By Kenneth Hamilton
Kenneth Hamilton's e-book engagingly and lucidly dissects the oft-invoked fantasy of an exceptional culture, or Golden Age of Pianism. it truly is written either for avid gamers and for participants in their audiences by way of a pianist who believes that scholarship and clarity can cross hand-in-hand. Hamilton discusses in meticulous but vigorous element the performance-style of serious pianists from Liszt to Paderewski, and delves into the far-from-inevitable improvement of the piano recital. He entertainingly recounts how classical concert events advanced from exuberant, occasionally riotous occasions into the formal, funereal trotting out of predictable items they are often at the present time, how a regularly unhistorical "respect for the rating" started to exchange pianists' improvisations and variations, and the way the scientific customized arose that an viewers may be visible and never heard. Pianists will locate foodstuff for idea right here on their repertoire and the traditions of its functionality. Hamilton chronicles why pianists of the prior didn't continuously start a section with the 1st observe of the ranking, nor finish with the final. He emphasizes that anxiousness over flawed notes is a comparatively contemporary psychosis, and taking part in totally from reminiscence a comparatively contemporary requirement. Audiences will come across a brilliant account of the way tremendously assorted are the recitals they attend in comparison to live shows of the previous, and the way their very own position has decreased from noisily lively individuals within the live performance event to passive recipients of creative benediction from the degree. they are going to notice while cowed listeners finally stopped applauding among routine, and why they stopped speaking loudly in the course of them. The book's vast message announces that there's not anything divinely ordained approximately our personal concert-practices, programming and piano-performance kinds. Many facets of the fashionable procedure are unhistorical-some laudable, a few purely ludicrous. also they are a long way faraway from these fondly, if deceptively, remembered as constituting a Golden Age.
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Additional resources for After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance
Liszt thundered with ease on an E´rard and could do so at times on a heavier instrument, but it was later generations that were forced to respond fully to a piano with a heart of steel. Liszt’s initial recitals in the late 1830s were also very different from what we know today. He continued to share the stage regularly with other artists, to prelude before pieces, and to showcase improvisations on themes provided by the audience as the climax of the event. Our current standard recital is, in terms of programming, performance style, and etiquette, very much a product of the twentieth century.
24 AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE from this era has been regarded as a useful subject for such studies even by musicologists, who are usually keen to discover hitherto unnoticed problems that urgently await publishable solutions. The alleged existence of a ‘‘continuous performance tradition’’—a less ﬂashy version of the Great Tradition—implies that we all really know how to play romantic, and even classical music in roughly the way its composers envisaged it. As late as 1980, Howard Mayer Brown in the notorious ‘‘performing practice’’ article of the penultimate edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians—for twenty subsequent years the ﬁrst, and sometimes the only, port of call for English-speaking music students in search of a quick infusion of historical wisdom—declared emphatically ‘‘there is no lost tradition’’; commenting further: ‘‘Individual masterpieces have often been neglected for long periods, but there has been no severance of contact for postBaroque music as a whole, nor with the instruments used in performing it.
A very famous one, but not great. Hofmann was another—I heard him many times. [Leopold] Godowski was one of the greatest technicians, but his playing was boring. ’’36 Arrau did have a good word to say for Horowitz, but just when we might think that Rachmaninoff ’s reputation also might be pumped up a little (‘‘A really great pianist . ’’), we get some speedy deﬂation (‘‘. . 37 Whether we agree with them or not, we must concede that these were not simply ignorant comments by pontiﬁcating reviewers who would have difﬁculty distinguishing Bach from Offenbach, but sincere assessments of great musicians by great musicians.