What Did They Play?: The Changing Repertoire of the Piano Recital from the Beginnings to 1980

Article excerpt

THE STORY OF THE EMERGENCE of the piano recital from the almost circus-like environment of early 19th-century musical entertainments and its transformation into one of the most serious and uniquely personal types of musical experience is well known.' What has been less explored is the structure and content of the recital. What have the recitalists played; what types of solo piano works; how many and which composers; in what sort of overall structure? What changes in such features have there been over time?

This article addresses such questions by analysing a small sample of the nearly 15,000 recital repertoires compiled by George Kehler in his book The piano in concert, published in 1982.2 For each entry Kehler records the name of the performer, the date and venue, and the repertoire played. Entries are arranged under the names of the pianists in alphabetical order, and for each pianist in chronological order of the recitals. They are sequentially numbered from 1 to 14,708, though there are in fact slightly more than that number since in a few cases a series of two or more recitals (such as a Beethoven sonata cycle) has been grouped together under one entry number.

The sample analysed here comprises only 280 of Kehler's collection, rather less than two per cent of the total. The findings are presented for five chronological periods, from the beginning to 1860, and then in four periods each of 30 years from 1861-90 to 1951-80. For the first period, where entries are fewer, 40 recitals were chosen, and for each of the other four periods, 60. The sample was chosen by taking for each period a number of pianists judged to be, for the most part, amongst the leading performers of their time. For the first two periods, where entries are fewer, this criterion had to be somewhat relaxed. For those pianists with an appreciable number of entries in Kehler, who constitute the majority, there has been further individual sampling. For example, in the extreme case of Hans von Bulow, of whose programmes Kehler had been able to locate as many as 177, every tenth recital in chronological order was studied. The pianists and the number of their recitals used are listed, period by period, in fig.1.

Exception might be taken to the method of sampling; it cannot be claimed to have produced a random sample of Kehler's nearly 15,000 programmes. This hardly seems to matter, however, since Kehler's entries are themselves not a random sample of the recitals actually played; they depend on what historical records chance to have survived, and how many of them Kehler has been able to find. That his near 15,000 grossly understate the number of recitals actually played is surely obvious; 15,000 concerts over a period of even 150 years is an average of less than two per week.

Only a small fraction of the early concerts was devoted to solo piano music. Even Chopin, in his first public appearance in Vienna in 1829, had to share the billing with an orchestra, a singer, and a ballet. Nevertheless, these early entertainments have been sampled by the same technique as the rest, partly to establish the proportions of what it is convenient to call 'solo' and 'mixed' recitals, and partly to discover what music pianists were able to present in the limited opportunity which the mixed recital afforded them. In analysing the data, however, only the solo works played by the pianist have been counted.

Fig. 2 shows the numbers of mixed and solo recitals for each of the five periods, both in absolute figures and as percentages of the total. In the first period the mixed form naturally predominated, but by the beginning of the third period in 1891 it had all but completely disappeared. In the second period ten of the 60 recitals were of the mixed form. But of these ten, six were played in the first decade (1861-70), two were played in the USA, which was some 30 years behind Western Europe in the development of public music making in the mid-19th century, and in the remaining two the recitalist was Clara Schumann, who of all the great pianists of the day remained, for reasons not entirely clear, the most wedded to the mixed format. (Her preference is the more surprising in that she had given a number of solo recitals as early as the mid-18405, only a few years after Liszt had pioneered the concept, and had been satisfied with the experience.) In the following period (1891-1920) one of the only two mixed recitals was played in the USA, the other in Moscow. In Western Europe, at least, it thus seems that the solo recital had completely triumphed by about 1870.

Less well known, but perhaps as important as the changing balance in the numbers of mixed and solo recitals, was the fundamental change which occurred in the first half of the century in the character of the mixed recital. Gradually the solo piano component rose to much greater prominence; the popularity of the virtuoso pianists of the 18303 and 18403 enabled them to dictate the overall structure of the event to a much greater degree. The number of performers other than the solo pianist was gradually reduced, and they came to be described in programmes and advertisements as 'assistant artists', with the soloist as 'Concertgeber(in)', to emphasise who was the leading attraction. Clara Schumann was described as 'Concertgeberin' in a concert in Brunswick as early as 1835, when she was only 15 years old. Moreover, the recitalists relied less on the tricks and showmanship of the earlier musical extravaganzas, with pianists playing their own fantasias and improvisations featuring eye- and ear-catching effects, in favour of more solid and demanding fare.

