Thursday, June 6, 2013

Schumann and the Piano

I am fascinated by the sound of the piano as a new invention.  People frequently ask whether I play the fortepiano.  I do not, for the best reason in the world:  I fell in love with the sound of the modern piano when I was 3 or 4 and have been fascinated with it ever since.

No, my interest in the newly invented piano is not a desire to be "authentic," but is focused on the impact of the new sound on the ear of those alive at the time to experience its novelty.  What did they hear?  Can I discern in their composition clues to what that might have been?

The composer who has been most helpful to me in that way is Schumann.  He reveled in the sound, made it the central event in many of his compositions both for piano solo and in chamber music.  And his notation effectively conveys that elemental fascination.   For the most part he achieves this by disregarding syntactical conventions, notating instead the specific sounds he wants us to hear.