In this wide-ranging interview with violinist William Hagen, the artist discusses how he prepares for a concert and develops an interpretation. Delving deep into his extensive performance experience, William shares advice that is applicable to any performing artist in this conversation with tonebase's own Head of Violin, Eric Silberger.
In this lesson segment, he discusses something beyond the surface-level notes of a piece but the emotions you’re conveying with your interpretation. Why do we love playing the Chaconne so much despite it sounding so devastating and tragic? Or why do we find it fun to watch sad movies? How do we feel these emotions for a performance whilst having practiced the music countless times before? Find out this and more with William Hagen!
What do I want this to sound like? - Playing Repertoire You Enjoy
Preparing a piece of music begins with falling in love with it!
When practicing a passage, you must begin with thinking about what you want it to sound like. This planning is much easier if you enjoy the music you’re playing. You can think about what elements of the music is moving to you, and work to bring them out more. For example, if it’s the lyrical melody that you love from a work, how can you phrase it to make it even closer to how someone would sing it?
As William Hagen describes practicing and interpreting pieces he likes, “I must have it sound this way because I’ve been dreaming it sound that way for my entire life listening to these pieces.”
What can I do creatively within the structure of the work?
“If you have a basic structure of interpretation that you work within, you can improvise so well within it.”
There is a lot you can do with the music. You can do so much to vary the colors, stretch the rhythm, phrase, articulate, and use of the dynamic range create your interpretation. There’s a lot of tools in your arsenal that you can use to evoke emotions. it is important in a performance setting to make sense to the audience.
Hagen suggests that there must be a point to your interpretation choices. With those choices are you representing joy, angst, anger, etc.
What adjective are you trying to convey?
When you’re trying to convey an emotion like hopeful on the violin it can be quite challenging but also so fulfilling. Emotions of extreme intensity both create feeling that you are really living life but through the lens or world of the music you are playing. There’s a misconception that you bring this emotion to a performance but practice is detached and mechanical.
Also it’s easy to get bogged down on executing technically but with the goal of wanting the audience to be moved by the music, you as the interpreter and performer must be moved as well. We can use our own emotional response to the music to guide our interpretation.
“Your job is to be more moved by it than anybody in the room even though you’ve just practiced it 30,000 times.”
Watch more of William Hagen’s discussion on Preparation and Interpretation for the Soloist on tonebase Violin!