Ignaz Moscheles demonstrated as early as the 1830s that the mixed format could accommodate the 'historical' recital which he pioneered. In 1837 in London's Hanover Square Rooms he dominated a mixed concert in which, along with some brief vocal interludes, he played virtually a complete solo recital: three Bach preludes and fugues; a Weber sonata; two Beethoven sonatas (opp.31 no.1 and 81a); some of his own studies; and some Scarlatti (on harpsichord). The mixed form had proved capable of being adapted to serious musical purposes even before Liszt, in 1839, first dispensed entirely with 'assistant artists' and grandiloquently announced 'Le concert, c'est moi'.3

These changes were due primarily to the efforts and artistic integrity of the pianists themselves, though they also required increasing sophistication on the part of audiences (which tended to lag behind). The influence of the promoters and managers of the concerts told in the opposite direction. They feared that box office takings would suffer if concerts were devoted entirely to the sound of a solo piano, and to serious compositions demanding more attentive listening than the familiar meretricious, crowd-pleasing exhibitionism they favoured.

There was, admittedly, a degree of justification for such fears. Alien Lott, in his very informative book From Paris to Peoria,4 traces the development of American musical taste through the successive tours of five European pianists, from Leopold von Meyer in 1845-47 to Hans von Biilow in 1875-76. In the first tour Meyer's own Fantasia on the Star Spangled Banner, transcriptions of opera numbers, and improvisations were the most appreciated type of fare, and the success of his tour was enhanced by Meyer's behaviour on stage, which was that of a showman and at times even of a clown. By the end of Bulow's tour 30 years later, however, audiences could take demanding classical programmes played by an austere artist who had successfully resisted the pleas of his manager to sweeten his programmes with bravura works. By then, music lovers and press critics were discussing Bulow's prowess as an interpreter of particular composers and even of particular works.

The tension between artistic integrity and the demands of the box office is of course a familiar theme. It was poignantly illustrated by Clara Schumann's experiences during her first tour in Paris in 1832, at the age of 12. She was dismayed by what Pamela Pettier, who has researched her early career, calls the 'gaudy culture' of music recitals in the Paris of the 18305, 'with concerts featuring six, eight and ten pianos played four hands, bizarre combinations of unusual instruments, and even comedy acts'. Urged by her father and the concert promoters Clara at first tried to fit into this pattern by playing 'the latest trinkets from Paris or Vienna'. But such was the strength of character of this remarkable young woman that by 1840 she was insisting on programmes based on Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann and Mendelssohn. Pettier has to concede, however, that such recitals 'were not always met with great enthusiasm'.5

There was of course another factor influencing the transformation of the early piano recital, namely, the changes taking place simultaneously in other forms of public music-making, especially orchestral concerts. These, too, had been 'dumbed down' in the early 19th century to provide popular entertainments rather than serious musical experiences. Even in so musical a city as Leipzig the Gewandhaus programmes had included liberal doses of easylistening works by contemporary composers quite forgotten today. When a Beethoven symphony was programmed, it was not unknown for undemanding vocal items to be sandwiched between the second and third movements, the concert managers presumably believing that the audience could not be expected to remain attentive throughout a long work without some relief.

MATTERS changed quickly when Mendelssohn took up the reins of the concerts in 1835, bringing his scholarship and high artistic standards to bear.6 The quality of performance was greatly improved, concert programming was refashioned to present great works of composers both living and dead, and programmes were cast into some sort of logical selection and order: an overture, a concerto, a symphony, with perhaps a bracket of lighter pieces inserted somewhere. Mendelssohn's influence spread well beyond Leipzig through his work as a conductor throughout Europe. Clara Schumann was encouraged to pursue her own bent by her friend Mendelssohn, ten years older than she, and adopted a similar structure for her piano recitals. Moscheles, a former teacher of Mendelssohn, and who in 1848 was appointed Professor of Piano in the Leipzig Conservatory which his pupil had founded, was already performing along similar lines.

Varied influences, then, were all working in the same direction, and by the middle of the century public music-making had been substantially reoriented. The era of the virtuosi and their flamboyant and meretricious style of musical entertainment was virtually over. But the virtuosi should be credited with helping to enhance the appeal of the solo piano and for establishing the financial and artistic viability of the solo recital. What music did the new type of recital offer the public?

In recording for each period details of the 60 recital programmes (40 for the period to 1860) no note was taken of the number of items by each composer in a given recital, if only because of the difficulty of defining 'item'. Instead, merely the name of each composer one or more of whose works were played was noted, irrespective of how large, for example in terms of playing time, the contribution of the work or works was. Thus the units of counting are what will be termed 'composer appearances', that is, the number of concerts in each period in which one or more compositions of a given composer appeared.

