August 5–9, 2015
9:00 am – 9:45 am
Malcolm Bilson (Cornell University, bio)
Lecture – 50 Years of Early Pianos: How Far Have We Come; Where Should We Be Going?
9:45 am – 10:30 am
Rebecca Cypess (Rutgers University, bio) and Yi-heng Yang, pianist (bio)
Lecture-Recital – Fortepiano/Harpsichord Duos: Performance Practices and Cultural Meanings in the Circle of Sara Levy (1761–1854)
C. P. E. Bach’s concerto for harpsichord and fortepiano (H. 479) has long been regarded as a curiosity, seldom taken seriously for the light it sheds on the relationship between the two instruments, their performance practices, and their cultural meanings in the late eighteenth century. The concerto was likely commissioned by the Jewish salonnière Sara Levy, an accomplished keyboardist who studied with Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and acted as a patron to both Friedemann and Philipp Emanuel; Levy likely performed the double-concerto with one of her sisters in her salon. The double concerto assumes added significance in light of the substantial number of compositions and arrangements for two keyboards held by Levy and her sisters, including manuscript arrangements of the J. S. Bach organ trios (BWV 525–530). Although these manuscripts are labeled “cembalo primo” and “cembalo secondo,” their provenance and their relationship to Philipp Emanuel’s double concerto suggest that performance on harpsichord and fortepiano is also possible. This presentation will explore the fortepiano/harpsichord combination as cultivated by Levy and her circle, applying evidence from the double concerto to performances of trio arrangements in this unusual combination. We also consider possible cultural impulses behind this performance practice: we argue that the juxtaposition of the distinct timbres of the harpsichord and fortepiano simulates the registration of an organ; however, in keeping with Levy’s enlightened approach to religion, it may also be taken as a representation of “unity in diversity,” evident in the approach to socialization and religious interaction espoused by the Jews and Christians who met in the salons of the late eighteenth century.
10:45 am – 11:30 pm
Tom Beghin (Orpheus Institute and McGill University, bio)
Lecture – Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata Opus 106: Legend, Difficulty, and the Gift of a Broadwood Piano
“Here you have a sonata that will keep pianists busy fifty years from now.” These words by Beethoven (entering public consciousness only through the second half of the nineteenth century) have set the tone for a narrative of op. 106 both as anomalous for its time (as far as pianists and their technique go) and as a turning point toward Beethoven’s “transcendent” late style (linking it with other “monumental” works such as the Ninth Symphony op. 125 and the Missa solemnis op. 123). Taking my cue instead from early testimonies (in Beethoven”s Conversation Books) by a piano builder, a pianist, and a music publisher, I will seek to replace a single, unified view of op. 106 by a more rhetorically driven account of “pianist vs. piano.” My premise is Beethoven’s taking into use his new Broadwood piano in late May 1818, exactly three-fourths through the composition (Skowroneck 2012 and Gertsch 2001), resulting in a remarkable drop of tessitura from a Viennese six-octave range (from FF to f3) in movements one to three to an English one (from CC to c3) for movement four—a fact inexplicably unexplored in the vast literature on op. 106. I will tell three stories. The first addresses the first movement’s ambition to be a “four-hand” piece, realized instead by two (gigantic) hands, with suggested links to Ignaz Moscheles’s four-hand op. 47, a Grande sonate also published by Artaria back-to-back with op. 106. The second, “battle of the back-check” (referring to a specific part of a single-escapement Viennese piano action) relates the results of a new scientific experiment on single-tone repetitions in the second-movement Scherzo—a frustrating but delightful hit-or-miss experience. The third zooms in on Beethoven’s receiving his Broadwood and the topos of “lopsidedness” (“middle f” becoming “middle c”) at the outset of the fourth movement. Steering clear from anachronisms such as “perfection,” “the long line,” or “monumentality,” I will suggest meanings of performing and listening to “Hammerklavier” that replace images of “Beethoven as philosopher” (Bonds 2006) with evocations of “real” interactions of man vs. machine as these unfold in a multi-layered and complex sonata.
