[1] Fidom, H., Muziek als installatiekunstOrgelpark Research Reports / 2; Amsterdam, 2012. (accessed 9 September 2014)

[2] Even when we assume that much music was improvised especially until the 18th century: after all, also Tinctoris’ super librum cantare still needed a book…

[3] Cf. Fidom, H.: ‘Improvisation: the emancipation of an ancient musical skill.’ In: Peeters, P. (ed.): The Haarlem Essays. Bonn, 2014; 252

[4] Rousseau, J.J.: Dictionnaire de musique. Paris, 1768; 218

[5] Rousseau, ibid: 109

[6] But only when this happens ‘on the spot’; a completely predetermined ‘interpretation’, with no room for spontaneity, cannot be called improvisational, even when the score is treated with a lot of freedom.

[7] Benson, B.E.: The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue: A Phenomenology of Music. Cambridge, 2003; 45.

[8] An important point for Benson is the avoidance of the notion of a ‘creatio ex nihilo’ (cf. Benson, B.E.: ‘In The Beginning, There Was Improvisation’. In: Improvisation - Musicological, musical and philosophical aspects. Orgelpark Research Report #3/1; Amsterdam, 2013. (accessed 7 January 2015); § 23-55.) Though this construction put upon the term creation is certainly understandable from the perspective of the Western theological tradition, I still prefer to connect with other meanings of the Latin word creare: to cause, to bring forth, or even to elect – all of them meanings which do not contain the ‘ex nihilo’-element. In French, where the meaning of créer is similar to that of creare, a création can also be the first performance of a piece.

[9] A recording of an improvisation not so much makes it possible to repeat the performance – rather it helps to recreate the listening experience.

[10] In the context of 19th-century music I call a ‘free improvisation’ an improvisation which does not use any fixation in a score.

[11] Cf. Gadamer, H.-G.: Wahrheit und Methode. (Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1). Tübingen, 1990.

[12] Cf. Caplin, William: Classical Form. New York, 1998.

[13] This does not exclude e.g. Augenmusik: the fact that the score represents sounding music does not prevent it from gaining a certain aesthetic autonomy itself. 

[14] The existence of a melody that has not been notated exactly can be located in the memories of people who know the melody.

[15] An interesting variant of this view is the idea that a composition up to the 18th century, notably for organ, mainly served as an example for improvised music (Cf. Fidom, H.: ‘Improvisation: the emancipation of an ancient musical skill.’ In: Peeters, P. (ed.): The Haarlem Essays. Bonn, 2014; 357 – 358).

[16] It is quite possible to link this strong emphasis on the actual sound to a development in 20th century composition which also focused upon the sound an sich (e.g. Varèse, post-war serialism, Cage, electronic music).

[17] Swenson, Edward E.: The History of Musical Pitch in Tuning the Pianoforte. (Accessed 26 March, 2015)

[18] Cf. the work of Kolja Meeuwsen on the relation between early 20th-century performance practice for string players and the upcoming recording industry.

[19] Even the descriptive value is not beyond doubt, as any musician who ever tried to determine his favourite metronome speed for a specific piece can testify: usually the chosen metronome mark feels less right the next day.

[20] Cf. The Pupils of Clara Schumann. Pearl Gemm CDS 99049

[21] Signs indicating the articulation mainly influence the duration of the tone.

[22] In the practical sense of the reading of a score by a musician.

[23] Like Schumann wrote: “Du musst es so weit bringen, dass du eine Musik auf dem Papier verstehst“. Schumann, R.: Musikalische Haus- und Lebensregeln. (9 January 2015)

[24] This fragment (3.4.2) makes use of ideas that were formulated earlier in: Mooiman, B: Sporen in het zand. Visie op het theorieonderwijs aan het Koninklijk Conservatorium te Den Haag. Unpublished, 2003.

[25] A term that is often used by musicians themselves.

[26] Czerny, C.: Systematische Anleitung zum Fantasieren auf dem Pianoforte op. 200. Wien, 1829; reprint Wiesbaden, 1993.

