Musical interpretation

Interpretation referred to in his music practical importance first execution of a composition by one or more musicians in public performance or sound recording.

Then there are the musicological importance as explanatory, interpretative comment to a composition that goes beyond the work of analysis.

  • 2.1 history

Interpretation as performance of music

Under interpretation is understood in the music industry, particularly the execution of a fixed composition in musical notation or by the performers (singers, instrumentalists ). It involves a process which is classical music called intrinsically and as in any other musical culture (non-European music, pop music, jazz, folk, etc.) is known. The reason is that in other musical cultures no form of representation of music is sought that corresponds to accuracy of the notation. This has the consequence that in a musical performance in addition to the traditional percentage always gives a spontaneous share there, which will be supplemented in the moment of performance (see improvisation ), or to which it is a self- prepared by the performing musicians share ( arrangement). To that extent also " cover versions " of " interpretations " are different.

The classical performer, however, usually leads to a musical performance precise specifications regarding pitches and durations, and has virtually no space for your own additions. Personal profile receives the interpretation by decisions that are taken at the points where the notation makes no exact information.

Primarily regarding this

  • Pace of play ( accurate tempo markings using the metronome turned out to be not assertive enough to remove the performer this decision)
  • Fine deviations from the basic tempo of a piece in his performance ( rubato, agogics )
  • Characterization of the rhythm by minimal deviations from the mathematically precise execution,
  • Design of each tone, as well as
  • Articulation.

Taken together, results in a more creative leeway in how let him not expect the exact specifications in the score and allow the extraordinary differences of interpretations of a work.

A successful interpretation is characterized in that it brings out the full sound, expression and action potential of the interpreted work. The work of the artist is the fact that of the actor comparable to the fixed in the score requirements are even closer.

The problem of faithfulness

The precision can be expressed in a notation with the music, and on the other hand, the limits of this precision, lead to the problem of faithfulness. This is the most accurate reproduction of the score taking into account the tradition, in the part of each piece in terms of style ( performance practice ) meant. An effective interpretation can therefore still be regarded as not successful when the freedoms which the artist takes him - remove " too far " from the details of the score - according to the understanding of the listener. Serious intervention in the fixed material in notes themselves will be quite rare and also do not apply more than interpretation, but the term "modification ". Frequently, however, are tempo changes that are not prescribed and go beyond rubato, and liberties with the rules on the dynamics and articulation.

How difficult it is to determine the limits of faithfulness, shows an example of differences in interpretation at the beginning of the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony: Mandatory is " allegro con brio ", ie a rapid pace. It is nowhere indicated a change of pace, but the long notes contain pauses, they should therefore be kept as long as it keeps the performer is right. The notes of the three-eighths at the start would have to be played as fast as representing the eighth in the course of the whole sentence, here after all the shortest ( " fastest " ) note value.

In the performance of Georg Solti the early eighth actually played virtually the same pace as the eighth throughout the set, so it is as accurate as possible implementation of the score. Wilhelm Furtwängler, however, takes the first three-eighths much slower than he can play the eighth notes in the course of the sentence, even though the score does not contain a corresponding note. He also holds the fermatas extremely long and intense, also the second fermata still significantly longer than the first. According to his interpretation, one could assume that over the first five cycles, the provision " maestoso " position and the " Allegro con brio " appears to be a mandatory change of pace until about the sixth stroke.

At first glance, Soltis interpretation is therefore original factory, Furtwängler's not. Furtwängler have, however, promised greater effect of the freedom that he takes: The first three notes are immediately if the Endtempo is taken so quickly that it surprised the listener perceives the motive may not be correct. If one assumes that it ultimately it depends on what is understood by the listener, this perspective also Furtwängler's interpretation can be considered as original factory. As for the length of the pauses, reads ( "interpreted" ) Furtwängler the information differently than Solti. In the score of the second Fermatenton in the 5th cycle ( "d") is precisely to prevent mouse stroke longer than the first ( "it" ) in the second cycle. Solti understands the fourth clock accordingly as to play in the fast main tempo, so at most its length, added in the second fermata to the length of the pause it. Furtwängler, however, reads the fermata as being valid for cycles 4 and 5, since apparently the different notation of the same motif in bars 1/2 gives for him to bars 3-5 no sense. He plays the second fermata nearly twice as long as the first.

Faithfulness and performance practice

Equating text loyalty and faithfulness is also problematic, the further one goes into the past and the more knowledge of the relevant performance practices play a role. At any time existed performance practice conventions. Either of those options, which allows the note text after the definition of his character, which only allowed a certain selection or tolerated deviations from the written word or even demanded The composer of an era in which the performance practice called corresponding deviations, therefore, assumed that the target of the performers for these conventions. Faithfulness means then for today's performers, taking into account that one of these conventions (which are known to us only incomplete in age music) the musical text interpreted. So part of the design practice of a romantic piano piece a much stronger agogics as a work of the Baroque, reversed into a Baroque Adagio, the use of ornaments, even if they are not prescribed. How to decorate concrete, provides the stylistic flavor of an artist with a great challenge.

