Antigona Rădulescu

THE SPEECH OF THE PERFORMER

        At a first glance, things seem simple. The composer creates the work that he or she addresses to an audience, and the transfer, from one part to the other, needs a performer. The latter is in charge of the actual life of the work. In the concrete act of performance resides the musical reality – outside musical practice, there are only graphic signs closed in the scores of a universal library, a potential always ready to resurface.
        An allograph art, music allows its works to be repeatedly reproduced. To play the same piece more than once is not the same as, for instance, the act of reproducing a painting. In the first case, we’re talking about art, while in the second, about a copy, a fake.
        But this art of musical performance is caught between two conditionings: the immanence of the piece and the personality of the person who plays/sings the score. The performer should execute correctly each of the score’s notes and interpret the piece personally, as no one else before him/her: a dual performance of similarity and fidelity to the sonic structure and at the same time, fantasy, an added value of sensibility and the capacity to transmit his/her intentions and the coordinates of the work to the audience. “Don’t use music, but work in its service” – said Dinu Lipatti1 , the pianist whose recordings still remain landmarks for the classic balance between the culture of style and noblesse.
        “Beethoven… must be reinvented”, Anton Rubinstein advised the young Alfred Cortot2 , who will later guide his students on the path of understanding the profound mystery of the musical art, that leads to that “inner shiver” according to the artistic truth. 3
        The different importance given to the musical utterance as well as to the musical performance determines a large variety of interpretative manners encouraged by the audience’s expectations, by successful models and fashions. The task of a performer in conveying the specificity of music becomes even more difficult, especially when, often because of prejudice, what is at stake seems to be the difference and particularity of a language, sensibility or emotion. For Romanian musicians, the famous case is George Enescu’s music, and particularly The Third Sonata for Piano and Violin “dans le caractère populaire roumain. But the often invoked, by some co-nationals, Romanian specificity, whose ”authenticity” of our national being could not be completely conveyed by foreign musicians, imposes, in our opinion, theoretical and practical precautions, especially connected with interpretation and reception. Enescu’s music still suffers from the Procrustean limitations of its reference in a restrained area of sensibility, somewhat inaccessible and restrictive. The distinctive character can become dangerous if it’s idealized through rendering it absolute. Other works by Enescu, besides Sonata in the Romanian Folk Style, stems from the specificity of emotion associated with Enescu’s musical writing, having the capacity to simultaneously reach common areas of sensibility belonging to European musical cultures, enabling their unrestricted understanding and interpretation in the process of musical communication.
        Between the construction and enunciation of the speech, lie the extremely different concentrations of the interpretative conceptions of artists in the concert halls of the world, artists applauded for their refinement, sensibility, intelligence, virtuosity. And the means they employ to make their voices heard are numerous. Besides accurately communicating the message, the performer uses means that simultaneously enable understanding and reception, while at the same time differentiate their personal reading. The accessories of performance become a sum of information that accompanies the sonic kinetics. The intonation, accents, the debit and modes of attack enhance the phonic dimension. At a first glance, they can be considered the result of a residue of uncontrollable psychological states, which thus indicate the unconscious, unintentional state of the performer. Or means used instinctively, dictated by the huge talent and the capacity of the gifted musician to adapt and resonate with the piece he unintentionally conveys. Most often, though, these facts, of an over-segmented, over-added nature, are deliberately used in musical interpretation on the one hand, as means of correct enunciation and execution and on the other hand, as ways of persuading and manifesting the interpretative conception by a person that invests his/her own understanding and reflection in the work. The mirror of emotion is found in the nature of the melodic curve or in agogics, the “direction” of the slowing down or rushing, the decision of a certain tempo: all these have a role in underlining the character of music, in unveiling its semantic side. The varied range of emitted sounds is often the way to sustain the stylistic intention, as the game of accents, their coordination and hierarchy limits the musical form from detail to the entirety of the work. In the end, the musical phrasing, realized through an ensemble of means - ranging from the strategy of accents to the large or small tempo and nuance fluctuations, or changes in the modes of attack specific to each instrument (voice) - makes intelligible the artistic message, “sculpts” the opera, presenting it intelligibly, in all its complexity. This is the performer’s manner to mediate between transmitting a message that doesn’t belong to him, but that makes it intelligible and especially, empathically conveys it to its audience.
         The responsibility of the performer is overwhelming and its activity is all-encompassing. He represents the voice of the composer, but also his own voice in relation to the work. The performer is its own audience, at the same time the one that opens to others in the complicated process of artistic communication.  He balances the data of his own temperament, his inner light with the science applied on the studied, analyzed and filtered musical text, recomposed and conveyed in the fullness of its characteristics. And the audience will always hope to see an alchemy that produces precious metals

English Version by Simina Neagu

1 Quote by  Dragoș Tănăsescu, Lipatti (București: Meridiane, 1965), p.5.

2 Quote by François Anselmini în ”Alfred Cortot”, in Diapason, no.605 (Septembre, 2012): 23-24.

3 Quote by Rémi Jacobs  in ”Le droit de tutoyer les génies”, in Diapason: 28.