Ryan MacEvoy McCullough (Cornell University, bio)
Shadowplay and Doppelgänger in Works for Piano With Electronics
The modern “Steinway-style” piano’s relative ubiquity belies the reality of its standing as a historical instrument. Having not changed in essential design for over 150 years, the coloristically homogenizing effect of the overstrung iron frame makes it a remarkably flexible instrument in terms of utility, but somewhat neutral in tone unless made to sound like “anything other than a piano.” This utility has historical precedent in the Western canon since keyboard instruments have typically been an essential tool in composition (as with Haydn’s precompositional phantasieren) and harmonic support as continuo, yet it is impossible to deny that the “keyboard sound” and layout leaves an impression—to many, tyrannically so—on the sounds ultimately penned and performed. By comparison, the development of computers and electronic music has charted a similar path, from early transistors and vacuum tubes to purse-sized supercomputers designed to perform complex tasks without interpretive ”coloration“ or complaint. This is a world that is neutrally utilitarian but that also re-framed our perception of reality, and no more profoundly than in music. Here similarly, even the emblematic QWERTY keyboard is becoming an historical artifact, held over by tradition, common practice, and a nostalgia for more tactile times. This lecture explores the unusual intersection of these two worlds in works for piano and electronics, discussing recent works (in advance of their performance later in the afternoon) by Georg Friedrich Haas, Rand Steiger, and John Luther Adams, in addition to historical examples from the twentieth century. For many composers, the sound of the so-called modern piano carries considerable historical weight, and works for piano and electronics, by directing a digital mirror at this sound, allowing the piano to sound like nothing other than a piano.
Edward Swenson, piano restorer (bio), and Stefania Neonato, pianist (bio)
Lecture-recital – The Fortepianos of Conrad Graf as Viewed by his Contemporaries: An illustrated Lecture with performances on Graf Fortepiano Opus 1389 – An updated List of Graf’s Extant Instruments
In this lecture-recital, new information on fortepiano builder Conrad Graf will be presented, with special emphasis on his collaborations with famous composers and pianists. Graf loaned instruments to Chopin, Clara Wieck, Robert Schumann, and Liszt during their visits to Vienna. He also provided Beethoven with two quadruple-strung instruments. In September 1830 Felix Mendelssohn personally selected a piano at Graf’s workshop. Graf gave a new fortepiano to Clara Wieck in April 1838, two years before she married Robert Schumann. The gift played an odd role in their wedding plans. Graf was born in Riedlingen, Germany in 1782. After the death of his father in 1793, he was apprenticed to a local cabinetmaker. In 1796 he left for Vienna where he found work with the piano builder Jakob Schelkle. After Schelkle’s death in 1802, Graf took over the workshop. Graf’s earliest extant instrument, opus 6, which shows the influence of Anton Walter, will be briefly discussed. During his thirty-six-year career, Graf manufactured approximately 3,000 fortepianos. His international reputation was established quickly. The Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (Leipzig) reported in 1820: “Graf, a tireless artist, currently manufactures the most excellent pianofortes; they do not find an equal in beauty, consistency, strength and fullness of tone, and the solidity of their construction insures their durability. The leading virtuosos in the Imperial city make use of his instruments at their public performances.” A master of his craft, Graf was also a successful businessman, a patron of the arts, and a collector of contemporary and historical paintings. His expensive instruments were purchased for the salons of the nobility and the wealthy, including Duchess Marie Louise of Parma, and Beethoven’s pupil Archduke Rudolph, the son of Austrian Emperor Leopold II. Music by Graf’s patrons will be performed on fortepiano opus 1389. A list of surviving instruments will be distributed at the lecture.
