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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by CianistAndPomposer
Nothing currently makes my blood boil more than hearing a sentence like: "It sounded beautiful. But that's not how you play Mozart."

It sounds beautiful? Thank you. Period. That's all that matters, ever. Be it Bach with pedal, Mozart with slightly louder fortes, Beethoven with a bit more rubato.

I am all with you. The existing scores are for us to play around with as we please. The one place though, in which this remark is valid, is the piano school. In school, it is good to learn the proper technique and other rules of how to play Mozart. Outside of school, everybody is totally free.
Of course, in one's own home one is free to do whatever one wants including turning the score upside down and playing it. But that does not mean what one is doing is reasonable, good, valid, intelligent, shows any understanding of music, or is respectful of the greatest composers who ever lived. Those composers mostly wrote very specific instructions for a reason. Those instructions in the score were not meant just as suggestions.

This is not at all what I mean. Any performer is free to play around with the score as they please. Respecting great composers is not the same thing as obeying them. Do with any piece whatever you like. Of course, if you are a performer, you will want to tell your audience that they will listen to a very personal interpretation. And hopefully, many will like what they hear, and you'll be acknowledged as a great musician.


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Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by CianistAndPomposer
Nothing currently makes my blood boil more than hearing a sentence like: "It sounded beautiful. But that's not how you play Mozart."

It sounds beautiful? Thank you. Period. That's all that matters, ever. Be it Bach with pedal, Mozart with slightly louder fortes, Beethoven with a bit more rubato.

I am all with you. The existing scores are for us to play around with as we please. The one place though, in which this remark is valid, is the piano school. In school, it is good to learn the proper technique and other rules of how to play Mozart. Outside of school, everybody is totally free.
Of course, in one's own home one is free to do whatever one wants including turning the score upside down and playing it. But that does not mean what one is doing is reasonable, good, valid, intelligent, shows any understanding of music, or is respectful of the greatest composers who ever lived. Those composers mostly wrote very specific instructions for a reason. Those instructions in the score were not meant just as suggestions.

This is not at all what I mean. Any performer is free to play around with the score as they please. Respecting great composers is not the same thing as obeying them. Do with any piece whatever you like. Of course, if you are a performer, you will want to tell your audience that they will listen to a very personal interpretation. And hopefully, many will like what they hear, and you'll be acknowledged as a great musician.
I couldn't disagree more and I am virtually certain 99% of all professional pianists would agree with me. Why did you put "performer" in bold and what was that supposed to indicate? Respecting great composers means following the instructions they put in the score.

No serious professional pianist feels they are free to "play around" with the score as they please.

Tiny, little changes are possible but if Chopin writes ff and you decide to play pp you are, in effect, saying you know more about music and the particular composition than Chopin. If you were taking a lesson from Chopin and he wrote ff in the score would you play it pp?

Following the score still allows for almost an infinite number of interpretations because, for example, rit. doesn't indicate how much to ritard and because one can do an infinite number of things not marked in the score unless they contradict what's in the score. If a composer writes a staccato marking it's up to the performer to decide on the degree of staccato. Just listen to 10 great pianists playing the same piece and they will all sound different although they are to a very high degree all following the score.

If you were free to go to a big museum with some paint and adjust(repaint) part of Rembrandt you thought you could improve, would you do that? Should freedom of interpretation of music allow major changes to the notes and rhythms also.

Interpreting classical music does not mean doing whatever you want. This is an utterly false idea held mostly by non-advanced amateurs. Pianists don't(with very rare exceptions, I can only think of one in 60 years of concert going( tell their audience they are about to listen to a "very personal interpretation", That idea is just foolish.

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Pianoloverus - with all due respect, 99% of professional pianists are exactly that: professional pianists who spend 8 hours a day perfecting an emotionally contrived and calculated performance that they can repeat ad nauseam for their concert tours and recordings. This is from necessity, because generations of snobs got their jollies going to concerts or listening to recordings with a score in their lap (so to speak) to catch every little diversion from the holy score and judge accordingly. These professional pianists can be so utterly soulless and boring that there's no point in listening to their little exercises. Technically impressive? Of course. Emotionally and musically impressive? Rarely.

