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Piano Performance: A Brief Background

The history of professional musical performance began at the time when the first musical work recorded by notes appeared. Performing is the result of bilateral activities of the composer, expressing his thoughts through music, and the performer who brings to life the author’s creation. The process of performing music is full of secrets and mysteries. In any musical interpretation, two trends are friendly and rival: the desire for a pure expression of the composer’s ideas and the desire for the full expression of a virtuoso-player. The victory of one tendency inevitably leads to the defeat of both – that’s the paradox! Let’s take a fascinating journey into the history of piano and piano performance and try to trace how the author and performer interacted over the ages and centuries. XVII-XVIII CENTURY: BAROQUE AND EARLY CLASSICISM In the days of Bach, Scarlatti, Cuperin, Handel, the relationship of performer and composer was almost co-authored. The performer had unlimited freedom. The note text could be supplemented with all kinds of melisms, fermats, variations. A harpsichord with two manuals was exploited mercilessly. The pitch of the bass and melody parts changed as you like. Raising, or lowering one or another part by an octave was a matter of norm. Composers, relying on the virtuosity of the interpreter, did not even bother to compose themselves. Having unsubscribed in digital bass, they entrusted the composition to the will of the performer. The tradition of free prelude still lives an echo in the virtuoso cadences of classical concerts for solo instruments. Such a free relationship of the composer and performer to this day leaves unsolved the mystery of the music of the Baroque era. THE END OF THE XVIII CENTURY The breakthrough in piano performance was the appearance of the piano. With the advent of the “king of all instruments”, the era of virtuoso style began. All the strength and power of his genius on the instrument brought down Beethoven. The 32 composer sonatas are a true evolution of the piano. If Mozart and Haydn still heard in the piano the instruments of the orchestra and opera coloratura, then Beethoven heard the Royal. It was Beethoven who wanted his Piano to sound the way Beethoven wants. The notes appeared nuances, dynamic shades affixed by the hand of the author. By the 1820s, there were a galaxy of performers, such as F. Kalkbrenner, D. Steibelt, who, in playing the piano, put virtuosity, shocking, sensationalism above all else. The rumble of all kinds of instrument effects, in their opinion, was the main thing. For self-demonstration, competitions of virtuosos were arranged. F. Liszt aptly nicknamed these performers a “brotherhood of piano acrobats.” ROMANTIC XIX CENTURY In the XIX century, empty virtuosity was replaced by romantic self-expression. Composers and at the same time performers: Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Berlioz, Grieg, Saint-Saens, Brahms – brought music to a new level. The piano has become a means of confession of the soul. Feelings expressed through music were recorded in detail, scrupulously and selflessly. Such feelings began to require respect. The note text became almost a shrine. Gradually, the art of mastering author’s musical text and the art of editing notes appeared. Many composers considered it a duty and a matter of honor to edit the works of the geniuses of past eras. It was thanks to F. Mendelssohn that the world recognized the name of I.S. Bach. THE CENTURY OF XX – THE CENTURY OF GREAT PERFORMANCE In the XX century, composers turned the process of performance towards unquestioning worship of the musical text and the intention of the composer. Ravel, Stravinsky, Metner, Debussy not only printed in detail any nuance in notes, but also printed formidable statements in the periodicals about unscrupulous performers who distort the great notes of the author. In turn, the performers angrily asserted that interpretation cannot become stamping, it’s the same art! The history of piano performance has undergone much, but such names as S. Richter, K. Igumnov, G. Ginzburg, G. Neigauz, M. Yudina, L. Oborin, M. Pletnev, D. Matsuev and others have proved with their creativity that between composer and performer cannot be rivalry. Both serve the one – Her Majesty the Music. Author – Elena Lavrenova Tags: artistryperformancepiano story (votes: 1, average: 5.00 out of 5)

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