Tag Archive | Kraus

A Few Notes on the Piano

The other day my post was about the piano and pianists Arrau, Horowitz, Tureck and Kraus. Lili Kraus had more to say in her 1981 interview, and I’ve been waiting to post it.

“The piano is really a marvelous instrument. In a way it is not only the most sophisticated, but also the most transcendental of all instruments, because it forces you to rely not on technique only, as many would have it today, but on your creative imagination almost to the point of sorcery. The paradox lies in the fact that the voice of the piano dies in the moment of birth. Once you have struck the key, the sound can only diminish; there is no way of actually prolonging it. It is up to your imagination and vision to pretend and make believe that there is a continuity of sound equivalent to the sound of a flute, a voice, a cello, a horn, in fact, a whole orchestra….”

Photo by zen Sutherland from flickr. Creative Commons license.

It’s interesting to note that it’s not just the voice of the piano that “dies in the moment of birth.” In a way, what is true of the piano is true of every instrument, though you may be able to extend a half note or a chord with the pedal or the breath. What’s even more interesting is that the motion picture functions in a similar way. The scene is set and changes in a moment’s time. You can freeze the sound of the piano; you can freeze a scene on film. But the art is in the ongoingness of both. The temporality of the medium is of the essence.

Mozart in an unfinished portrait by Joseph Lange, 1782.

Kraus went on to speak about one of her favorite composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, about his “sweetness” in the face of the tragedy and suffering in his life.

“In his diary, Leonardo da Vinci said that the true experience of the artist at times is so terrifying that, if the artistic vision were presented in full truth to the layman, he would be so shocked that he would flee in terror. Therefore, according to Leonardo, it is the duty and sacred privilege of the creative artist to cloak his experience in the garb of love and perfection. Now this is precisely what Mozart has done, and his music has become so much a part of me that I agonize when the music turns to the minor, and I’m redeemed when it reverts to the major….”