Keeping Traditions Alive

Charles Rosen’s Piano Notes, a compendium of everything he’s learned about the piano in a lifetime, is a light, self-indulgent book, the kind of book you write at the end of your life when you no longer want to do research but flatter yourself that people still want to hear what you have to say. Luckily, he’s brilliant enough, and his knowledge of music encyclopedic enough (up to Boulez, that is, and no further), that enjoying his self-indulgence vicariously is sufficient pleasure. Best point in the first half:

The unthinking, unplanned performance – and this is an incontrovertible fact of modern concert life – is generally far less spontaneous, much more the prisoner of habit, than one that questions the traditional point of view, in which the performer questions his own instincts. The musician who has surrendered his will to tradition has abandoned the possibility of keeping the tradition alive.

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