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----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Karl Miller" <[log in to unmask]>
> 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
> versions...
>
Basically, every piece of music invites interpretations by those who
perform it. These interpretations can vary with the performers, the
time, and various outside considerations...widely with jazz performers
or subtly with classical performers. Add to that the inescapable fact
that each interpretation must be further interpreted by its listeners...
and those interpretations are more a matter of personal taste than
anything else (and can depend on totally unrelated phenomena, such
as whether a certain interpretation of a certain piece is associated
with pleasant or unpleasant experiences and memories!).

Further, a critc, if honest, can only say "I like this performance
better than that other one"...nothing less and nothing more! There
is no definitive scale, at least an accurate one, on which
musical performances can be ranked (with the possible exception
of "good" and "incompetent" with the latter indicating a surfeit
of errors in the playing, the recording or both)...

Steven C. Barr