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Discussion Activities

Questions on the Text

1. What is the role of interpretation in music as compared with the other arts? What is musical interpretation in a modern


2. Find in the text a passage describing the difference between the subjective and objective approach in a musical perfor­mance. Why does the argument about interpretation continue? What are the interpreter's rights and where are their limits?

3. What evidence does the author provide to show that modern musical notation is imperfect?

4. Find in the text passages describing the relationship between the composer and the performer. What was the performing practice in Palestrina's time? How has it changed since then? Why is it so difficult to perform old works?

5. How have theories of interpretation changed throughout the history of music? Give examples of how twentieth-century composers have tried to limit the freedom of the performer.

6. What are the three recommendations which the author makes to the performer?

7. Give a summary of the text in writing.

Questions for Discussion

1. Music for the public has always been dependent upon the performer. His role in the present organisation of concert-giving is so emphasized that he often overshadows the com­poser himself. What do you think of this? Do you agree? If not, give your reasons.

2. What, besides inborn, instinct and good taste, is to set the limits beyond which the performer may not go? Tradition, handed down from one generation of musicians to another, is often distorted in the process; yet how else, after the com­poser's death, are his wishes to be translated into sound? By what standard can one reading of composer's work be con­sidered better than another?

3. What Soviet musicologists have dealt with questions of musical

interpretation? Have you read their books? What is your opinion of them?

4. What do you think makes a performance convincing and in­teresting? In your opinion, what is truth in musical interpre­tation?

Additional Assignments

1. Write a short critical review of a performance. Discuss the art of the performer in all its aspects - historical, technical and spiritual. Give examples.

2. Write an essay about your favourite performer. What qualities do you value in him/her most of all? In what music does he/she excel? How does he/she tackle the problems of in­terpretation?

3. Write a composition or give a short talk explaining and illus­trating the following statement: "The comprehension of for­mer style sharpens the senses for modern styles."


Conducting involves not only precise indication of speed, dynam­ics and phrasing, but also careful preparation to ensure that the bal­ance is correct and that the intentions of the composer are ade­quately represented. These requirements are not always observed, but a good performance is impossible without them. Unlike the singer or instrumentalist, the conductor has to persuade others to accept his view of the music and so help him to shape it into a unified and convincing whole. The method by which this is achieved varies ac­cording to the individual. Some conductors make detailed annotations in the orchestral parts or vocal scores, indicating details of bowing to the string-players or of breathing to the singers. Others rely on verbal instructions at rehearsals and on the impress of a strong per­sonality.

The use of a baton, though at least as old as the 15th century, did not become the almost universal method of directing a perfor­mance until the second half of the 19th century. Other methods be­fore that time included the hand, a roll of paper, or a violin bow. When a stick was employed it was sometimes used to beat time au­dibly, e.g. at the Paris Opera in the 17th and 18th centuries. Else­where in the 18th century it was normal for opera to be directed from the harpsichord, which was in any case necessary for playing the recitative, and for symphonies to be directed by the principal first violin (still known in Britain as "leader" of the orchestra). When the baton was introduced to London by Spohr in 1820 and to Leipzig by Mendelssohn in 1835, it was regarded as a novelty. The increasing complication of orchestral writing and the growth of the forces employed made a clear and visible direction indispensable, and 80

the use of the baton soon became general. Even today, however, there are a few conductors - e.g. Boulez - who prefer to dispense with it and use their hands.

The original purpose of conducting was simply to keep the per­formers together, and hence it was very necessary when large forces were employed for church or court festivals. By the latter part of the 18th century, however, the growing subtlety of orchestral expression called for something more than the mere indication of time. By the middle of the 19th century the conductor had become an interpreter. Berlioz, Wagner, von Bülow and Richter showed that a conductor needed to be a consummate* musician, with an intimate understanding of every detail of the score and the power to communicate his understanding to others. Hence the rise in the 20th century of the "star" conductor, who is worshipped as intensely as the operatic singer in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The only satisfactory training for conducting is continual practice, which naturally depends to some extent on opportunity. Among the other indispensable requirements are practical familiarity with orches­tral instruments and a knowledge of their capabilities and limitations, ability to read a full score and to hear it mentally, and an intimate knowledge of the style of widely different composers and periods.

From: Collins Encyclopaedia of Music

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1376

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