9:30 am – 10:15 am
Erin Helyard (Australian National University, bio)
“To Prevent the Abuse of the Open Pedal”: Meticulous Pedal Markings from Madame du Brillon to Moscheles
Scholars, performers, and teachers who study, perform, and teach on historical keyboards with damper-raising mechanisms are divided in how to interpret the earliest markings that indicate their use in print and manuscript. Even if many of these markings are precise in notating the raising and subsequent lowering of the dampers, many see these as indicative and suggestive, and in performance and teaching we often use the open pedal where none is indicated and often in very short bursts, rather than the longer swathes often indicated. This paper proposes a radical re-evaluation of pedal indications in scores from the earliest markings in Madame du Brillon’s compositions to those carefully notated for two performers in duets by Moscheles. Revisions by Clementi for the publication of his Oeuvres Complettes indicate an especial care with the notation of the open pedal. There was an increased concern in the early 1800s that the pedal was being using indiscriminately; many players were absorbed, indeed hypnotized, with the “soft undulating effect of the Eolian Harp” as Czerny put it. I argue for a new chronology of the earliest indications in manuscript, discuss the important relationship the damper-raising mechanism had with female pianists, and examine the confluence of careful contrapuntal notation with pedal markings in English and Viennese compositions of the period. It may be that many present-day fortepianists are “pedalling” earlier repertoire in an ahistorical fashion that has more in common with the practices of the 1860s and 1870s, as documented by Köhler and Schmitt. Recalibrating our conception of the “open pedal” from its origin as a special effect operated by hand stops, I argue, resonates better with the evidence of the markings themselves, as documented in Parisian, London, and Viennese sources.
10:30 am – 11:15 am
Sandra Rosenblum (independent scholar, bio)
Chopin’s Response to Different Pianos
After 1841 when his copyist and amanuensis, Julian Fontana, left him, Chopin prepared most of the manuscripts for simultaneous publication of his works in Paris, Leipzig, and London. Although only a few autographs given to his Parisian publishers are known to be extant, comparison of those that remain with those from Leipzig, as well as with the first French and German editions, reveal significant aspects of Chopin’s musical thinking. Beyond the variances that can be ascribed to publishers’ practices, scribal errors, or Chopin’s habitual revising of his works, some significant divergences in his performances indications seem to stem from the widely acknowledged differences between the French and German pianos. Following a brief description of relevant differences in construction and sonority between those two styles of piano building, Rosenblum’s talk will demonstrate how some of Chopin’s varying articulation and pedal indications relate to the pianos and how others seem more improvisatory than instrument related. Examples will be selected from among the Berceuse, op. 57; the Two Nocturnes, op. 62; the Barcarolle, op. 60; the Mazurka in A-flat major, op. 52; or other late works. How might these differences in performance indications reflect Chopin's attitude toward performance in general and on our playing of his works?
11:15 am – 12:00 pm
Maria Rose (RILM, bio)
Dussek and His Contemporaries in Paris: “Le Retour à Paris”
According to Charles Chaulieu (1833), Dussek’s sonata Op. 64 “Le Retour à Paris”, was an essentially French work in which Dussek demonstrated all his mastery of the instrument. The review in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (1810) praised the sonata as the best work Dussek had composed, although the title was considered in bad taste (no surprise during the Napoleonic War). The French features and significance of the work will be demonstrated and related to contemporary piano pieces by French composers Helene de Montgeroult, François-Adrien Boïeldieu, and Alexandre Boëly.
David Sutherland, piano builder (bio)
The pianoforte in the first half of the eighteenth century: Florentine pianos, the instruments they inspired across Europe, and the music composed for them.
Antonio Simón, pianist (bio)
Francisco Pérez de Mirabal’s pianos: experiment or established practice?
