musicianiship--when is it bad or good ?


i have been attending concerts for the last 50 years. very often, i find it it interesting to read a music critic's "opinion" of the performance i have attended. invariably, a performer is taken to task for a poor performance or is praised for an "excellent" one.

why is one performance better than another if it is a matter of opinion ?

for example, if a pianist distorts the tempo by playing too slow or too fast, or with too much stacatto, or in general, takes liberties with the score, why is that necessarily bad ?
mrtennis
why is one performance better than another if it is a matter of opinion ?
Same with all criticism -- art, music, film, theatre, literature, take your pick.
If this 'pianist' empties the hall its bad. If he fill the hall its good, if your gauge for good, better or best is attendance.

Personally I set my own standards for good, better and best, so for you to gain value from my comments about what is 'best' you must know my standards.

Do you know this 'reviewers' standards? If you don't why would you bother to read his critique in the first place?

Not much different than reading your critiques of audio equipment. Just imagine how confusing it would be for the majority of audiophiles if we didn't have an understanding of your 'standards' which are, I think you must admit if you are observant at all, quite a bit different than most audiophiles. Probably create a run on CJ 125's.
When is a performance good and when is it bad?

When is a thread an actual question and when is it just a troll to get a rise out of people when the original poster already has his answer in mind?
I believe Duke Ellington said there are two types of music good and bad. I dont believe music,art or literatrue is suggestive at all. There is bad and good we just have to wean it out, their are those with bad taste in music and art.
A good review might make me more likely to attend a live concert,but a bad one may not.

I play a tiny bit of piano,and if a performer uses more rubato or a different articulation that I might,I figure no two performaces are the same.

I prefer ensemblesthat have been together long enough for them to understand how something will come out.

The cliche says a string quartet needs a decade to get good and I suspect that is true.

My pet peeve is a producer who puts together well known names to sell something.

There is a performance of Bach's Musical Offering that was put together with famous names,and it sounds like they rehearsed it once and then recorded it.

For me,musicianship improves the more the ensemble is together.
Mrtennis,

What difference does it make tu for JC sake?
There is a performance of Bach's Musical Offering that was put together with famous names,and it sounds like they rehearsed it once and then recorded it.

For me,musicianship improves the more the ensemble is together.

Sure!

Good musicianship is not a matter of opinion, nor is great performance. Musicians will generally agree when a piece is well or badly played.
Good musicianship is characterized by playing all the notes with the proper rhythm, tonality and meter. If playing with an ensemble, it's also earmarked by playing in a manner that blends with the other instruments so that several sound like one.

Musical artistry is another thing altogether. One has to have good musicianship to be an artist, but artists take good musicianship and add interpretation that is unique to them.

It's much more common to agree on good musicianship than musical artistry.
perhaps, what i was really asking about was artistry not musicianship. but the context was for solo performances, or for a conductor.

if an artist deliberately takes liberties, including wrong notes, tempos, plays sharp or flat, some professional musicians might consider such a performance an example of poor musicianship. yet, the performing artist may disagree.

the standards alluded to above, proably accepted by "professional" musicians are just that. there may be some musicians who disagree with what are commonly accepted standards.

i am trying to get to a more universal, philosophical question, namely, the idea of quality. i believe that all instances of judgements of quality are purely subjective and therefore opinion. even if standards can be established and are accepted by experts, another set of standards could also be established by a minority, which, are just as valid.

why am i harping on this subject ??

it seems that many of the threads and posts on audiogon are directly or indirectly related to the idea of excellence of sound, music, etc. .

people have very strong convictions about sound quality and music. i feel that one should be more open minded about quality and not be critical of others or dismissive of products which are considered to be of poor quality because they are not up to someone's standards of what quality is.

in the world of the quantitative, it is logical to deduce quality, but in a world in which value judgements are made without any logic, but rather based upon standards which are determined by consensus, notions of quality are basically opinions, albeit, intelligent and eductaed opinions.

in the interests of communication it might be advised to describe a performance, sound etc., and let the reader decide whether it is "bad" or "good".
11-03-06: Mrtennis
if an artist deliberately takes liberties, including wrong notes, tempos,
plays sharp or flat, some professional musicians might consider such a
performance an example of poor musicianship. yet, the performing artist
may disagree.
Perhaps with jazz or experimental music. Both encourage exploration, but one must know the rules, and be able to play expertly within the rules before the rules can be broken, IMO.

i believe that all instances of judgements of
quality are purely subjective and therefore opinion.
Regarding musicianship, there is a set of baseline qualities that define
musicianship and every musician is trained in these qualities from the time they first pick up, or sit down with their instrument. If judgments of quality are being made by trained musicians, then their opinions are based on accepted guidelines, and are therefore less subjective than if the judgments are being made by laymen. In that case, all bets are off, and it's the Wild West.

Judgments of artistry allow for more open interpretation and subjectivity.
Mr T, A challenge for you, time to put your money where your mouth is.

Pretend that you have just attended a performance of Mahler's 9th symphony. You also have a score. You have heard this symphony many times by many conductors.
You are a very knowlegable musicoligist who has a complete understanding of this music. You are a reviewer (which you are) so you have a good command of the English language.

Now with all of that I defy you to write a review which will be meaningful to the average concert goer who cannot read a score and can only understand the nature of the performance as it might compare to another conductors performance (probably the typical audience for reviewer commentary). Your review, in order to remain totally objective, a goal you see as admirable, must be devoid of any subjective adjectives.

Oh, in addition, in order to keep your reader awake thru your review you must keep it interesting as well.

