Category Archives: Piano

The pianist’s “divine madness”

Sequentia Cyclica (1948-49) is by any measure a demonic artwork.  One of the longest and arguably the most monumental piece of classical piano music, it is based on this theme, a version of the well-known Gregorian chant Dies irae: This … Continue reading

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Piano recitals (2)

Some recitals offer an anthology of great autonomous works from the canonical repertoire.  Others place works in a sequence to narrate the grand story of a composer, genre, or tradition.  A more recent kind of recital assembles a variety of … Continue reading

Posted in Listening, Piano

Piano recitals (1)

Traditional piano recitals, both live and recorded, consisted in precocious and neurotic virtuosos performing anthologies of canonical compositions by precocious and neurotic geniuses.  This interpretive tradition has recently come to an end, together with its supportive critical and scholarly discourses … Continue reading

Posted in Classical Music, Listening, Piano

Sheltered listening (Beethoven’s “Archduke Trio” under quarantine)

Why did classical music first, among all the artistic genres, respond with enthusiasm and generosity to the current quarantine, making large quantities of its resources freely and globally available?  Even though it is among the least popular genres, why did … Continue reading

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The presence of the friend

Close friends who practice together the exercises of friendship-as-ethic                             mold each other into their Aristotelian “other self” under a bright sun like Vienna’s. In addition to … Continue reading

Posted in Attunement, Collaboration, Friends, Piano

Listening to music as a skill

What if listening to music is a skill, like playing it?  For example, listening to these pieces for ruined pianos arguably requires a skill. In her book Intelligent Virtue (2012), philosopher Julia Annas, an authority in Greek ethics, draws on “the … Continue reading

Posted in Classical Music, Listening, Piano

Listening to a mazurka by Chopin

Here is a tremendous instance of the birth of the lyrical subject in the 19th century. Listening to this early mazurka, you feel you are listening to something coming forth tentatively from your deepest self, not from an outside source.  … Continue reading

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Goethe’s Mignon sings to Wilhelm Meister

From Beethoven to Berg and beyond, a great number of major composers has set to music the poem Kennst du das land (Do you know the land) from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (Book III, Chapter 1, 1795) where the enigmatic adolescent Mignon tells … Continue reading

Posted in Listening, Literature, Piano | Tagged

The pianist-thinker

Certain great pianists spend their lives thinking deeply about music, and feeling torn between the ethereal and the apoplectic – either dancing on the piano (clip 1) or crawling under it (2).  Some times they believe they have mastered their … Continue reading

Posted in Friends, Piano

The regular piano collaborator

Long-term collaborations in classical music used to inspire confidence in the tradition of the genre. Whether we were listening to an LP or the local classical station, we the audience knew that the stability and continuity of several schemes guaranteed … Continue reading

Posted in Collaboration, Piano