At a Glance
Though it can be an arduous and
time-consuming process for pianists, improving technique is essential in order
to have command over the greatest repertoire written for such a multifaceted
instrument. Avoiding the potential boredom of purely technique-building
exercises, composers such as Bach, Liszt, and Bartók composed works that both
tested the skill of the performer and provided an array of musical moods and
Living in the German city of Köthen at the beginning of the 18th century, Bach
penned a number of his great pedagogical works for the keyboard, including The Well-Tempered Clavierand its similarly
innovative predecessors the Three-Part Inventions. Displaying extraordinary
imagination, these works provided a benchmark for later figures such as Bartók,
whose own chromatic inventions look back to Baroque masters through the more
angular and dissonant lens of the 20th century.
Bartók’s compatriot Liszt wowed audiences across Europe during the 19th century
by pushing keyboard technique to its limits. His Études d’exécution transcendantegive the listener a unique insight into his pianistic powers, at
first fleet and filigree before building to a series of staggering climaxes.
Combining epic dynamic power with harmonic and tonal innovations, Liszt looks
forward to the music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.