Posts Tagged ‘public outreach’

more keyboard perspectives

August 10, 2014

…and a call for contributions

 

© Tilman Skowroneck 2014

In my previous post I introduced my new article about Beethoven’s Broadwood piano in Keyboard Perspectives Vol. V. The next following volume of Keyboard Perspectives, of which I am the guest editor, is rolling out of the press as we speak. A table of contents and the full text of my introduction can be found here. The volume can be ordered using the form on this page.

Next year’s issue of Keyboard Perspectives, Volume VII, will be “a special issue devoted to a selection of topics that are, in one way or another, connected to Beethoven’s Sonata, op. 106 (“Hammerklavier”), and the question of why it became so problematically emblematic of nineteenth-century pianism.” It includes “six essays, complementing one another, originate from a seminar taught at McGill University by Tom Beghin, who will also be guest editor of the volume.” (excerpt from the Westfield Newsletter Volume xxv/2, p. 4)

I will return as guest editor in Keyboard Perspectives Volume VIII.

This issue will give special attention to the combination instrument of the late eighteenth century (such as the combination of organ and harpsichord, and organ and fortepiano), and such keyboard instruments that had a place in their time, even if they perhaps did not make it into the pantheon of mainstream keyboard culture: various subspecies of the budding fortepiano, for instance (such as the Clavecin Royal, or the Tangentenflügel, to name but two examples). Why were these instruments made, who financed their manufacture, who played them, in what musical contexts?
Contributions that address this topic area are especially welcome, but please do not hesitate to submit proposals that address other keyboard-related topics as well. Proposals can be sent to me via the address provided on the contact page. They should reach me no later than the end of September 2014.

beethoven’s broadwood

August 10, 2014

 

© Tilman Skowroneck 2014

My book Beethoven the Pianist ends (more or less) where Beethoven’s piano music arguably becomes most interesting for many people: his late period. So there was no place to discuss his famous Broadwood grand from 1817 in it. I have now published a new article about this instrument: how Beethoven used (or did not use) it, its state of repair (or disrepair), its modernity (or lack thereof) and the various ways that Viennese instrument makers interacted with the instrument and its owner.

In my article, I offer a thorough investigation of the available sources and sort out a number of contradictory claims of the secondary literature. I try to give credit, especially, to the piano maker André Stein for putting the piano back in order rather more frequently, and apparently in a more sympathetic spirit, than a casual glance at the documentation suggests. I include a discussion about Beethoven’s late work and the problem of conflicting keyboard compasses.

The article “A Brit in Vienna: Beethoven’s Broadwood Piano” with a postscript by Tom Beghin “Beethoven’s Broadwood: A Construction Project” can be found in the Yearbook of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies,

Keyboard Perspectives Vol. V/2012, pp. 41–82

The volume can be ordered on the website of the Westfield Center.

 

 

 

teachers and students: transmission versus copying

March 30, 2013

© Tilman Skowroneck 2013

Gustav Leonhardt’s transcription of J.S. Bach’s Ciaccona

Musical transmission is a well-explored topic in the history of Western music. In a rare filmed appearance, pianist Edwin Fischer recited, more than explained, how it works: “Beethoven instructed Czerny how to play the Well-tempered Clavier; Czerny taught it to Liszt; Liszt taught it to Eugène d’Albert.” The clip is part of the documentary “The Art of Piano” (found at 1:07:31 of this YouTube video). To complete the lineage for the benefit of readers of our time: d’Albert taught Fischer, who was endorsing his then-new recording of Bach’s WTC.

In addition to being a great-great-grandpupil of Beethoven, Fischer was also a celebrated teacher. His statement about the musical lineage that authenticated his way of playing Bach can be seen as a statement about pedagogy rather than a display of vanity. It tells us that by the mid-20th century, the idea of a student imitating the example of his teacher was considered more than just valuable in a general sense.

To Fischer, the transmission of skills, knowledge and values from teacher to student in an unbroken tradition was profoundly meaningful: the essence of why one became a pupil, or later a teacher. This idea is not new. In France in the 1670s, J.L. Le Gallois suggested the same pedagogy of learning by imitation in his famous praise of Chambonnière’s way of playing: “in order to learn the pieces of each master, it is necessary to study them with the same masters who have composed them, or with their best pupils.”

