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The modern Interpreters


Peter Hübner
Curse or blessing: yes

Page of the score
from the opera


JOURNALIST: How do you see interpreters who perform atonal music?

PETER HÜBNER: The interpreter is, of course, the first medical victim of the music he performs – in a positive as well as in a negative sense.

No interpreter can be so insensitive not to notice that atonal music is unpleasant to him. The interpreter would naturally quite spontaneously reject listening and then correspondingly also performing atonal music – as first and foremost he is a human being and then only a musician.

So, one would have to ask: “What makes an interpreter perform atonal music – whilst his whole organism is rebelling against it?”

  Avant Garde Music                                            continued 16

First of all, you could simply say, he is not in his right mind. Surely that is, in fact, always the case. But I also think that that there are driving forces within him, which suppress his natural will to be healthy.

I know well-known interpreters of modern music who are almost pure intellectuals, and accordingly perform atonal music entirely with their mental powers. This applies especially to conductors. These interpreters are not efficient in classical music, as they lack the feeling which they absolutely need for performing this sort of music.

So, if they don’t want to be regarded as a failure in their field, and shine in front of an audience, then their only choice is to perform atonal music. I don’t think I need mention any names here. Everyone who more or less knows the market, knows who could be meant, and those concerned will make themselves particularly known, when they loudly voice their anger at the arguments just brought forth.

The second group of interpreters who perform atonal music here and there, are the less intelligent people, with more gushing sentimental feelings. The word “feeling” relates to the fact that they are used to quite successfully presenting harmonious classical music with a lot of feeling and sentiment. The “less” intelligent refers to the fact that they believe they can upgrade themselves with the occasional performance of an avant-garde piece of work. Thus, they try to assume to be modern, and so you’ll easily find them at up-market private views of a contemporary modern artist’s exhibition – smartly dressed, intelligent upward glance, high-class hairstyle, a knowing look. And they are unable to differentiate between the natural and unnatural.

From the viewpoint of the classical music creator, we are dealing here with the stupid interpreter, who does not have his own opinion, but just plays his instrument in such a way that he can appear in the right light with the help of music – just like the model who is paid for modelling clothes, but who, apart from this job, is only concerned with appearing in the correct light and shining.

I would, however, like to prevent a misunderstanding: I am only talking about interpreters and not about composers. For the uninspired drawing-board composer who has existed at all times, and still exists en masse today, inclusive of the numerous conductors who are more or less composing quite discreetly, serial composing can be very interesting as a theory and on music-paper, even if it is atonal – but only if he cannot hear it internally.

There is, of course, an enormous difference – as far as our personal impression goes – between music that you only see and read graphically, and sounds and tones that you hear.

But the interpreter will run into hearing, when he transfers the notes into tones and sounds – and here he cannot oppose the position of his organism which will naturally reject the disharmonious and unnatural – if he has not taken leave of his senses.

This entire matter does not concern most of the orchestra musicians, because, in my opinion, we are talking about people who are usually sensible. Most of them would rarely or never naturally perform atonal music.

But unfortunately, ambitious conductors and soloists can commit themselves, and may so, in the end, be held liable by the musicians for the damage that this music causes to their heath.

I once had an interview in Brussels with a music editor who had an avant-garde composer as a personal friend, and who therefore thought she had to get all upset about my opinion.

I only told her to imagine she would give birth to a child which looked the same as what atonal music sounded like – would she like that?

That settled the matter in a plausible way.