Domenico Scarlatti and Vladimir Horowitz - Performance and Authenticity - André Leme Pédico

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  Domenico Scarlatti and Vladimir Horowitz - Performance and Authenticity - André Leme Pédico
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  Domenico Scarlatti by Vladimir Horowitz: performance and authenticity  André Leme Pédico, Universidade Estadual de Campinas [email protected] Abstract The keyboard sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti are remarkable for their unusual thematic combinations and daring harmonic progressions. These works present a wide range of choices to the performer: the dynamic marks and articulation signs are rarely indicated. Despite the triumph of the “Authenticity Movement”, which endorses the research of former performance practices to get answers to these questions, one of the leading Scarlatti performers in the last century was the pianist Vladimir Horowitz. This essay investigates how his critically acclaimed   performances , even being considered “non historical”, could underline the structure and the musical content of these works. Keywords: Scarlatti, Sonatas, Authenticity, Horowitz, Piano  André Leme Pédico, pianist, graduated from Universidade Estadual de Campinas with a Bachelor's degree, in 2005, and received a Master of Music degree with commendation from Birmingham City University, UK, in 2007. He has recently initiated his Doctorate at Universidade Estadual de Campinas, under the supervision of Dr. Maria José Carrasqueira.   I. Domenico Scarlatti  –  The dissemination of his music and problems for Scholarship   Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 1685  –  Madrid, 1757) is undoubtedly one of the most challenging composers for musical scholarship, due to the lack of information about his life and the chronology of his compositions, and the complete absence of his autographs. Despite his dazzling srcinality as a composer and as a keyboardist, the first substantial study about his music was published only in 1953, by the harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick. This book was followed by other important studies: “ Domenico Scarlatti, Master of Music”, by Malcolm Boyd, published in  1982, which added new information for Kirkpatrick´s biography and analyzed his choral and religious music; and, most recently, “ The keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti and the eighteenth century musical style”, by Dean Stucliffe, published in 2002, a large study which investigates the unusual nature of his sonatas. It is undeniable that his keyboard production was responsible for the maintenance of his name among musicians in the years following his death. The story of editions is one of the points that need more investigation 1  (Stucliffe 2002, viii). Boyd claims that the Czerny edition of 200 sonatas (1839) was the most important to divulgate the composer´s name in the nineteenth-century, but he also believes that most of the pianists of that time regarded his music as “pupil - folder” works   (Boyd 1982, 219). In the twentieth-century, his music was simultaneously adopted by many pianists and harpsichordists, revealing a complex framework of performance styles. II. A brief view on Scarlatti´s style and musical structure The definitions to the structure of the Scarlatti´s sonatas, often found in general books, proved to be incomplete and unable to grasp all his complex and unusual musical style.  As Stucliffe points: “Scarlatti will do anything to undermine a normal sense of patterning” ( Stucliffe 2002, 146). His themes often sound not connected to each other, the change of moods is constantly abrupt and shocking, motifs appear and are soon abandoned. It is surprising that this unstable condition is made of direct and simple melodies, derived many times from popular music and dances. These aspects come from the composer´s engagement with folk music and it is reflected in the performance of these works. Boyd points that this music is “choreographed to employ fingers, hands, wrists, arms, shoulders and even  the waist of the performer.” (Boyd 1982,  186).   This is probably one of the reasons that made Scarlatti´s music to be 1The first complete publication of Scarlatti sonatas was edited by Alessandro Longo and published in 1906 by Ricordi . Longo altered many of the harmonic “oddities” of the manuscripts. The primary sources of the Scarlatti sonatas are today known as “ V enice” and “ Parma” manuscripts, the name of their current location. In the 1980´s, Kenneth Gilbert published the 555 sonatas listed by Kirkpatrick, based on the Venice manuscripts, being faithful to the srcinal text.  ignored and regarded by many as only extravagant virtuosic improvisations. Nowadays, however, his effects and apparently messy constructions are started to be considered as rationally elaborated. Stucliffe points that “musical imagery, dissonance, syntactical style or keyboard sonority (…) c an be shown to play a structural as well a sensational role” (Stucliffe 2002,  321). Hence, it is natural that these brilliant and effective keyboard constructions attracted one of the greatest piano virtuosos of the last century: Vladimir Horowitz. The legendary pianist, still known by many people as the “Last Romantic ” (Dubal 1991, xix), is famous due to his very personal rendition to the music of the Romanticism. At the same time, he contributed immensely in the divulgation of Domenico Scarlatti works, playing these sonatas for about 60 years during his life. III. Vladimir Horowitz and the Scarlatti Music on modern pianos  Vladimir Horowitz was born in Kiev in 1903, and had a spectacular career which began in Russia, around 1924. The way he approached the music