How do you cope with different pianos and acoustics at various venues? Any advice on that? Is it reasonable to expect one to be able to give a splendid performance on a totally new instrument with little time to try it out - if it's even a decent instrument!!
Great question! Varying concert hall acoustics (wet, dry, bad projection, misleading dynamics, etc.) and pianos (heavy action, light action, uneven action, bass-heavy, weak sound, etc.) can make for some pretty horrifying experiences as a concert pianist!
Interestingly enough, the unpredictability of it all bothers me less and less with each performing experience. What's important -- what really matters -- is that I connect with the audience. Most of the time, audience members could care less about uneven articulation or bass-heavy performance, and if I dwell on the pitfalls of the circumstances too long, I lose the ability to deliver a truly engaging performance.
Having said that, of course I adopt to the particulars of the venue: more pedal in dry acoustics, slower tempos in wet acoustics, nicer tone on harsh pianos, etc. But none of this is particularly intentional or thought out. Whenever I'm performing, I do my best to *listen* to the music I'm creating -- I listen, rather than rely on any practice room plan. This ability to live in the moment completely shapes my performance and keeps the music spontaneous, and as an added perk I'm continually reacting to any conditions related to the venue or the piano.