Bet you can't do it!
Mrtennis,
just give us dumbs a few examples of ur xperience above described s'il vous plait (x-cuse my friench)...
11/03/06: MrTennis
in the interests of communication it might be advised to describe a performance, sound etc., and let the reader decide whether it is "bad" or "good".

wouldn't that be kind of like describing a color? What does blue look like? And after reading your description of "blue"...would I still like it?
if i am attending an orchestra concert. i would describe factually what i heard. the tempos were too fast or too slow. certain performers were not in tune. their instruments sounded sharp or flat. the musicians did not sound like an ensemble. some musicians were ahead or behind the beat. they played to loud or too soft. they ignored the composer's markings and thier performance did not coincide with the wishes of the composer.

the above would be a hypothetical description of could have been observed at a symphony orchestra concert.

if you will note, i did not indicate a value to the performance. i tried to factually describe what i heard.
hi tvad:

do you rememebr a performance of a brahms piano concerto with glenn gould and leonard bernstein ?

the conductor made a stetement about the interpretation of glenn gould with which he disagreed.

whenever standards are set up by experts, there may be other experts who disagree.

if one must perform in a certain way to be licensed, one perorms according to the requirements to get licensed, but then may chose not to perform that way. it's not medicine. it's art. yes there are standards but they are not absolute.
Mr T, do you enjoy plain rice cakes? Melba toast? By enjoy, I mean purchasing and eating them?

Honestly, sir, your posts describe an excruciatingly dry method of observing life, in my opinion.
hi ellery: communication can be neutral and you the reader then decide if you like what is being described.

my own style of communication is one of detachment from that which i am experiencing. i try to report what i observe and let the reader decide what it all means.

yes, my description is subjective, but i try to be as neutral as possible, as a reporter does.
yes, my description is subjective, but i try to be as neutral as possible, as a reporter does.
Mrtennis  (Threads | Answers)
Have you read the newspaper lately? Neutral reporting is going the way of the Dodo.

Thanks for your explanation. I just hope you enjoy the concerts you attend more than your reporting might convey.

"The tempo played was consistent with the tempo indicated in the score, and the musicians did not lag behind the conductor. The players were in unison. One trumpet was sharp during the credenza. The music was played in a range of pianissimo to double forte."

This would be a pretty good performance, yes?
Mr. T ( hey, that's what my Mom called me ! ), may I say you have every right to aim for perfect objectivity... that may need some definition, of course, but you certainly have the right to it IMVHO.

if an artist deliberately takes liberties, including wrong notes, tempos, plays sharp or flat, some professional musicians might consider such a performance an example of poor musicianship. yet, the performing artist may disagree.

Thank you for providing an example to illuminate this point, which would otherwise have remained perfectly moot because unassailable: what a teacher of mine used to call "handstands in the void" because you can't disagree with it but it doesn't make any difference to anything.

do you rememebr a performance of a brahms piano concerto with glenn gould and leonard bernstein ?

the conductor made a stetement about the interpretation of glenn gould with which he disagreed.

With which Gould disagreed. He was a bit of an enfant terrible ( a brat ), they say.

So here are two great musicians discussing interpretation, and disagreeing. That's wonderful, I hope this kind of thing never stops. They may never agree, but their performance may nonetheless be superb ( including the sour note ).

There must be a million similar examples, from music sure, but also from chess or sports. What about Zidan's head-butt in the World Cup, the one that got him thrown out and lost the game? With my French-British background I say it was a dreadful example of poor sportsmanship, he would have done better to keep a cool head and avenge his opponent's provocation by winning the game, but others say he would never have shut the fellow up that way. Nobody will ever have the last word on this.

I think it all goes to show there's nothing objective about a great performance, and to me that suggests there are better yardsticks for great performances than objectivity.
tobias, i think you misinterpret my position.

i believe all questions of quality in the realm of the arts is purely subjective and opinion based. whatever standards exist are still based upon opinion.

if i am trying to decide upon a cd to buy, a book to read, a movie to watch, a component to buy a concert. etc. , i want information, not opinion. i cannot necessarily base a decision upon an opinion with which i may agree or disagree, but as tvad illustrated, if i want to be confident an orchestra is playing like an ensemble and all instruments are tuned properly, his description is all i need. once i listen, i will decide my sentiments toward the performance.

if i want to buy an amplifier and ask if it is warm and define warmth, upon receiving a factual answer or at least one based upon honest perceptions, i can then make an intelligent decisions.

my point is that i have my own criterion as to what i enjoy. all i need is information as to the presence or absence of factors which i can use to make an intelligent decision.

life is a chance. if i want to make sure the pianist played all notes correctly etc., i will go to hear him/her play.
i cannot predict whether i will like or dislike what i hear.

there is to much persuasion out ther either implicit or explicit and not enough information.

as channel 5 says "we report, i will decide". this philosophy is consistent with my detached reviewing style.
Mrtennis,
If you or anybody here saw Coen Bro's movie "The Man Who Wasn't There" one french piano teacher once said:
"Ze music comes not from fingers! It should come fgom hart..."
I think musicianship is a good thing when it serves the music. It's a bad thing when it (abilty, virtuosity) become the object and is secondary to the music.
I think what we hear today played on modern pianofortes' is not the same sound tone-wise as when Beethoven composed/performed his piano music back in the day. And who has the right to say what is being played correctly? not as If Beethoven will be in the audience eh?
Go to the concert, enjoy, go home. Its a one time only experience, who gives a rats bottom what a critic thinks? as long as you've enjoyed it. I've got admit I've never been to a 'bad' classical concert, not that I would know what a bad one was, except maybe if the pianist was playing in the key of C and the orchestra was playing in B. If there were some bad ones, I care not. I've enjoyed all I've been to.