The Piano: Experimentation with Sound
A work tool for many composers and at the same time an essential object in any bourgeoisie home, the piano was a transversal instrument during the nineteenth century, capable of being involved in very diverse musical experiences and in a great variety of cultural contexts. This ubiquity made it a tool for communication, through which the most innovative compositional adventures (often created in direct symbiosis with the instrument’s sounds and mechanical possibilities) entered the homes of thousands of music aficionados, thus encouraging a more attentive listening in concert halls, which these same amateurs periodically attended. And, at the same time, the piano was used as a specific field of experimentation by many virtuosi whose names later went down in history as a result of the interest of their own outputs: Clementi, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Thalberg and many others.
In this respect, Beethoven’s example is especially stimulating. When his Op. 1 was published in 1795, Beethoven had been compulsively studying the piano, its technique and its sound world for years. And it was from this initially pianistic investigation of sound that some of the most fascinating aspects of his entire creative life stem from. It is no less fascinating, however, to see how this creativity returns, via different roads, to the piano at the hands of all the composers who confronted Beethoven’s output, whether in the form of concert transcriptions of his works (Franz Liszt’s being the most famous), or using Beethoven’s orchestral materials to bring to life an original work, as is the case with John Corigliano's Fantasia on an Ostinato (1985).