Interpretative issues in performing contemporary piano music
This thesis explores practical and theoretical issues in interpreting contemporary notated piano music. Interpretative problems and approaches are discussed with a practical bias, using a varied selection of musical sources mostly from the last fifty years. The diversity of compositional styles and methods over this period is reflected in the diversity of interpretative approaches discussed throughout this thesis. A feature of the thesis is that no single interpretative method is championed; instead, different approaches are evaluated to highlight their benefits to interpretation, as well as their limitations. It is demonstrated how each piece demands its own approach to interpretation, drawing from different methodologies to varying degrees in order to create a convincing interpretation which reflects the concerns of that piece and its composer. The thesis is divided into four chapters: the first discusses the implications and ambiguities of notation in contemporary music; the second evaluates the importance of analysis and its application to performance and includes a discussion of the existing performance practice literature as well as short performer-based analyses of three pieces (Saxton's Piano Sonata, Tippett's Second Piano Sonata, and Feldman's Triadic Memories); the third chapter considers notions of style and performing traditions, illustrating the factors other than analysis that can 'inform' interpretation; and the fourth chapter draws together the processes demonstrated in the previous chapters in a discussion of the interpretative issues raised by Berio's Seguenza IV. Although each chapter selects examples which illustrate the concern of that chapter, the discussion of each extract is informed by processes found in the other chapters. Discussion is based upon personal experiences and those of nine professional pianists, well-known for their performances of contemporary music. This allows for an objective attitude which accepts a range of possible approaches to a single piece as being valid. It is intended that consideration of these approaches will combine to widen interpretative possibilities and illustrate the complexity and multiplicity of the interpretative process.