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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Re: Repeats

From:

David Runnion <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 6 Mar 2000 23:26:15 +0100

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text/plain (97 lines)

To me we're getting the the crux of the matter in the following exchange:

Steve Schwartz wrote:

>>>I expect performers to give me not the composer's intention, but their
>>>best effort toward realizing the score, to put the score in the
>>>best light.

Dave Lampson replies to me:

>>Now perhaps we're making progress.  See, I don't care about any of that.
>>I expect performers to communicate as much of what the composer musically
>>intended as possible.  This is what "realizing the score" means to me.

Steve writes:

>Well, since I have no idea how they do that, short of channeling, I don't
>agree with that definition of "realizing."

Then we're in trouble with semantics, but it boils down to the same thing.
Steve wants the "spirit" of the score to be realized, even if in catching
that spirit you have to alter the score, because the composer might be
mistaken or may simply be unaware of the true "spirit" of his work.  Dave's
definition includes the letter of the score, saying that if you change the
letter, you change the spirit.

I tend to agree with the Moderator in this case, and I'm talking from a
performer's point of view, one who'se job is to catch that "spirit" and
communicate it to the world.

My training has always led me to believe that to truly "realize" a piece
of music, you must observe the letter *and* spirit of the work.  That is,
if you change the letter, you change the spirit, even if you like it
better changed.  I'm not always happy taking repeats, but I feel a
strong responsibility to do so, because if I don't I really feel like
I am betraying what the composer wanted.  His intentions.

Are you familiar with the "Prime Directive" from the Star Trek series?
There were certain guidelines, certain lines that Kirk could never cross.
To me, and, I believe, to many of my colleagues, observing a composer's
markings, indications, symbols, written instructions, etc.  *is* the Prime
Directive.

>What you seem to be saying is that they should play everything the
>composer wrote exactly as he wrote it.

Exactly.  I think that is an artist's prime directive.  Within that,
there is still lots and lots of room, within every note, for personal
interpretation.

>Do you allow tempo variances from the metronome marks (if any)?

Yes, because depending on the time period metronomes have always been
famously inaccurate and one or two clicks each way still fall into what can
be considered the composer's intention.  Metronome markings are also famous
for having been added later by editors.

>Do you insist on contemporary tuning?

No, because it is impractical and IMHO doesn't make much difference anyway.
The vast majority of listeners don't know if it is A430 or A450.  The
"spirit" of the music is not affected by the tuning.

>Obviously, you must allow some deviation from the written score, since the
>marks are not ever complete.

Ideally, the "deviation" comes in places where the markings are incomplete
or nonexistant, and repeat marks, to stay on-topic, are very complete and
very obvious.  This idea of "deviation" from the score to achieve an effect
that the composer doesn't indicate is not to my taste.  I lose respect for
performers who stray from the written markings in order to insert musical
gestures of their own making, and suspect them of placing their own egos
before the Art.  But a performance that adheres to the spirit and letter,
and additionally gives me musical pleasure and insight to the meaning of
the score is one that I will listen to again and again.

>Perhaps the composer would allow deviation as well, but his deviation
>may not be the performer's deviation and, in any case, how do you tell?
>If there's a deviation from the written mark, do you simply consign the
>performers to >hell or do you try to figure out whether the deviation
>works as well as the written mark?

Sort of both.  If you ask me personally, yes, sometimes I will consign
a performer to hell for screwing around with the markings.  I knew one
"conductor" who decided that all the pesky dynamic markings in the second
movemt of Beethoven 5 "didn't work for him".  So he wrote in the parts, in
black ink to make it look like the original, crescendos and dimenuendos all
the way through.  He killed all the subitos in the movement, and therefore,
for me, killed the entire piece.  TO HELL!!!

But to get back to your original questions, I firmly believe that we must
be as scrupulous as possible in observing a composer's markings, and use
them as a launching board for our own interpretation.  If we alter the
launching board, we may never take off.

Dave Runnion
www.serafinotrio.com

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