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Martin Holoubek

Student # 25651234
Hellaby Julian. (2009) Reading Musical Interpretations: Case Studies in Solo
Piano Performance

This book is in regard to Julian Hellabys attempt to demystify the art and act of
performance and aims to establish a way in which an informed listener may gain
insights into the acoustic phenomenon of performance and interpretation. The
main point of this book is to build a framework, which enables an informed
listener to hear and analyse a performance of a particular work in terms of a
number of identifiable elements.

Hellaby examines the extent in which existing performance literature can be
responsible for how a performance can be heard. He examines writings in which
the focus is on performance to those that focus on the performer. The idea of
Werktreue performance - the faithfulness to the musical work as originally
conceived - is brought up and is discussed regarding to the interaction between
work, performance and listening. The idea of having an analytically aware
listener being able to identify a reason as to why a piece sounds the way it does
through hearing a link between the performance and the work is also mentioned.
The idea around the influence of varying factors such as the instrument, the
room, the mindset of the performer, the crowd etc. and how those factors can
influence a performance in itself creates a question as to whether or not the
piece is being played as the composer actually intended it to be performed.

The topics that the performance of musical works, rather than scores, is at the
heart of the listener and that musical works only exist as performances are also
addressed briefly. Arguments stating that the notation of musical ideas operate
as a medium through which the act of composition takes play and that the
composition can be completed in the composers head before actually being
played by anyone are then touched upon. He goes on to state that no matter how
detailed a score can be it contains elements that defy definition, as verbal
dialectic cannot define musical dialectic in it entirety.

Hellaby attempts to build a framework in which an informed listener can analyse
a performance with the help of nine major categories in which influence can be
drawn to sway the way a performer can translate a work into a performance.
The categories are as follows: Era, the style of a piece whether it be classical
renaissance etc; Authorship, the score in which an important means is
established by which a musician can interface with a work and know a composer
as an authorial presence; Genre, a sonata or concerto; Topic, musical style often
associated with a function such as a dance; Topical Mode, performance qualifiers
like espressivo; Characteriser, determined by distinctive musical factors such as
rhythmic devices; Tempo, the natural act of speeding up and down and the idea
that the metronome mark can fluctuate across a piece; Duration Manipulator,
regarding the act of rubato; and the Sonic Moderator, such as technique marks
like staccato and forte.

Martin Holoubek
Student # 25651234
Hellaby then shows us a diagram of this framework which is labeled The
interpretative tower and then goes on to demonstrate how to use this regarding
a nineteenth-centure piano sonato, Beethovens Sonata in E Major Op. 109 and
Mozarts Sonata in A Major K331.

Hellaby then discusses his methodology behind reading musical interpretation
and concludes these chapters by boasting that this posits an analyst with the
musicological knowledge to be an informed listener. This allows the analyst to
engage in an act interpretation that includes analysts own informerd
understanding of the primary act and the work-performer relationship
manifested therein.

Hellaby addresses his aims quite clearly and before going in to greater detail in
the opening part of this text. The outline of his objectives and the way he goes
about them are clear. He takes on a very interesting topic and discusses his
methodology behind uncovering the art and act of performance in great depth.
There have been extensive amounts of research in the idea of performance of a
work and the different factors that can influence how a piece is performed and
Hellaby references a lot of these.

Creating a framework in which an informed listener can analyse a performance
can be a helpful tool for addressing the factors of where the performer of the
work is coming from in terms of what his influences are and what is influencing
the way the piece is being played. This framework made by Hellaby takes into
account a broad range of related categories, which can manipulate and shape a
performance into what it is.

Hellaby sites quite a lot of references and at times this seems to interrupt the
flow of the reading of the article. A continuous sight of quotes and sources make
this a very tiresome read. The topic of the article in itself is a fascinating however
he often takes a long time to get to the point leaving the reader feel often lost and
confused, perpetually re-reading and skimming over sections as to try and
source the integral information.

This is a scholarly work with a great deal of depth regarding the act of
performance analysis. The author addresses the fact the he as a performer is
researching into a way of understanding the nuances of live performance
through constructing a framework that he believes is an appropriate device for
analysis.