What is Meant by Great Intrepretations

By Sir Hubert Parry – 1913

The perfectly exact and faithful reproduction of what is set down on paper is not what is wanted of a great interpreter. We want his interpretation to tell us something which widens our horizon, something which makes us realize more fully the interest and greatness of the work interpreted. It may be contended that the doctrine is a perilous one if it is applied to the ordinary ruck of mortals; but it is also perilous to cross a street when cabs are running riot therein. But people do take the risk when they want to get on the other side. We should not condemn their venturing across the street but rather their manner of doing it.

It is the same with the principle of interpreting music or the drama in the light of individual temperament. When an absolutely incompetent person presents his temperamental view of some great work of Beethoven’s, even if the public welcome it as a novelty, there are always sufficient sane people left to see that the foolish and inadequate presumption gets its due need of appraisement. Reasonable men would not on that account condemn the principle of interpreting in the light of temperament, but the inadequacy of the individual interpreter.–From Style in Musical Art.