Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Norwegian music professor and doctoral student examine piano technique of 18th and early 19th centuries, saying they make some leggerio passages easier to play cleanly

Rachel Nuwer has an interesting piece in the New York Times today, “Playing Mozart’s Pieces as Mozart Did”, link.

The heart of the article is a 22-minute video by Norwegian doctoral candidate and pianist Christina Kobb (student of Rolf Inge Godov at the University of Oslo), who demonstrates older piano techniques.  These include sitting upright (not leaning over), and using primarily the last segment of the finger, moving only the last knuckle joint when possible. This can require considerable finger strength, flexibility and exercise.  Kobb demonstrates that this reduces hand movement in fast passages covering note gaps.

Kobb demonstrates with four different etudes by Johann Hummel (in E, G, Ab, and Bb-minor, the last one in slower tempo but with a lot of florid elaboration). She also picks an E-major Allegretto of Schubert (from a Sonata that I can’t quickly identify), and a passage from the finale of the Schubert G Major Fantasy-Sonata D. 894, which is rather gentle.

The piano, a Klass, has a more brittle tone.  I’m not sure it had the full 88 keys.

One other item comes to mind. Some conductors, when ending the Schubert Great C Major, let the final octave diminish. (Harnoncourt does this.)  Others (Maazel) conduct it in more modern fashion, allowing the final fortissimo to hold in the C Major Octave with the drums. I think of Schubert’s C Major as Brcukner’s “triple 000”.  I see I noted this on March 24, 2012.  Also, I’ve often wondered why Dvorak does an unusual dimuendo on the final chord of the New World Symphony (#9).  
Wikipedia attribution link for photo by Beagle84 and Cato Edvardsen of a Norwegian fjord under creative commons Share Alike 3.0 license. 


Last picture: There is a Mozart Place in Adams Morgan (off Columbia Road) in Washington DC. 

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