In celebration of the upcoming publication of The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces, we asked author and concert pianist, Susan Tomes, to curate a playlist inspired by the musical journey she evokes throughout her book. Featuring pieces from the late eighteenth century to the present day, this playlist is perfect for listening to whilst reading Tomes’ fascinating exploration of the piano’s history.
Listen to the playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGaj9WGos1FbtBiFWy_i81LqSZdhbfyn4.
Read on to gain an insight into the thought behind each of Susan’s selections.
Pre-History: From Harpsichord to Piano
Horowitz’s refined, beautiful playing of Scarlatti sonatas on the modern piano gave them a new lease of life.
Renowned for his Bach playing, Schiff brings his characteristic rhythmic bite and control of structure to one of Bach’s most extrovert keyboard pieces.
From Haydn to Schubert: Music for the Developing ‘Fortepiano’
There’s a sense of unforced and intimate dialogue between fortepiano and violin in this period performance, giving us an idea of the type of instrumental balance Mozart might have been familiar with.
One of Beethoven’s most dramatic sonatas, played by a pianist who understands how to bring poetry as well as momentum to the ideas that flash by on this huge musical canvas.
Two great pianists, best known as soloists, share the keyboard for a touchingly gentle encore at the end of an orchestral concert.
From the Mendelssohns to Dvorak: the Growing Power of the Nineteenth-Century Piano
Fanny Mendelssohn’s gift for melody and command of the keyboard is given sensitive interpretation by pianist Sarah Rothenberg.
One of the finest single-movement Romantic piano pieces, played by South Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho, winner of the 2015 International Chopin Competition.
Astonishing technique and flair from this young virtuoso performing a warhorse of the repertoire.
From Grieg to Ravel: Into the Twentieth Century
A compatriot of Janacek’s brings a quiet nobility to these intimate portraits of childhood scenes and rural life.
Three pieces of ravishing colour and texture beautifully brought to life by a young Russian master of the piano keyboard.
Rachmaninoff was a magnificent advocate for his own piano pieces, and here his inimitable playing shows his ability to bend the timing to subtle expressive effect.
From Ives to Gubaidulina: ‘Stand Up and Take your Dissonance like a Man!’
Benny Goodman, the jazz clarinettist who commissioned the piece in the hope of appealing to both jazz and classical fans, made it famous in this recording with the composer at the piano.
An epic performance of richly spiritual music by a pianist who devoted much of her long career to interpreting her husband’s work.
A mesmerising piece in a hypnotic performance by a master of contemporary piano repertoire.
The Jazz Influence
Billy Mayerl dispatches his entertaining virtuoso piano music with panache.
Admired for his amazing technique by the most famous pianists of the day, jazz pianist Art Tatum here uses a classical piece as the springboard for some delightful keyboard pirouettes.
Subtle and serious yet swinging, Bill Evans’ delicate tracery in sound remains unsurpassed in jazz.
A sensation in her day, Hazel Scott here shows the flair, keyboard virtuosity and rapport with the camera which made her a star.
Today’s Piano Styles: Minimalism and Historical Awareness
A fascinating glimpse of a master of minimalist music performing this influential piece at the end of an orchestral concert.
Inspired by Chopin’s Mazurkas, these contemporary tributes seem to propel the mazurka into new realms of the imagination.
Susan Tomes is a concert pianist and writer. Renowned both as a soloist and as the pianist of Domus and the Florestan Trio, she is the author of numerous works including Beyond the Notes, Sleeping in Temples and Speaking the Piano.
In her latest book, The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces, Susan Tomes takes the reader with her on a personal journey through 100 pieces including solo works, chamber music, concertos, and jazz. Her choices include composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Robert Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Gershwin, and Philip Glass. Looking at this history from a modern performer’s perspective, she acknowledges neglected women composers and players including Fanny Mendelssohn, Maria Szymanowska, Clara Schumann, and Amy Beach.
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