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On Character in Music

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Humanitas Visiting Professor in Chamber Music 2011: Professor Alfred Brendel

World-renowned pianist Alfred Brendel is the inaugural Humanitas Visiting Professor in Chamber Music at the University of Cambridge. He will give a series of public lectures at the Faculty of Music, which he will illustrate at the piano. In addition, he will participate in an open rehearsal with the Szymanowski Quartet, who will be performing at West Road Concert Hall subsequently.

Lecture 1: On Character in Music

This lecture sets out to show that the perception of character and atmosphere in musical performances is no less important than that of form and structure. The belief that the structure of a work automatically reveals its character is a fallacy. The notion of character appears in 18th-century treatises on interpretation as well as in writing on aesthetics where it is first discussed at the time when Beethoven’s sonatas begin to appear. Czerny’s comments on Beethoven’s piano works are full of references to character. The pianist’s task becomes related to that of a character actor identifying with different roles, with an ever widening awareness of the staggering emotional and psychological variety great music has to offer. Brendel will illustrate this lecture with musical examples at the piano.

This talk is part of the Humanitas series.

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