Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What makes a performer "Great"?

Tom Connor wrote:>Is there too much risk for performers and recording companies to record>performances other than the 'tried and true'. It's probably why I keep>exploring older recordings not well known by me.Of course there is a very valid perspective of the notion of letting themusic speak for itself. I am reminded of one of my favorite works...theBarber Second Symphony. Listening to the composer's commercial recordingof the work, and thanks to a most generous friend, hearing the composerrehearsing the piece with the Boston Symphony...I found it very odd howlittle "interpretation" he put into his performances. They are clearand let the music "speak for itself." Yet, when I listen, I will choosethe Koussevitzky broadcast, or the broadcast I have with Alsop conductingthe Minnesota Orchestra. Both are filled with incredible excitement.Much has been written about musicians being so restrained in theirperformances. There was, I believe, some attempt, in the early part ofthe 20th Century, to rid us from the "excesses" of the interpretationsof the romantic era. What little of those performances that survive...wellI don't find them excessive. I think many went to extreme in the oppositedirection. And then, as many writers have suggested, there is the notionthat the recording has "set the standard." If you drop a note, or if itdoesn't "sound like it does on the record," you are, in the minds ofsome, something less of a performer.I am reminded of an evening spent with someone who was developing aninterest in classical music. Several of us brought our favorite recordingsof a work...can't even remember the work...but we listened, as group toat least one movement...I think it might have been from a ShostakovichSymphony. The "novice" was amazed at the diversity in the variousperformances...from Koussevitzky, to Ormandy to Stokowski, etc.I know generalizations aren't fair, and no doubt getting old has somethingto do with it, but for me, "they just don't do it like they used to."Karl

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