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#2079294 - 05/08/13 12:50 PM Re: about whether we can truly realize the composer's intent [Re: bennevis]
wower Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/10
Posts: 244
Loc: Calgary
Originally Posted By: bennevis
a straight answer, no, but we can try grin.

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#2079297 - 05/08/13 12:53 PM Re: about whether we can truly realize the composer's intent [Re: Mwm]
bennevis Online   content
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 8816
Originally Posted By: Mwm
Knowledge - try to become educated

Are you answering your own question? grin

I was about to say that educated people disagree, as anyone reading the posts on this thread can see. That is assuming, of course, that we're all educated here.

Or are we?? wink
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

#2079301 - 05/08/13 12:55 PM Re: about whether we can truly realize the composer's intent [Re: bennevis]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Originally Posted By: bennevis
Originally Posted By: Mwm
Knowledge - try to become educated

Are you answering your own question? grin

I was about to say that educated people disagree, as anyone reading the posts on this thread can see. That is assuming, of course, that we're all educated here.

Or are we?? wink

Yes, I am answering my own question. That was asked for by the OP.

#2079447 - 05/08/13 05:49 PM Re: about whether we can truly realize the composer's intent [Re: bennevis]
patH Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/09/13
Posts: 737
Loc: Germany
Originally Posted By: bennevis
I think it's sad that anyone needs to feel inadequate for perceived lack of knowledge or 'understanding', of art or music.

When I listen to some of the gobbledegook that some so-called 'experts' say about certain paintings or music (and they also abound in sleeve-notes to CDs), I do wonder if they're living on the same planet. I've had that sort of nonsense imposed on me when some people 'saw' all sorts of significance (and yes, 'symbolism') and fin de siècle existentialism in my paintings that I didn't (and still don't grin). I'm just a simple guy, and I paint and compose because I enjoy it, purely for pleasure. End of. (Luckily, very few people have heard my music compositions, or I'd probably be informed that I was predicting the end of the world with my use of major-minor chord clashes overlaid on top of implied atonality.....).

Buy paintings that 'speak' to you, that you want to admire again and again - not because someone 'learned' tells you there's all sorts of underlying significance and symbolism and 'detail' below the brushstrokes and color. Don't feel you're missing the 'point' of it.

Similarly, you don't need to understand the intricacies of counterpoint and fugal writing to enjoy Bach, nor twelve-tone principles to enjoy Berg's Violin Concerto. Nor know what Alberti bass is to play Mozart. Nor bitonality to enjoy Poulenc.

This reminds me of the first time I took an entry exam to a music academy. The professor asked me who my favourite E-Musik composer was (in Germany, some people divide music into "E-Musik" (Ernste Musik; serious music) and "U-Musik" (Unterhaltungsmusik, music for entertainment)). I first thought he meant electronic music and answered Jean Michel Jarre. Shortly after that the misunderstanding was cleared, and I said: Beethoven. The professor then asked me why, and I replied: I find his music beautiful. To that the professor said: Now he must be rotating in his grave. You only find him beautiful?

I guess I should have answered some hero-worshipping babble like: I love how he uses harmonies and melodies to create a development, which makes the music emerge from night to day; or something like that. But I didn't.

On the one hand, a musician (and especially a music teacher) might be expected to know more about music than enough to say it's "beautiful". On the other hand: We can analyze the music, find out the structure, harmonies, and whatever; and then conclude that it's a well crafted piece of art. But what the composer meant with it is guesswork. Music history can play a part; like: What phrases and keys were associated with which emotion? But a composer might have transcended these rules.

So, if your answer to whether we can guess the composer's intent is: No, but we can try, I'd like to add: And we will most likely fail.
What we can do is: Turn the score into art by interpreting it. It may not be what the composer intended, but: So what?

BTW I failed my exam at the time. But not because of Beethoven; more like because of my mediocre piano playing. wink
Everything is possible, and nothing is sure.

