Kabalevsky: Novelette

This miniature is deceptively hard because it is complicated harmonically and demands imagination, variation, wide dynamics and subtle phrasing. Supposedly it for children, but no child will fully exploit all there is to be expressed. I recorded it a year ago, and at that time I thought it was good. But listening tonight I hated it and so recorded it again with totally fresh ideas.

Kabalevsky: Novelette: Played by Gary Lloyd

What else can be added? Perhaps the important thing is about how much is not in the written music, and this is something I continue to think about. It is more or less assumed that what composers publish is the last word from them. I thought that too when I was younger and did not realize how wrong that is until I became more and more serious about writing my own music.

What I now realize:

As we write music we want other people to understand who we play it, or want it played. Every mark we write is an attempt to communicate our ideas, which means phrase marks, dynamics, accents and much more. But there is great irony in doing this, because it always fails. In the end we try to read composers minds to figure out what they really had in mind, but until about a century we never heard the composers play their own music.

I realize now that when we listen to recordings of composers playing their own music we hear all sorts of things we would never guess from scores. This tells me that the more and more detailed music becomes, attempting to give us all the answers, the more we are often pushed away from all the subtle things the composers actually had in mind.

What is worse is the illusion that what is published is the composers final thoughts. In reality we keep rethinking our own work, changing small things. This will be different from composer to composer in amount, but assuming there is a final version that would never be changed again is generally a very wrong idea.

5 thoughts on “Kabalevsky: Novelette”

  1. This is one you taught me years ago. That is, you had me explore the “unwritten” things – what one might do with pedal, what the effect would be – what else one might do. Listening and listening again came into it. Much more than just playing it “as written” as a “student piece” sort of per formula.

  2. The real mastery is in playing this “simple” music and give it all the verve, passion and fire the composer wanted — perhaps more. Too many people ( like me) just plow through it with only the most rudimentary attention to dynamics and phrasing. You make it sound like real music.

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