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An Analytical Study on Performance Practices

An Analytical Study on Performance Practices

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An Analytical Study on Performance Practices

214 pagine
6 ore
Feb 20, 2014


In this collection of academic essays, award-winning pianist and music professor Yaokun Yang shares her carefully compiled analyses of classical music and aesthetics during several different periods, focusing particularly on the aspect of piano performance practice.

Yang, who devoted six years to her research, offers extensive commentary, historical background, and comparisons of varied composers and their music. The pieces she studies include Beethovens piano sonatas, an advanced piano teaching series, the development of opera in different areas, Bachs Brandenburg concertos, Haydns piano sonatas, the Bach-Busoni Chaconne, Brahmss Intermezzo, Olivier Messiaens Vingt regards sur lenfant-Jsus, Prokofievs piano sonatas, Weberns Six Pieces for Large Orchestra, and Schumanns Piano Concerto.

With this collection of analyses, Yang hopes to provide information and commentary to help contemporary pianists recognize the beauty and the challenges of performing different musical styles in appropriate ways.

Feb 20, 2014

Informazioni sull'autore

Yaokun Yang is an award-winning pianist who earned a master of music degree from Emporia State University and a doctor of musical arts degree from the University of Kansas. She is currently teaching at Emporia State University as a visiting professor.

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An Analytical Study on Performance Practices - Yaokun Yang


Analytical Study




Yaokun Yang

Copyright © 2014 Yaokun Yang.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Abbott Press books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting:

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Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

ISBN: 978-1-4582-1425-6 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4582-1426-3 (e)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2014902724

Abbott Press rev. date: 02/18/2014


Analysis of Different Editions of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F Minor


Exploring Piano Classics

Development of Opera

History of Madrigal and Chanson

Analysis of Brandenburg Concerto No.2 in F Major, Mvt. I


Haydn Piano Sonatas: An Examination of Style and Performance


Analysis of Bach-Busoni’s Chaconne


Analysis of Brahms’ Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2

Olivier Messiaen’s Music Style

Color in Musical Styles

Five Movements for String Quartet, Op. 5, Fourth Movement

A Comparison to Asian Music


Chopin, Prelude Op.28, No. 4. in E Minor

Sixth Sonata for Piano, Opus 82, in A Major


An Analysis of Anton Webern’s Six Pieces for Large Orchestra

An Examination of Serialism in Music

A Study of the Piano Concerto in A Minor of Robert Schumann

Works Cited


Analysis of Different Editions of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F Minor

Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas are such cornerstones of the piano literature that no serious pianist fails to include at least a few of them in his or her repertory. Their significance is evident in the extended coverage they receive in virtually every historical and theoretical survey. Besides the survey literature, a great number of publications have been devoted to the sonatas. Many of them provide pianists with invaluable information that could prove essential to a better performance of these masterpieces.

This research paper will examine and analyze piano sonata No.23 Appassionata, a work in which Beethoven escaped from the conservative pattern of early-period piano sonatas. Following a brief examination of the historical background of the work, the author will compare different editions of the piece.

All thirty-two Beethoven’s sonatas were composed between 1795 and 1822. Each piece expresses new creative elements in both style and piano technique. Although the last Beethoven piano sonata was published around 1833, all of his piano sonatas are considered essential subjects study for the pianists, particularly the middle and late periods, which appear regularly in competitions, books, concerts and various editions.

The Background of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) composed thirty-two piano sonatas between the years of 1795 and 1822. It was the time when the Classic Period was changing to the Romantic Period. His piano sonatas show the changes of musical style in form, structure, and his life between 1795 and 1822. Beethoven had three periods in his main music career: the first Vienna period (1792-1802), the middle period (1802-1814), and the last period (after 1815).

Beethoven left Bonn and settled in Vienna in the middle of November 1792.¹ For his first decade in Vienna, he studied with Franz Joseph and absorbed some of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s musical style. About half of Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas composed during his first Vienna period (1792-1802) show Haydn-Mozart Classic influences.

After Beethoven had mastered the classic style of Haydn and Mozart, and also achieved a degree of economic success, his middle period (1802-1814) arose. ² Beethoven’s musical style in this period was more romantic than the Classic. He focused more upon the potential of dramatic musical expressions of emotion rather than musical form. Beethoven’s piano sonatas composed between 1802 and 1814 show the rise of romanticism and his heroic inspirations in music.

By 1815 Beethoven was totally deaf and this marked the arrival of his last period. Because of his deafness, he was isolated. Consequently, the last five sonatas he composed in his final period seem to be more communications between the composer (artist) and music (art) than communications between the composer and his audience.

Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57, known as the Appassionata, is considered to be one of the three great piano sonatas of his middle period.³ Like the early Sonata No. 8, Pathetique, the Appassionata was not named by the composer, but was labeled in 1838 by the publisher of a four-hand arrangement of the work. Moreover, Beethoven considered this piece to be his finest piano sonata and to reflect the emotions of his complete deafness during its composition in his middle period.

General Analysis of the Beethoven Piano Sonata, Appassionata

The first movement is in sonata-allegro form with no repeats, is in 12/8 time, and is roughly 10 minutes long. The movement progresses quickly through startling changes in tone and dynamics. The main theme, in octaves, is quiet and threatening.⁴ The rhythm of the theme is based on the Scottish folk song On the Banks of Allen Water. There is a short but important recurrent four note motif reminiscent of the main theme in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. The second subject is a direct quotation of the first two lines of the folk song. As in Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata the coda is unusually long, containing quasi-improvisational arpeggios which span most of piano’s range at that time. The choice of F minor is shown very clearly because this movement makes frequent use of the deep, dark tone of the lowest F on the piano, which was the lowest note available to Beethoven at the time. Also, this wonderful movement demands virtuoso piano techniques that incorporate tremolo intervals, blocked and broken octaves, trills, varied rhythmic subdivisions, crossing hands, and quick repeated notes.

The second movement is a theme and variations on a slow, quiet, hymn-like tune in D-flat major, containing two eight-bar sections both of which are repeated. The second section starts in A-flat major followed by different variations. The first variation is similar to the original theme with the left hand playing on the after beats. The second variation is an embellishment of the theme in sixteenth notes. The third is a rapid embellishment in thirty-second notes with both hands taking turns playing the theme. The fourth variation is a repetition of the original theme with small changes. Instead of ending on a quiet note, the closing of the second movement contains a surprise of diminished 7th chords; the first chord is pianissimo and the second is fortissimo. These lead without pause into the third movement.

The third movement is also in sonata-allegro. The movement is based on a perpetuum mobile theme, with rapid sixteenth notes that are interrupted for brief moments in the development and coda. ⁵ The coda contains a totally new theme which is very percussive. It leads into a climax in F minor and its dominant seventh, which eventually crashes down. This movement is mysteriously complex and fast-paced. Also, it contains some short melodic fragments and canons, that evoke feelings of passion and despair.

Different Editions of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata

Choosing editions is the first step of performing music of the Classic Period. In general, there are two trends in editing the piano sonatas of Beethoven. The first is based on the original manuscripts of Beethoven. This trend represents an attempt to understand Beethoven’s original intent. The second is based on the editor’s opinions about the piano sonatas, adding many suggestions by the editors themselves. Moreover, between the two totally different trends, some editions distinguish between Beethoven and editors by using different sizes of notation or express the editors’ opinions in the preface and footnote. It is best way to learn the Beethoven piano sonatas by using the original edition, However, other editions which belong to the second trend also offer valuable insights. Therefore, when learning the Beethoven piano sonatas, one should compare various editions as much as possible. Until fairly recently pianists had access to only a limited number of the Beethoven piano sonatas. With the increased interest in scholarship more editions become available. Among these editions, some are viewed as important and available, such as, Wallner-Henle, Breitkopf & Hartel (revised by G. Schirmer& Kalmus), Heinrich Schenker-Universal Edition, Artur Schnabel-Simon-Schuster, Tovey-Craxton-ABRSM (Royal Music Conservatory). ⁶ The Schenker edition has the highest academic research value. The Schnabel edition is filled with the personal characteristics of the editor, representing Schnabel’s thorough musical understanding of Beethoven’s music. This edition provides significant contributions of fingerings for playing the Beethoven piano sonatas. However, his tempo suggestions can become a big problem for the pianist. The Tovey edition comprises a many valuable comments that lead the pianist to think more critically about the sonatas. In addition, more and more editions are becoming popular because of the editor’s thorough academic research.⁷ These include Martienssen-C. F. Peter, Koehler, Ruthardt-C. F. Peter, Lamond-Breikopf & Hartel, d’ Aabert-Carl Fischer, Casella-Ric, Dukas-Durand, L. Weiner, among others. Recently, two special scholarly editions have emersed; the editions of Clandio Arrau and K. Taylor-Allans.

Instructions to the performer

The most important purpose for researching the various editions of Beethoven’s piano sonatas is to separate the instructions of the composer and the annotations of the editors including additional markings in the score. As much as possible, one should follow the original intention of the composer. Therefore, to adhere to the principles of Beethoven in the piano sonatas, one should conduct some detailed research in Urtext Editions. Sometimes, small differences appear between the first editions and the manuscripts. These differences are usually explained in the notes. Beethoven included the most explicit instructions in his piano sonatas, including tempo dynamics, phrasing, expression, and pedal. This is particularly true in his period and passage, expression and pedal, etc, in particular in his late period piano sonatas, and the performer should not neglect any markings in the Urtext Editions.

