Remember the Golden Age of Piano?

Feb 27, 2017

Think back to the years before mobile devices, record players, and radio—when people who wanted to hear music heard it live or made their own. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more on the Golden Age of the Piano.

Concerts were given in small spaces, and it was a mark of an educated person to have a piano in your home, to study music, and to be able to play.

Radio script:

[MUSIC: Pianist Jeffrey Siegel playing Chopin]

Susan Lewis:  The Cat Waltz, written in 1838, was just one of hundreds of Chopin’s works for piano, an instrument that drew many others as well. By the second half of the 19th century, and through the first two decades of the 20th, the piano was in its "Golden Age."

Jeffrey Siegel: the peak of its popularity.

SL: Pianist Jeffrey Siegel

Pianist Jeffrey Siegel
Credit Peter Schaaf

JS: Concerts were given in small spaces, and  it was a mark of an educated person to have a piano in your home and to study music and to be able to play.

SL: Short lyrical pieces were in demand—for amateurs as well as professionals, as in this 1886 minuet by Ignancy Jan Paderewski.

[MUSIC: Jeffrey Siegel playing 1886 Minuet by Paderewski]

JS: Paderewski was probably the most popular pianist from the time of Franz Liszt to Liberace, and wherever he went he had to play this piece. It was one of the most popular piano pieces of all time.

SL: The genre also attracted composers known more for their orchestral works, including Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and Dvorak, who wrote this humoresque.

[MUSIC: Jeffrey Siegel playing Humoresque by Dvorak]

SL: Dvorak himself could hardly play piano at all; he was a string player. And yet there is an enormous amount of solo piano music of Dvorak,

JS: Among the many other composers writing short works for piano during its Golden Age: Franz Liszt, Edvard Grieg, and George Gershwin.

[MUSIC: Hamelin plays Gershwin's Swannee]

SL: By the mid 1920s, radio and the phonograph were changing the world; and sales of sheet music were giving way to sales of recordings. But the Golden Age of Piano left its mark with classics that are still popular today.

On Tuesday evening, March 7th at the Kimmel Center, Jeffrey Siegel’s Keyboard Conversation series focuses on the Golden Age of the Piano.