Fig-3 presents the total numbers of such composer appearances for each period, giving in columns 1 to 12 the numbers for eleven 'named' composers (Bach gets two columns, one for works played in their original form and the second for transcriptions). Column 13 totals columns 1 to 12, and column 14 totals composer appearances for all composers other than those named in columns 1 to 12. For each period the first line gives the number of appearances in actual figures, and the second line transforms these into percentages of all composer appearances. In all five periods the eleven named composers accounted for well over 60 per cent of the total; but the contribution of the other composers still varied between over one-third in 1891-1920 and only a little over one-sixth in 1951-1980.

Amongst the named composers, three stand out: Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt. Between them these three accounted for nearly half (49.5 per cent) of all composer appearances in the first period. As was to be expected their lead fell considerably as more and more new piano music was written. But they still accounted for 36.9. 37.8 and 31.7 per cent successively.

1951-1980 saw a sharp reversal of this falling tendency, but only because of a large jump in the popularity of Beethoven. Chopin and Liszt have never quite recovered their position in the pre-i86o popularity stakes, thereafter declining, though not monotonically, to numbers of appearances rather less than two-thirds of those of Beethoven in the case of Chopin, and rather less than one-third in that of Liszt.

The prominence of Beethoven, especially in the most recent period, would be even more marked if account were taken of the fact that he was featured in more single-composer recitals than anyone else (12 out of 28 in all five periods combined; six out of ten in 1951-1980). Other singlecomposer recitals featured Chopin (9), Schubert and Schumann (2 each), and Weber, Liszt, and Rachmaninov (1 each).7

The dominance of Beethoven did not, however, mean that all his output was equally popular. Some ten or 12 sonatas were far more frequently played than the rest: opp.27/2, 30/2, 53,57, 81a and 90, and the last five. Probably half of the 32 were never played at all in any of the programmes under analysis, except, of course, for the 32-sonata cycle which several pianists offered, following the lead of Charles Halle, who first presented such a cycle in 1860.8 Of the variations three sets stood out: the 'Eroica' op.35; the 32 in C minor; and the 'Diabelli'.

In the case of Chopin, the whole solo piano oeuvre was well represented. The two great sonatas in B[musical flat] minor and B minor were both frequently played, as were other longer works: the ballades, scherzi, and the F minor Fantaisie op.49- Shorter works were sometimes played as a complete opus number, such as 12 Études op.io, but perhaps more often in 'brackets' of two or more pieces in the same genre.

Liszt's B minor Sonata was also often played, but many of his 'composer appearances' consisted of a rather eclectic choice of works of differing lengths and musical value. It was some time after Liszt himself ended his virtuoso period in the late 18405 before the public began to lose its appetite for the works characteristic of that period: the fantasias on operatic themes, the transcriptions, and the like. And of course there are always recitalists in our third period Leopold Godowsky stands out in this category - who like their programmes to include plenty of works of transcendental technical difficulty, and for them Liszt was and remains a rich and obvious source of material.

Schubert had long lagged behind Chopin and Liszt. The considerable increase of his popularity in the final period is usually attributed to the championship of Schnabel, who featured the sonatas in his recitals of the intenvar years. Indeed, it has even been claimed that in the later 19th and early ioth centuries Schubert's sonatas were actually unknown. This claim in part relies (unreliably!) on the testimony of Rachmaninov, who famously confessed in an interview in 1928 that not only did he not play Schubert's sonatas, he did not even know that they existed.9 Given his status as one of the greatest pianists of the day, this seems impressive. But Rachmaninov had come to his career as a concert soloist only late in life, and he never had time to develop a really extensive repertoire of solo works, let alone of concert!.

Schubert's sonatas, admittedly, were not as often played in the 19th century as they deserved; but they cannot be said to have been unknown. Clara Schumann played the Bl? major in Vienna as early as 1866; Bulow played the A major (0.959) and the A minor (0.845) both in America and in Europe; Carl Wolff also played one of the A minor sonatas (which one is not known) in an all-Schubert recital in 1877. The series of Monday Popular Concerts staged in London's St James' Hall from 1862 to 1890 regularly featured Schubert sonatas, of which the G, late A and B[musical flat] majors were the most popular. The last was played seven times between 1863 and 1882.10 But it is true that Schubert was more often represented in the i9th century by shorter works such as the Moments musicaux and the impromptus; the only long work frequently played was the Wanderer Fantasia.

