The Art of Motivic Thorough-Composition Part I

Understanding the score: the precondition of musical interpretation
November 4, 2008

There are basically two types of musicians: the first ones declare their artistic Credo remaining true to the score, the others rather prefer to remain true to the musical masterwork. The first kind of musicians is strictly approaching the written notes. The score represents an indispensable fundament for the study and the examination of the composer’s work. To understand the composition means to capture exactly the text of the score, almost being obsessed with details. An analytic artist doesn’t question the written indications of the composer, as soon as the musical thought is put down on paper, the masterwork shows its perfection. The artist is not reflecting anymore, he just needs to achieve an accurate performance at the instrument to justify his exact study and faithfully approaching the score.
Sometimes this artist also makes use of additional helping methods for his meticulous analysis of the score, for example consulting different versions of the composition by other editions. But those editions only provide a basis for him to come closer and closer to the original message of the composer. Actually, the perfect solution would be having a personal communication with the creator of the musical work, the artist would have the official opportunity to honour the untouchable authority of the composer, he would serve the master by following exactly his musical specifications. Those artists consider this analytic procedure as the way to THE interpretation (Example: Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli).

An interesting metaphor could be mentioned at this point: a professional cook wants to prepare traditional exquisite dishes for his special guests and for this occasion he will be using the recipe of an old master of cuisine. He just follows the specifications of the recipe, ingredients must be exactly selected and mixed together. The dish must be prepared as the old master noticed, so the cook would honour his untouchable authority about cuisine. The dish is served to the guests. For the cook, this is COOKING.

Now we go to the second group of musicians. Those artists are focussing on the composition as a masterwork. The composition is considered as a fundament and at the same time as a source of inspiration for the study and direct approach to the composer. This artist wants to know more about the composer’s personality, he puts the score on a different perspective, using it as a directory and language of the author himself. In this case the artist perfectly understands the musical expression of the composer, being able to create an appropriate performance of the work. Reflecting, questioning, making thesis, antithesis and synthesis about the musical work guide the artist to the truth of the composition. He raises himself from servant to equal. The artist meets the composer and the composer needs the artist to execute his musical testament. For those artists this is the absolute way to achieve the musical INTERPRETATION (Example: Shura Cherkassky, Glenn Gould, and with respect, my humble self).

Here is the related metaphor: our cook wants to prepare the traditional exquisite dishes for his special guests. He has the recipe of the old master of cuisine. But he wants to know more about the master and his recipe, why he selected those particular ingredients, in which occasion the master prepared the dishes, in which manner he used to prepare them. The cook just wants to create a new recipe, perhaps being more creative with the ingredients, he wants to cook like his master did. He wants to become himself a master of cuisine, being able to prepare an excellent dinner to highly satisfy his guests. The dish is served, this procedure is COOKING and at the same time TASTING for our cook.

Back to our two artists: the first one wants to perform the composition, the second one wants to re-compose, to interpret and to deliver the composition to the listener. The first one is positioning himself between composer and listener, the second one is inviting the composer, the interpreter and the listener to join one single room. In this room all truly experience music, doing like the cook, the butler and the guests: they are joining all together the same table for dinner.