Editorial Annotations

When practicing the Beethoven piano sonatas, the instructions of Beethoven should be honored first, and then the annotations of editors. These should be analyzed and researched to determine Beethoven’s intentions. However, Beethoven’s piano sonatas have appealed to so many editors, from his students Czerny and Moscheles to the great performers Hans von Bulow, and Arthur Schnabel, who all added their own opinions beyond the Beethoven’s intentions. Unfortunately, editors sometimes mixed their own ideas with Beethoven’s, which can be confusing for performers. Even though some of the editors’ suggestions embody a profound knowledge and penetrating insight, some opinions actually go against Beethoven’s own thoughts. Schnabel edition for example, not only adds stress markings, forte and piano markings, and staccato markings, but also changes slurs and phrases in a seemingly casual pattern, including some clearly marked by Beethoven himself. For example, in the Piano Sonata in G Major, Op. 14, No. 2, 1st movement, Schnabel changes shorter slurs into longer slurs. This kind of change obviously is suitable for a more romantic style than intended in Beethoven’s original score. Moreover, this kind of change is not suitable for the rigid musical style of the Classic Period.

Analysis of Various Editions of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata, Appassionata

The 1st Movement

Carl Czerny suggested playing the first movement of the Appassionata at a tempo of 108-120 for the dotted quarter note. Moscheles, von Bulow and Schnabel suggest a tempo of 120-126 per the dotted quarter note. Although Czeny’s and Moscheles’s editions are not the commonly used editions, their suggestions of tempo are insightful because Czerny was taught by Beethoven himself and Moscheles possibly listened to Beethoven or his students perform this piece. There is no doubt that Czerny’s and Moscheles’s tempo suggestions have considerable academic value.

In Kenneth Drake’s view the performer should keep the tempo steady and play the rhythm clearly, which expresses the intensity of the opening motif.⁸ Arthur Schnabel suggests subdividing into 12 beats per measure instead of the usual 4 beats. This can convey the initial highest tension.

The author suggests that trills be played the same way throughout the movement. In the Urtext and Henle editions, when the note to be trilled is preceded by the same pitch, in order to avoid a feeling of repetition, an appoggiatura can be added before the trilled note as in measures three, seven, and nine.

In the Schnabel edition, there are six trills in the first 23 bars. Four of these have an appoggiatura, two do not. The rule for trills shakes with an appoggiatura requires a turn to be played with triplets. As a rule, trills shake without a turn, begin on the upper note (m. 11).

When addressing repeated finger motions, as in measure 24, it can be difficult to keep repeating one note eleven times per measure at a fast speed. Henle suggests using the common fingering of 3, 2, and 1 on the E flats. However, this fingering can be difficult at faster tempos. Von Bulow edition suggests using fingering number 1 and 2 to make sure that all of the repeated notes are played clearly. However, Schnabel suggests using the second finger to play all the repeated notes when inserting fingers 4 and 5 or 3 and 5 to play the baseline harmony.

In the Schnabel edition, throughout the movement, the tempo has been changed in almost every passage from the theme to the development, and even in the coda.⁹ Each part has a different tempo marking indicating where the performer should be speed up or slow down. This makes the movement feel as if it was cut into fragments, both in the performers’ mind and audience’s ears. Changing the basic speed in this way is antithetical to Beethoven’s original intent for the piece. It is much more in keeping with later Romanticism than the Classicism of Beethoven.

The 2nd Movement

Czerny suggested playing this movement at a tempo of between 108 and 112 beats per minute for the eighth note. Moscheles, von Bulow and Schnabel suggest tempo of 92, 100-108, and 96 beats per minute, respectively. From Beethoven’s tempo indication of Andante con moto, it can be inferred that this movement should be performed at a fluent and gently flowing speed, which shows that it is not a terribly slow movement. Therefore, the pianist should not vary the tempo greatly, but instead focus upon rhythmic subtitles.

Usually, Beethoven is very careful of using crescendo, accelerando and diminuendo because the piano in the Classical Period could not make large dynamic changes. However, Moscheles added many crescendo to his edition, in the second movement of the Appassionata. For example, in the Urtext Edition, Beethoven put a crescendo in m. 83. Moscheles added a crescendo before m. 83. This sound suddenly outburst breaks the consonant harmony and the development of reaching the climax.

The 3rd Movement

In 1840 Czerny suggests playing this movement at a tempo of between 132 and 144 beats per minute, while Moscheles, von Bulow and Schnabel suggest the tempo of 152, 132-138, 147 beats per minute, respectively. Beethoven’s tempo marking for the third movement is Allegro ma non troppo, because he predicted that performers would play this movement very fast. Because the

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