10.29.13 | Interpretation

by Raymond

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