However one feels about Andras Schiff - a professional musician, part of that 99%, in his lectures he bemoans the fact that professional pianists have become SO professional that it's obvious they no longer have a single scrap of feeling or love for the music they are tediously repeating for the millionth time to a hushed audience. We ALL know this!

As for bowing to composers every little marking as if it's holy writ - aside from points made earlier concerning actual historical practice, when musicians played from scores and hadn't been scared by Clara Schumann into memorizing the music that they then began to robotically play at concerts (which of course began to spill over to how teachers taught): when inspiration, taste, muse, emotion and experience all came into a happy harmony allowing a free expression of music that was still alive (read of how Liszt sight-read like the devil, as did most musicians by necessity) - many composers didn't even know what the heck they wanted in the end. Like most artists, many composers would look back at their past work with a bit of disdain - every artist grows with time and experience. Beethoven was constantly releasing revisions of his own works, and Chopin? Chopin was constantly changing his own works - just witness the nightmare of even attempting an Urtext edition of Chopin - it's impossible! The list goes on and on. Composers were not infallible gods - if you believe that God spoke a holy score through Mozart, then one just needs to look at his actual autographs or read his many letters. I love Urtext editions but ONLY because they are the starting point of my personal interpretations, which are not for a snobbish group of score-checkers because thank God - I never wanted to be a professional concert pianist. I've known plenty of them to see what it has done to their love of music: it's just a job. It's the rare professional pianist brave enough to let go and just play their heart out. It's usually reserved for performers specializing on period instruments - paradoxically enough!

Nobody here is guilt of your accusation: "Interpreting classical music does not mean doing whatever you want" - that seems to be a gross misreading of what has been said in this thread. I get where you're coming from - we've all been there. But categorizing other posters thoughts on the matter as "foolish" or "amateurs" is a little....short-sighted, to say the least?

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Originally Posted by Mattardo
Nobody here is guilt of your accusation: "Interpreting classical music does not mean doing whatever you want" - that seems to be a gross misreading of what has been said in this thread. I get where you're coming from - we've all been there. But categorizing other posters thoughts on the matter as "foolish" or "amateurs" is a little....short-sighted, to say the least?
I will comment on the earlier part of this post later but in reference to the above paragraph here's what one poster wrote:
"Any performer is free to play around with the score as they please. Respecting great composers is not the same thing as obeying them. Do with any piece whatever you like. Of course, if you are a performer, you will want to tell your audience that they will listen to a very personal interpretation."

This clearly shows some posters think interpretation means doing what ever you want. (And I think there were other posters on this thread expressing a similar opinion.) Who cares if it's reasonable, shows musical understanding, makes even a minimal attempt to follow the score, shows knowledge of historical performance practice, etc.?

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I agree with pianoloverus. There should be, and are, reasonable limits on the license with which a performer can exercise an interpretation of a written work. Public opinion, in any era, is the final arbiter.

Cortôt's knowledge of Chopin's ideas on interpretation came directly from a student of Chopin. Chopin, as indicated elsewhere in the discussion, confused editors, in some cases, by sending different scores of the same work to editors in Germany and in France. This 'freedom', along with Cortôt's understanding of Chopin's desires through his student, allowed him and others to modify, to some small extent, the actual notes, and, in some cases, the structure, of a work. This was applauded and expected by the 'live' audience of the day.

Last edited by prout; Yesterday at 10:55 AM.
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Originally Posted by Mattardo
Pianoloverus - with all due respect, 99% of professional pianists are exactly that: professional pianists who spend 8 hours a day perfecting an emotionally contrived and calculated performance that they can repeat ad nauseam for their concert tours and recordings. This is from necessity, because generations of snobs got their jollies going to concerts or listening to recordings with a score in their lap (so to speak) to catch every little diversion from the holy score and judge accordingly. These professional pianists can be so utterly soulless and boring that there's no point in listening to their little exercises. Technically impressive? Of course. Emotionally and musically impressive? Rarely.

