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  • 8/13/2019 Treatise Main Body




    Since their first appearance in the sixteenth century, keyboard instruction bookshave made a continuous and systematic attempt to provide students and teachers with anorganized presentation of various issues related to keyboard playing. The variety of theseissues is overwhelming, not only because of the idiosyncratic nature of teaching amusical instrument, but also because of the different musical performance practices indifferent eras and geographical places.

    As a result, manuals of this sort include theoretical information, advice, and

    examples of the skills that a keyboardist is expected to master depending on the musicalstandards of each period. For instance, tutors from the Baroque era include lengthyanalysis of thoroughbass principles, while more recent books elaborate on appropriatestylistic approaches to pieces from various periods.

    Despite the enormous differences that can be observed in keyboard instruction books in terms of origin, style, language, and organization, they all have one commonsource: the desire of experienced teachers to summarize years of knowledge. Thus they provide young musicians with essential reference tools to help them master the technicaland interpretive aspects of keyboard playing.

    Of all these aspects, fingering has been the most controversial, since it is perhapsthe hardest to approach and systematize due to the individuality of the human hand andthe multiple fingering combinations that could apply to each musical passage. Inaddition, for every rule, an infinite number of exceptions could be pointed out based onthe musical context that precedes and follows each given example.

    Despite the controversial nature of the topic, fingering instructions are included in

    almost every keyboard manual ever written. Furthermore, published exercises, etudes, oreven performance pieces that include fingering suggestions made by composers orfamous teachers provide additional information on practices from different eras. All ofthis material reflects an enormous diversity of approaches to fingering based on the progress of scientific anatomical knowledge, the evolution of keyboard instruments, the

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    individual technical demands of repertoire from different periods, advances in piano pedagogy, and various performance practices as they were applied in different regionsand eras.

    Information derived from fingering sources in regard to articulation, phrasing andmusic interpretation has been a source of interest for many musicological and performance practice analyses. In particular, treatises whose content and organizationchanged the course of systematic piano pedagogy perception, such as Carl PhilippEmanuel BachsVersuch ber die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen, have undergoneextensive research by succeeding generations.

    Nevertheless, an overview of the changes in fingering instruction throughout thecenturies has not been undertaken. In addition, the vast majority of existing research

    focuses on subjects related to performance practice issues, more specifically to the directrelationship between fingering and the idiosyncratic character of the music to be performed. This historical overview of fingering resources will highlight the majorscientific, sociological, pedagogical and musical reasons behind the philosophical and practical instructional differences. It will also examine the principles of fingering thathave prevailed throughout the centuries, whether referring to specific rules or to generalgoals.

    The present study focuses on four separate and distinct periods. The first periodwill include keyboard fingering material written from approximately 1520 to 1750, with particular emphasis on treatises from different geographical regions. The second periodwill cover the transition from harpsichord and organ playing to the predominance offortepiano, covering the years between 1750 and 1840. The third periods developmentof the modern piano and increased requirement for virtuosity generated a need forunprecedented finger dexterity, coinciding roughly with the Romantic era; the discussionwill cover treatises and teachings from 1840 until 1900. Finally, the scientific approach

    to piano pedagogy that derived from the knowledge of motor skills, as well as the use ofunconventional piano techniques and its application to fingering, will be the basis forthe final period, beginning with the turn of the twentieth century and extending to the present time.

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    SOURCES FROM 1520 TO 1650

    IntroductionThe humanistic spirit that prevailed throughout the Renaissance was the driving

    force behind all the major scientific and artistic developments from the fourteenth centurythrough the sixteenth. The pursuit of a higher reality and the replacement of authority byempiricism produced an era of intense scientific observation and an artistic desire tocreate order.1 Johannes Gutenbergs invention of the printing press, Leonardo da Vincisnumerous manuscriptssuch as the Codex Leicester, a revolutionary writing onastronomyand Columbuss discovery of America are only a few of the scientificachievements of the time.

    The arts were certainly not unaffected by the quest for advancing the humanintellect. Art music in particular experienced the beginnings of disassociation from itsstrictly religious character. Demand for secular music increased, while advancements ininstrument making accelerated. By the late sixteenth century composers were able towrite idiomatically for instruments with a gradual abandonment of vocal compositions asinstrumental prototypes.2 Keyboard compositions included canzonas, ricercars, toccatas,dance variations, and other short forms.

    As the keyboard repertoire expanded and the mechanics of the instrument

    constantly improved, the demand for keyboard instruction began to emerge. This need,in accordance with the Renaissance ideal of a solid educational system, resulted in the production of numerous treatises on music. Even though theoretical music writings had

    1 Douglass Seaton, Ideas and Styles in the Western Musical Tradition(Mountain View: MayfieldPublishing Company, 1991), 94.

    2 Donald Jay Grout, A History of Western Music(New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1973),276.

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    been in existence since antiquity, it was not until the sixteenth century that instructiontutors appeared for the first time.

    A prominent characteristic of keyboard instruction material from its beginningand throughout the Baroque period is the remarkable diversity observed in fingeringinstructions. Even though the philosophy of fingering throughout Europe was based onthe unequal length and strength of fingers, treatises provided multiple answers to thequestion of which fingers are actually stronger, even though avoidance of the thumb andthe little finger seems to be widely accepted. The considerable differences betweenfingering systems underline the individuality of performance practices and the existenceof distinctive national styles.

    The roots of advanced nationalism in Europe in the sixteenth century could be

    attributed at least partially to the Reformation and the political oppression that caused thefragmentation of the Roman Catholic Church. For the history of music this meant thegrowth of a variety of practices and musical styles and repertoires.3

    The bulk of keyboard tutors from 1520 to 1650 came from Germany, Spain andItaly. Despite the extraordinary flowering of the variation form in England in the latesixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the English sources of the time do not includeany pedagogical discussion. However, there is an abundance of fingerings indicated inthe so-called virginal music found in publications and manuscripts.

    France experienced perhaps the most isolated and independent musicaldevelopment throughout the Baroque period. During the sixteenth century the religiouswars between Catholics and the Calvinist Huguenots prevented a significant artisticdevelopment; the very first French harpsichord tutor appeared as late as the beginning ofthe eighteenth century. Even collections of pieces with performance indications did notappear in France until 1665.4

    3 Douglass Seaton, 134.4 Cynthia Qualls Ashley, An Examination of Early Keyboard Fingering with Emphasis on the

    Development of National Styles (Creative Project Paper, Southeast Missouri State University, 1987), 69.

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    German SourcesHans Buchner von Constanzs (1483-1540) Abschrifft M. Hansen von Constanz,

    des wyt [sic] Beriempten Organisten Fundament Buch sinen [sic] Kinden Verlosse is theearliest source of information on keyboard fingering. The tutor, written probably around1526, was actually prepared by Christoph Piperinus in 1551 and has survived in threemanuscripts in both Latin and German.

    Buchners tutor is comprised of three chapters and a comprehensive set ofliturgical compositions. In the first chapter, the author includes a set of rules forfingering and a thoroughly fingered three-voice hymn setting in German organ tabulatureas an example of fingering applications. In the introduction Buchner acknowledges thecomplexity of providing specific fingering instructions because of the number of possible

    exceptions. Nevertheless, he considers the matter of utmost importance:

    Unless every note is taken with its appropriate finger, many [virtues] are lost in playing, which if they are present, bring to the melody a wonderful grace and joyfulness.5

    In the examples given in