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An accompanying CD finds Lear providing commentary upon the études and examples of both standard and manuscript-derived performance. However, added to the indubitable elements of her findings from the manuscripts, Lear also gives comments which are not derived by the manuscripts, but rather just good piano playing and teaching. For example, she points out that the pedal should not run through the chords of the left hand in the Black Key Etude Op 10 No 5 (which is given, by the way, a scintillating performance by Lear) [listen -- 0:00-0:21], and suggests careful voicing in the A flat Op 25 No 8. I would have preferred if she had kept to manuscript-derived comments, even if somewhat pedestrian (there is no diminuendo marked in such and such a bar, for example) rather than clutter the lecture with this other material. We need the data she has discovered, not the comments which any good teacher should automatically provide.

Professor Guy Jonson and Angela Lear evaluating an edition of Chopin's Preludes. © Libra Records Ltd
Professor Guy Jonson and Angela Lear evaluating an edition of Chopin's Preludes. © Libra Records Ltd

Lear also comments upon rubato, and non-simultaneous hands and other 'exaggerations'. Here I find issue to disagree. From a considerable body of recorded evidence (78rpm recordings of pianists born as early as 1824) pianists did indulge in extensive rubato and non-simultaneous hands not as a mere trick from their expressive tool-kit, but as a thorough-going stylistic feature. Just as no modern written notation of a song by Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald, will have evidence of the slides, glides, swoops, micro-tonal inflections, vibratos, rubati and other rhythmic fluctuations that these excellent singers infused the rather paltry music with, so too, the notation of the nineteenth century piano music does not contain elements that we now view as exaggerations, but were at the time considered perfectly acceptable, and much used, expressive devices.

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Copyright © 14 February 2004 Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Canada


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