[27] Czerny, C.: ibidem, 36 – 37. “Jedes Thema, ohne alle Ausnahme, und wenn es nur aus zwey willkührlichen Tönen bestünde, kann, vermittelst einiger Änderung im Takt und Rhythmus, als Anfang zu allen Gattungen von Compositionen dienen, die in der Musik existieren. Nehmen wir einstweilen folgende auf dem Pianoforte üblichen Gattungen an: a. Allegro (ungefähr, wie das erste Stück einer Sonate); b. Adagio (im ernsthaften Stil); c. Allegretto grazioso (einfach, oder mit Verzierungen in der galanten Schreibart) [sic!]; Scherzo Presto (à Capriccio); e. Rondo vivace; f. Polacca; g. Thema zu Variationen; h. Fuge (oft auch Canon); i. Walzer, Ecossaise, Marsch u. drgl.

[28] Gjerdingen, R.O.: Music in the Galant Style. New York, 2007.

[29] Gjerdingen, 7.

[30] Which also shows that learning a piece for an important part means memorizing it…

[31] An example is a remark Shura Cherkassky once made in an interview, stating that during a performance he sometimes liked to decide on the spot whether he would play a passage very tenderly and quietly, or that he would give the audience a fright by suddenly playing it very loud. This evidence of late romantic capriciousness could be seen as an improvised change of locus communis.

[32] Of course, improvised alterations do offer many more possibilities to react to the other musicians, the audience, the room, the instrument etc. than rehearsed ones.

[33] Peres da Costa, N.: Off the record: Performing Practices in Romantic Piano Playing. New York, 2012.

[34] Scott, A.: Romanticizing Brahms: Early Recordings and the Reconstruction of Brahmsian Identity. (accessed 3-5-2015)

[35] Fidom, H., Muziek als installatiekunstOrgelpark Research Reports / 2; Amsterdam, 2012. (accessed 9 September 2014); § 22.

[36] Unless one is especially interested in what Czerny had to say about Bach, or Schnabel about Beethoven, of course.

[37] Though obviously, a context encompasses much more than the levels of meaning addressed here.

[38] Czerny, C.: Systematische Anleitung zum Fantasieren auf dem Pianoforte op. 200. Wien, 1829; reprint Wiesbaden, 1993; 5 – 14.

[39] Cf. the notion of Ideo-Kinetics, as developed by L. Bonpensiere in New Pathways to Piano Technique (New York, 1953).

[40] But then, Back appears to have suffered from a severe stage fright, which might have been the real reason for his excessive demands to technical perfection.

[41] This method was widely recommended already by 19th and early 20th century piano pedagogues like Leschetitsky, Leimer, Neuhaus and Kentner. The effectiveness seems to beconfirmed by recent neurological research, though an explanation through mirror-neurons suggests that this process only works when it is based upon a previously acquired skill.

[42] Hanon, Avertissement.

[43] Eigeldinger, J.-J.: Chopin vu par ses élèves. Paris, 2006; 45.

[44] As they did in the past: H. Neuhaus writes that his teacher, L. Godowsky, never practised scales separately. Neuhaus, H.: Die Kunst des Klavierspiels. Köln, 1967; 5.

[45] Czerny, C.: Systematische Anleitung zum Fantasieren auf dem Pianoforte op. 200. Wien, 1829; reprint Wiesbaden, 1993.

[46] Czerny, 5.

[47] Czerny, 15.

[48] Czerny, 5.

[49] Czerny, 7.

[50] Czerny, C.,Vollständige Theoretisch-Practische Pianoforte-Schule op. 500, part 2: Von dem Fingersatze. English edition: On Fingering. London, 1839; 109.

[51] Hildebrandt, D.: Pianoforte. München, 1985; 145-146.

[52] Czerny, 8.

[53] Though Czerny himself was in fact an exception: early in his life, he specialised as a teacher.

[54] Bie, O.: Das Klavier und seine Meister. München, 1898; 161.