http://www.orartswatch.org/pianist-christina-kobb-playing-it-19th-century-style/How have advances in piano technology and technique changed what you hear?

Virtually all classical pianists play 19th-century music, but because live recordings of early romantic music don’t exist, no one alive today really knows what 19th-century piano repertoire sounded like in 19th-century performances.

 

Christina Kobb might have a better idea than most. While studying at Cornell University in 2010, she came across 19th century piano pedagogy books that at first made her giggle because of how much their instructions differed from what Kobb, now Head of Theory at Barratt Due Institute of Music and a Ph.D candidate at the Norwegian Academy of Music, had been taught while growing up in Norway in the 1980s.

 

Christina Kobb might have a better idea than most. While studying at Cornell University in 2010, she came across 19th century piano pedagogy books that at first made her giggle because of how much their instructions differed from what Kobb, now Head of Theory at Barratt Due Institute of Music and a Ph.D candidate at the Norwegian Academy of Music, had been taught while growing up in Norway in the 1980s.

 

All Classical Portland and the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation invited Christina Kobb to present her findings through performance and lecture at Nordia House, the new Scandinavian cultural arts center in Southwest Portland.

 

A significant factor in this reconstructed technique is the actual instrument being played. In the early 19th century there were two schools of piano manufacturers: English pianos and German/Viennese piano-fortes. The more resonant English pianos spanned eight octaves, had larger soundboards, and were built to be heard in large concert halls; think of the modern day Steinway. The German/Viennese piano-fortes were smaller, spanning only 5 or 6 octaves and produced drier, clearer, more bell-like tones. The lighter action of the Viennese pianofortes meant that pianists didn’t need to push into the keys to create sounds and could focus on speed and articulation instead. According to Kobb, Clara Schumann, who owned a Viennese piano-forte, complained of the English pianos requiring too much weight and physical effort to produce sound.

 

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