PERHAPS as surprising as the relative neglect of Schubert is the persistent popularity of Schumann. Although Schumann has always had his champions his compositions seem not to have been very highly regarded in the mid-i9th century, especially by his fellow composers. Chopin is said never to have played anything of Schumann; Wagner dismissed him; Liszt did turn to his works late in life, and apologised for neglecting them in earlier decades, but still felt his music unsuitable for public recitals. Even Clara, for all her efforts on behalf of Robert's music, acknowledged that the public found his longer works (which Schumann himself never heard in concert) difficult to understand. She introduced them cautiously, playing at first only extracts rather than the complete work. She did not play the C major Fantasy until 1866, nor the first sonata until 1884, and she is not known to have played the Abegg variations at all." Yet in the last four periods Schumann hovered around ten per cent of all composer appearances, ranking third in 1861-1890, third equal (with Liszt) in 1891-1920, and second equal (with Chopin) after Beethoven in 1951-1980.

One explanation is suggested when we consider the structure of the piano recital in terms other than merely the composers represented. Since the 1870s, at the latest, there was a conscious attempt to achieve in recital programmes a balance of solidity and variety, involving amongst other things a mix of what might be termed major and minor works. These terms, obviously, are vague; but the intention is to differentiate between compositions of sufficient artistic weight to stand on their own in a programme and those better suited to be coupled with other similar works in a 'bracket'.

An appropriate model on which a consensus seems to have emerged envisaged five or six composers in all; a variety of styles, with perhaps a roughly chronological order of presentation to provide a sense of coherence; and a judicious balance of major and minor works. Possibly no great pianist did more to popularise this model than Hans von Bülow in his mature years.

A typical Bülow recital of the 18705 might start with a substantial Bach work - of the 51 Bülow repertoires assembled by Kehler for the year 1873, no fewer than 16 started with the Chromatic fantasia and fugue; then, either immediately before, or immediately after, or before and after the intermission one or sometimes two major works; sometimes, especially if there was only one truly major work, a piece of intermediate stature, something like Mendelssohn's Variations sérieuses; and two or three brackets of minor works by Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, or Mendelssohn.

Return now to the question of Schumann's popularity. The eleven named composers in fig. 3 differ in the extent to which their works fall into the major or minor categories. It is yet one more measure of Beethoven's greatness that his numerical preponderance in fig. 3 rests entirely on his role as a composer of major works. (A bracket of minor Beethoven works is perhaps barely conceivable.) At the other extreme Mendelssohn, with the exception of his Variations sérieuses (a major minor work, or a minor major work?), finds his way into Kehler's repertoires almost entirely as a composer of short pieces easily capable of being assembled into attractive brackets. His period of relative popularity in the decades immediately following his death rested on this aspect of his output; the popularity has not subsequently stayed the course.

Schumann, on the other hand, wrote copiously in both major and minor categories, and was useful for this reason to those planning programmes. Admittedly, several of the major works are really only collections of minor pieces, with little or no musical thread binding them together. (There may be other types of thread, literary or biographical.) The longer works most frequently played were those least damaged by this criticism: the C major Fantasy, the Etudes symphoniques, Carnaval. Faschingsschwanh aus Wien, an amiable and easy-listening longer work, was also popular. These compositions often enough did duty as a major work. But Schumann's minor works were also often played in brackets. Kehler's collection shows that his large number of composer appearances arose, in part, from this ability to fill both major and minor slots.

Brahms, and more particularly Debussy and Bartok, naturally appear later in the programmes. But even allowing for this they have perhaps never achieved quite the degree of exposure the importance and originality of their contributions to piano literature warrant. Perhaps it is simply that their works for solo piano are more impressive for their quality and originality than for their actual number.

Bach, on the other hand, was more prominent than many seem to think. The combined total of his appearances in the original and transcription columns put him in fourth place in three of the five periods. He was relatively neglected, however, in 1951-80. Maybe the sample of pianists chosen inadvertently brings this about; the inclusion in it of Rosalyn Tureck and Glenn Gould would doubtless have altered the figures. It may also be, though, that the later 20th century's enthusiasm for authenticity made some artists nervous about including Bach in piano recitals, and caused them to feel that it was better left to specialists to tread such hallowed ground.

The composer not so far mentioned, Mozart, appeared relatively rarely in the solo recital, except in the most recent period. In the earlier periods the prevailing Romanticism might account for this. But it could also be that some pianists and their audiences shared the belief, lèse majesté to most but at least arguable to some, that unrivalled as was Mozart's contribution to the piano concerto his works for solo piano, a few acknowledged masterpieces apart, are not in fact very interesting.12 In any event in the structural model of the piano recital already discussed even the best of Mozart's sonatas may not have seemed weighty enough to bear the responsibility of the 'major work' slot around which the rest of the programme was to be built.

