Getting to know music is much like getting to know new people. The more time you spend with people, the better you understand them. The same goes for music.
It’s absolutely imperative to understand composers, their style, and their background to really understand their language. And just like with people, making an emotional connection to music can develop over time, and sometimes it is an instantaneous. Sometimes the personality of the music is not all at the surface, and one must dig deeper to see how one “ticks”. By studying the structure, voice leading, the harmonic movement, the way the music develops…all of these elements bring much more substance to a piece than which might appear on the surface. It is why one often develops a deeper appreciation for people, ideas, or musical works, after spending more and more time with them.
If however, I don’t feel a connection to a piece of music, and I’m not obligated to learn and perform it, then I put it aside, and I look for another piece to which I do make a connection. As a performing musician, if I cannot make heads or tails of a piece, or I simply do not love it unconditionally, how can I convince an audience of its value?