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Expressing music

May 31, 2009 at 8:56 PM

Everyone can agree that expression is one of the most important aspects of playing music. Music isn´t just playing the notes, it´s also expressing what the music is saying and convey that message to the audience. There´s quite nothing in the world like watching a musician playing his heart out and expressing the music. I once saw Leila Josefowitz playing the Beethoven violin concerto in concert and it was so incredible to watch. She played with such enthusiasm and joy. I´ve also seen Olga Kern performing Rachmaninov 2nd piano concerto and she was as much joy to watch performing. It wasn´t the fact that they had technical perfection but the fact that they played so expressively and with such joy that one could tell how much they loved they music and they conveyed that love to the audience. It was incredible and they all received massive applaud!

So when playing, the expression is what counts what most. If there is no expression there is no joy and no life. I´ve listened to a person playing the Vivaldi A-Minor concerto with all the notes correct but there was no expression. It was as if the violinist was just going through the motions. Then a violinist performed the Russian folk song Two Guitars and while the notes weren´t perfect it was performed with such expression it was far more enjoyable to listen to. 

Expression is such an important part of music. It is what makes music enjoyable. There´s nothing like performing in orchestra and feeling the music and expressing one´s joy for the music to the audience. Or performing as a soloist or in chamber orchestra. It´s all the same, playing with expression is one of the greatest joys of music. Things may not be perfect and there may be mistake but if the expression and joy is there it´s worthwhile. It´s worthwhile listening to and most of all it´s worthwhile playing.

So expression+joy=true enjoyment of music

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on May 31, 2009 at 10:10 PM

I agree with what you say and for me, the musical expression passes first.  May the player move or not, I don't care. If someone don't move an hair, I don't care as long as the music is beautiful and expressive!  Of course, now, we have many players who are quite good at moving much and playing well at the same time.  For sure it's always interesting too look to these performers because you "see" the expression  unstead of just listening it.  But I enjoy as much looking to Ida Haendel than Janine Janson for example or Oistrakh vs Vengerov.  The two "styles" are interesting :) !1!


Posted on May 31, 2009 at 10:25 PM

"when playing, the expression is what counts whatt most"

I disagree...without intonation, rhythm, tone, tempo and all the fundamentals, it is like a master chef cooking with rancid meat

From Roy Sonne
Posted on June 1, 2009 at 1:50 AM

<without intonation, rhythm, tone, tempo and all the fundamentals, it is like a master chef cooking with rancid meat>

All those elements you mention, Sam, are fundamental elements of musical expression.

A single note, played with beautiful tone is an object of exquisite beauty. This is part of musical expression.

A double stop played perfectly in tune is emotionally satisfying. This too is part of musical expression. A double stop played out of tune is ugly. This too is part of musical expression in a negative way.

Rhythm is emotionally compelling. This is part of musical expression.

All these things are part and parcel of musical expression, perhaps on a more fundamental way than shaping the phrase elegantly or making an expressive slide.

Posted on June 1, 2009 at 3:54 AM


Bon Appetit

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on June 1, 2009 at 3:59 AM


I like Roy`s  holistic kind of perspective.  it provides a helpful way of integrating what one is trying to do.  From a purely personal perspective I guess I am more minimalist.  Both Casal`s and Szigeti harped on about intonation above anything else .  Szigeti wrote in the introduction of one of his books that without intonation everythign else is worthless.  Casal`s called intonation a moral obligation.  That is the curse we have to bear as string players.   There is no escape.  Then of course,  there is `expressive intonation....`;)

Incidentally,  I have a feeling from the examples given (Vivaldi and guitare)  that two issues are being conflated.  I expect neither the `Spanish Inquisition` or perfeciton from aperformer.  A few wrong notes rarely bother me.  Those are accidnets or whatever, not bad intonation.  Bad intonation actually refers to somebody who plays consistently slightly out of tune and is unaware of it. Such a player cannot us eexpressiveness to disuise the horrible noise they are making.



From Anna Meyer
Posted on June 1, 2009 at 1:29 PM

<without intonation, rhythm, tone, tempo and all the fundamentals, it is like a master chef cooking with rancid meat

To clarify: Those are of course! the fundamentals of playing and trust me, I always aspire for getting those down completely before starting to really get work on the musical and expressive aspect. I always make certain to really work on the technical aspect before anything else, but when one has all those technical things down and still performs as if just going through the motions and feeling bored, it takes away a lot. That´s the point.  Leila and Olga performed with technical perfection, there wasn´t a single thing wrong. But if they wouldn´t have performed so expressively as they did it wouldn´t have been nearly as enjoyable and fun to listen to them. It´s when one plays not only technically well but also plays with the spirit of music it´s true joy to listen to.

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