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Cure for the Romantic Virus

An introduction to principles of metrical/Mathematical analysis

During the last century and a half, the "Romantic Virus" has been solidly entrenched in performances of music by 18th, 19th and even 20th century composers.  Simply stated, it is the compulsion to always play across the bar-line or into the next strong (er) beat and to change 6/8 measures from a trochaic to a iambic meter (The first movements Mozart's sonata in A major and Beethoven's Opus 101 are just two examples).  It mars - actually makes unintelligible - almost all performances of music of the baroque, and classical era.  Romanic composers of course frequently do go across the bar-line, but certainly not exclusively so.  Schubert, Chopin, Brahms and countless others as Faure and Debussy use this romantic trait very judiciously.  It has become standard practice in 19th century and later editions to anachronistically apply contemporary dynamic and especially phrasing and articulation markings to earlier periods.  Applying especially the latter two lock-stock-and-barrel to previous musical periods is one of the most pervasive and gravest errors a performer can make.  Practically all non-Urtext editions corrupt the texts of previous periods - with the blessings of prominent music theorists - and perpetuate this epidemic.  This article presents a methodology I use that may provide a cure.

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Physics and Metaphysics of Piano Playing

Twelve Fundamental Principles

Music Fullness of the Present

In the fall of 1990 I was invited to give an address, to an overflow crowd in the Grande Salle of the Unesco in Paris for the opening of the first International Congress on Haptonomy, to be followed by a piano recital.  Here is the translation of that address.  The recital which took place that same evening is represented on this disc.

It is a somewhat unfamiliar feeling for me to be with you tonight standing up rather than sitting down.  Usually I heed the advice given to the shoemaker: "Cobbler, stick to your last."  but just for once I wanted to make an exception and briefly talk to you about a riddle that my work as a pianist has posed for me over the years, a riddle, a koan if you will, that life seems to have saddled me with.  And my hope is that in sharing some of this journey, it may offer, to you too, a new perspective on hearing and listening to music, in particular at tonight's recital.  The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber relates, in the "Chassidic Books," a question that was put to Rabbi Jizchak of Worki: "What was the sin that Adam committed, what was the original sin?" And the Rabbi answered: "The sin of Adam was that he 'became concerned with tomorrow,' that he 'took thought of tomorrow.'" When I first read this I felt a sigh of relief. At the very least I would have thought that the first act of revolt by our ancestor had something to do with Pride, with the Serpent, or, worse yet, with some mysterious sexual secret. Well, no, not at all: he thought of tomorrow. What is wrong with that? It sure is what most of us seem to be doing most of the time. I at least find it almost impossible to simply wait for "the morrow" with the patience counseled by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke: "as a tree which does not push forth its sap and which remains, in winter, full of confidence that Spring will arrive." Or, as a famous Zen saying has it: "Sitting quietly, Doing nothing, Spring comes and the grass grows by itself."

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Here follows the original version in French.

La Musique: Pléntitude du PreséntLa Musique: Pléntitude du Présent
DeMuze (Dutch)
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Chinese Articles
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