The Art of Performance

The Art of Performance

Heinrich Schenker and Heribert Esser

Print publication date: 2008

ISBN: 9780195151510

Publisher: Oxford University Press


From early on, Heinrich Schenker was deeply interested in performance. There are many references to a planned publication on performance, there are finished segments and many miscellaneous related notebook-jottings, but his theoretical writings took precedence over all else and he never completed the book. This book may be taken as a compilation, as is explained in detail in the editor's introduction. It presents what Schenker regarded as one of his main missions: to rectify the direction music performance had taken in his time. He argues that for a meaningful performance of a masterwork the performer must understand the inner workings of the music. Therefore, the many players — largely pianists — who merely use the text to show their own ability do injustice to the music and mislead audiences. This holds true even for those who follow the markings of the composers slavishly but without understanding. In discussing the great composers' modes of notation and showing that their markings only indicate a desired effect, we get highly practical and imaginative advice based on the author's own experience as performing pianist and composer. He covers different aspects of pianistic technique including hand motions, legato and non legato touch, fingering, pedal, and articulation. The discussion of dynamics and tempo are equally valid for all instrumentalists. Throughout, the aim of a free, “singing” performance which comes from having assimilated the music is stressed: it results in true “re-creation”.