Sketches from Michele Trenti's essays

Great Performances

Appunti di Michele Trenti

An effective musical performance combines two pervading aspects that must be clearly distinguished conceptually. The first concerns the interpretative choices themselves, which should proceed primarily from a formal awareness of the composition performed, determining tempos, dynamics, phrasing and their nuances. The second concerns the interpreter’s communication skills, his ability to relate to and be emotionally in tune with the audience. These are two distinct talents, strengthened respectively through study and experience. To borrow an image from spoken language, the two aspects could be defined as the content of a speech and the oratory effectiveness of a declaration. And, as in spoken language, a wonderful oratorical effect in music can also express empty concepts. Conversely, content of great depth, if offered poorly, may not be able to convince the listener. The great interpreter must possess both these faculties and place his "oratorical art" in the service of profound interpretative choices. The instinctive ability of a "born showman” to communicate is essential to the immediate success of a live performance, whereas this component is less significant in a recording. Let us not forget that a great performance is always the result of a performing tradition that, even unconsciously, we cannot forget, especially in an era of recorded documents. (The content of what is expressed is rather crucial to the goal of the performance’s aesthetic value, because oratorical approach has a transient effect, whereas its meanings are appreciated over time. Today’s concert world generally favors the immediate appearance of an oratorical talent, all too rarely supported by an adequate depth of content).