Patrick Hu

Musical Identity Crises: Personal interpretation? What's that?

March 7, 2009 01:20



These two ideas have confused me SO much over my entire violin playing life!  How do you perform a truly personal interpretation of a piece?  How would you go about in creating it?  Bowings?  Fingerings?

I have had this dillema for quite some time now.  Ever since my sophomore year in high school, I have been pushed and told to discover my own interpretation.  From my orchestral professors to my private lesson teachers to my summer camp teachers!  The question do I do it?

Recently, I have begun the process of relearning the Sibelius Violin Concerto...and any thoughts of it being "easier" this time around were erased when my teacher one day asked to see my manuscript of the Sibelius.  She then put my personal edition of the Sibelius into her drawer (a locked drawer in her studio) and pulled out a fresh clean copy of the concerto.  She told me to forget my 11th grade interpretation and create a new one.

So at the following lesson, I brought the clean manuscript back (now etched with my own personal bowings, fingerings, and dynamic markings) and took on that challenege of performing it for her.  The actual process in filling out the sheet music took forever!  Almost three weeks!  Imagine my horror when my Professor proceeded to erase about half of my markings!

She claimed that some of the bowings were unmusical.  Some of the fingerings were absurd (while some of the fingerings were "cop-outs").

She proceeded in helping me understand the music of Sibelius.  My next assignment was to listen to his symphonies, chamber music, etc, and then to reapproach the violin concerto.

Well...all that did was confuse me even more!

My interpretation of the Sibelius models after several different violinists.  It's sort of a hybrid of different interpretations...a little mix of Wicks, Oistrakh, Heifetz, Hahn, Chang, and Gitlis.  I used to think it was the most perfect interpretation out there, but how am I supposed to feel confident with it when my very own Professor has me on the verge of a musical-identity crises?

I guess my question is...How do you go about creating your "own" interpretation of a piece?  What if the interpretation you think is perfect has already been established and recorded by another violinist?  For example, what if someong believes that Heifetz's interpretation is the ultimate and he adopts it as his own interpretation?  Is that not a personal interpretation?  To create your "own" interpretation, would that entail trying to be "different" by bringing somthing new to the table that no other violinist has?  Is that the definition of "personal interpretation," is it?

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