#2080504 - 05/10/13 08:29 PM Re: about whether we can truly realize the composer's intent [Re: pianoloverus]
poorly_tempered Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/02/13
Posts: 16
Loc: nova scotia
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Rant warning:

This is a huge, HUGE problem in my opinion. A lot of people take the score as gospel. Crescendo here, diminuendo here, etc. because the score says so. It just doesn't work. Even when every part of the score is taken into account, quite often the performance will still wind up being utterly boring. I think this kind of mentality is the primary source of musical banality in the classical world. Music shouldn't be premeditated in such a way. It should be spontaneous and organic. Even the composers themselves almost blatantly ignored their own scores at times. At least Debussy did.. we know that for a fact. Doesn't that tell you anything? Look, I'm not advocating rebellion against the score. All I'm saying is that music should be, like I said, spontaneous and organic. Playing an exact, literal reading of the score without plugging in your own ideas will never provide this, because then it just becomes dictation. Music doesn't belong in such shackles.
I think most of the greatest pianists, at least in the last say 75 years, follow the scores' indications most of the time. Even if one follows every indication there is still much one can include that makes each interpretation personal. If one follows every indication in the score and the performance is boring this doesn't mean that the reason it was boring is that one followed the score.

Here are 10 pianists playing just the first few measures of Beethoven's PC #4. My guess is that most of them follow the score reasonably or very closely but they all sound different:

i really enjoyed this. i also enjoyed all the opinions in this threasd as well.

#2081886 - 05/13/13 12:39 PM Re: about whether we can truly realize the composer's intent [Re: shirlkirsten]
JdhPiano924 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/13/08
Posts: 1049
Loc: Evansville, Indiana
I think there is a lot more freedom in what is written on the page then we give it credit. Nearly all things are relative(the forte in a Liszt piece is not the same forte in a Bach piece). There are many more options we have as performers before we start changing things. Not many of us are as smart as someone like Glenn Gould, whose performances of some pieces were critiques. Most performers now seem to be more like craftsmen or museum curators. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

As for composer's content....Many composers we have one record...are not as good of a pianist as they are a composer. How can they be? Spending more time working on pieces the physical element of playing will suffer. Recently, for a class, I had to write a paper comparing a recording of Mendelssohn's "Spinning Song" from songs without words. I had to compare Daniel Barenboim, Artur Rubinstein, Sergei Rachmaninov, and Valentina Lisitsa.

Rachmaninov is a amazing pianist, and I am always curious to hear what he does not only with his own works, but other pieces as well, but I was surprised with the results. He had a great sense of the whole, but smaller details seemed to get lost. Something which Rubinstein and Barenboim excelled at.

It was a trend I saw repeated, the composer's we have recordings of, most of the time, while having a great sense of larger structure, seemed to skim over smaller details. That is not to say there are not exceptions, some of Rachmaninov's recordings are amazing.

My last thought, and this one might make a few composers a bit angry. Many times I have found composers(at least the ones that I know), to live in their own heads too much. Most of the time, they chose composition because they did not have the chops to play. They stress fidelity to their score.

An anecdote; last year I was premiering the work of a friend of mine who was a composer. It sounded great in the playback on finale, but was very awkward to actually play on the piano. Chords were voiced odd, and hard to even roll. One thing she stressed, was how important it was to follow her pedal markings, which showed she had no clue what the pedal actually does for the piano and music making. I tried to talk with her about a few of the issues, but she did not want to hear it. So I got her to talk about the piece, what it meant to her, and after some conversation, I decided on things like pedal, I would do it my way, and hope it turned out how she heard it in her head(luckily it did), but that was still based off a midi recording.

My point is simply sometimes people get so wrapped up in work that they forget the practical and making it come to life, and that is where us as performers can help. Now I know many of the composers here are fantastic pianists and do not have this trouble, but for me, I feel at the end of the day, it brings everything full circle. It gives us performers more purpose. We now live in a world where many are trained to either just play or just compose and we have to work together sometime.

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