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Playing the Game? Approaches to Performing the Piano Music of Christian Wolff' lecture-recital

By Philip Thomas


The 1950s was unquestionably the decade of experimental notational practice in which the performer’s role was recast from one that involves interpretation to one that requires realization. From 1957 onward, the works of American composer Christian Wolff are marked in part for the obscurity and ambiguities of both the text instructions and the notations themselves. In For Pianist (1959), Wolff mapped his techniques of notational indeterminacy onto a work for solo piano. Bold and unusual, For Pianist is fueled by uncertainty and risk, and written in the knowledge that its first performer, David Tudor, would rise to the challenge. Philip Thomas discusses the demands facing the performer of For Pianist, relating it to earlier piano works by Wolff and to the performing tradition established by Tudor, as detailed in Tudor’s archive at the GRI. The lecture is accompanied by performances of a selection of solo piano works by Christian Wolff from the 1950s

Topics: M1, ML
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