On music interpretation (presentation by guest speaker Yiorgos Petmezas) and the analogy between the role of the conductor and the curator

18 May 2011: Presentation by Yiorgos Petmezas at bar Partizan

The role of the curator and the dynamics between the artist and the curator has often come up in our discussions. When Stephanie invited (classical) music aficionado Yiorgos Petmezas to talk on the theme of the interpretation of music, we did not imagine that this same issue would once more come up.

Using several examples, our guest speaker tried to answer some of the following questions: Is there a question of interpretation when it comes to the performance of (classical) music? Isn’t music just a matter of executing the score’s instructions? How does the personality of the conductor or performer affect the result?Each musical piece bares elements that reveal the where and when it was composed, as well as information on the composer himself. Not only that: a piece brings together three different worlds: the composer’s, the performer’s and the listener’s –according to our guest speaker, all three equally contribute to the phenomenon of music.

Yiorgos used examples of different interpretations of some of the most famous classical pieces, by composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Greek composer Skalkotas or by performers such as Glenn Gould. Listening to famous pieces from time to time does not really allow the untrained ear to realize the differentiations between the various interpretations; however, listening to different interpretations of the same piece back to back makes us realize the significant variations achieved by different conductors or performers.

This significance of the role of the conductor and of the performer raised the question of the comparison between conductor/performer and curator. If a musical piece is the expression of the composer, and the conductor/performer is the “intermediate”, responsible to interpret and convey to the public the score’s message and essence –essentially, the composer’s intentions when writing the piece, then could the curator be described as the conductor’s analogy in contemporary art? And to what extent can the conductor intervene to the piece without completely altering it? To the same end, is there a limit to the curator’s freedom in how an art work is installed and therefore interpreted?


Huge thanks to Yiorgos Petmezas for the extremely interesting presentation (and to Stephanie Bertrand for inviting him), as well as to Partizan bar for hosting us.


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