Opus 130

Month: October, 2013

10.29.13 | Interpretation

The process of creativity is often difficult for me. Whether it be education, work, or plain life, there always comes a fork in the road where one is ‘free’ to do something how he pleases. It may seem to be a blessing, to be able to have less of a constraint on one’s actions, but is it really easier? Success in creativity is a much greater achievement than success in a rigid paradigm.

There often comes the debate of the validity of a performer’s interpretation, especially when the composer has written how a passage should be played– dynamics, articulation, tempo, tone, etc. One should not deviate so wildly from the composer’s original intentions or conception of the piece, but art is experimentation.

Below is an visual excerpt of the opening theme from Chopin’s Etude Op. 10, No. 3.

Many of the aforementioned nuances in interpretation have been specified. Now, as we look at a couple of different interpretations of this piece, we shall find that, at the fundamental level, they keep true to Chopin’s intention of mood. However, as one listens more closely, it will be possible to pick apart the elements that construct each performer’s musical personality and creativity. Note that only professional standard pianists have been chosen, in order to rule out the factor of technical skill being an inhibitor to true interpretation.

Vladimir Horowitz

Gyorgy Cziffra

Sviatoslav Richter

Valentina Lisitsa

Whether or not the audience enjoys a deviation from the composer’s original intentions, the performer inevitably reveals a part of their creativity in their interpretation. Horowitz tends to employ sudden dynamic shifts (and how naturally they are controlled!); Cziffra is easily identifiable by his constant desynchronization of chords and wild rubato; Richter hides his brilliant virtuosity behind a restrained atmosphere; Lisitsa is most constant in tempo.

Of course, there is an infinite variety of interpretations out there, and no single interpretation will please all people. But what good is being able to ‘please all’? I believe that music is the art of communication. Performers build their legacy upon their style of interpretation.

One of the utmost joys in life is being able to look back on an achievement and know that you ‘did it your way’; you know you can call it your own.

– Raymond


10.22.13 | Bipolarity

Iago takes on multiple personalities throughout the course of Shakespeare’s Othello, therefore it is difficult to discern his true character, as his actions are mainly shaped by his motives. I find a resemblance in the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff. Even though he writes beautiful phrase transitions, one may find himself/herself questioning how the transition was done so seamlessly, but slightly episodically.

A fine example of this is his third Piano Concerto, the apex of Romantic piano literature. Alexis Weissenberg presents a most convincing interpretation. It is a shame that the recording is discontinued.

– Raymond

10.14.13 | Introversion

Sergei Prokofiev went through a dynamic personality change following the start of the Second World War. His War Sonatas reflect a deeply anguished embodiment of despair. His Sonatas No. 6, 7, and 8 reflect the events culminating to, during, and after WWII. I find them to be ‘grey’ in character, but they are not lacking in substance in any way. I believe these set of works are his magnum opus.

These are very personal works, and I will discuss the introversion in them in relation to the character Ishmael in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The beginning of the novel features Ishmael in a deep thought process as he wanders the streets of the port city New Bedford. Even in his simple task of finding a suitable inn, the reader finds himself immersed in his endless thoughts. Ishmael is an intricate and sensitive character. He finally finds an inn, but is discomforted by the fact that he has to share a bed with another sailor. He causes himself more grief than necessary by worrying incessantly about whom the sailor is. Prokofiev’s music behaves in a similar fashion. Prokofiev tends to often utilize monophonic melodic lines in the calmer sections of his War Sonatas, causing a hollow feeling, but these melodic lines are focused and pensive. These Sonatas are not programmatic (unlike the music of Liszt, who will be mentioned some time in the near future). All the turmoil of his Sonatas comes from internal conflict. Ishmael is a character who will undergo a deep transformation in the novel, and he will meet his greatest fear- himself.

The following is the first movement of the Sonata No. 8. Art music in general can be difficult to appreciate, and I believe that Prokofiev is one of the most difficult composers to understand. I admit that he is very eccentric. However, when it all comes together, his music can be, simply, sublime.

Enjoy. (or not)

– Raymond

10.8.13 | Trust

“Put money in thy purse” – Iago, from Shakespeare’s Othello

Sometimes, you have to deny a fellow man some trust to avoid him sucking you dry of all your possessions and everything you love.

– Raymond

9.30.13 | Innovation

Innovation is usually brought into the world for direct practical advancement, but I have been thinking lately that innovation can be the product of ‘doing something just for its own sake’. I am familiar with much of the music of obscure composers, and people’s reception of it. Unorthodoxy in music is often frowned upon, but when I encounter an accusation upon a piece of music for being so, I take a moment to analyze it.

The concept ‘art for the sake of art’ has always had a strong effect on me. Although almost all art has a desirable structure to it, it is always enlightening to see something new. When most people think of ‘piano music’, they will most likely picture gentle, bright, resonating sounds with a strong melodic center. This is due to the rigid structure of music and its development in formally defined eras, coupled with its general portrayal. A harsh, percussive tone would be considered unorthodox.

*Caution: Should the attached piece of music below offend your senses, I offer an apology.

Such music in its respective time would have been denounced, and perhaps been called “anti-democratic formalism”. However, the composer continued to write his music, and without his will, we would not have his legacy of works today- a staple of the late Romantic era.

Objective improvement is a very important factor in innovation, but change, or radical change is sometimes needed to preserve the reputation of the tremendous elasticity and creativity of the human mind. Innovation is risky, but innovation means ideas, and ideas mean eventual advancement.

– Raymond