However one feels about Andras Schiff - a professional musician, part of that 99%, in his lectures he bemoans the fact that professional pianists have become SO professional that it's obvious they no longer have a single scrap of feeling or love for the music they are tediously repeating for the millionth time to a hushed audience. We ALL know this!
I really couldn't disagree more.

1. The best(and even some of the not so great) pianists of today and the past don't sound emotionally contrived and calculated. Some perform their repertoire pretty much the same way once they've decided on an interpretation while some claim to play quite differently depending on their mood or other factors. Either way I find nothing "soulless and boring so that there's little point to listening to their exercises". I find the best pianists both emotionally and musically extremely impressive...just the opposite of your opinion. And this applies to some pieces I've heard countless times.

2. Before your post I have never heard anyone claim that the fidelity to the score popular today and for at least the last 80 years(probably more) has anything to do with "generations of snobs got their jollies going to concerts or listening to recordings with a score in their lap (so to speak) to catch every little diversion from the holy score and judge accordingly." I have attended recitals for 60 years. I rarely see someone following along with a score, and if they are doing so I doubt it's because they're trying to catch some deviation. I think it's because they want to learn something from the pianist's performance.

3. I would have to see the Schiff interview to hear what he said in context. I doubt he feels his own performances lack feeling or love for the music. To me, it's obvious watching many of today's pianists(and not only the one's showing obvious visible emotion) that many of them are incredibly emotionally involved with the music they play and have a great love for it. I have also attended at least 100 master classes and the teachers' love for the music they are teaching is undeniable.

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In praise of freedom of interpretation, I offer the following example of a Louis Couperin unmeasured prelude, one of many written in the era (late J.S. Bach). It offers up an infinite variety of interpretations. It was not expected to be slavishly followed and never expected to be performed the same way twice (horror of horrors).

That being said, without studying the historic performance practices of the era, no one today would have any idea what Couperin was writing about. The emotional intensity of the music, the ability to convey those emotions to an attentive audience was hidden in the stylistic conventions of the time, not in the ink splotches on the page.

[Linked Image]

Edit. This is the last page of the prélude, not the entire work.

Last edited by prout; Yesterday at 12:54 PM.
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Pop musicians like Elton John don't usually play & sing the same songs the exact same way. Bygone composers like Bach would embellish church hymns to make them sound more interesting. I don't think great composers like Chopin, Brahms & Liszt would compose a piece for piano, write the notes on paper and assume it is the 1 final version. Composers would often play their own pieces in different variations.

Yesterday I watched a video uploaded by a piano teacher (Chinese) on what to expect in a piano exam. She didn't specify the music program (probably ABRSM) or the grade level. She said that students are expected to play 3 pieces representing 3 periods of Western Classical music including Baroque, Classical & Romantic and 1 piece of the student's own choosing. Marks will be given to note accuracy and the correct rhythm. Part of the mark will be for playing a piece in the style appropriate to the period meaning you wouldn't play a piece of Bach like Chopin. However, there are exceptions. In the past Bach pieces were performed on a harpsichord / clavichord without foot pedals. A piano is a different instrument and should be treated as such so many musicians use sustain pedal to enhance pieces.

A lot of young students who have a teacher have limited knowledge or experience in music. They would get into pieces by dead Western composers after learning the basics and reproduce pieces taught by the teacher like every other student. The Suzuki method is well-know for students copying off each other learning approach. Everybody learn the same pieces, perform them in year-end recitals in similar ways. Suzuki doesn't encourage students playing original pieces or even performances that sounded different from other performances of the same pieces. Every student has the talent for music and can be taught to be "musical" the Suzuki way which is like factory standardization.

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I am an amateur so that gives me some advantage. I don't do competitions , I don't have to pass exams. Mozart I play is MY Mozart and so is Bach. I use a lot of strong accents in Mozart and I do use the occasional pedal in Bach. My piano teacher doesn't agree with any of those but respectfully I don't care. My Mozart, my Bach, why else should I play?

