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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a definite mixed bag with its own problems, February 24, 2012
This review is from: The Pianist's Craft: Mastering the Works of Great Composers (Hardcover)
Editor Anderson has rounded up 19 colleagues, most of them academicians, a few being recognized performers, each of whom deals in their own fashion with a single composer. The 19 composers chosen (ranging from Bach to Crumb) represent the bulk of the standard piano repertoire. The essays run from about 8 to 15 pages, and most include some musical examples.

The book does not begin promisingly. Hilary Demske writes about the many diverse elements of Scarlatti's keyboard writing. She emphasizes how those elements invite similar diversity of approach from pianists--who she encourages to develop "deeply personal" interpretations, based on clean, unedited editions. All well and good, but she does not identify any such editions whatsoever, thus missing a major opportunity to assist her readers by comparing and evaluating the many available. Nor does she seem aware of Ralph Kirkpatrick's extensive, highly illuminating preface to his urtext of 60 Scarlatti sonatas (Schirmer), which aims at producing just the kind of informed interpretation that Ms. Demske advocates.

Next, Inge Rosar discusses Bach interpretation. She is a disciple of the late Walter Blankenheim (not well-known outside Germany), and she makes the astonishing statement that "I must thank [him] for all that I have learned about Bach." Apparently no other scholars, performers, recordings, written sources, personal discussions, or individual experiences have had any influence on her! She describes Blankenheim's ideas on such topics as phrasing and articulation (some worthy of consideration, others debatable), but as far as further references are concerned, which would again enlighten the interested reader, she mentions none (not even Paul Badura-Skoda's widely-praised book).

A chapter on Schubert's solo piano works by Susan Duehlmeier swarms with so many factual errors that it cannot be relied upon. A few examples (there are still more): she claims that Moment Musical No.4 contains "flowing triplet motion." (There are no triplets at all in that work.) She says the first Impromptu of Op.90 is "in C Major" (it's C Minor), and the fourth Impromptu is "in A-Flat Minor" (it's A-Flat Major). Duehlmeier believes that the Wanderer Fantasy is derived from a song called "Der Wandern", apparently confusing the actual source ("Der Wanderer") with "Das Wandern," which is completely unrelated. Her shaky command of German is also revealed in her mention of the cycle that Schubert titled simply "Winterreise," which she calls "Der Winterreise." In an aside, she claims that Ravel's "Les [sic] Tombeau de Couperin" is based on a Forlane by Couperin, when in fact only one of the six movements of the Ravel work has any such remote connection. In addition, example 6.19, from the Wanderer Fantasy, is missing a crucial d-natural on the third beat.

(In a recent email communication, Duehlmeier hopes that these (and other) mistakes can be corrected if there is a second edition of the book. The time to catch errors--especially ones so profuse and egregious as these--is before, not after, publication.)

Fortunately, matters are better in the chapters on Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Gary Amano delves into many aspects of Haydn's writing by examining an early sonata. This approach could be useful to students. The Mozart section, by Norman Krieger, contains valid observations on the differences between modern pianos and the instruments of Mozart's day. (Once again, however, no suggestions for further reading, listening, or investigation are provided.) Beethoven is discussed by Timothy Ehlen who is recording all the sonatas. Although again, additional sources of information are almost unmentioned, he does offer many pertinent examples of how vocal, instrumental and genre references invaded Beethoven's pianistic thinking.

An intriguing question-and-answer format is chosen by Louis Nagel to introduce inexperienced performers to Schumann's output for the piano. I do wonder, however, about the source for his claim that Schumann explicitly stated that the "Sphinxes" section of Carnaval should not be played. The following chapter is by Christie Peery Skousen, who examines the technical means of handling issues of tone and phrasing in Chopin.

Little need be said about the remaining chapters, all of which contain some worthwhile insight within their imposed limitations of space. However, a reasonable question should be asked as to how much an aspiring pianist can actually apply by reading a book. This volume deals with advanced concert repertoire that most players will presumably be preparing under the supervision of a teacher or coach. If, however, they are working entirely independently (for whatever reason), it remains unclear how a perusal of one person's condensed written thoughts on the composer in question--and with few or no additional references given--will actually produce a significant outcome in the act of performance.
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