Challenging Performance: The Book. 0 Preface

Challenging Performance: Classical Music Performance Norms and How to Escape Them

by Daniel Leech-Wilkinson


This is an eBook (also available as a PDF), a website, and a set of podcasts. It’s addressed to performers of western classical music and it’s about freeing performance from unnecessary rules and constraints and from much of the anxiety that comes with classical training and practice. The aim is to encourage performers to find many more ways (old and new) in which classical scores can make musical sense.

If you’re a passionate believer in the status quo you may hate it. But it might still be worth reading because the questions it asks are reasonable ones and need much better answers. Having someone ask them may enable you (rather than me) to see what those better answers might be, enabling you to place normative performance practice on a more reasoned footing. There’s also the possibility that you’ll end up agreeing with much that’s in here, but in either case a world of new possibilities for performing your repertoire may open up.

Be aware that this is a polemical piece rather than a scholarly tome. It’s expressed strongly. It may annoy and unsettle, though I hope it will also reward.

I’ve written it and published it online, and it’s free to use, because I want to reach performers, especially young professionals and conservatoire students. And also because it’s good to be able to improve the text in response to reader suggestions and as better ways of thinking become clear.

Please let me know what you think, either using the feedback boxes beneath each page (which are moderated) or by emailing me at Please let others know at @ChalPerformance and anywhere that classical musicians follow.

Use the List of Contents to find out what’s covered.

Use the Menu, in the green band at the top of every page, to skip ahead to other chapters.

Use the bullet-point Summary as an index to find exactly what you’re seeking.

Continue to Chapter 1: Introduction 

Or start with the podcast summarising Chapter 1 and then continue reading from Chapter 2 if you enjoy it.


About the author

To cite the book:
Leech-Wilkinson, Daniel (2020). Challenging Performance: Classical Music Performance Norms and How to Escape Them. Version N.N (DATE). At
Provide a more specific chapter address (e.g. if you need to. Cite the version number that applied when you chose the text to cite.

“Challenging Performance: Classical Music Performance Norms and How to Escape Them” by Daniel Leech-Wilkinson is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
This is version 2.2 (9.v.24)