Tag Archives: Palm Beach ArtsPaper

Old edition provides insights from Schnabel



I managed the other day to wheedle off the shelf of a friend of mine the two-volume Artur Schnabel edition of the Beethoven sonatas, originally published in 1935. My friend has the 1953 reprint, which was sort of an hommage to the pianist, who had died two years earlier.

Because I have the ancient so-called Urtext Schirmer edition, which is by Carl Krebs and dates from 1898 (I really should get a newer edition), it’s fascinating to see how Schnabel approaches each of these works. I suppose the most important thing is to say that it’s essentially the anti-Urtext, because Schnabel has advice for almost every measure.

For instance, just at random, I’ve opened Volume I of the Schnabel to the slow movement of the Third Sonata, Op. 2, No. 3, which is in C major. The slow movement, however, is in E, probably because that’s the dominant of A minor, the relative minor of C. I used to play this piece many years ago when I was a kid, and it was humbling; the whole sonata is far more difficult than it looks at first, and you need precise fingers and a real sense of bravura to pull it off.

I never wanted to work that hard when I was that young, and it cost me plenty in years afterward. But I could get through the slow movement all right, if not the outer two, and I find Schnabel’s emendations interesting. To begin with, he calls for two basic tempi, the first being the opening Adagio in which an eighth note equals 46 (metronome mark), and then a slightly faster motion (quarter note equals 52) 11 bars later when the music shifts suddenly to E minor.

He adds numerous expressive directions, to say nothing of extremely explicit pedal markings, tenutos and accents. At the top of the E minor section he writes: “Molto dolce, sempre un poco espressivo, ma senza rubato, egulamente,” which roughly means very sweet, lightly expressive all the way through, but don’t stretch the tempo, keep it steady. 

At bar 26 he calls for the pianist to play the octave E in the left hand a full octave lower than written — “In my opinion, here both permissible and convincing”  – and at bar 53, when the music abruptly shifts to a C major restatement of the main theme, fortissimo, he writes: “Con sublimita,” which I love (the footnote translates this as “lofty”). 

The most fascinating thing about all this for me is how detailed it is, and how much it’s really a road map to the way he would play it, rather than editorial direction or guidance. He’s showing you how he would play it, and in a way it’s as though the kind of intense teaching that goes on in master classes is written out for you.

This kind of editing is out of fashion these days, but I find it not only compelling from a standpoint of the history of the piano, but actually helpful. Great food for musical thought, in any case.

Here’s Schnabel doing the slow movement of the Pathetique Sonata:


Print edition launches: I’ve had a busy week, writing-wise, with reviews of the Prima Trio and Radu Lupu and the launch earlier today of the monthly print edition of Palm Beach ArtsPaper.

It’s sort of an unsual business model, in that the print copies contain, for the most part, digests and reruns of things that already are on the Web. But I think the readers it’s destined for are not primarily computer visitors, and while I hope this brings them to our site, it’s OK with me if they wait for another print edition, too.

The one in March will be bigger and have more space devoted to visual art, which didn’t get enough ink in this one (a planning error on my part). But just having this work in print makes me feel good; I like seeing acres of space devoted to close analysis of artistic endeavors.

Guess that just makes me old-fashioned.

Odds and ends, December edition


I’ve been unable to get back to this blog for a few days, what with Thanksgiving and holiday duties, and more work on Palm Beach ArtsPaper. But I’ve been busy:

1) At Florida Atlantic University this weekend, the Klezmer Company Orchestra and FAU scholar Aaron Kula will present a realization of Shulamis, an operetta by the father of Yiddish theater, Avrom Goldfadn (or Abraham Goldfaden, as he was known in this country, where he died 100 years ago.)

I’ve written a feature about it for The Coastal Star and posted a longer version on the ArtsPaper site. I’m hoping to make the concert, but I might have to settle for a recording afterward depending on how my schedule goes. Here’s the piece.

2) Heard the Chameleon musicians concert Sunday in Fort Lauderdale and wrote a review for the South Florida Classical Review, which you can read here. The Reger suite I heard for the first time Sunday was well worth an acquaintance: It’s a beautiful piece.

3) Saw something in November’s Monocle that I really liked: A feature about the upcoming Ace Hotel in New York. The designers’ group that has outfitted these hotels in other places apparently includes custom music paper among its amenities! I think that’s a wonderful idea, and if I have to stay in a hotel in Seattle, Portland, Palm Springs or New York, I might go there just for that little touch. You can’t see the piece online, but here’s the hotel Website, and here’s a piece about it from Hotel Chatter.

4) Arts grants: The Knight Foundation  has just released a list of South Florida arts projects that will share $8 million in grant money for their work here. It’s very interesting to see former Florida Philharmonic director James Judd back on the local scene, creating a classical music education program for middle school students in Miami-Dade County. You can see the list here.

5) Reading: Finished reading The Ring and the Book (quite wonderful, but very difficult, too, and I’ll need to re-read it) and The Library at Night (also terrific) over the past couple weeks. Next up: Krin Gabbard’s new book on the place of the trumpet in American music, and I’m thinking of finally getting to Henry Adams’ Mont Sant-Michel and Chartres.

Library meditations, and a new arts project


Began the other day to read Alberto Manguel’s The Library at Night, and already I find it captivating. There’s something special about the bookish book for bookish people, and I’m glad people are still writing them.

Right at the beginning, Manguel writes about his own personal library in France, and he gets across a feeling with which I’m quite familiar:

But at night, when the library lamps are lit, the outside world disappears and nothing but this space of books remains in existence. To someone standing outside, in the garden, the library at night appears like a vast vessel of some sort, like that strange Chinese villa that, in 1888, the capricious Empress Cixi caused to be built in the shape of a ship marooned in the garden lake of her Summer Palace. In the dark, with the windows lit and the rows of books glittering, the library is a closed space, a universe of self-serving rules that pretend to replace or translate those of the shapeless universe beyond.

Nicely written, and I love that sense of the library as a separate thing, not just a room devoted to bibliophilia, but the literal manifestation of the curiosity of the human mind. I know having a decent selection of books around me at all times means I’m never bored. There are more than enough voices I’ve yet to hear in those pages to keep me occupied for years to come.

A new blog for area arts: We’re starting small, but a few of us have launched Palm Beach ArtsPaper on the Web. We’re a work in progress, but we’ve got some good plans for a custom site and other projects in the months ahead. Mostly, we just didn’t want our community of audience members and artists to miss out on what was happening because of what the economy has done to the critical community hosted until now by newspapers.

Please check in from time to time as we add more reviews and commentary from the arts scene here in Southeast Florida. There’s simply too much going on not to take serious notice of it.