Interpretation in Music, Particularly in Classical

What is interpretation in music? Let us take classical music for our example. In playing a piece written by a composer, one must faithfully adhere to the score. The performer has to play the piece correctly and without any alteration, omission or additives. This means that one must play all notes correctly and must follow such things as tempo (as indicated by metronomic marks), dynamics (loudness and softness), nuances, etc., exactly as indicated in the piece.

There is a common misunderstanding by many that a performer must change things in order to be unique in his interpretation. Thus, a question arises frequently: How would a performer differ from others if everyone has to do the same exact thing? Although the musician has freedom of choice in certain aspects, such as climaxes in the phrases, phrasings and sub-phrasings, focus on bass lines, bringing out various melody lines, articulations, etc., those elements are not actually the core part of a musical piece in terms of interpretation.

Then, what is the core part of a piece as far as interpretation goes? The performer must embrace fully the intention of the piece and the composer himself. The composer developed a piece and had a vision for how it is to be brought to life by others, even when he is no longer present. The performer’s role is to relay the exact message to the audience with the same aesthetic energy. But how?

First, a musician should be educated in musical eras and should understand the styles very well, and also, he should be educated in the composer himself in order to embrace his character and style. That is the first requirement.

Next, and more importantly, is to not only perceive but to embrace fully the core character of the composer and the particular piece. This is done by one’s intuition and not just analytical study. In other words, one must be willing to become one with the composer and assume his viewpoint while he was composing that piece. This is almost a sort of “sixth sense” and should be perceived as such. As a musician, you must be willing to experience this insight at a level beyond purely analytical study. When learning a piece, that piece is talking to you.

One must comprehend this according to his own innate sensibility. It is actually a matter of affinity. The more a musician relates to a certain composer or piece, to that degree he will be able to interpret it as “one with the composer” and thus impart its message. The musician incorporates the piece and creates the desired atmosphere for the listener. Like a tuning fork, the aesthetic vibrations will become contagious and true art will occur. This impacts the audience and they are riveted and participating emotionally.

For example, a certain well-known performer is considered a masterful interpetor of Frederic Chopin. This performer has an enormous affinity for and keen intuition into Chopin and his pieces. This imparts in his performances and most everyone renowns him as such a great interpretor.

You as a life force are knowing and able to control emotions, imaginations, sensations and feelings. Really dive into the world of a composer and become one with them and when you perform, you are likely to create an impact with your music.

by Evelyn Simonian
© 2011. Evelyn Simonian

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