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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000448.txt from 2010/11

From: Tony Pay <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Sabine Meyer, but actually,text and meaning
Date: Fri, 26 Nov 2010 16:33:50 -0500

On 26 Nov 2010, at 16:48, Robert Howe wrote:

>> Hall himself draws a comparison between drama and the period instrument movement, notably the focus on both getting the composer's text right and getting the interpretation right. There's a paragraph where he contrasts this with the common and casual practice of cutting and even rewriting Shakespeare -- something which is unthinkable with e.g. Pinter or Beckett -- and urges that we should place value on every word and phrase, just as musicians do with notes.
> This displays the common, insipid modern obsession with Text. What is more important, the text of a work or the meaning of the work?

Robert is very certain of what Hall displays, you notice.

I think Joe is referring to Hall's paragraph:

"In the theatre, directors often cut something because they say it does not work. It is more often because they do not know how to make it work. To cut the text because it has lost all meaning and is truly incomprehensible seems to me regrettable, but permissible. But in fact there is -- as yet -- quite little completely dead text in the canon. If the actor understands, the modern audience still understands. To cut and edit in order to give Shakespeare a new interpretative slant seems to me to be hubris of the worst kind. It is something we would never do to a composer."

And you can imagine that this paragraph is to be read in the context of an argument that is more subtle than Joe's sketch can possibly indicate.

> If a small "unthinkable" re-write in Pinter, or dropping a scene in Shakespeare, or playing a Mozart symphony on a modern orchestra will permit one to experience the work in a way that better meets the artists' interpretation, what is wrong with that? I mean really, guys -- Pinter and Shakespeare and Mozart were all active performers, they understood that what the auteur writes is neither final nor definitive, that theater is a living art which requires accommodation to local artistic circumstances.

It's a question of who is doing the accommodating, and what their motives are, as Hall says.

> Indeed, if what the auteur writes were final and definitive, you clarinet guys and gals would be
> sitting out the g minor symphony...

If Mozart is doing the accommodating, we can all answer the question; so that's a silly argument.

Charles Rosen had it right in a slightly different context -- see:

...when he exhorted performers to think as follows:

"It is the moral duty of a performer to choose what he thinks is the musically superior version, whatever the composer's clearly marked intention -- it is also the moral responsibility of a pianist to try to convince himself that the composer knew what he was doing."

It's rather a surprise to me to find Robert taking this line. He thinks we shouldn't play on old instruments -- I think it was a clarinet by Wrede that was under discussion on the Early Clarinet list -- because we might alter them and thereby make it difficult for "twenty-first century organologists" to make deductions about how 'they' played in the past. (They couldn't make those deductions anyway, of course, as we players know.)

So much for 'living art'.


Tony Pay
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