About musical performance
Performance as a special type of artistic activity does not exist in all arts. In painting
for example, it is inseparable from creativity: to create a picture is what it means to “fulfill” it. Once in music, the creation and performance of a work did not separate from each other: in ancient times, a musician sang or played what he composed, improvised.
But the creation of a painter or sculptor is embodied in material that has been preserved for centuries, and the material of music (sound) lives while it sounds. Unsound, a piece of music ceases to really exist, disappears. To hear it again, it needs to be revived each time again, to make it sound again. The ability to do this is what is called the performing art. It’s clear now why performance (as special
art specialty) does not exist in all arts. Works of art, such as painting, sculpture, architectural construction, do not need if they have not been corrupted by any recreation. Only in those arts that occur in time, is there a need for special intermediaries between a work and its listeners or spectators, intermediaries – actors, dancers, readers, musicians, capable of repeatedly reproducing these processes imprinted in transient sounds or movements.
But why are some special performers needed? Isn’t it better if the person who created it will be involved in the performance of the musical work – the author himself? That the author himself may play the role of performer of musical works is beyond doubt, as is the fact that such an “authorized” performance is of particular outstanding interest and value. In the old days, combining the specialties of a composer and a performer was even the rule: back in the eighteenth century, almost all the major musicians – Bach, Handel, Couperin, Rameau, Scarlatti, Mozart and others – showed themselves with the same brilliance in both of these fields. Later, such a combination occurs gradually less and less. The rule is the separation of these professions, the separate existence of “pure” composers who do not perform in concerts, and “pure” performers engaged exclusively (or almost exclusively) in the public interpretation of other people’s works. What explains this turn of the matter? Why did professional performance receive such a development, pushing aside authorial performance?
First of all, because the public performance of musical works requires a special vocation for artistic activity, specific natural data, time and energy for a daily long training session, etc. A composer may not have and often does not have one or the other. Meanwhile, without an artistic “nerve” and temperament, or without endurance and self-control on the stage, without a voice when singing or without motor (motor) dexterity when playing any musical instrument, without elaborated and constantly supported equipment and much more from the same field the performance is doomed to failure: it will not “convey” the work to the audience, only undeservedly discredits it in their eyes. But even in the case when it comes to a composer endowed with the necessary performing data, to limit the interpretation of his works to only an author’s performance would mean weakening their public resonance extremely, narrowing the circle of their influence to the extreme. How many times during one’s life – more precisely, during his concert activity – will any pianist composer have time to play each of his works in public, how many people will hear him? And how immeasurably these numbers grow, when hundreds, thousands of pianists take up business instead of just one! And how to get out of the situation if the author, due to illness or old age, can no longer speak publicly? Finally, what would be the fate of the work after the death of the composer? Beethoven died in 1827, which means that since then it would have been impossible to hear the Appassionata anymore? To the above considerations, one more should be added. Let the composer brilliantly own the piano, or violin, or some other instrument. But what about the works written for singing or for other instruments that the author does not own (cannot he masterfully master all)? What about works intended for simultaneous performance by several, if not many, performers – for example, a string quartet, choir, orchestra? Could, say, Verdi, even if he had seven spans in his forehead as a singer or violinist, sing and play all the vocal and orchestral parts of Aida, La Traviata, or any other opera at the same time? Thus, we see that the author’s performance alone, with all its valuable qualities, is not able to provide the work with either a sufficiently wide audience or a long sound life. Both are unattainable without a large and constantly replenished army of professional performers, without a developed performing art.