Nineteenth-Century Piano Music Essays On Performance And Analysis

The western classical pianist’s repertoire consists predominantly of works composed in the period from the early 18 century.As a result, the pianist spends years acquiring skills and knowledge in order to express herself through music that has been composed in societies under very different social structures than those of today.In other words experiencing the body as an object for ourselves and to ourselves.

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“[T]here are at least two kinds of bodies: the male body and the female body” (2003: 8).

Furthermore, Gatens (2003: 9) states that “the male body and the female body have quite a different social value and significantly cannot help but have a marked effect on male and female consciousness”.

It seems plausible that this marked effect might be also traced in our body image; the reflection and image of ourselves.

Gatens highlights the “otherness” in the bodily experience.

One such aspect is related to gender; it is actually noteworthy that the established repertoire consists virtually solely of works composed by (white) male composers.

Moreover, from the feminist viewpoint piano performance has a troubled past, as performance ideals and repertoire were largely divided by (binary) gender ideals.

She describes this notion as “the (often unconscious) imaginaries of a specific culture: those ready-made images and symbols through which we make sense of social bodies and which determine, in part, their value, their status and what will be deemed their appropriate treatment” (Gatens 2003: 43).

This intersection between history, present and that of gender has troubled me as a musicologist and a pianist.

Bearing in mind Gatens’s (2003) notion of unconscious dimensions of social heritage, I want to explore in this article how gender is constructed and reflected through piano performance considering – as I will later discuss – that the performance ideals of piano are from the historical perspective deeply gendered.

Gatens (2003: 4) argues that the body in fact is not a that there is no neutral body.


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