Faithfulness can thus then ultimately not accurately determine if the note text, the secondary sources and the performance tradition itself, in principle, deliver us the works incomplete. The one, which one should remain faithful, so is not fully known. In addition, it is even debatable whether it does not have to give higher criteria than the faithfulness of a single performer. Gottschewski represents, for example, the proposition that there must be a higher criterion, " making good music ", if appropriate, the faithfulness must give way if the quality of the work to be desired in certain respects unsatisfactory. Followed the same opinion about Richard Wagner and Gustav Mahler in a performance of Beethoven's symphonies, because they thought that Beethoven was not able to compose everything so because of the imperfection of the instruments of his time, with better conditions as he would have wanted to compose. This view is, however, by supporters of the historical performance practice either individually ( by the imperfections, against Wagner and Mahler fought, be considered only come about by the change and reproduction of orchestral instruments by Beethoven) or even a whole ( namely that the music of each era was perfectly within its specific conditions ) contradicted.


With increasing sophistication of the notation musicians were already active as a performer exactly predetermined votes since the Renaissance. Unlike the organization of major occupations was also not possible. However, there were characteristic clearances related to the application and execution of ornaments as well as the execution of the harpsichord part in basso game.

The performer in the modern sense is largely an invention of the nineteenth century. Until then, composers were generally also the interpreters of their own works ( cf. WA Mozart ) or popular musicians and the composers of the works that they offered ( cf. N. Paganini ). An exception was the singer that could reach as purely executive artist, but only in the context of musical theater to extraordinary fame.

A turning point for the instrumental music came when the bourgeois concert culture supplanted the courtly musical culture. Here talked increasingly certain composers in the repertoire of concert programs, the execution of his own compositions decreased accordingly. With artists such as Clara Schumann, Hans von Bülow and Joseph Joachim is pure instrumentalists and conductors established as important musicians of their time, and with them the interpretation as an independent artistic process. In the twentieth century took the preponderance nichtzeitgenössischer music in the concert repertoire and by the availability of interpretations in sound recordings (radio, record ) the importance of interpreters continues to increase, until it finally to the actual makers of musical life in the "classical music " were, while the composers increasingly relegated to specialized concert series or the festival saw ( cf. Donaueschingen Music days ), in which sometimes the role of the interpreter was varied experimentally ( cf. John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Earle Brown). The attention that artists such as Yehudi Menuhin and David Oistrakh (violin), Arthur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz (piano ), Maria Callas and Dietrich Fischer- Dieskau (vocals ) or conductors such as Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein attracted to himself, was by composers the same generation no longer achieved.

In subsequent generations, it did not come to such a towering careers because the development space of younger artists restricted more and more: On the one hand this is due to a certain stagnation in the repertoire - the works of contemporary composers established themselves nor in the concert programs such as the "discovery " lesser-known composers of earlier periods (eg, Muzio Clementi ) - on the other hand, to the unlimited availability exemplary interpretations as a sound recording, in turn, to a certain extent to the rank of" collected masterpieces " (eg recordings of Artur Schnabel ( piano) or Arturo Toscanini (Conductor) ). The historical performance practice ( Harnoncourt, John Eliot Gardiner ) that it made ​​the task of reconstructing the components belonging to a corresponding period stylistic and play practical conditions in an interpretation, provided there only temporarily for a new start-up.

Interpretation as a hermeneutic interpretation of music

Largely in musicology is important hermeneutic interpretation as explanatory ( " interpretative " ) comment on a work of " classical music " in terms of its expression of content, its effect, and his "declaration ". This contrasts with the analysis compared with respect to its structure and its historical context, which is the science-based interpretation, however, always based.

Such interpretation shall designate the salary (the " idea" that 'vision' ) of a work. This can be formulated in a purely musical level ( Eggebrecht: The Scherzo of a string quartet by Haydn was a " game with metric standards " ), under the designation of " affects" in abstract terms ( Eggebrecht: The " impulse of the will " in the subject of a Beethoven sonata ) to to more or less specific programmatic allusions. However, since it is a transfer from one medium (music ) into another is (voice ), is just the latter rely on speculative or non-musical notes. If the music, however, has information about the pure musical text addition, by referring to a text whose setting is ( song, opera, oratorio ), or as a program underlies ( program music) then involves interpretation also getting a representation of the word -tone relationships. In pure instrumental music without a given extra-musical references ( absolute music ) programmatic hints can be taken as a guide to get on a comparative level to the expressive content of the interpreted piece of music close.

Reflected finds the interpretation of the musicology in addition to accompanying texts compositions in concert leaders, concert programs or CD booklets.


A root is the interpretation as hermeneutic ( " interpretative " ) process in the doctrine of affections, in the figure doctrine, and in imitation of the Baroque aesthetic. It is believed that certain melodic turns, certain harmonic or rhythmic motifs Follow moods ( emotions ) correspond. Is for the music to " mimic " these states. For non-concrete terms, the composer may availed also a symbol in tones, a " figure". However, the doctrine of affections was not the " interpretation " of music, but as a theoretical basis for the composer.

In the classical period this view came more and more into disuse, because on the one hand "imitation" extra-musical matters was no longer viewed as a target musical creation, and also the belief in the possibility of cataloging " affects" as it were in musical formulas, decreased.

In the 19th century formed with the interest in music of past eras, modern musicology out that no longer sees its role in the theoretical preparation of music, but more in their "understanding". This won the doctrine of affections as a key to understanding the music to the Baroque and the earlier Classical important again. Otherwise, two views were offset by: First music was regarded as independent and as ultimately not " interpretable ". Accordingly, highly differentiated analytical methods, however, purely related to musical issues developed ( Hugo Riemann ). Contrast, is the view that music definitely has " sense " and " ideological content ", even if it may not assign this as concretely certain musical patterns, as assumed in the doctrine of affections (based on Wilhelm Dilthey: Hermann Kretzschmar ). Although this approach has always remained somewhat controversial, it proved to be helpful in instrumental or general music lessons.