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Originally Posted by marklings
I am an amateur so that gives me some advantage. I don't do competitions , I don't have to pass exams. Mozart I play is MY Mozart and so is Bach. I use a lot of strong accents in Mozart and I do use the occasional pedal in Bach. My piano teacher doesn't agree with any of those but respectfully I don't care. My Mozart, my Bach, why else should I play?
Playing music for yourself is an intensely personal and rewarding experience. In my opinion, it it the best way to experience music, either previously written, or extemporized. You get to forget yourself, forget the world and its troubles, and commune with the composer, or with your own spirit. You get to listen to the superb resonance and interplay of all the pitches and noises of the piano. You are transported. It is a transcendent experience. No one can take that from you.

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Originally Posted by Animisha
[...] Of course, if you are a performer, you will want to tell your audience that they will listen to a very personal interpretation. And hopefully, many will like what they hear, and you'll be acknowledged as a great musician.

Why should you need to "tell your audience" the subjective quality of the performance that they are going to hear? Should the music/performance not speak for itself?

Regards,


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"You play Bach your way, I'll play him his way." whome wow ha

Thus spake.........not Zarathustra, but Wanda L.


"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."
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by Animisha
[...] Of course, if you are a performer, you will want to tell your audience that they will listen to a very personal interpretation. And hopefully, many will like what they hear, and you'll be acknowledged as a great musician.

Why should you need to "tell your audience" the subjective quality of the performance that they are going to hear? Should the music/performance not speak for itself?

Regards,
thumb

And is this not what the OP's, who, I have noticed, has run for the hills, original point?

My problem with the idea of ignoring historic performance practice, and not bothering to study what makes Bach Bach, Mozart Mozart, Poulenc Poulenc and so on, is this.

Does this 'ignorant' performer's music all converge on a 'personal interpretation' that in the end all sounds alike - akin to mush?

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Originally Posted by marklings
I am an amateur so that gives me some advantage. I don't do competitions , I don't have to pass exams. Mozart I play is MY Mozart and so is Bach. I use a lot of strong accents in Mozart and I do use the occasional pedal in Bach. My piano teacher doesn't agree with any of those but respectfully I don't care. My Mozart, my Bach, why else should I play?
If your teacher doesn't agree with something you do, he should explain why(does he?). Then you have a choice to make based on some additional musical understanding that you may or may not agree with. But it's possible that with additional insight you might change your approach even if playing just for your own enjoyment.There is not one correct way to play a piece of classical music. But that does not mean "anything goes" is a good approach which is what some posters on this thread seem to believe.

In master classes, it's usually pretty obvious when the teacher is making an optional suggestion as opposed to just correcting the student. And even conservatory students do sometimes play in a way that after the teacher's explanation is seen to be obviously wrong. IOW some things the student does are more clearly "wrong" at least at the professional level. If one is just playing for oneself, one is free to do whatever one wants but that does not mean it makes sense musically.

I think only a small number of teachers or
professional pianists today would say that occasional
use of pedal in Bach is wrong. One would have to hear how you play Mozart to make a judgement about your strong accents. If a good teacher heard you play Mozart and felt you over accented the music, they would try to explain why they felt your approach was wrong and then you would have additional insight to use.

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The last 2 pieces I played during the Christmas break were arrangements for piano so wouldn’t sound 100% like the original. The things I worked on were the notes, rhythm & a fast enough tempo. The rest can be as personal as the way I choose to play… even changing a few notes.

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Originally Posted by prout
Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by Animisha
[...] Of course, if you are a performer, you will want to tell your audience that they will listen to a very personal interpretation. And hopefully, many will like what they hear, and you'll be acknowledged as a great musician.

Why should you need to "tell your audience" the subjective quality of the performance that they are going to hear? Should the music/performance not speak for itself?

Regards,
thumb

And is this not what the OP's, who, I have noticed, has run for the hills, original point?

My problem with the idea of ignoring historic performance practice, and not bothering to study what makes Bach Bach, Mozart Mozart, Poulenc Poulenc and so on, is this.

Does this 'ignorant' performer's music all converge on a 'personal interpretation' that in the end all sounds alike - akin to mush?
I certainly agree.

