Pianists corner

Mark Ainley | An Introduction to Historical Piano Recordings | Piano Talk

POST BY The piano files & Ross McKee Foundation

“Musical performers and academics often focus on what editions of scores or which treatises can provide an understanding of a composer’s intentions, but historical recordings allow us to hear the actual playing of musicians of the past. Although greats like Mozart and Beethoven didn’t live to record (neither did Chopin or Liszt), we do have recordings by legendary composers like Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, as well as of students of Liszt and grand-students of Chopin (as well as at least one pianist who heard Chopin play).

What we hear in these recordings is very different from the playing on the concert stage or on recordings today.   Historical recordings provide an opportunity to travel back in time to hear some of the greatest performers of the past and witness playing that words can scarcely describe. Until today’s pianists have heard Josef Hofmann’s palette of tonal colors, Ignaz Friedman’s magical pedal effects, Marcelle Meyer’s sublimely fluid phrasing, and Dinu Lipatti’s stunningly transparent voicing, their interpretative choices are limited to present-day norms. 

In this insightful presentation, pianophile Mark Ainley will explore the tremendous importance of historical piano recordings and how they can enhance both pianists’ and listeners’ understanding of musical interpretation and the rich array of possibilities that the piano can provide its performers.”

Ross McKee Foundation

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