For a student of harpsichord in Amsterdam in the 1980s, however, learning by imitation was not normally considered an option. On the contrary. (more…)

oiling quills: new findings

June 5, 2012

© Tilman Skowroneck 2012

Denzil Wraight has now published his findings about the wear pattern of quill, the best technique for oiling quill, and recommended oils for this purpose in one short article and a rather longer one with extensive explanations at:

http://www.denzilwraight.com/quilling.htm

This should be seen as a complement, and in some ways a correction, to my own article about voicing which I published earlier on this blog (a link to the PDF version is here). I am presently testing oiling the quills (with Ballistol) in two of my instruments according to Denzil’s recommendations (including the French Double that takes the brunt of my practicing) and my initial experience is positive (see my most recent thoughts in the third comment added to this post).

lecturing or entertainment?

June 13, 2011

© Tilman Skowroneck 2011

Fellow wordpressers know this, of course: somewhere in the functions that only can be accessed by the blog owner there is a little window that lists all the search terms that people used for finding one’s blog. Last week, someone found my website by searching for the words nobody needs a harpsichord.

Of course, one cannot but wonder what circumstance prompted someone to type these words of wisdom into a search window. But words of wisdom they are, at least almost: we, the harpsichordists, have to make a dedicated effort of making our music accessible to listeners who often didn’t even know that they needed us. It is possible; the ubiquitous manifestations of (positive, to be clear) surprise after a recital (“I didn’t know a harpsichord could sound like that!”) are ample proof that a single person playing old music on a box with strings and plectra can, in fact, provide true listening pleasure to audiences.

The harpsichordist largely depends on getting the entire package of her or his recital across “as is.” Dancing, for example, funny costumes, grimaces, dramatic monologues, cigar juggling or walking on one’s hands don’t really do the trick to make a harpsichord recital more palatable to the audiences. The times that the use of an “exotic” instrument in itself worked like a hat trick are long gone. (more…)

beethoven the pianist, neefe, and a clarification

March 13, 2011

© Tilman Skowroneck 2011

Early Music has, to my knowledge, been first with an encouraging and generous review of Beethoven the Pianist, for which I am very grateful. For subscribers of EM, the full text is available here.

Reviews inevitably reveal some points of lacking clarity. In this case, reviewer Siân Derry alerts me to a missed chance of an explanation during my presentation of one of my side plots, which addresses the extent of Christian Gottlob Neefe’s influence on the young Beethoven (I am arguing that that influence may not have been quite as great as the usual Beethoven biographies are claiming).

Here is the passage of the review that explains the problem:

[Skowroneck's] assertion that Neefe “does not mention giving Beethoven keyboard instruction at all” and that “by 1783, any keyboard tuition by Neefe (if it ever took place) belonged to the past” (pp.43-3) is compromised by his omission from consideration of Neefe’s letter of 19 January 1785. Yet on an earlier page (p.41) Skowroneck includes parts of this letter–which states that Neefe was forced to teach six hours each day and that “Beethoven will be most happy of all, but I doubt nevertheless that he will truly profit from this” — but fails to pursue its implications for his argument.

What Neefe actually addressed here is explained by his own position in early 1785. After the death of the old Elector Maximilian Friedrich on April 15, 1784, some influential people at the Bonn court acted to diminish Neefe’s influence there, partly because he had been frequently absent, replaced by Beethoven. The situation quickly turned ugly; (more…)

talking to the audience

March 19, 2008

…and demonstrating historical keyboard actions

Public outreach is a term that does very well in academia these days. It guarantees that one’s research, one’s department, or even one’s university will be there tomorrow. If we want to make people appreciate our work and open their purses in our favor, we have to go to places where these people are and we have to learn to talk their language.

Musicians have known this for quite some time. Even for someone with good references, it is pretty much more difficult to get funding for a cute concert idea than it is for an established researcher to get a stipend for a snazzy research project. We have learned to talk about our work. We have also learned to deal with the old problem that one may not use too many words to tell an audience that what they never knew before one started talking is in fact very interesting.

This took me some getting used to. (more…)


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