March 9, 2009 at 10:38 PM
Interesting! Very funny! I think it is great to try to remain faithful to the composer's view the way you explained it! It is a great pretext to travel or at least to travel or learn things through the net! About Mozart, I love to play his music because some of his violin concertos have been written when he was 20 (or around this age I think, I would have to check to be sure) about the same age as me now. At 20 you have to be serious but you still like to tell jokes, to be a big child when you are on holidays! Mozart has to be played with the heart of a child, in my humble opinion! One must look to have fun and it is not something with a big drama. (there is some exceptions though) Also, I have always loved very much Bach and Vivaldi stuff (student or easy concertos). At the time where I played those, as a late starter, I have always had this great will to give my all. This music was fantastic to start with because the emotions are so powerful and this "will" to play the violin could really be well expressed in these because I think Italians and German also have this will and strong character! Talking about the winter, Glen Gould, this virtuoso of the piano, loved so much the north that he moved in nordic places in order to compose better. It inspired him... I have heard that it was because he wanted to "freeze" his sexual instincts to give his all to music but I find this last argument a little excentric! Sibelius, as a scandinavian was also very Nordic in his music according to specialists! Schostakovich expressed the revolt of the soviets in his music and some like Tchaikovsky or Myakovsky were supposed to be more "melancolic". We really hear this in their music! Interesting to see the music vs the composer who did it!!!
except that with regard to travelling I think Aristotle was once listening to a friend complaining about how `Mr X visited many foreign clime s to improve but remianed unchanged.` To which Aristotle responded `Of course. He went with himself.`
Another important lesson from a dead old Greek dude.
lol! This is like visiting Japan and eat exclusivly in Mc Donald's and stay in american Hotels and claim you were immersed in Japanese culture! Or take an organise tour and not talk to anyone (except those in the group) because they are oh my god... strangers! lol
Enjoyed this one very much Stephen. I also like what Anne Marie posted about visiting Japan eatting mc.D, etc., LOL
Where I grew up, there are very tall sand dunes. Not quite mountains. It was all I could use to try to imagine Grieg's piece about the halls of the Mountains. I could never get into that work untill I moved to Wyoming and then traveling through the mountains here, going up one end and down the other, as well as the sights, smells, etc., it just hit me one day, "Oh Yes! Now I Know!" The wonderful Eurika Moment.
When I go for my 3 mile stroll, depending on that day, the weather, the season, the architecture, it's amazing how it seems to affect how I play whatever I'm working on when I bring that hour and a half back into the aprtment with me. From now on, I'm going to use what you brought out the next time I'm working on something. Research it, the composer, the time of it's writting, the culture, the times. I have done and do this but now with my mind's eye open a bit wider.
This is one of four recent blogs that touch on interpretation including one I posted.
I believe that the goal of interpretation is to realize the composers full intentions including the ones he couldn't notate explicitly. Of course there will be some of the interpreter's vision and art but as much as possible art of the interpreter must be in the spirit of the art of the composer. A strictly personal interpretation is at best a caricature and at worst a burlesque.
Knowing a composer means knowing his culture, his philosophies, his traditions etc. The best interpreters are themselves composers, albeit typically not at the level of the artists they interpret.
We are mistaken when we think that a composer mainly had some inarticulate intuitions that we have to realize in some personal way. All the great composers were great thinkers and had access to great thoughts and great minds. Most of them were well informed about the religious traditions of Western Europe even if they were not themselves believers. In any event they were steeped in a culture that was religious to the core and could not have avoided religious ideals on the nature of God, creativity etc. no matter their personal beliefs. (It is common to say that many of them were irreligious but while many rejected the outward practice of religion they had very deep beliefs about God.)
They were also incredibly well trained musicians. They knew a lot more theory, harmony and counterpoint than anyone can cram into a college textbook and they knew it very profoundly. There is a book on Bach that illustrates this very well.
An authentic interpretation must reveal the composer and his muse to us far more than the interpreter. A straightforward performance of the score without ugliness is apt to be far more rewarding to a listener than some reinvention of the piece in the name of personal interpretation.
So true about the importance of having the macro picture at the other end, Buri! Certain things I would never have learned about Italian music had I not soaked myself in Venice and Florence, or about Dvorák and Martinu, had I not visited Czech Republic.
This is same with paintings. It’ll make so much more sense to a western artist about Chinese scenery paintings, for instance, if she/he has visited China and have actually seen how the mountains, trees and water look like there.
On the other hand, the difficulty in transcending one’s own cultural is not unique to musicians. Reading western sinologists’ works has always been more entertaining to me than educational about Chinese culture. Not they are getting things wrong so much as they don’t seem to be able to get it just right. Being married to a well-respected western sinologist (a specialist in Chinese ancient poetry to be specific) myself, I’m quite comfortable with the notion that even the most authentic/ objective interpretation of a historical work must be a representational product of the interpreter’s own culture.
What is not accessible should not be expected to reveal. Ought implies can (i.e., we ought not if we cannot). How accessible for instance was Mozart’s intent behind his violin concerto #5 to Oistrakh? How much is it accessible to a great concert violinist in Turkey?
One of my favourite contemporary philosophers Bas van Fraassen once said to me that he didn’t mind his work being misinterpreted by non-English speaking philosophers; as long as it generated thinking and creativity, it was a worthy endeavour. Now, this is what I call enlightenment.
Yixi, its interesting talkign about something as nebuluos as `culture.` When we pose questions like just how distanced wa sOistrakh (for example) from the culture of Mozart (relative I suppose to a modern violnist form Salzburg) I think part of the answe rlies in his memebership of another culture . By that I mean that for better or worse w eare all part of a very narrow sub-culture called `the violin` and that may well serve as a bridge between the various worlds.
Just a little anecdote on visualisation. Your Carmen made me laugh but it's obvious such a vision can be perfect for you but not for a bunch of Japanese ladies. Unstead tell to the ladies that it is a well made fiery gypsy man etc who is dancing around the camp fire and see the reaction! If it is a unisex orchestra, tell the two versions. We must not forget that two genders are actually playing and you must motivate the two :)
With my first teacher, I played a spanish piece. He once told me, make it more spanish, think about a woman spanish dancer with a red dress, black chinion etc I replied that I couldn't because I was not ... So he said, oh then think of a nice spanish man and the resault was immidiate from what I remembered!
Can always try this and see...
and the more ambivalent?
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