Words on music and maiden voyages – Telegraph.co.uk (blog)

Posted by Google News | Industry News | miércoles 25 septiembre 2013 10:13 am

I recently had to write some programme notes for the premiere performances of my new cello sonata which Steven Isserlis and I will be giving in three concerts over the next week or so – in Kronberg, Tetbury, and Wigmore Hall.

V and PH

How do you write about a piece that’s never been heard before? If you listen to something blind do you risk being deaf to what’s going on? How helpful is it to reveal what’s inside the head of a composer? Should the analysis be more about the engine or more about the furnishings of the vehicle’s interior? Isn’t writing about music like dancing about architecture, as the vibrant analogy famously asked?

Of course, a piece of music lives and breathes in its own world of sound. Unless it has a text, or a specific descriptive story to tell, its vibrations in the air need nothing more than a working pair of ears. I’m suspicious of works which require us to study them before they make any sense. Nevertheless a piece of music with something to say usually has something valuable you can say about it; those vibrations in the air are not just perfumed clouds with no substance.

Furthermore a piece’s maiden flight is a special case. Such is the eclectic nature of contemporary music that nothing can be taken for granted. Fifty years ago a ‘world premiere’ was almost certainly going to be something atonal, usually gritty, and often with little for a non-specialist to hold on to. But in the 21st century we can hear any style and sometimes many styles in the same piece. We live in healthy, liberal times in the arts, and the atonal grit is more thrilling now that it is not the only style on the menu.

I’ve written notes for works by several living composers. With Lowell Liebermann’s 2nd piano concerto and George Tsontakis’s Ghost Variations I thought it was crucial for a first-time listener to have the opportunity to know what was happening under the bonnet because the intellectual construction was rigorous, complex, fascinating … and hidden.

And talking about talking about music, this season at London’s Southbank Centre a whole series is underway where words written about 20th century music (Alex Ross’s superb book ‘The Rest Is Noise‘) form the title and the structure of the entire project.

The Word was made flesh – what we create begins with an idea. But once the idea is realized and the flesh begins to fly perhaps then we should put aside the logbook and enjoy the journey, safely into the clouds.

Source Article from http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stephenhough/100070796/words-on-music-and-maiden-voyages/

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