What of the 'other' composers? Who were they? In the two periods when their contribution was at its peak, between 1891 and 1950, about 80 individual composers were involved. Rather than simply name them it may be more helpful to classify the sources from which they were mainly recruited by the programme planners. (It will be obvious that some of the names to be mentioned could well have been included in more than one list.) In what follows the numbers in brackets are those of the times the composer named featured in the recitals of the period.

The first two sources are chronological extensions of the range of composers played in earlier periods. At one end there is the pre-Beethoven category, only Bach and Mozart figuring amongst the named composers. Other composers in this category were modestly represented in the recitals of both of the peak periods, 1891-1920 and 1921-1950. Most of them, of course, did not strictly speaking write for the piano. They include Rameau, Lully, Corelli, Gluck, Scarlatti, Clementi and Haydn. Of these only Scarlatti appeared in more recitals in 1921-50 (4) than in 1891-1920 (2), on his way to becoming an established, if minor, member of the pianistic canon.

It is perhaps surprising to find Haydn so obscurely placed, with only three and one appearances in the two periods respectively. A glance through the pages of Kehler confirms that this was not a consequence of sample bias; Haydn was indeed rarely played. The only work played at all often was his Andante and Variations in F minor, a favourite piece with Anton Rubinstein.

At the other end, the category Contemporary Composers obviously overlaps with other categories, and the number of such composers listed here for 1891-1920 may be understated for this reason. Moszkowski (3), Scriabin (3) and Franck (2) stand out. In the following period this category becomes more numerous (and Bartok as well as Debussy now appear amongst the named composers). Scriabin goes up to five appearances, Ravel to seven, and they are joined by Stravinsky and Prokofiev (6 each), Poulenc (3), and Barber and Hindemith (1 each).

The third category expands the range of composers culturally rather than chronologically. It parallels the emergence of ethnicity and nationalism as major historical forces in the fields of politics and international relations. This development awakened interest in national and regional forms of dance and folk music, and was supported in this by the rash of establishment of Conservatories outside Germany and Austria between 1850 and 1875.13 Composers in this category in 1891-1920 included Anton Rubinstein (8), Tchaikovsky (7), Macdowell (6), Grieg (4), Balakirev (2), and Smetana and Albeniz (1 each).

This source was less fertile in 1921-50, Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky having almost completely disappeared, and Grieg and Macdowell entirely so. (The brief popularity of the last named had depended heavily on the championship of his former teacher, the American pianist Bloomfield Zeisler, who died in 1927). These losses were only partly offset by the appearance of Granados (4), Villa Lobos (3), and Musorgsky (1).

A fourth category might be called, perhaps a trifle unfairly, Obscure Composers. A praiseworthy feature of the recitalists of the period 1891-1920 was their willingness to offer a hearing to minor composers, new or old, who had not achieved a firm position in the repertoire. Amongst those placed here are Schütt (4), Loeillet and Raff (2 each), and Schobert, Gradener, Leschetizky, Scott, and Brockway (i each). Some of these, if not really making the grade as composers, enjoyed a deserved reputation in other ways, notably Leschetizky, one of the most celebrated and influential teachers in the history of the piano. None of these composers reappeared in 1921-50, perhaps because they had been given their chance to shine and had not shone brightly enough.

Finally there is the familiar case of the composer who plays his own works in public. In the early years of the piano recital playing one's own works was not thought to be in bad taste; on the contrary, the distinction between composing and performing was far from apparent, and the ethical question mark hung rather over playing the works of others. Opinions on this issue were reversed only gradually, presumably in part because of the increasing volume of the compositions of others clamouring for presentation. But additionally, by the late 19th century the balance of skills had shifted; none were as gifted in both directions as Mozart or Beethoven, but there were now many pianistswould-be-composers, with the emphasis very much on the first rather than the second. We do not think today of Anton Rubinstein, Gabrilovich, Hofmann or Horowitz as more than at best very minor composers.

In both of the periods under discussion many pianists did not hesitate to display their own works. The motive was not merely vanity, or the hope of improving the sale of sheet music, to the financial benefit of the composer/ performer. The earlier expectation that the performer would play his own works had by no means completely died out, kept alive by the belief of some audience members that a pianist's interpretive and technical prowess were best displayed when playing his own works. And of course the names of some pianists had become inextricably bound up with one or more of their own compositions. In the 1920s and 1930s Rachmaninov found it as impossible to get off stage until he had played his Prelude in C# minor as Liszt had done, 80 or 90 years earlier, before yielding to the clamour for his Fantasia on Robert le Diable.

