On Thu, 30 Mar 2006, Don Tait wrote:
> I recall a critic who reviewed a reissue (perhaps on Odyssey) of Poulenc's
> Columbia LPs of his piano music. The critic complained that Poulenc used "too
> much pedal." As with Scriabin, he wrote it.
For me, such a notion is indicative of some of the problems I find in much
of the critical writing about music. For me, it is the notion of the
"definitive syndrome." I am reminded of something my composition teacher
told me. When it comes to your own music, the first few performances are
yours, then it becomes theirs. I believe that a composer's recording, or
one supervised by a composer is a document of great value. It tells us the
composer's thoughts...assuming the composer was able to get what he or she
wanted from the performance. It helps musicians to, as Koussevitzky used
to say, "to find the way." For me, the beauty comes when interpreters end
up in the same place, but also take the time to explore some of the side
roads along the way. For me, it is something of a paradox...if there could
be a definitive recorded performance, why would anyone ever bother to
record the work again? Would they be trying to achieve a "more definitive"
performance? It seems like such a pity that with all of the benefits of
this great invention of the recording, with the diversity of
interpretation, many critics seem to developed such a myopic perspective on
the interpretation of music. Maybe they listen, but they just don't put
two and two together and recognize that there can validity and beauty in
the diversity of interpretation...provided the performance brings across
the point of the music.
For me, the sad aspect is that one recording can often become "gospel,"
with musicians preferring to perform "like it is on the record," a topic
discussed by many writers. Yet, the recording, gives one the
opportunity to have the "gospel" according to Horowitz, Rubinstein, Sauer,
Bloomfield Zeisler, Rachmaninoff, Stokowski, Koussevitzky, et al.
I also think of the old versus the newer recordings Stravinsky made of his
own works. There is his delighfully sloppy first recording of Le Sacre and
then the later versions...each quite different...as are the various
Monteux recordings and surviving broadcasts, with that 1957 BSO broadcast
being my "definitive" version...well, maybe one of my definitive