The Piano Makes a House a Home

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

A parlor piano, circa 1900. (David G. Hawkins/flickr)

A house was not a home without its piano, says host David Dubal, especially during the years between 1900 and World War I. The Glorious Decade gave us music of the drawing room and the concert hall. It was an era rich in musical discovery and pianistic masterpieces.

On this episode, Marc-Andre Hamelin plays Felix Blumenfeld’s Left Hand Etude, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli plays Debussy’s poetic prelude The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, Shera Churkassky performs a Strauss Waltz and Andrei Gavrilov tackles two movements from Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

Program playlist:

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Prelude in B minor, Op.32, No.10
Alexis Weissenberg, piano
Philips

Gabriel Faure: Barcarolle No 5 in F sharp minor Op. 66
Robert Casadesus, piano
Philips

Nikolai Medtner: Fairy Tale, Op. 34, No. 2
Shura Cherkassky, piano
Ivory Classics

J.Strauss-Godowsky: Wein Weib und Gesang
Shura Cherkassky, piano
Philips

Isaac Albéniz: III.Lavapiés of III Cuaderno Iberia
Alicia de la Rocha, piano
Radiotelevision Espanola

Felix Blumenfeld: Etude pour la main gauche seule, Op.36
Marc-Andre Hamelin, piano
Hyperion 

Claude Debussy: Prélude, Book 1 La fille aux cheveux de lin
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, piano
Philips

Serge Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No 1 in D flat, Op 10: Movements II & III
Andrei Gavrilov, piano
Philips

Alexander Scriabin: Étude in F-sharp major, op.42 no.3 - Prestissimo
Sviatoslav Richter, piano
Melodiya

Comments [8]

My parents bought a (used) upright piano so that I could take lessons. I was never very good, but it was helpful when I was studying music in college.

It was never used as a sing-along device in our household. I'm still in awe that they thought enough of my musicianship to have a piano in the home. DD~~

Feb. 15 2015 07:01 PM
Martina G from Brooklyn

Last night episode was so beautiful it brought me to tears. Thanks for that wonderful "real radio moment".

Feb. 13 2015 11:26 AM
Rachel from nyc

Not related to this episode particulary, but I have a question about WQXR's advertisement short clip always played after the program with Jeff Spurgeon's MC with background of Mozart piano piece.
Who is the performer of this piece and which piece is it?

Feb. 12 2015 09:21 PM
Martha from Hertford, NC

Thus far the discussion has omitted the entire issue of player pianos, which came in all shapes and sizes, and were not confined to speakeasies and saloons. Growing up in my grandmother's house (she was born in the 1880s, to give you context) I remember that her AMPICO baby grand piano was one of her prized possessions. Rolls for that piano were often made by great pianists like Rachmaninoff, so the classics were available as parlor entertainment, in addition to the popular music of the day.

Feb. 12 2015 08:32 PM
Carol Luparella from Garfield, NJ

@CastaDiva:
I agree with you that listening to music via modern technology is not the same as being able to actually play it for yourself and others.
I am just happy to live at a time in which someone (like myself) who cannot play the piano and couldn't afford one anyway, can still have the experience of listening to great music.

Feb. 12 2015 01:46 PM
CastaDiva from New York, NY

@Carol Luparella from Garfield, NJ

"Fortunately, today's technology allows nearly everyone to have access to music whenever we wish."

Not the quite the same thing. In those days, the piano was played not merely for love of music, but also served a social function. It was considered to be a mark of cultural refinement, and was usually played by the women of the family to entertain guests who visited, as novels of the period will show. Even today, there are people who must have a piano in their living rooms; and I'm not speaking here of wealthy patrons of the arts. I live in NYC where apts. are not known for being spacious. Yet, two women on my floor, one a retired music teacher, the other a former music conductor, each have baby grands in their living rooms, and occasionally play for their circle of friends.

Feb. 12 2015 12:32 PM
Carol Luparella from Garfield, NJ

For those able to afford a house with a drawing room along with a piano to put in it, I'm sure it certainly made for a wonderful home environment. For those who could not afford such luxuries (probably the majority), I guess that was just too bad. Fortunately, today's technology allows nearly everyone to have access to music whenever we wish.

Feb. 12 2015 10:32 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

JA house was not a home without a piano during most of the entire 19th Century, if families could afford it, as witnessed by many publishers' arrangements of symphonies for two and four hands, popular arias from operas as well as music for piano solo and chamber music . Sir Thomas Beecham, in his autobiography, "A Mingled Chime", reminisces about how he asked his parents if he might learn to play the piano in "Early Childhood (1885-88)".

Feb. 12 2015 09:56 AM

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