Composers falling into this category in 1891-1920 included the following (numbers in brackets refer to the total number of times a work of the pianist named was played, the composer being also the performer in most, but not all, cases): Paderewski (7); Gabrilovich and Rachmaninov (5 each), Hofmann and Godowski (2 each). In the following period the first two of these dropped out, but this loss was partly compensated by the number of times Rachmaninov played his own works. This was not the result of vanity on Rachmaninov's part, but of the fact that embarking in middle age on a new career as concert pianist, driven by poverty and the need to feed a family, he at first lacked any substantial repertoire except for his own works.

A DRAMATIC CHANGE is apparent in the last period, 1951-80. In sympathy with the overall decline of composer appearances those of 'other' composers, which had reached three figures in each of the preceding periods, fell to a mere 30. Moreover, this modest number was not as widely spread over either pianists or composers as previously. Of the 12 pianists sampled the two Russians, Richter and Gilels, between them accounted for 16 of the 30, and it was mainly due to the programmes of these two that exactly half of the 30 involved works by Russian composers: Prokofiev (4); Scriabin (3); Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Musorgsky (2 each); Kabalevsky and Stravinsky (1 each). This was not simply a matter of national pride, or of the fact that Russian Conservatories were strongly biased towards Russian music. In the Stalinist era Russian artists seeking permission to travel abroad to play elsewhere were expected to indicate an intention to display Russian and Soviet works.14

In these 60 recitals other sources of 'other' composers were little in evidence. Pre-Beethoven music was represented only twice. Richter, perhaps surprisingly but in line with his practice of playing only music he really liked, included a Handel suite in a 1963 recital; Brendel, not at all surprisingly, included a Haydn sonata in a recital in 1974 which was one of a series in Carnegie Hall, each consisting of works by Haydn, Beethoven, and Schumann.

Though a majority of the 30 composer appearances involved works actually written in the 20th century, only four represented the major German/ Austrian and French schools of 20th-century composition. Pollini played Webern's Variations op.27, composed in 1935-36, in 1975; in 1978 Cherkassky offered Messiaen's Île de Feu I and II, dating from 1949-50; in 1966 Barenboim played Berg's Sonata no.1, written as early as 1907-08; and in 1959 Arrau contributed Schoenberg's Klavierstücke op.11, dating from 1909. Apart from the Russian composers only five appearances went outside the German/Austrian mainstream: Ravel (4) and Granados (1). And none of the 30 could fairly be called 'Obscure'. Thus in the last period 'other' composers were not only far fewer in total, but were drawn from much more restricted sources.

The total number of composer appearances for each period has already been given, but the average number of composers per recital and the distribution of recitals by numbers of composers are also of interest. The data are given in fig.4.

The average number of piano composers in the period to 1860 was naturally small, because most of the recitals were 'mixed'. In the three following periods the average did not change much: 5.2, 5.7 and 5.1 respectively. But there were some changes in distribution. In the two periods between 1861 and 1920 numbers varied over a very wide range, from one to ten in the earlier period and one to 12 in the later. The most common numbers were five, six or seven, but these represented less than half of the recitals. The period 1921-50 saw a limited but definite movement towards a smaller spread. The average number dropped only slightly, but the number of recitals featuring nine or more composers declined from five to two, none reaching ten or more. Further, exactly half were now of either five or six composers.

The biggest change, however, came in the last period. Total composer appearances declined from over 300 to 177, so that the average number of composers per recital fell sharply to below three. Only one recital included works by as many as six composers, none had more than that, and the number of single composer recitals increased from four to ten. Over two-thirds of the 60 recitals featured no more than three composers.

It might be wondered whether this dramatic change could in part be a statistical illusion, arising from a chance oversampling of pianists who favoured less varied programmes? As a partial check on this, four recitalists were chosen whose playing careers straddled the 1950-1951 boundary. For each of them six recitals (not already analysed) on either side of this boundary were randomly selected, and the average number of composers in each of the eight cases was calculated. The results are shown in fig. 5; the years within which the recitals were played are also shown.

For all four pianists the number of composers per recital was smaller after 1950-51 than before it. The steepness of the decline varied from pianist to pianist, being least marked for the German Kempff, who already favoured fewer composers than the others in the earlier period. But the average decline for the four pianists combined (36 per cent) is only a little below that calculated from the overall data in fig.4 (42 per cent), which tends to confirm that the major change observed is not a merely accidental result of the choice of pianists.

