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Playing what`s there versus complacency.

November 29, 2006 at 1:46 AM

Greetings,
I never seem to write blogs about my personal life. Probably the reader couldn’t handle the sex or violence… I know I can’t ; )
A blog seems to spring out of nowhere when a number of initially unrelated elements suddenly coalesce into a whole which compels me to write. In this case it was the following: an interview with a conductor recommended in the featured blog; another blog about interpreting tempo indications; some very interesting preparation of the Grieg Elegiac Melodies Opus 34. for string orchestra; a CD performance by the Berlin Radio Orchestra and an upcoming concert that includes the Blue Danube as one of the works.
I’ve forgotten the conductors name, but in the interview he talks about how he played for a long time both violin and then viola in the Vienna Phil and started his conducting career at the late age of thirty one! As a result, when he works with orchestras (he has spent time with the Swedish Radio Orchestra) he spends a great deal of time on very detailed aspects of the performance such as what kind of vibrato the strings are using. This was doubly interesting for me because I had just been complimentary about the Swedish Radio Orchestra string section and somewhat rude about their wind on the recent Hilary Hahn recording. Could it be that having an avid string coach as a conductor cause our colleagues at the back of the orchestra to be a touch left out? Anyway, clearly the man is into the finer details of performance.
Then recently I heard the Berlin Radio Orchestra recording of Shostakovitch ten which I have practically lived for the last few months and what struck me about it was that in spite of the fine sound there was –very little- of Shostakovitch`s actual dynamic markings. It was all kind of loud and busy, and ultimately totally unsatisfactory. Only a few weeks before I had been working on the Grieg with one of Japan’s best conductors (Komatsu) and he really tore the orchestra strings to pieces. But not only the strings, he pointed out that conventional performances very often ignore the fact that Grieg`s original markings suggest a –slower- tempo for the second piece and that it requires , as a consequence , greater depth of anguish than the first. Typically it is played in a more flowing and graceful style as though seeking to remind us that Grieg was a `light weight` composer – aside from the piano concerto of course. It really is true that one has to play what is on the page. This ties in with the other blog questioning whether one should pay attention to the slightly different wordings of tempo indications. A resounding yes.
And now I have this blasted concert with the Blue Danube which I have heard played so badly here I figured it was time to explore why. So I copied the music and marked every single dynamic with a green highlighter pen. Its quite stark to see the issue of dynamics visually highlighted, a technique I insist my students indulge in regularly. I don’t know what the players expect to get from my direction this weekend, but one thing’s for sure: they are going to play what Strauss wrote however long it takes. Time to get out of the blasé mold and into giving a piece of music its true worth by following the composers directions to the best of one’s ability.
Cheers,
Buri.

From Scott 68
Posted on November 29, 2006 at 4:59 AM
and thats why i like szeryng so much, he doesnt interfere with the music, now mutter is almost completely the opposite
From Scott 68
Posted on November 29, 2006 at 5:00 AM
if anyone who thinks greig is a lightweight composer NEEDS to listen to his piano concerto - what a friggin warhorse of a concerto!!!
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 29, 2006 at 11:42 PM
Greetings,
I know what you mean Scott. Agree with you about Szeryng. One thing it made me think though: I don`t mind if a performer interferes with the music so much. Therre is always going to be an element of thta ina perfromance. What I think often gets lost is that -before- one interferes one has to pay absolute respect to what the composer wrote, befor edeciding its ludicrous or whatever. To shirk from what`s on the page is malpractice,
Cheer,s
Buri

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