Tag Archives: Piano music

19th-century variations for piano

Issued in 2017 by Greenway Music Press, 19th-century variations for piano features nine theme-and-variation sets composed in the early through mid-nineteenth century by Jan Ladislav Dussek, Otto Dresel, and American composers of the early nineteenth century. The variations are based on a variety of popular songs and dances of the period, as well as on original themes. This is both a new edition and a new series!

Below, Dussek’s variations on “Vive Henri-quatre”, one of the sets included in the collection.

Leave a comment

Filed under New editions, New series, Romantic era

Beethoven does the details

The increasing range of Beethoven’s performance indications paralleled the growing depth of expression in his music. While his predecessors had been content with four basic tempos—adagio, andante, allegro, and presto—he began to add qualifiers, indications of gradual tempo change, and descriptive words and phrases in German.

Still unsatisfied, he began to rely on metronome markings, although he stressed that they only provide a point of departure for a performance in which “feeling also has its beat, which cannot wholly be conveyed by a number”.

He started to favor graphic treatments of crescendo and diminuendo, ensuring dynamic shapes that would not necessarily be intuited by the performer. He used sforzando in structural as well as expressive ways, and expanded volume markings beyond the range from pp to ff.

His pedaling indications usually reinforce harmonic contexts, though sometimes they cause harmonic areas to overlap; this might explain why some of Beethoven’s contemporaries complained that his pedaling resulted in a confused sound. His articulation markings often reinforce motivic structure and development.

All of these performance indications are most fully understood in the context of the particular instrument he was using at the time.

This according to “Interpreting Beethoven’s markings: A preliminary survey of the piano sonatas” by Tallis Barker (The music review LV/3 [August 1994] pp. 169–182). Below, Sviatoslav Richter demonstrates his approach to Beethoven’s performance indications.

Related articles:

Leave a comment

Filed under Classic era, Performance practice

Cultural expressions in music

The College Music Society inaugurated the series Cultural expressions in music in 2010 with The tango in American piano music: Selected tangos by Thomson, Copland, Barber, Jaggard, Biscardi, and Bolcom by Oscar Macchioni. The book explores works from 1920 to 1990 that represent diverse musical styles, including tonal and non-tonal musical languages and both structural and improvisational writing.

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, New series