For some reason the YouTube video I wanted to present is not available for use here, but if you like, search for Beka Lagadze/ Schubert. It’s Liszt’s arrangement of Schubert’s Ständchen, Serenade, played on a reasonably old Blüthner grand piano.

I am not totally in love with the film, but the playing is very beautiful.

It’s a very good idea to use an old Blüthner grand for this music.

This was written at a time when the so-called modern piano evolved (modern, as opposed to the harpsichord and the fortepiano) A Bechstein has a frame of cast iron for the strings, which all modern pianos have, but there is in the piano sound still very much the feeling of wood, which was used as a frame in the harpsichords etc, and also in grand pianos of the early 19th Century. It is of course also the material, basically, for the rest of a grand piano.

The feeling of that and a corresponding idea of sound must have lasted long into the 1800s and probably beyond that.

Steinway pianos, which I guess everybody loves, me too, has a different approach to sound normally, it is still handcrafted and absolutely with the possibility of singing, but less wood than this, in a way,maybe a little more a feeling of industry or modern handicraft, and more…something else, metal, I guess, mixed into the usually pretty clear blend. Schubert died in 1828, so there is the world of the wood, totally, but with bigger pianos than 40+ years earlier, Mozart etc. Franz Liszt was born in 1811 and lived until 1886, so the “modern grand” was a new invention then, which he exploited to the limit.

I am not sure how the pianist Beka Lagadze actually thinks, the sound from the upper parts of the keyboard sounds more like a glockenspiel like I was talking about. He thinks both ways, maybe, or it is just a problem of the instrument in the upper range, which is common, especially with old pianos.

But the singing sound of the piano and the pianist, especially in the middle and deeper range, is also very attractive and very much in style.

Musically, of course, the melody in the middle range and the echoes in the treble in the last part are two different voices, very clearly made here.

The instrument itself, the Blüthner, invites you to play like this. A brand new grand piano that I tried once did the opposite, the sound seemed to be completely closed in.

I spoke to a piano tuner the other day, and he said, in passing and told as a cliché, pianists were not really into sound as such, more obsessed with mechanics of the kind that allows you to repeat the key fast enough and play as pianissimo as you like. I don’t know if it is true, and if it is, how many who think like that, but I believe I was taught to sing with the instrument or anyway picked up the idea other places than in piano lessons too.

I don’t really know whether there is a development in this direction, but it would be sad if this disappeared, the approach of singing when playing, especially 19th Century European classical music is pretty much obsessed with sound, it is an important focus point. It applies to all instruments in this period, I think, I believe it is possible to do no matter what instrument you play, and of course when you actually sing.

This is a serenade, a song thought out to attract someone, and Franz Liszt, the composer, or rather, the arranger of Schubert’s music, was famous for attracting women in his youth, so not totally wrong to involve beauty of this kind. After all, music is not only structure or ideas, it contains things…love, for instance.

But with no irony or comment implied in the filming it becomes merely an imprint of beauty, not really a story, for me.

Dette var jo egentlig ment for den engelske bloggen, The Selfish Idealist, men artikkelen kan jo godt få stå her. Lenke til bloggen øverst til høyre.