Historical Piano Summer Academy 2018

July 3 - 12, 2018 at the Orpheus Institute, Ghent (BE)


Directed by Tom Beghin (Orpheus Institute and McGill University) and Erin Helyard (Melbourne University)

With as special guests: Frédéric de La Grandville (Université de Reims) and Jeanne Roudet (Université-Paris, Sorbonne)

The ten-day course has two components: your own artistic research project, as it relates to any of the pianos that we can make available (see the list below), and a collective Concours révolutionnaire around the 1803 Erard piano.

1. Your artistic research project

Did Viennese piano design cater to an overwhelmingly female market of keyboard players?  How different were French playing techniques from English ones?  Was Mozart a “Walter” or “Stein” type of pianist?

Historically informed performance of late 18th-century and early 19th-century piano repertoire requires sensitivity and knowledge of three distinct historical schools of pianism and pianos: English, French, and Viennese.  Any of the following pianos—all built or restored by Chris Maene—will be put to your disposal for practicing, coaching, and performing:

  1. Andreas Stein, 1786 (German, FF–f3)
  2. Ignaz Kober, 1788 (square, Viennese, FF–f3)
  3. Anton Walter, ca. 1790 (Viennese, FF–g3)
  4. Longman, Clementi, and Co., 1798 (English, FF–c4)
  5. Erard Frères, 1803 (French, FF–c4; copied after the original belonging to Beethoven)
  6. Nannette Streicher, 1816 (Viennese, FF–f4)
  7. John Broadwood & Sons, 1817 (English, CC–c4; copied after the original belonging to Beethoven)
  8. Gottlieb Hafner, ca. 1830 (Viennese, FF–g4)
  9. Erard, 1836 (French, CC­–g4)

During your ten days at Orpheus, expect to be coached on at least one piece of your choice, to give a presentation on your ongoing research, and to participate in a formal concert.

Declassifying the Classics

2. Concours révolutionnaire

Who of us does not recall that the third sonata (in C) from Clementi’s Opus 33 had such prestige that it was solemnly banned from the concours at the Conservatoire because it always made the person who played it win the prize.
Le pianiste, 1833
This sonata was played by his pupil F. Kalkbrenner who obtained the premier prix.
Title page of Louis Adam’s Sonata Op. 8 No. 3 (1801)

The notion of a “prize-winning sonata” may be bizarre to us now, but in the first decade of the Paris Conservatoire, an institution that made professional performance its core educational business, the confusion would have been both novel and unavoidable. Judges at the concours or audience members at the exercises d’élèves would have wondered: which or who dazzles us more, the accomplished performer or the flashy composition?  That it was sometimes the teacher who wrote the exam piece, to show off the prowess of the student he had trained, would have added to the ambiguity.

At the Orpheus Institute, a project is underway to study the implications of Beethoven’s 1803 Erard piano from a variety of perspectives.  In this workshop, we’d like to test one of our running hypotheses: that, by ordering a French piano and writing as the first piece on it his grand “Waldstein” Sonata Op. 53, Beethoven deliberately catered to a new Conservatoire reality—that of the young star-pianist and his equally ambitious, freshly appointed professor.  How would Beethoven’s sonata have fared among those early war-horse pieces that garnered laurels in the Conservatoire annals?

We ask you:

  1. John Baptist Cramer, Sonata in F Major, Op. 7 No. 3
  2. Muzio Clementi, Sonata in C Major, Op. 33 No. 3
  3. Louis Adam, Sonata in C Major, Op. 8 No. 2
  4. Ferdinand Hérold, Sonata in C Minor, Op. 1
  5. Louis Adam, Air du bon Roi Dagobert avec douze Variations précéde d’un prélude ou introduction
  6. Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Fantasy in E-flat Major, Op. 18
  7. Pierre-Joseph-Guillaume Zimmermann, Sonata in F Major, Op. 5
  8. Hélène de Montgeroult, Sonata in G Minor, Op. 2 No. 1
  • Before the start of the workshop, to prepare your assigned “prize-winning” piece up to professional performing level (memorization is not necessary).
  • During the workshop, to be coached and perform the work on our 1803 Erard.
  • To agree in advance to be recorded and videotaped, both during the workshop and during your final public performance, for possible online publishing.  (After the public performance, there will be an opportunity for re-takes.)
  • Just like the students back then, we will adopt Louis Adam’s Méthode de piano du Conservatoire (1804) as our official textbook.  A copy may be found here.

Note: the concours element in this exercise is tongue-in-cheek only.  We’re interested in the historically new idea of a professional performance exam.  There is no prize to win.  (Or, to put it another way: everyone wins.)

Application process

If you’d like to take part of this special workshop, please send the following to summeracademy@orpheusinstituut.be by March 2, 2018 (5 pm Belgian time):

  • A link to a video featuring a recent performance.
  • A letter of intent (max. two pages), including your rationale for participating and a brief outline of your research project.
  • A copy of your CV.

Maximum number of participants: eight.

Cost: a € 250 registration fee.  Accommodation in private residential rooms in the centre of Ghent can be available at € 100/150 per week.  Eight free lunches will be provided, as well as two evening dinners

A more detailed schedule will be sent upon acceptance. The schedule will include seminars by distinguished guests and a visit to Chris Maene’s historical keyboard workshop in Ruiselede, Belgium.