We can get so bogged down with mysterious notation that we miss the point of the score: the composer’s message. Obsession over details—why did the composer use newly available extra keys in one piece but not another? Why did the composer use particular articulation in this spot but fail to maintain consistency later?
We all know the joyful anticipation of that exciting phrase. Whether getting ready for a “race” with my granddaughter or waiting for the gun at the start of a half-marathon, just the thought of it brings a bit of an adrenaline rush. This mindset transcends culture, space, and time, and presents itself structurally in Classical Era music.
To many musicians, the word “ornament” brings a sense of foreboding dread. The mere thought of deciphering and interpreting the funny little signs and symbols into a line becomes paralyzing. But step back and look at the word: ornament.
Louder isn’t better, it’s just louder: what eighteenth-century performance practice teaches about dynamics
To the modern player, when dynamic indications are found in the score, the typical reaction is to think in terms of changes in volume. Not entirely true for the eighteenth-century musician – dynamic indications mean much more than loud or soft. Volume shift was only part of the story and was a rather new and […]
The proper use of fingering to perform accurately is of concern to all instrumentalists. However, there is a dangerous pitfall awaiting keyboard players that does not exist for other instrumentalists. Simply put, for non-keyboardists, wrong fingering usually equals wrong note.
Whether speaking in simple conversation, acting dramatically on stage, singing in the shower, or performing on a musical instrument in a recital hall, the common goal is to “get to the point” in some way or another. In Classical Era music, a tool that facilitates getting to the point is the use of small gestures that are designated with a slur.
If you were to ask a modern musician what the quarter note means in Common Time the answer would be simple: “It lasts for one full beat, to be released at the beginning of the succeeding beat.” Ah, but eighteenth-century rhythm reading is not a simple “one-size-fits-all” affair. Just as spoken language has evolved over time, so has music notational language. The notation has remained much the same; it is how the notation is read that has changed.
We have all attended concerts where a performer dazzled us with technique that seemed hardly humanly possible – a phenomenon that has been a part of musical performances throughout history. In a 1783 anecdotal memory by Johann Matthias Gesner, the ability of J. S. Bach’s playing was described to “effect what not many Orpheuses, nor […]
Affekt (the ability of music to stir emotions) is the foundational pillar for eighteenth-century style. It was achieved through attention to detail and proper execution. And done in good taste, which implies a deep understanding of proper practices of the time. Nearly every notational and performance decision was based on affekt—everything from formal structure to note values, dynamics to articulation, and accompaniment patterns such as Alberti bass.
How does one capture the Classical style sound aesthetic when approaching performance of eighteenth-century repertoire on the modern piano? Although it is important to know of the period instruments and their associated physical sound qualities, knowing how period musicians approached their art emotionally and intellectually will provide even deeper insight into discovering how to recreate the sound aesthetic.
Grappling with performing the music of early Beethoven, Mozart, and Haydn on the modern piano can be a daunting experience. The modern piano is not the instrument for which their music was composed. Beethoven, Mozart, and Haydn all preferred Viennese pianos (today called the fortepiano) and the traits from the inside out are distinctly different than those of the modern piano.