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Sundin, Nils-Göran

Aesthetic Criteria for Musical Interpretation:
A Study of the Contemporary Performance of Western Notated Instrumental Music after 1750

Ph.D. University of Jyväskylä, 1994
(published in Jyväskylä Studies in the Arts, ISBN 951-34-0336-X; ISSN 0075-4633)

The purpose of this study is to illuminate performers' and theorists' patterns of aesthetic thinking within musical interpretation in performance. The study examines in particular the cognitive processes and logic(s) of implementation of interpretational ideals based on phenomenology, hermeneutics, semiotics, formalism and Schenkerian Vortragslehre.

By means of phenomenological analysis the study discusses the philosophical, scientific and musicological grounds for a methodology of interpretation analysis and proposes a theory of interpretation concerned with the relational network of intentional interpretive acts. The objective of this theory is to secure the grounds for description and evaluation of interpretational quality in musical performance. The presented model of interpretation analysis demonstrates a possibility of founding interpretive decisions on rational argument.

The study identifies three degrees of cognitive decisional abstraction concerned with concrete shaping on different levels, the interpretive (correctness of execution; details of motivic design), the interpretative (apprehensible "gestalting" of unities), and the interpretational (coherent wholeness in the manifestation of the work's identity in performance). Conscious acts of interpretation allow an interpreting direction either from (expretive) or to (impretive) the subject or the object of the encounter, entailing a selection and displacement of the interpreted content.

The application of this scheme in a series of critical analyses of conductors (Celibidache, Ansermet, Furtwängler, Dorati, Blomstedt, Sacher), pianists (Schnabel, Gieseking, Leygraf, Harry) and string players (Menuhin, Lorcovic, Casals) explains how aesthetic positions are implemented via interpretational procedures in concrete performance styles.