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Additional resources for 500 Piano Intros for the Great Standards (The Steinway Library of Piano Music)

Sample text

Musical cultivation was learned, perhaps not at high levels for all. As such, that learned skill was the sine qua non for judgment. A physiological and scientific basis for the judgment of the well-trained few over the many was, in Zellner’s judgment, self-evident. But beyond the arena of manufacture and the regulation of pitch, Helmholtz’s work spurred a whole field of acoustical research. This research, throughout the nineteenth century, kept its links with the aesthetics and history of music.

In both these notes and Kretzschmar’s guide, narrative description functioned as a translating mechanism, designed to enable the hearer to follow and remember by offering a descriptive narration akin to prose fiction, travel guides, or journalistic reportage. Part of the impetus behind the criticism of Wagner and Bruckner that came from Brahms’s amateur partisans in Vienna (Theodor Billroth, for example) was the recognition that Wagner, through the use of leitmotivs and thematic repetition, and Bruckner, through his own reliance on repetitions and extended moments of exposition, pandered to the new habits of hearing.

The capacity to follow and recall long stretches of variation and thematic development required the capacity to orient oneself within the balances among formal integrity, the total duration of a work, and its larger harmonic structure. The relationship of detail to form, sequential logic to structure as recalled after an initial hearing—comprehending the irreversibility—became a challenge. So, too, was the capacity to perceive the distinctions between levels of form in a complex procedure which, as Schoenberg argued, eschewed evident aspects of musical symmetry (one thinks particularly of Brahms’s playful use of rhythmic asymmetry).

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