BEETHOVEN ON BEETHOVEN: Playing His Piano Music His Way by William S. Newman

BEETHOVEN ON BEETHOVEN: Playing His Piano Music His Way

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A study of Beethoven's performing intentions that is meant as a guide to today's performing pianists, by noted musicologist Newman, author of the epic three-volume The History of the Sonata Idea and other works. Performers often put their own stamp on classical performances to the detriment of the composer's stated wishes. Here, Newman takes the entire Beethoven oeuvre for piano and, by going directly to any primary source available, attempts to direct today's pianist toward Beethoven's intentions. The ways in which a pianist can affect a composition are many, including choice of piano, tempo, ornamentation, articulation, and style of pedaling. While Newman attempts to discern Beethoven's purposes from the horse's mouth, the infrequency of the composer's written comments leads the author to resort to deductive reasoning and circumstantial evidence (e.g., Beethoven's instructions for an analogous composition might be deduced as his intention for a work at hand). The author also relies on associates of Beethoven (Ries, Czerny, Moscheles, and Schindler) who left useful comments on the composer's wishes. Newman demonstrates as well the differences between modern pianos and those of Beethoven's time; on a modern piano, certain left-hand chords are too heavy when played full out, forcing the modern performer to lighten them, ""thereby reducing them to much more of an accompaniment than Beethoven conceived them to be."" Newman is no hidebound traditionalist. He warns the performer to avoid the rigidity of uncomprising rules, and urges a consideration of Beethoven as a practical innovator. A fine addition, then, to a sparse literature that, in modern times, includes only the essays of Kenneth Drake, Grundmann, and Mies.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 1988
Publisher: Norton