8:30 am – 9:15 am
Tilman Skowroneck (University of Gothenburg, bio)
The Quest for “Support Personnel”: Viennese Fortepiano Maintenance for the Ladies, and by the Ladies
This paper addresses the genre of the historical piano maintenance manual as a solution to what we might call the manufacturer’s dilemma of delivery: what happens to my product once it has left my hands? Writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries produced texts of striking consistency to instruct the piano-loving public on how to take care of their instruments. Writing a piano maintenance manual required technical knowledge and pedagogical instincts; the result needed to be formulated in a way that made it possible to maintain the instruments without a builder present, not least in order to preserve the manufacturer’s good name. The paper investigates how builders and piano teachers (mostly men) went about writing what they perceived to be rational, technical instructions for a piano user base (mostly women). It discusses which tasks piano owners were expected to perform, and at what point, in the Art World of the Viennese piano, it became time to ask for professional help.
9:15 am – 10:00 am
Carmel Raz (Yale University, bio)
The Keyboard of Ideas: Musical Performance in Enlightenment Philosophy of Mind
In a chapter appended to the fourth edition of the Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1700), John Locke likens habitual trains of thoughts involved in associated ideas to the automatic motions involved in musical performance. He compares the influence of associated ideas upon our actions to the motions of a daydreaming organist. The musician’s wandering thoughts represent the formation of voluntary ideas in the mind, while the automatic movements of his fingers on the keys represent the subconscious path of associated ideas. Locke’s model comes in for repeated revision in the works of philosophers including David Hartley, Denis Diderot, and Étienne Bonnot de Condillac, all of whom emphasize different mental and material aspects of keyboard performance and pedagogy in their respective theories of the self. This talk examines the shifting role of musical performance in these accounts, tracing the ways in which music-making facilitated discourse around issues of memory, attention, and habit formation.
9:00 am – 9:45 am
Gili Loftus (McGill University, bio)
Lecture-Recital – “À la Clara”: Thinking through Clara Schumann’s Hands
The inspiration for this lecture-recital comes from a number of improvisations that Clara Schumann notated at the request of her daughter in 1895. These were the written-out versions of free extemporizations she would often play as a form of connective tissue between some of the pieces she played in her concerts, effectually creating short self-contained suites that were composed of smaller, contrasting works. By looking at some of the extant concert programs of Clara Schumann, and taking into account her particular way of including improvisation in a performance setting, a better understanding of “Clara the performer” may be reached. Improvisation was used as a communicative tool between performer and audience in myriad ways, both by Clara and her contemporaries. For Clara, it provided at times a pathway between the private and the public spheres, and an outlet through which emotions and ideas could be expressed. Following her lead, this lecture-recital will aspire to present one possible understanding of what a typical Clara Schumann recital would have included, what it may have sounded like, and what it means to reinvent this experience in a twenty-first century context.
9:45 am – 10:30 am
Shaena Weitz (City University of New York, Graduate Center, bio)
Monochromatic and Polychromatic Performance: Piano Improvisation in Early Nineteenth-Century France
In the mid-1830s, the writers of the first French music journal devoted to the piano, Le Pianiste, were confronted with a strange anti-musical performance trend that they struggled to understand. Some pianists were no longer improvising when they played, or embellishing, or changing their performances from one time to the next. Instead, some were playing a given score exactly as written and playing a piece the same way repeatedly. The way that these new pianists performed was so different from what Le Pianiste’s authors were accustomed to, that they alleged that the new pianists were not piano players at all, but merely piano “pressers.” Further, their extreme fidelity to the score was causing them to overlook the music and lose their “natural heat.” Le Pianiste dubbed these players the “monochromatic school.” This change of aesthetic involved more than preludes and cadenzas, but addressed the very essence of performance itself, which sheds new light on performance practice in early nineteenth-century France. This paper discusses pianistic improvisation in this time, drawing from Le Pianiste’s descriptions of monochromatic playing and its opposite, what we might call polychromatic playing, as well as the writing of Le Pianiste’s contemporaries, like Frédéric Kalkbrenner and Henri Herz. While its focus is on this microhistorical moment, it provides new information which helps define a point of transition in three large-scale trends over the century: the development of the urtext, the rise of the performer as interpreter, and the decline of improvisation.
Annette Richards (Cornell University & Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies), chair