When we listen to, say, the Five Pieces for Orchestra, op. 16 by Schoenberg, the performance is certainly of some passing interest, but the real focus is on the musical structures and expression presented by the score, in other words, it is the "work" that is foremost. What is Schoenberg doing with, say, the imitative counterpoint? On the other hand, with pop and jazz music, the "work" is of surprisingly little interest! It is the nuance of how it is performed that attracts the greatest attention. It is hard not to see this as a focus on what is perhaps the more superficial aspect, to the neglect of the more essential aspect. But as Stravinsky averred somewhere, the most interesting thing about jazz is how it is played, the compositions themselves are of little interest. Sorry for the haphazard recollection, if someone knows the source of the quote, please let us know in the comments.Pop (or jazz) culture, in starkest contrast to classical, has a concept of work-identity so fluid as to be practically indefinable. (It is a famous unsolved problem of musicology, in fact.) Classical performers are constantly exhorted to make themselves into transparent vessels: Zaslaw rails at one point against ignorant performers who are "reduced [!] to ... seeking a personal 'interpretation' based on such necessary intangibles as musicality, taste, instinct or inspiration." These, of course, are qualities pop or jazz musicians, and their audiences, prize without irony or apology. Indeed, they are an absolute requirement.Richard Taruskin. Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance (Kindle Locations 3589-3592). Kindle Edition.
In regards to the exhortations to classical performers, they used to be asked to be transparent vessels, but nowadays they are exhorted to develop their personal "brand" to pay more attention to marketing and so on. To be, in other words, like pop performers.
But let me quibble a bit at Taruskin's subtle implication that things like "musicality, taste, instinct or inspiration" are prized more by pop and jazz musicians and their audiences than by classical musicians and their audiences. Au contraire! The best classical musicians, of course, are chock full of musicality, taste, instinct and inspiration, but these elements are used to reveal and present the musical work and not just for the glorification of the charisma of the artist.
And composers? What are composers supposed to be or to do these days? God only knows...
The essay the above Taruskin quote is taken from is on Mozart and how his compositions were much more for a specific occasion and the use of the performers, including Mozart himself. The specific occasion of the essay is that it is actually a review of the, at the time, new complete recording of the Mozart piano concertos with Malcolm Bilson on forte piano and the English Baroque soloists conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. One of my favorite Mozart recordings, by the way, and one of Taruskin's as well. Let's listen to K. 449 from that set:
Taruskin's best point in his essay is that recordings like the one above are really more monuments and exemplars of our time than Mozart's and one of the reasons he says so is that our commitment to "werktreue" or fidelity to the work, i.e. score, means that we simply don't embellish the notes and improvise cadenzas as Mozart provably did.
Taruskin doesn't mention it, but there are some isolated examples of "werktreue" in pop and jazz. I recently saw a clip of a live performance of the entirety of the Sgt. Pepper's album of the Beatles by a tribute band. Recordings themselves are an interesting example of "werktreue" in pop and jazz. Miles Davis' album Kind of Blue has great renown as a musical "work" as do pop albums such as Sgt. Pepper's and Revolver by the Beatles. The recording is both the "work" and the ideal interpretation all together.