Edward T. Cone: Not Theory, Practice…

On Performances

FRANK J. OTERI: We featured a webcast on NewMusicBox of the Pacifica Quartet playing all of Carter‘s string quartets. In that performance, there was stuff in that music that never jumped out before—it dances, it’s joyous. Many people’s common perception is, “Oh this is scary, frightening, complicated modern music.” I guess if it isn’t given enough care in performance, it can sound that way. I think a lot of the more complex music, the more chromatic and rhythmically complex music that was written in the 20th century, gets the bad rep that it has because a lot of the time it just gets played really badly, and people can’t separate the composition from the performance. Which takes us back to our earlier discussion, how do we birth pieces? If a piece is only going to get done once, how can you ever have a relationship with that piece if you’ve only heard it one time?

EDWARD T. CONE: I know, and that performance may not have been a good performance.

FRANK J. OTERI: And talking to Babbitt about this with orchestral pieces, it’s been a disaster.

EDWARD T. CONE: I’m sure.

FRANK J. OTERI: He’s almost never gotten a satisfactory orchestral performance.

EDWARD T. CONE: Really? Not even the last one, when Taub did the last piano concerto?

FRANK J. OTERI: With Levine

EDWARD T. CONE: Yes.

FRANK J. OTERI: That was the exception, of course.

EDWARD T. CONE: I would think so.

FRANK J. OTERI: In general, he even said that he has gotten better performances out of the Juilliard Orchestra.

EDWARD T. CONE: Better than the professional orchestras… I remember the first time I heard Sessions‘s Second Piano Sonata and it was Andor Foldes playing it. And it seemed to me absolutely incomprehensible. And it was only later that I realized that it wasn’t the piece that was incomprehensible, it was the performance.