Classical Piano Lessons
Tim P Manger
Why learn Classical Piano?
As a teacher of piano, Tim believes that to learn the piano and
it's subtle nuances, students should seriously consider studying
some of the amazing periods in history, that helped shape and
mould the piano's look, feel, and sound.
The term 'classical piano' or 'classical music' is used loosely
to define nearly 400 years of music history, of which only 70
years was strictly in the 'classical' form (the period from 1750
- 1820). For the purposes of accuracy and relevance, we will look
at the varying musical periods briefly.
Each musical period offers a treasure trove of playing styles
and subtleties, some of which are discussed in greater detail
below. If we were to restrict ourselves to the true 'classical
period' only, students would miss out on an overwhelming plethora
of pieces and works, as well as an exceptional variety of historical
musical manuscripts, developments and creativity.
Piano (Harpsichord) - 1650 - 1750
The Baroque (derived from the spanish 'misshapen pearl') period
in western musical history, saw the Catholic Church dominate
the styles and musical themes of the age. The art of the time
was also largely influenced by the Catholic Church, and musical
composers were compelled to write music to a strict code of
Producing gigantuan composers such as J.S. Bach (and the entire
Bach dynasty for that matter), Handel, Telemann, and Scarlatti
just to name a few, the Baroque period saw the rise of several
keyboard instruments, specifically the muti-manual church organ
and the harpsichord (cembalo), which was primarily used as a
basso continuo rather than a solo instrument.
The piano does not receive much of a mention in Baroque times,
because it wasn't invented until the late Baroque period to
early Classical period. In fact the piano, designed largely
to supercede the dynamically restrictive harpsichord, had little
influence on composers until the late 18th century. The first
pianos (or pianoforte as they were aptly named) were predominantly
upright or spinet versions, with wooden internal frames, a softer
tone than modern pianos, and were named according to their dynamic
range (piano et forte) 'soft and loud'.
Piano - 1750 - 1820
Arguably the most popular period in piano music history, the
Classical period boasts composers such as Mozart (and the entire
Mozart dynasty), Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Brahms,
just to name a few.
By the time the 'Classical' period arrived, composers were
writing an overwhelming library of works for the piano (pianoforte),
which in it's own right was undergoing constant modification
and improvement as a solo instrument. The speed and action of
the pianoforte was continually developed throughout this period,
including the introduction of the 'grand' pianoforte in the
The sheer body of works available to both teachers and students,
originating from this period is breathtaking, giving modern
day pianists a fantastic insight into the composers and musical
advances of the period.
Piano -1820 - 1900
As music became richer and more extravagant, it became known
as the 'Romantic Period'. A period that produced great composers
such as Chopin, Liszt, Debussy and Tchaikovsky just to name
Music from this period in piano history is often epic in stature,
with incredible dexterity, flourish and technical brilliance
required. Towards the end of the Romantic period (the late 19th
Century), composers such as Ravel, Debussy and Rachmaninov began
developing a new style of sound that had never been heard.
For the boffins of the period, this new sound was akin to looking
at one of Pablo Picasso's early 1930's paintings, and comparing
it to a 'Golden Age' Rembrandt. As the musical inflections of
the period began altering rapidly, so too did the historical
Piano - 1900 - Current Day
The contemporary period in piano playing once again created
a new series of challenges and dizzying heights for pianists.
With composers such as Khachaturian, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and
Gershwin, the piano became (and has become) an instrument of
boundless extremities, rather than an instrument of strict form.
To put a box around the definition of piano music from this
period is almost impossible. The music is as diverse as all
the periods that came before it, with genres such as jazz, incidental,
and rock music having an influence over a composer's final work.
From the rich sounds of the neo-romantic composers, to the
often discordant and ethereal sounds of the contemporary period,
students will be able to embrace challenges and creativity on
the piano that are unlike any other life experience.