The notes on the page of a composition is just the tip of the iceberg.
What state of mind was the composer in when he wrote it? What state of mind was the composer’s country in at the time? Who were the poets, playwrights, authors, and artists that were the composer’s contemporaries and could have inspired him? What is the piece based on: a certain moment in history, a piece of art, a literary work, another piece of music?
All of these things can get us inside a work, beyond phrase shaping and structure.
If we take the time to dive into a work with these questions in mind I think we’ll develop a relationship with a piece that is beyond a business only relationship: playing it and that’s all. Taking the time to realize all that surrounds a work helps us delve into the work on a personal and visceral level.
The goal is to make a work an intimate companion rather than an acquaintance.