It would be interesting to be able to calculate from Kehler's data some indication of the average duration of recitals in the four periods since 1860. But an attempt to discover the present-day playing time of the hundreds of compositions included in the 240 recitals was quickly abandoned as impractical, and in any event this approach would finesse the vexed question of changes in tempi as between the 19th and 20th centuries. But even if played in quicker 19th-century tempi the eight sonatas which comprised the allBeethoven recital in Anton Rubinstein's famous historical series would surely exceed the staying power of most present-day audiences (opp.27/2, 31/2, 53, 57, 90, 101, 109, and 111). Today, several combinations of just three of these sonatas, and almost any combination of four, would be enough to allow the recitalist to feel that the audience was getting value for money. While this was fairly exceptional, Alien Lott comments that Rubinstein's early recitals in the USA (with repertoires which he also played in Europe) averaged two-and-a-half to three hours, with some nearly reaching four.15

IN CONCLUSION, the foregoing survey suggests a tripartite periodisation. The first period, to about 1870, saw the birth of the solo piano recital from its gestation in the 'mixed' recital, and the consolidation of the solo recital's position as a unique vehicle for the presentation of serious classical music by dedicated performers. This involved the changed expectation that recitalists would mostly perform the works of others, rather than their own.

The second period, from about 1870 to 1950, was not marked by major changes. The solo recital had all but triumphed over the mixed form when it began. Repertoires naturally changed and broadened as more and more music became available to be played. The establishment of Conservatories outside the German/Austrian heartland encouraged new nationalistic styles of composition, and trained pianists wishing to play them. The recitals studied in preparing this article strongly suggest that in general pianists born and trained elsewhere than in Germany and Austria favoured more varied programmes, featuring more composers, than did those from those countries. This in some degree accounts for the more adventurous repertoires characteristic, in particular, of 1891-1920. But otherwise the structure of the piano recital consolidated rather than changed during these 90 years.

Much sharper change came in 1951-80 - for reasons which are by no means obvious, and which it must be left to a further article to explore. The average number of composers per recital was virtually halved, and recitals almost certainly became shorter. Composers from outside the German-Austrian tradition fared particularly badly. This tendency would be even more obvious were it not for the countervailing efforts of pianists trained in Russia and Eastern Europe. And, again apart from Russian works, the 'Contemporary' category almost disappeared from repertoires.

These features have not escaped either notice or criticism. William Weber, tracing the history of musical canon, claimed that the period 1945-80 was characterised by 'an extreme, indeed intolerant, predominance of classical over contemporary music'.16 He was writing, admittedly, of both the concert hall and the opera stage; his verdict on the piano recital specifically might perhaps have been less severe. There were, after all, leading pianists of the period - Pollini, Glenn Gould, Brendel - who championed Schoenberg and gave at least some exposure to the second Viennese School.

But there were undoubtedly many who confessed to little or no interest in contemporary works. Richter, despite his huge repertoire, played, of the major 20th-century German/Austrian composers, only Berg's Chamber Concerto and Webern's Variations op.27; he would not play Schoenberg, whom he saw as 'a composer who set out to destroy'.17 Very little contemporary music appealed to Ashkenazy.18 Barenboim admitted to having neglected the second Viennese School until late in life, when Boulez persuaded him otherwise.19 Horowitz, as part of his war effort, saluted America's Russian ally by learning and performing three Prokofiev sonatas, and as if to reciprocate, premiered Barber's Sonata in Havana in 1949. But otherwise he could find little 20th-century music to interest him.20 Moreover, it requires some latitude in regard to chronology to regard some of the compositions mentioned above as 'contemporary', from the vantage point of the year in which they were performed.

As for the more general question of the structure of recitals, the archRomantic Horowitz, who gave very careful consideration to the construction of his own programmes, striving above all for 'variety, variety, and more variety',21 is said to have 'looked with scorn on programs that contained only three Beethoven or Schubert sonatas.22 Quite contrary to what one might have expected, in view of the ever increasing availability of recorded and broadcast music, the piano recitals of the late 20th century, judging by Kehler's repertoires, seem to have relied to a greater extent than those of 1891-1920 on frequent repetition of a very limited range of works, and even identical repetition of entire programmes in several centres.

What, in the light of all this, the long-term future of the live solo piano recital is, is a good question; one to which it is not easy to fashion an answer both optimistic and persuasive.

1. A short but useful summary is that of William Weber in Stanley Sadie, ed.: The new Grove, dictionary of music and musicians (Macmillan, 2001), sub. verb. 'Recital'.

2. George Kehler: The piano in concert, 2 vols (Scarecrow Press, 1982). Readers of this article will readily understand my deep indebtedness to Kehler's valuable collection, which I here gratefully acknowledge.

3. Liszt made this claim in a letter to a friend written in June 1839 following a series of solo performances in Italy, which, however, were played in relatively informal circumstances. The birth of the solo recital is more commonly ascribed to a public concert by Liszt in London the following year, which also saw the first use of the designation 'recital' (or more correctly, at first, 'recitals'). see Alan Walker: Franz Liszt (Faber & Faber, 1983), vol. 1, The virtuoso years, pp.355-57.

