Looking Back: The first instalment of the series Traditionen des Klavierspiels [Pianistic Traditions], initiated by Klara Harrer-Baranyi, took place in May of 2006. Harrer-Baranyi’s idea was to use lectures, workshops, master classes, panel discussions, and concerts to facilitate synergies between artistic music-making, musicological research, and music education activities in line with the idea of delineating and defining country-specific pianistic traditions. In keeping with this internationality, the years since then have seen this event format deal in-depth with the traditions of Poland, France, Hungary, Russia, and Germany.

Elisabeth Leonskaja
Elisabeth Leonskaja ©Jean Mayerat

In looking back, some very special moments can be made out: to kick off the series’ focus on Poland (2006), Mieczysław Tomaszewski analysed Chopin’s piano music with reference to documents concerning its reception, and what he turned up was immanently relevant to Regina Smendzianka’s subsequent description of interpretational aesthetics as well as to the teaching of Andrzej Jasinski. The discourse on the idiomatic quality of the French musical tradition (2008) is defined by France’s dissociation of itself from Germany following Germany’s victory in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71. But the broader history of French keyboard works and their interpretation, ranging from the 18th-century French clavicinistes [harpsichordists] to 20th century figures, shows that it takes far more than the explanation of reactive behaviour (or “musical self-defence”, to put it provocatively) to do justice to the essence of French music. This was demonstrated in an exceedingly thorough manner by Olivier Baumont, Charles Timbrell, and Georges Pludermacher.

Alfred Brendel
Alfred Brendel ©Philips & Benjamin Ealovega

The series’ focus on Hungary (2010) revealed direct links between music education, composition, and piano playing—a tradition that finds its main representatives in Bartók, Ligeti, and Kurtág, and that then informed various aspects of the combined symposium and master class given by Ferenc Rados. If one views 20th-century history as a whole, then Stalin’s assumption of power in Russia marked a pronounced fracture. Therefore, any event dealing with the matter of artistic traditions in Russia (2012) undeniably had to be a “political” one. Just how widely Shostakovich and Prokofiev swung back and forth between “artistic autonomy and declarations of political loyalty” was illuminated by Dorothea Redepenning, while Stefan Weiss looked at the significance of Gubaidulina’s piano concerto Introitus. The tradition of the Moscow Conservatory under Nikolai Rubinstein was examined by Eugenia Gurevich, and a crowning highlight was provided by Elisabeth Leonskaja’s concert and master class.

Particularly with regard to the series’ subsequent focus on Germany (2014), one cannot—in light of the many outside musical impulses in play— speak of just one single “tradition” of pianoplaying. This is the case even though precisely the notion of “German culture” brings with it strong connotations, and even though Germany’s musical language dominated the development of European music for centuries. The late-18th-century notion of the Clavierschule [piano treatise] was discussed by Mario Aschauer, Matthias Kirschnereit went into detail on the distinction between Schumann’s and Brahms’s aesthetics that had been sketched out in the preceding lecture by Arnfried Edler, and Ellen Corver spoke about Stockhausen as a figurehead of the International Summer Course in Darmstadt. Christian Glanz then used the descriptions of Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder to mount a convincing argument against the “unreflective use” of the label “romantic”. And in retrospect, the fact that the important pedagogue Peter Feuchtwanger (who passed away in 2016) was a guest of the series in 2014 lent its own very special note to these days spent looking at Germany.

Looking Ahead

The next Traditionen des Klavierspiels event, which focuses on Austria and represents this series’ conclusion, is scheduled for May 2017—and in light of the close links between Austria’s pianistic tradition and the mdw, it goes wonderfully with the university’s bicentennial year and will surely number among the year’s highlights. For this occasion, the Ludwig van Beethoven Department is eagerly awaiting an exceptional guest: Alfred Brendel will be at the mdw to deliver two lectures, in which he will speak about Mozart’s piano playing (Fri., 12 May) and Beethoven’s final piano sonatas (Sat., 13 May). Another special feature will be the opening evening on 4 May: Christopher Hinterhuber and Johannes Marian will perform together live to represent the mdw’s two respective piano departments, while Klara Harrer-Baranyi will present her thoughts.

Peter Feuchtwanger
Peter Feuchtwanger ©Stefan Blido

The master class component is geared toward giving theory the opportunity to inform practice. And here, as well, a significant personality—Paul Badura-Skoda—has been engaged. Stefan Gottfried will examine the importance of Vienna as a piano-making centre in terms of interpretation as well as both theoretical and technical aspects, while Johann Sonnleitner will scrutinise the triad of Hummel, Czerny, and Mälzel’s Metronome. Aspects of the Second Viennese School and the generations that succeeded it will be covered by Stefan Litwin, and Manon-Liu Winter will provide an experience of current trends relating to the piano and the “extended piano”.

The academic contributions will be opened by Martin Eybl with a keynote lecture entitled Clavierland Wien [Vienna, Land of the Piano]. The proceedings will also include gender-related aspects: is Austria’s pianistic landscape male-dominated? And is the presence of women in piano-related artistic activities in fact weaker, even though women have a stronger presence than men in the educational field? Two specialists are scheduled to speak on this theme: Kordula Knaus will deal generally with the issue and then introduce some women pianists who lived prior to 1800 with a focus on Maria Theresia von Paradis, while Melanie Unseld will present the newest research findings on Marianne Martines, a contemporary of Paradis who numbers among the largely undocumented protagonists of her field.

Last but not least, up-and-coming players will not be forgotten: a panel discussion between guests from the fields of concert management, young players’ promotion, and the music school system will address future strategies relating to young people.

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