The piano was one of capitalism’s great inventions, and from the early nineteenth century it was ingeniously marketed to the world, with a legion of teachers offering musical education to the young. For a respectable Victorian woman, playing the piano was as important as her purity. Franz Liszt, the emperor of virtuosity, grew long hair, wildly tossing and turning it about, just as today’s rock stars do, without knowing they emulate Liszt.
But from around 1860, as professional pianists became entranced with the serious masterpieces composed by the likes of Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Chopin, the once glamorous and aspiring word ‘virtuoso’ was demeaned with a hint of charlatanism and vulgarity. Fun flair and keyboard wizardry were frowned upon by many a snob. Recitals were now serious cultural affairs. Today, pianists perform the historical classic literature, but the amateur pianist has all but died out; young people grow up wanting to be a ‘rocker’, not an interpreter of the three Bs.
What, then, does this all mean? Times have changed drastically, socially, culturally, technologically, economically and artistically. At the height of American piano production in 1911, 375,000 instruments were sold. By 1915, the phonograph had already surpassed it, with 500,000 in sales with an ad saying: ‘You don’t even have to practice.’
The Nexus Institute invites you to its symposium ‘Virtuoso!’ with host David Dubal, an internationally acknowledged authority on the piano and its history, performers and composers. On this afternoon you will hear live performances and recordings from the golden age of the piano, and explore the idea of virtuosity with Mr. Dubal, the acclaimed American concert pianist Barbara Nissman, the Chinese-born pianist Rexa Han and the famed Dutch impresario Marco Riaskoff. Join us for an afternoon that will titillate and thrill your ears, heart and mind.
13.45 Doors open
14.00 Symposium starts
15.50 Symposium continues