score was characterized by freedom and emotional intensity. He was a true representative of the romantic school of piano playing. As Harold Schoenberg reports: today it is hard to tell the difference between a Juilliard or a Moscow Conservatory graduate. But in Horowitz „s early days, all the pianists before the public were trained by musicians who had been born in the nineteenth-century, and all represented distinct national schools, as well as nineteenth-century performance practice (Schoenberg 1992, 68). Horowitz‟s career  , however, was long enough, and his libertarian approach was contested by the modern performance practice, which requires extreme fidelity to the score, to preserve the integrity of the musical works. According to David Dubal, during the last years of his life, Horowitz was lonely and alone, musically speaking, and his playing became “out of fashion” ( Dubal 1991, xix). Hence, this approach of the Scarlatti sonatas by one of the most provocative “romantic virtuosos” of all times rises a series of questions worthy investigating. Playing harpsichord music on the piano is non-historical by nature; most of the books written about playing eighteenth-century music in the spirit of authenticity, such as those by Neuman, Donington and Kenyon, are not  concerned with this possibility. I could not find any specific study about playing Scarlatti´s music on modern pianos. The composer most investigated in this sense is Johann Sebastian Bach. In spite of having such a different production from Scarlatti, what has been written about the performance of his music by pianists can reveal some similar aspects when trying to “transcribe” the Scarlatti sonatas to a medium which is not the srcinal used by the composer. I use the term “ transcription” based on Peter Walls´ opinion. According to him, playing harpsichord music on the modern piano is a kind of “implicit transcription: the performer is adopting a transcendental view of work  –  one that implies that its essence (which is somehow independent in the instructions presented in the score) will be well served by this approach”. (Of playing in modern eq uivalent instruments) (Walls 2003, 124). This view is particularly similar to Horowitz´s opinion: on the piano, I still try to play the music in the framework of Scarlatti´s period, yet I never want to imitate the harpsichord; I only want to show the public how the music sounds on the piano (Dubal 1991, 304). The Piano  Magazine (July / August 2000) presents some interviews with very known pianists such as Schiff, Brendel, Perahia and Hewitt about performing Bach on the modern piano. Many of the answers emphasize some remarkable qualities of the instrument: dynamic range, ability of producing cantabile lines, clarity and the use of pedal as important means of expression.  As it will be shown in the following case-studies, based on Horowitz´s performances, we can definitely link these pianistic features to the execution of Scarlatti Sonatas. V. Domenico Scarlatti by Horowitz: The Case Studies In spite of being regarded many times as an spontaneous performer who didn´t have a strong conception about the works he played, Horowitz presents, in his very few published interviews, strong ideas about music and interpretation. He stresses the need for searching pianistic colors and singing lines. He emphasizes strongly the needing for knowledge for an expressive artistic approach (Mach 1981, 116).   According to Barbara Nissman, Horowitz studied all the Scarlatti Sonatas: “he returned to the srcinal manuscripts, researched the period, and even consulted with the expert Ralph Kirkpatrick”. (Dubal 1993, 239). The impact of Horowitz´s performances of Scarlatti´s music on other pianists is easy to grasp when reading the book “  Remembering Horowitz: 125 pianists recall a legend”  , organized by David Dubal. For instance, Charles Rosen (p. 249) says that his vision of Scarlatti was never surpassed. Daniel Ericort (p. 303) points the same “His Scarlatti remains unsurpassed.” For Yuri Borkoff (p. 76) “ Nor an one ever forget his Scarlatti playing. Never had been this composer more fortunate in an interpreter.” From this point, I present the most significant aspects of Horowitz´s approach to Scarlatti´s music with examples. The discussion will be of the following sonatas: K. 39, K. 46, K. 87, K. 197. They are all based on online editions which adhere to text of the Kenneth Gilbert Edition. Only the beginning or the first half of each sonata will be presented, due to the length limits of this essay; it is enough because the other half usually presents the same aspects. VI. Case Study I  –  Sonata K. 39  The present analysis is based on the recording Horowitz made in 1964. The Sonata in A. Major K. 39 is a short and brilliant work. The thematic construction is subordinated by the joy of playing; the elements of unity, according to Stucliffe ( Stucliffe 2002, 8), are only the repeated-note figure of the opening. The clarity of touch of the modern piano is really suitable to an effective execution of this work, as demonstrated in Horowitz´s performance. The double-escape mechanism also contributes to an accurate execution of the fast repeated notes. A remarkable aspect of his playing is the steadiness of tempo , which sustains the tension of musical structure: the incessant motifs sound linked, expressively contrasting to the apparently irregular writing. According to Kirkpatrick, a steady inexorable beat can achieve an enormous expressive power, partly by its very resistance to the forces that oppose it, but partly through the tensions created by the contrast between the regular pulse and the irregular musical phrase. (Kirkpatrick 1953, 299).
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