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Title: Franz Liszt and the development of 19th-century pianism: a re-reading of the evidence
Contributor(s): Davison, Alan  (author)
Publication Date: 2006
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Abstract: While Franz Liszt's remarkable pianistic skills have been the subject of much published scholarship, the precise nature of both his own technical development and his contribution to the evolution of piano playing warrants scrutiny within the context of a flourishing interest in 19th-century performance practice. Such scrutiny is especially justified in relation to piano playing for, as Robert Winter observed adroitly in the recent New Grove entry on piano playing, '[m]uch of the lore surrounding the history of piano playing belongs more properly to the realm of anecdote or even myth than to scholarship; much work in this area remains to be done." In this article I shall revisit some of the well-known materials and preconceptions relating to Liszt's pianism and suggest an alternative to some long-held views. An accurate assessment of the development of Liszt's keyboard technique within the context of 19th-century pianism may well have been obscured by two influential and widespread misconceptions or oversimplifications: firstly, that Liszt was inspired to 're-learn' the piano after hearing Nicoló Paganini; and secondly, that he was the first pianist to systematically use armweight, making him one the first truly 'modern' pianists. These significant elements of Liszt lore have established themselves without ever receiving the scrutiny of many other aspects of his life. Indeed, it would appear that a confluence of several biographical factors and 20th-century preconceptions about the development of piano playing have worked together to obstruct a more historically-informed understanding of Liszt's pianism. Liszt left no comprehensive account in his own words of his technical approach to piano playing, and therein lies much of the difficulty of determining some important aspects of his piano technique. To account for the paucity of references to technique in his later years Liszt's approach to piano playing has sometimes been characterised as 'intuitive', thus removing the necessity to ponder other explanations for the lack of material. Despite this, there is unequivocal evidence of his systematic interest in technique during his early years of 'transcendental execution' (1835-47).
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Musical Times, 147(1896), p. 33-43
Publisher: Musical Times Publications Ltd
Place of Publication: London, United Kingdom
ISSN: 0027-4666
Field of Research (FOR): 190409 Musicology and Ethnomusicology
HERDC Category Description: C2 Non-Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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