Keyboard Perspectives XI (2018)

Founding Editor: Annette Richards
Editors-in-chief: Roger Moseley and Tilman Skowroneck
Associate Editor: Evan Cortens
Copyeditors: Matthew J. Hall and Mathieu Langlois

Cover of Keyboard Perspectives XI

Editor’s Preface

Reformations and the Organ

Chris Bragg
Snapshots of the Organ Reform Movement: The Path to Haarlem

Christopher Marks
Organ Sonatas and the Development of an American Musical Style

Lynn Edwards Butler
Innovation in Early Eighteenth-Century Central German Organ Building

Paul Walker
Organ Music in Sixteenth-Century Italy: A Reconsideration

Opera at the Keyboard

Patrick J. Rogers
“Support and Give Effect to the Vocal Part”: Domenico Corri Demonstrates the Art of Accompaniment in Gluck’s Orfeo

Ghosts in the Machine

Alyssa Michaud
“This Will Play Your Piano”: Automation, Amateur Musicianship, and the Player Piano

Allison Wente
Phantom Fingers at Work: Selling Mechanized Musical Labour in a Changing Musical Marketplace

Pamela Feo
“So intangible a thing as a pianist’s touch”: Listening to the Body in Player-Piano Performance

Christine Fena
“Soulless Machines”? The Question of Human Expression in Player-Piano Discourse, 1900–1930

Sergio Ospina Romero
On Pianolas and Pianolists: Human-Machine Interactions, Dialectical Soundings, and the Musicality of Mechanical Reproduction

Tilman Skowroneck
Profile: Paul Fritts

Matthew J. Hall
Review: Pierre Nicolas La Font’s Recently Recovered Harpsichord Music and Its New Critical Edition


In the aftermath of the cornucopian delights proffered by Keyboard Perspectives X, and safe in the knowledge that we have at least kept abreast of the iPhone thanks to Apple’s idiosyncratic interpretation of Roman numerals, this volume of the journal seeks to cleanse the reader’s palate by restricting itself to a mere four (!) main themes: the relationship of organ-building to musical practice; the art of realizing musical accompaniment at the keyboard; the identification and exploration of overlooked repertories; and the fascinating world of the player piano.

Departing from the belief that we “have reached the point where a critical mass of organists and scholars accepts and embraces a pluralistic notion of what a good organ is,” Chris Bragg launches Keyboard Perspectives XI with a thorough examination of the international history behind this state of affairs. Beginning with the Bach-centered (if instrumentally ambiguous) Alsatian Organ Reform of the early twentieth century, represented by Albert Schweitzer and Emil Rupp, Bragg outlines each major stage of the Organ Reform Movement. The first involves expressionist playwright and philosopher Henny Jahnn’s influence on the German Orgelbewegung, exemplified by his role in the rediscovery and promotion of the Schnitger organ in the Hamburg Jacobikirche. In mid-century Germany, where outstanding organists such as Günter Ramin held sway, the objective became a sort of “Kompromissorgel, combining newly (re)discovered tonal developments within a tried-and-trusted technical framework.” In Denmark, meanwhile, Sybrand Zachariassen was pursuing another ideal, that of a “new sound, avowedly historical but in technical detail genuinely novel.” Bragg’s endpoint is Zachariassen’s controversial 1960 restoration of the Müller organ in Haarlem, which adopted rather invasive restoration methods in comparison to the more preservative approach that emerged in the early 1960s. Bragg’s expansive historical perspective enables him to draw a balanced picture of the philosophies behind that restoration: as he states, “we are now in a better position to understand the patterns of thought from which the long-accepted dogmas, so evident in the minds of the Haarlem committee during the 1950s, emerged and developed.”

Staying within a similar chronological frame while shifting the geographical focus to the USA, Christopher Marks compares nearly sixty extended organ compositions that collectively embody what can be understood as a distinctly American approach to sonata style. Marks guides us through the development of the genre, which may have “languished in the margin,” yet also includes its composers’ “most ambitious works” that “best represent the innovations, progress, and independence that led to the realization of an American style.” Opening with Dudley Buck and culminating with Leo Sowerby, Marks’s essay brings to light a litany of neglected names and works that will doubtless repay further investigation by performers and scholars.

