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Interpretation, Individuality & The Miracle Of Music
By Chris Standring ( www.chrisstandring.com )
I watched a wonderful masterclass recently on PBS television. The show was called Barenboim on Beethoven. Daniel Barenboim is a classical concert pianist and conductor with a penchant for the music of Beethoven. I am always fascinated with these masterclasses because one only needs to come away with a small soundbyte of wisdom or expertise and the experience has been worth it. Also, I think it is always interesting how the mind of a classical musician works when interpreting the music of another composer, something that is inherently different from the jazz improviser.
The one thing that I always come away with from these classical maestros is the deep respect they have for the original composition. Of course this is a very classical musician's approach, and quite different from the jazz musician who is free to take a composition and butcher it as he or she sees fit!
In fact at one point during the masterclass Barenboim asks his student why he chooses to play a particular section loud. The student replies "Because I like it that way". The maestro responds "Not good enough!", and then proceeds to explain why that section might have sounded better played pianissimo, and gave extremely substantial musical reasons why it would have been so, even though individual interpretation was certainly valid.
Now if Herbie Hancock was giving a masterclass and he asked the student the same question, the response "Because I like it that way" might have been more acceptable.
But I think in both scenarios, if the individual can justify his chosen interpretation, provided it does justice to the music, whether it be respecting the original content of the composer or not, is to my mind valid. And I think that is actually what Daniel Barenboim was getting at. He just didn't think his student justified his own approach.
But the one thing that struck a chord with me (if you will pardon the pun), is when Daniel Barenboim discussed the 'miracle of music'. He said that no matter how much a musician practices, no matter how technically adept he or she is, the concept of individuality and personal emotiveness, simply cannot be taught. How much passion and feeling one puts into a piece, how involved in that performance the player is at the time, are all factors that simply cannot be learned in a cl...