But I think the even bigger concept here is that playing classical music does not just mean being able to technically play the notes and then adopting a "do whatever I want" interpretation.

There are the composer's markings besides the notes and rhythm and, just as important, an understanding of how music should be played. To me, playing consists of two parts: technique and musicianship(musical understanding). I think some posters on this thread think whatever they want to do is automatically indicative of good musical understanding and that all "interpretations" are equally good.

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If all interpretations were equally good, there would be no work for critics, no choices to be made by audiences as to which performer they would want to hear, and no need for Piano World to offer up forums for this type of discussion.

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Originally Posted by CianistAndPomposer
Even the more abstract ideas like "The struggle in Beethoven", "the carelessness and lightness of Mozart" etc. are constructs, and these composers themselves wanted, most of all, their works to be played with passion and in an interesting manner... not in the manner that they themselves might have played it in.

What is the basis for this statement? I have never read anything to the effect the Mozart and Beethoven wanted other people to play their works in a manner different from their own playing. For myself, part of the joy of playing the piano is to realise with my own fingers the great masterpieces that these masters composed. I am in awe and admiration of them. Why would I try to "improve" them with my own paltry efforts? As has been remarked at length above, there is plenty of scope for realising one's own interpretation in terms of subtleties which are not actually notated in the score. When I play the Haydn sonata I am currently studying, I have an image in my mind of the interpretation that I am trying to realise. I might listen to recordings by Brendel and other pianists, and decide that my intended interpretation is superior in subtle ways. Of course, whether I can actually realise this interpretation is another matter!

Playing around with the score in more substantial ways is of no interest to me. Why should I want to do that? Haydn is a greater composer than David-G. Other people may of course feel differently, and they are quite free to do so.

People are a product of their age. Mozart revered Handel, but "modernised" his music for performance. The Romantics romanticised Don Giovanni. The present age is marked by a quest for "authenticity" (which has given rise to the period-instrument movement). Perhaps my own non-interest in playing around with composers' scores originates from having been imbued with this quest for authenticity. And indeed, I get great joy from playing Mozart and Haydn on the fortepiano. The music seems to come alive to a much greater extent than on the modern piano. There seem to be so many more possibilities for constructing an interpretation.

Mozart of course expected pianists to write their own cadenzas for his concertos, and to supply subtle decoration in repeats of sonata movements or opera arias. I observe an interesting dilemma here. I am in great admiration of pianists like Robert Levin who can improvise a complex and virtuosic cadenza on the spot. It is a thrilling experience. However, if I am candid, I have to admit that when I here decorated repeats in Mozart recordings, I often find that the inspiration of the decoration does not live up to the inspiration of Mozart. And so I may find it more rewarding to listen to the true Mozartian inspiration of the undecorated music - even though I am aware that this is not actually how Mozart would have played it.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
[quote=marklings]... If one is just playing for oneself, one is free to do whatever one wants but that does not mean it makes sense musically.

Don't argue with that. Just who will be the judge of how musically sensible a passage is ? I am not ignoring all the "sensible" performances, I listen to a lot of performance while studying. In the end I make my own decisions; I follow my own sensibility, as stupid as that might be.

And as prout put it, that to me is

Originally Posted by prout
intensely personal and rewarding experience

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Originally Posted by marklings
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
[quote=marklings]... If one is just playing for oneself, one is free to do whatever one wants but that does not mean it makes sense musically.

Don't argue with that. Just who will be the judge of how musically sensible a passage is ?
Just like there are pianists whose technique is clearly superior to your technique and almost everyone else's, there are pianists whose musical understanding is extremely high. They are the ones who after explaining something one thinks "that makes a lot of sense but I didn't realize that."

They can explain in convincing terms why their musical choices makes sense(not mecessarily meaning they think there only one way to play any passage) and their explanations are clear and convincing. There are also many accepted general musical ideas understood by the best pianists but not always known by lesser pianists. These pianists with great musical understanding(or at least much greater understanding than their students) are the ones whose thoughts on your musical decisions you should at least seriously consider.

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