Lynn Edwards Butler takes us back in time with her article “Innovation in Early Eighteenth-Century Central German Organ Building,” which invites us to consider how the demands of musical practice and organ builders’ solutions intertwined. The challenge of the day was to make effective use of large organs in ensemble playing. For this purpose, instruments were built in (or relocated to) the spacious west galleries of churches, the Rückpositiv was omitted, new continuo stops were incorporated, and certain stops were tuned in Kammerton in instruments that otherwise stood in Chorton. The interest of the time in a large variety of continuo stops is instructive for modern performers, who often content themselves with two or three rather neutral registrations of the continuo organ provided for a given performance. Another interesting feature of the eighteenth-century practice described here is the existence of obbligato stops with which the organist could play solos or fill in missing parts in the ensemble.

Paul Walker also addresses the relationship between solo and collective performance as he considers the sixteenth-century Italian contribution to the organ repertory as reflected by the classic fugue’s origins in the ricercar and canzona. Refuting Willi Apel’s claim that instrumental music printed in partbooks automatically belongs “to the field of ensemble music,” Walker unlocks a wealth of genuine organ music of the period by demonstrating that the partbook format was no more (or less) than a means of achieving a “clean presentation of contrapuntal works” that organists would have been comfortable both producing and realizing. In conclusion, Walker issues a call for “modern organist-friendly editions” of these pieces that we suspect many will echo and to which we hope an intrepid reader or two might even respond …

Patrick Rogers introduces Domenico Corri (1746–1825) as “arguably the most unjustly neglected eighteenth-century authority on the subject of accompaniment practice.” Based on Corri’s “new” system of notating accompaniments, his Select Collection of vocal works, opera excerpts, and other music serves as a guide to the practice of continuo playing and the adaptation of instrumental parts to the harpsichord. Rogers focuses in detail on Corri’s accompaniments for Gluck’s Orfeo, in which a number of Corri’s solutions for the keyboardist appear to diverge significantly from approaches typically taken by modern continuo players. Rogers concludes that Corri’s cramped instructions, “squeezed into one treble staff, with heavy use of abbreviations and arrows,” might have led to the underestimation of their meaning and value. To rectify this, the article concludes with a number of Rogers’s own realizations of Corri’s notation.

The essays by Alyssa Michaud, Allison Wente, Pamela Feo, Christine Fena, and Sergio Ospina Romero all issue from the Westfield-sponsored conference “Ghosts in the Machine,” which took place at Cornell University in May 2017. Featuring lectures and performances by such luminaries as Rex Lawson, Denis Hall, Bob Berkman, and Georgina Born, the conference examined the interlinked phenomena of pianolas, player pianos, and reproducing pianos from a variety of perspectives. The articles gathered here focus on the shifting marketing strategies and discursive circulation of these instruments. In the process, they map a constellation of themes including the ideologies of automation and embodiment, the reconfiguration of amateurism and professionalism, the economics of musical labor and play, commonalities and distinctions between performance and recording, and the redefinition of musical ontologies that player pianos both reflected and helped bring about. Read together, these essays reveal that present-day concerns about the rise of machines capable of simulating human intelligence, dexterity, feeling, and even spirit are by no means new; rather than eliminating human qualities, however, the player piano reconfigured the conditions under which they could emerge in unforeseeable ways.

In this volume’s interview, Tilman Skowroneck talks with organ-builder Paul Fritts about his career, artistic outlook, and his new 69-stop organ for the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. The European influences that shaped Fritts’s career return us to the emergence of historically-minded approaches to organ building and organ restoration in the nineteen-fifties and -sixties, as discussed in Chris Bragg’s opening essay. But many of the questions here deal with the workings of an organ shop today: how do we use the knowledge we have gained about historical building practices in musically satisfying and time-efficient ways? Finally, and continuing the theme of bringing hitherto neglected music to light, the volume is rounded out by Matthew J. Hall’s review of Jonathan Rhodes Lee’s new critical edition of recently rediscovered harpsichord music by Pierre Nicolas La Font (ca. 1725–ca. 1791).

We hope you find much to enjoy in Keyboard Perspectives XI, and we look forward to presenting you with contributions from Leon Chisholm, Hans Fidom, Christopher Holman, Laurence Libin, and Tiffany Ng, among others, in KP XII.

— Roger Moseley and Tilman Skowroneck
July, 2019