music, even a simple hymn can be confusing.

Now consider, say, a symphony. Each group of instruments in the orchestra has its own line to follow: first violins, second violins, first violas, second violas, all the way through the strings, the woodwinds, the brass, and the percussion. It may take a single page for just a couple of measures.

So la partition contains all the notes of the entire piece, written in such a way that you can read vertically to see who is playing what at the same time. Or you can read horizontally, and see what one instrument is playing–the oboes, for example. It is the piece of music, divided into all its parts. Most conductors and many other skilled musicians can actually hear all these notes in their head when they read the score, a feat which I find beyond impressive.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:


One response to “Ce pianiste joue toujours sans partition.

  1. Yes, it’s impressive, all right. And what is more so is that some conductors can conduct a whole concert of symphonies without a score.
    Love, Maman

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