1.1 Process and initial idea

Before I introduce the topic of my research I would like to start with a brief overview of my trajectory in the past 18 months since my initial idea differs from the current topic of this exposition. My first idea for a research topic was about performance and analysis. What does an analysis bring to the performer? To what extent does an analysis help the performer make choices in his interpretation of a work? Why would a performer actually make an analysis?

As a case study for answering these questions I decided to opt for the first movement of Schubert's last piano sonata in B flat major (D960). In October 2017 I started making a detailed analysis of this work. In this analysis the intention was to, among other things, create reconstructions. The aim of reconstructions is to recreate a more traditional or expected version of a passage, and in that sense, they clarify a composer’s particular realization of a specific passage.1 In example 1 below you can see a reconstruction of the main theme. Schubert places the half cadence on a relatively weak 3rd beat and the trill on the strong 1st beat. In the reconstruction a few alternatives can be seen in which the half cadence is on a 1st beat and the trill on the 3rd beat.


In example 2 a reconstruction can be seen in which Schubert's typical expansions of phrases have been omitted. An analysis of the sketches showed that in the case of this sonata Schubert actually starts from symmetrical four measure phrases and later stretches these phrases.



In addition, the analysis also contained various harmonic reductions of key passages. In the examples below we see the reduction of the transition to the second theme in F sharp minor and of the reduction of a passage from the development.


While analyzing the sonata I was also doing literature research and among others read the book by Pieter Bergé about the Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata2 and the famous article by Janet Schmalfeldt3 on analysis and performance. It seemed to me very difficult to make a new point about this subject. First of all it is already widely documented and secondly it seemed difficult to avoid the point where theorists and performers have critiqued Schmalfeldt: the analyst explains to the ‘poor’ performer how the work should be played. As a player it has never been my experience that an analysis is a leading factor in making real time decisions during a performance. It is very true, in my opinion, that an analysis can yield important ideas, but a real-time implementation of an analysis in a performance is not my idea of a successful interpretation. An element of surprise always remains a crucial factor in any live performance to bring the music to life. Furthermore the speculative element remains ever present in most of the sources I consulted. Joel Lester4 discusses an analytical matter in the Minuet of Mozart’s A major sonata (KV 331). In measure 40 and 41 the performer can choose to play m.40 as a half cadence (as Vladimir Horowitz does in his 1966 Carnegie Hall recital) or – as analysed by Schenker5- in the way where m.41 is a phrasing elision: it is the ending of the main theme- group (authentic cadence) and the beginning of the subordinate theme-group (Lili Kraus in a recording form 1966)6. It remains a matter of interpretation of the performer ánd the analyst that one of these options will be chosen. So given the complexity of the subject (analysis and performance), the vast amount of research already done on this subject and the lack of clarity about possible outcomes of a research dedicated to this subject it did not appear to be a good topic for my research.

So around November it became clear that I wanted to focus on a different aspect of the outcome of an analysis. What could this bring to the practice room? Not specifically in the sense of an interpretation but in the sense of assimilating all the notes in a more exciting way. By exciting I mean a way of practicing where there is room for improvisation and in this sense for discovering the actual content of the piece instead of having it all right in front of you. In the next chapter I will bring forward the subject of this research. But before diving into the topic, let me explain my personal background, since I believe this is relevant to how this research came about.