PART ONE, THE CELLO
In my viewpoint, one must be very clear about the various factors within the music, which are independent of one another, and whose union is found for the first time in the accomplished performing musician: a composer must have learned an instrument, must have mastery over it in order for his compositions to be performed. Thus, genius, talent, knowledge of the musical content are not sufficient to be even remotely just [adequate] to the task of interpretation. Mastery of the instrument is necessary for this purpose.
How often, however, within the interpretation, the performer's grasp of the musical content and the performance itself, as well as musicality and technique, become separated from one another. Yet they are very important. One must put oneself in the position of a conductor. He is the spiritual interpreter of the music, responsible for the phrasing, the shaping, for the blending of timbres, i.e. for fulfilling the intention of the composer. But it is the orchestra which brings the interpretation to realization.
Whether a composition can better survive either the combination of good conductor with genius and poor orchestra without technique, or a good orchestra with technique and a poor conductor without genius is question that can never be answered. It is a personal matter and does not evoke a generally valid answer.
I believe, however, that the question of a musical goal can be discussed and a goal is: within the interpretation, the incorporation of the most intelligent grasp of the music; and within the performance, a sense of responsibility to the smallest detail. I believe that much mischief has been done because hardly anyone has attempted to clarify the function of interpretation. The exceptions-the great talents--come intuitively or through conscious study to results suitable for them.
This question has remained almost untouched within the study of music; I daresay it is rarely mentioned. Yet it could be of great benefit for students if teachers would bring their attention to this point. What is the function of the interpreter? Without wanting to appear to have found the only valid answer to the question, it is my opinion that the function of the performer is to become gradually acquainted with the mind of the composer, with the content of the composition, and then to fit his own personality or ability to them.
Without attaching such words as "classic" or "romantic," it is still clear that what is necessary for the interpretation of a Bach Suite must be very different from that which a Tschaikovsky composition demands. Small slides, ritards, and crescendi, which match the spirit of a serenade or air and without which such a piece would lose all meaning, have no place in a Bach or Beethoven composition.
The ideal interpreter for me would be one who 1) is capable of grasping the period, the style, taste, and intention of all compositions which he must play, 2) possesses unlimited technique and interpretative skills, and 3) is capable of applying his technique and interpretative skills to the composition.
Such an interpreter does not exist. Even the greatest, most earnest performf will play best that music which lies closest to his nature, his character, and his general musical education, yet he will still try to grasp the spirit of the piece he is playing.
How sad, however, is the result reached by the performers who have never concerned themselves with these questions and whose interpretative skill is a closed book. How often I have heard a "famous" artist present a Bach gavotte as if it were a composition by Offenbach, and on the other hand a piece by Brahms or Beethoven in which, true, the notes were played, but with neither content nor meaning.
It could be compared to listening to a recitation of a poem in a language one does not understand. Where does that leave the sense of responsibility of interpreting?-- Is a composition the same as a piece of wax with no specific shape, or is it something to which an interpreter must first give shape? Or is not a composition the property of the composer, which is presented to us, the players, for its, final realization, an unknown property that we must oversee with the greatest conscientiousness and love, with the addition of all our spiritual and material powers.