The answer lies with each of us, our interests and curiosity. We are not satisfied with the endless repetition recordings to provide, not with the quality of media programming nor with the smaller-than-life sounds and images of videos and television. Particularly, we miss the time-honored, ultimate test of an artist – the solo recital in our space and before our eyes – with its demands of repertoire, interpretation, personality, and presentation.
To us, the sound of a concert grand piano, well played in the room with us, is a thrill in itself. The music heard at the instant of performance, provides other excitement – moving our emotions, stirring our minds. Then there is the artist, who has come to reveal both knowledge of the chosen program and a perspective behind the rendering of phrases, dynamics, textures, and pacing.
The individuality of approach always attracts, sometimes fascinates and, occasionally, puzzles us. Each artist has chosen the “what” and the “how” of the time we spend together. As audience members, we can follow –second-by-second – every inflection, every nuance of the performance, feeling and judging simultaneously so that, by the end, our approval can be registered through applause, even cheers. To this succession of moments, we bring our lifetime accumulation of musical experiences. The response is instantaneous. We know how we wish to react the moment a piece is concluded. Whether there is anew face behind the performance or one we know, whether the music is new or familiar matters less than the uniqueness of what we hear and see. Whether it proves forgettable or the stuff of which memories are made, we want to be there when it happens. We participate.
“In the realm of the Beautiful, genius alone is the authority. Dualism disappears, and the concepts of authority and liberty are restored to their original identity. Manzoni, in expressing genius as ‘a greater borrowing from God,’ has eloquently expressed this truth.”
Liszt’s words speak directly to central issues affecting the understanding of the idea behind the conception of interpretation – issues of such magnitude that most of us cannot bear to consider them. We find our selves challenged discomfiting by comparisons of earthly genius with the celestial Ultimate. Practical musicians, as well as listeners, shy away from discussing authority and freedom in such contexts. Paralysis of a kind sets into stymie our thoughts about such matters.
Natural to musicians in Liszt’s day, this sort of thought has become so contrary and so pervasive in our time that musical perception at large has changed. How ironic! Our search for truth in music via so-called urtexts, our academic focus on serialism and our acceptance of the artificial perfection of heavily edited recordings – all have led us into the realms of the quantifiable objective and away from those of the expressively qualitative with the resulting confusion that we have come to believe that the former automatically includes the latter.
This trap has caught composers, teachers, performers, critics, even ordinary listeners. Our loss of touch with the idea of transcendence has cost us mightily. Works of music became artifacts for exhibition, carefully prepared, artificially lighted, sterile. Public performances could be likened to detached museological experiences with the minutiae of scores occupying the attention more than the feelings. Attendance at live concerts and recitals has resulted in unmoving, unmemorable experiences of what ought to have been extraordinary and indelible. Little wonder that we find it rewarding to remain piously comfortable at home in the company of our sound systems, secure in our isolation from others and reassured by the predictable sameness of recordings made piecemeal in studios. For a while, the impersonal has triumphed. But collaborative efforts by large record companies, concert managements, international music competitions and presenting organizations to manufacture careers for the market have contributed to the growing ills of depersonalized sameness and interchangeability. Music schools contributed, too, with the production of stamped-out, blind replicas –people whose training made it impossible for them to see beyond the notes and into people’s souls. Just so many commodities.
The vital connection between music and emotions has been weakened by misdirected composers, performers and a manipulative industry. If we do not re-establish contact with the former spirit of authoritative music making, we risk losing alife-deepening, vast heritage. “
Dry ink on a white page,” writes Kenneth Drake in his The Beethoven Sonatas and the Creative Experience,” is the only trace of the ideas that swept through the composer’s mind.” He compares looking at a score to “reading the road signs beside dry creek beds in the American Southwest that warn of swollen streams.” The player must know what the signs mean. Perception of intent is crucial to interpretation – not just of Beethoven’s works but of all music, especially by great composers. If the player’s search reveals the idea which the ink symbolizes, then “the result is a oneness with the music that confers upon the player a new, spiritual identity.” Having grasped a composer’s thought and passed it through such fantasy as is his, the interpreter becomes the medium through which works of musical art reach us as experiences of the spirit – particularly when heard in public under the hands of appropriately equipped artists.
The performers presented in this Festival are, we believe, standard bearers to the cause of revealed music making, artists of spontaneity and power whose recitals propose alternatives to the usual, the ordinary, the humdrum, the interchangeable. We stand behind their right to treat the dry ink of scores to imaginative re-creations – colored by their personal grasp of inner meanings and projected by an intense desire to communicate with us beyond the footlights. May you find the experience of hearing them as exciting as we have in discovering them for the public.