Adorno on performance, Bach, Beethoven

An argument of the necessity of the role of the performer, and a rationale for, as a composer, seeking out multiple performances of your work. Especially for my current counterpoint work, a rationale for hearing different angles on the distribution and relation of voices.

Art is made painfully aware of aesthetic semblance by the fundamental insolubility of its technical problems; this is most blatant in questions of artistic presentation: in the performance of music or drama. Adequate performance requires the formulation of the work as a problem, the recognition of the irreconcilable demands, arising from the relation of the content [Gehalt] of the work to its appearance, that confront the performer. In uncovering the tour de force of an artwork, the performance must find the point of indifference where the possibility of the impossible is hidden. Since the work is antinomic, a fully adequate performance is actually not possible, for every performance necessarily represses a contrary element. The highest criterion of performance is if, without repression, it makes itself the arena of those conflicts that have been emphatic in the tour de force. (p. 140, emphasis added)

The specific dialectics at play in Bach and Beethoven:

Bach, whom a crude inwardness would like to claim, was a virtuoso in the unification of the irreconcilable. What he composed is the synthesis of harmonic thoroughbass and polyphonic thinking. This synthesis is seamlessly integrated into the logic of chordal progression divested, however, of its heterogeneous weight because it is the pure result of voice leading; this endows Bach’s work with its singularly floating quality. With no less stringency the paradox of the tour de force in Beethoven’s work could be presented: that out of nothing something develops, the aesthetically incarnate test of the first steps of Hegel’s logic. (pp. 140-141)

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