Time and Technology in Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas

Sanae Zanane

Rudolph Ackermann Balance Regulator

2018 - ...

(photo: Rudolph Ackermann’s “Balance Regulator,” circa 1812. Credit Tony Bingham/Basel Historical Museum)

Towards the end of the 19th century, piano building started standardizing mechanical reliability, power of sound, and dynamic range. A similar trend of normalization appeared in piano performance. While interpretation of so-called classical and pre-romantic repertoire has been enriched in dynamics, it has been greatly impoverished in time flexibility. Quite a lot of information on timing may be distilled from 18th century treatises. When it comes to the performance of repertoire pieces, however, it remains difficult to ascertain the extent and proportion of these practices. I set out to do so through the performance on various types of fortepianos in my investigation of Beethoven’s piano sonatas and will explore historically appropriate notions of time, agogics, and flexibility.

This research is conducted in the context of the docARTES PhD programme.