The Great Pianists Themes

Harold C. Schonberg
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Comparative piano styles changing over time

There were no great pianists during the days of Bach in early eighteenth century because the piano had not been invented. Musical keyboard instruments included the organ, clavichord and harpsichord. Bach first saw a piano in 1736 and said the new keyboard instrument had a pleasant tone but the treble was too weak and the action too stiff. After Bach's death in 1750, his contrapuntal style that wove several simultaneous melodies into a harmonious whole evolved along with a venue change from church to salon. This new single melody style was a singing, nuanced, fluffy, polite and melodic sonata different from Bach's heavy, tempestuous fugue with its repetitive themes. The sonata seemed made for the piano to be played in the salon or elegant drawing room.

Mozart demonstrated the classicist ideal with temperate and regulated dynamics and legato playing that "flowed like oil." He played...

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