Editor: Annette Richards
Associate Editor: Evan Cortens
Editorial Assistants: Mathieu Langlois and Caroline Waight
Edward Charles Pepe
Keyboard Culture in Eighteenth-Century Berlin
Kerala J. Snyder
This volume of Keyboard Perspectives begins in subversive mode, with the infiltration of scurrilous street humor into the late eighteenth-century bourgeois salon. Erin Helyard’s study of Muzio Clementi’s early set of variations on “The Black Joke” asks to what extent the song tune would have connoted the lewd lyrics to which it was originally set (and worse, the unmentionable “Black Joke” itself), and what this might imply for Clementi’s predominantly female, and highly respectable, clientele. Bawdy, as he shows, goes hand in hand with increasingly demanding keyboard technique that might appear to put the lie to the notion of submissive—and innocent—girls idly or avidly fingering the ivories.
From eighteenth-century London we move to seventeenth-century Mexico, and learn not only about organ culture at the Mexico City Cathedral, but also how the archival documents associated with the apparently mundane business of hiring a new organist reveal fascinating insights into the dynamic and complex exchange between New and Old Spain. Edward Pepe’s essay demonstrates how rigorous archival research can yield far-ranging conclusions.
A third focused study rounds out the first section of this volume and moves in yet another direction, geographically and methodologically. Christopher Marks compares the two editions, from two separate stages in his career, of Studies in Pedal Phrasing by the nineteenth-century American organist Dudley Buck. The significant differences between them provide vital information on changes in Buck’s own pedal technique but also, perhaps more importantly, in those of his students and colleagues, at a time when American organs were themselves undergoing a transformation. Marks’ essay encourages us to think carefully about performance practice and technique, or perhaps about multiple practices and techniques relevant even to a single geographical location and point in time. The essay suggests that we should appreciate both specificity and diversity in performing styles as we approach instruments of different vintages.
In March 2011, the Westfield Center collaborated with the Institute for German Cultural Studies at Cornell to sponsor a conference entitled “Keyboard Culture in Eighteenth-Century Berlin and the German Sense of History,” held to inaugurate Cornell’s new early eighteenth-century German-style organ recently completed by Munetaka Yokota and colleagues at the Gothenburg Organ Art Center. The instrument was a collaborative effort bringing together American organ builders and craftsmen with the international team based in Sweden; the conference to celebrate its completion likewise gathered a wide spectrum of scholars and performers from the United States and Europe who had been asked to consider not only the organ but also other keyboard instruments, their associated repertoires and practices, and the wider musical culture. Five of those presentations form the basis for the essays printed here.
Approaching Berlin from the capital city that has dominated music history’s late-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Vienna, Matthew Head follows Mozart’s path from Austria to Germany. His essay puzzles over the “Gothic gloomth” of Mozart’s Rondo K. 511, exploring ways in which the work embodies an aesthetic journey to the north in its encounter with the Bach tradition and learned counterpoint, just as it prefigures Mozart’s own journey to northern Germany in 1789. Evocative of the Gothic in its effects of dissociation and irregularity, Mozart’s Rondo, Head argues, stages a “feeling” encounter with the past that points to a new kind of engagement with history in musical culture late in the eighteenth century.
Kerala Snyder’s essay, too, offers evidence for a particular sense of history as it developed in mid-eighteenth-century Berlin—not least in the study of learned counterpoint—and emerges from the wealth of manuscripts of organ music copied in Berlin in the period. The essay focuses on organists and copyists in the circle of Frederick the Great’s younger sister, Princess Anna Amalia, whose enthusiasm for organ-playing leads one to wonder whether she herself had to stretch the rules of decorum (though not as far as those later eighteenth-century English ladies and their “Black Joke”) as she threw back her royal skirts and clambered onto the organ bench. A crucial resource for later historians, Amalia’s large library, Snyder suggests, has a strongly retrospective taint that maps closely onto the list of composers said to have been studied and admired by J. S. Bach.
