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Keyboard Interpretation from the 14th to the 19th Century: an introduction
by Howard Ferguson
paperback, 215 pages
Oxford University Press 1975

Bon Journal

Keyboard interpretation

"Have you ever read books about playing the piano?" asked my piano teacher.

I replied a flat no. What is there to read about how to play the piano? I read the music and I play it. What is there to interpret?

In Howard Ferguson's "Keyboard Interpretation from the 14th to the 19th century an introduction," I read about the problems of editors and publishers in interpreting the works of dead composers. It's elevating my lessons to a higher level --- not just playing but interpreting what is to be played.

When I listened to people playing my works, I noticed they weren't playing what I had intended. Why not? I hadn't written in such a way that they'd know or need to decide. I had not written down everything that was on my mind.

Performers are not clairvoyants. How are today's pianists to know what composers in the last centuries had in mind if we don't know the style of those days?

The book is divided into ten chapters covering the different kinds of original keyboard instruments, tempo, phrasing, fingering, ornamentation, and specific problems of the pianist and editor. It was an eye opener to discover that fingering is neither automatic nor obvious.

To become a better pianist, I now need to study music history to understand different styles and conventions in previous periods. I will also need to improve my understanding of music theory to interpret what I read and hear. Music is more than what meets the eye or ear.

What about music of the 20th and 21st centuries? Isn't there also a need for a book about keyboard interpretation?

3 January 2005 Monday

Related links:
analyticalQ personal book reviews
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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.
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