4. R. Allen Lott: From Paris to Peoria (Oxford University Press, 2003).

5. PamelaS. Pettier: 'Clara Schumann's recitals, 1832-50', in 19th Century Music IV/1 (Summer 1980), pp. 70-76.

6. Harold C. Schonberg: The glorious ones: classical music's legendary performers (Times Books, 1985), p.48.

7. The recital devoted to the works of a single composer was only one ot a number of types departing from the familiar 'conservatory model'. Another notable exception was the recital consisting entirely of compositions in a particular genre. Rachmaninov had one recital consisting entirely of fantasias (though the word was interpreted liberally to include Beethoven's sonatas opp.27/1 and 2), and he attained perhaps the ne plus ultra of this type by offering a Buffalo audience in 19193 programme consisting solely of 20 études by Chopin (8), Schumann (2), Scriabin (2), Liszt (2), Rubinstein (1), and five of his own.

8. Halle bettered his own achievement 20 years later with an eight-recitals series covering all 32 Beethoven sonatas and the whole of the Well tempered clavier, proceeding at the rate of four sonatas and six preludes and fugues per recital. In both of the series mentioned Halle played the sonatas in order of opus number, which of course is not quite the same thing as order of composition. This was the usual practice in the 19th century. In the 20th century recitalists more often distributed seven major sonatas (opp.53 and 57 and the last five) one at a time between the recitals, grouping the other 25 around them in threes and fours so as to achieve variety of style and key signatures within each recital, and make them of more nearly equal length. Schnabel adopted this arrangement in a notable cycle in Carnegie Hall in 1936. But Kempff, in a series played in 1970, preferred to revert to the older arrangement. The pros and cons of the two solutions are fairly obvious.

9. Jeremy Siepman: The piano (Carlton Books, 1996)^.151.

10. Dorothy de Val & Cyril Ehrlich: 'Repertory and canon', in David Rowland, ed.: The Cambridge companion to the piano (Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 120,131-32.

11. Nancy B. Reich: Clara Schumann: the artist and the woman (Cornell University Press, 1985), pp.268-71.

12. Richter, despite his enormous repertoire, played little of Mozart's solo piano music. He much preferred Haydn, complaining that Mozart did not 'stay in my head'. (See Bruno Monsaingeon: Sviatoslav Richter: notebooks and conversations (Princeton University Press, 2001), PP-!39> :77, 331-32). Ashkenazy ascribed the lukewarmness of some Russian pianists towards Mozart's sonatas to the contrast between the composer's restraint and clarity and Russia's 'chaotic and emotional national character' (Jasper Parrott with Vladimir Ashkenazy: Beyond frontiers (Collins, 1984), p.54.) HC Schonberg alleges that when Horowitz studied at Kiev Conservatory Mozart sonatas were regarded there as 'simple minded, something not worth wasting much time on' (Horowitz: his life and music (Simon & Schuster, 1992), p.53).

13. For example: Warsaw, 1861; Cordoba, 1862; St Petersburg, 1862; Bucharest, 1864; Moscow, 1865; Budapest, 1875; and in the USA, Peabody (Baltimore), 1866; New England (Boston), 1867.

14. Parrott with Ashkenazy: Beyond frontiers, p.57.

15. Lott: From Pans to Peona, p.178.

16. William Weber: 'The history of musical canon', in Nicholas Cook & Mark Everist, edd.: Rethinking music (Oxford University Press, 1999), p.341. Weber conceded that there was some evidence after 1980 of reviving interest in new works, 'chiefly in avantgarde artistic circles'.

17. So great was his international reputation that one forgets how distinctively Russian a musician Richter was. Playing outside Russia for the first time in 1960, at the age of 45, he appeared only 60 times even in Paris, his favourite foreign venue, as against 851 times in Moscow. A similar indication is given by his repertoires. The five composers whose works he played most often were: Shostakovich (4641 items); Rachmaninov (2683); Debussy (2444); Beethoven (2327); Prokofiev (1797) (Monsaingeon: Sviatoslav Richter, pp.143, 381-82).

18. Parrott & Ashkenazy: Beyond frontiers, pp.i07-68.

19. Daniel Barenboim, ed. M. Lewin: A life in music (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1991), p.49.

20. Schonberg: Horowitz, pp. 157-58.

21. David Dubal: Evenings with Horowitz: a personal portrait (Birch Lane Press, 1991 ), p.112. It has to be admitted that late in life, with a shrinking repertoire and failing memory, Horowitz was unable to follow his own prescription.

22. Schonberg: The glorious ones, p.416.

[Author Affiliation]

John Gould is Emeritus Professor of Economic History at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.


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