With Martin Küster we approach keyboard culture from the perspective— central to keyboard practice—of accompaniment, and its attendant theoretical apparatus. Küster offers an account of a debate conducted in the pages of the Berlin music journals of the mid-eighteenth century, in which the competing claims of harmony and melody, of artifice and naturalness, reveal much about the intersection of taste and ideology amongst the court musicians associated with Frederick the Great, and about practices of accompaniment. Küster leads the reader into a particularly fraught corner of eighteenth-century music theory, as he untangles a knot of ideas and terms whose implications go far beyond the Berlin song repertoire that is the focus of his essay.
It is no coincidence that many of the Berlin keyboard musicians of the mid-eighteenth century whose names appear in these essays are part of the extended Bach circle. In placing the organ, its music and its reception in the wider context of Berlin musical culture, David Schulenberg’s essay shows that the resonance of J. S. Bach in Berlin stems not only from Bach’s performances in that city in 1747, but also from the group of devotees and publicists active there in the circle of C. P. E. Bach (who was resident there from 1740–67) and W. F. Bach (resident from 1774 until his death), and from their successors into the nineteenth century and beyond, to our own time.
The historical reach of many of the essays presented at the conference suggests why so many organists become musicologists: to sit down at any organ is to confront history. The new organ at Cornell, which was celebrated at the March conference, vividly exemplifies the complex intersection of present and past at the nexus of performance, repertoire, and not least, the question of reconstruction. My own contribution to this volume sketches the history of the instrument that inspired Cornell’s—the Schnitger organ in the Charlottenburg Palace chapel in Berlin—and shows how any engagement with that instrument necessarily confronts the competing demands of historicism and progress, as well as the attendant ideological and political implications of those positions. The fabled Charlottenburg instrument long inspired not only amazement, but also a sense among even its most ardent supporters of the risks of turning blindly to the past for inspiration.
All who play old keyboard instruments, or modern instruments based loosely or strictly on them, are motivated at least in part by the desire to hear old music anew, and perhaps to reclaim something that has been lost in the course of the intervening years, decades or centuries. None have been more spirited in the study of and performance on the fortepiano than my inspiring colleague, Malcolm Bilson. In an effort to encourage a new generation of players, many with little access to top quality instruments—or indeed any at all—Bilson spearheaded the Westfield Center’s first international Fortepiano Competition and Summer Academy, held in August 2011 at Cornell University. The event brought jurors and competitors from around the world for two weeks of music-making and collegial exchange at the highest level. Fittingly, then, Bilson is the subject of this year’s profile, written by his former student, Nicholas Mathew.
Two essays reviewing recent important publications round out this volume; the multi-faceted scholar, performer, and son of one of the great instrument makers of our time, Tilman Skowroneck grapples with the problems and promise of the preservation of antique musical objects; David Yearsley continues his in-house service to these pages, with praise for George Stauffer’s new edition of J. S. Bach’s Clavierübung III.
As always we include a CD with performances by many of our authors. Erin Helyard recorded Clementi’s “Black Joke” specially for this issue, and provides a wonderful recording by his colleague Morgan Pearse of the song on which the set of variations is based. Both Edward Pepe and Christopher Marks perform music related to their essays on historic organs; David Schulenberg does the same with music by Frederick ‘the Great’ recorded, with baroque flautist Mary Oleskiewicz, in the historic music room of Sanssouci Palace. Malcolm Bilson is represented not only in Nicholas Mathew’s prose portrait, but also in his own performances of Mozart and Schubert. Finally, the CD concludes with music recorded live at the inauguration of the new Cornell organ: the organ is presented here by David Yearsley as a chamber instrument, in dialogue with baroque flute (Steven Zohn) and mezzo-soprano Kristen Dubenion-Smith, and in repertoire that reflects its position as an instrument that looks to the past, with music from eighteenth-century Berlin, and to the present (and future), with a new work, commissioned for the occasion, from Zachary Wadsworth.
Keyboard Perspectives is the result of collaboration, cooperation and the exchange of ideas that the Westfield Center warmly supports and promotes. Thanks are due to Cornell University for providing Westfield with an institutional home. At Cornell, an excellent team of graduate students makes a crucial contribution to this journal; editorial assistance this year has been provided by Mathieu Langlois and Caroline Waight, and, taking the lion’s share in production matters, Evan Cortens. Any errors remaining are, of course, my own.
— Annette Richards