Focusing on the so-called "golden age" of pianism, ca.1840-ca.1940, Hamilton's healthy mixture of common sense, insightful arguments, and considerable experience as both scholar and pianist demonstrate just how far our current notions of performance etiquette, textual fidelity, and audience responsibility can be from those of practitioners a century or more removed. Hamilton suggests that edition making and the development of the piano's construction in the nineteenth century were inseparable, with pedaling, dynamics, registral displacement, literal repetition, and inner voices being routinely reconceived with little outcry along philosophical lines of musical progress.
306 Notes, December 2008 religious content. Bertagnolli dismisses the Readers with a speciﬁc interest in any of “eerie critical silence on the irreligious con- the pieces under discussion will perhaps tent of the scenes” as a “studied avoidance beneﬁt most from consulting Bertagnolli’s of the libretto’s controversies” (p. 276). book. Likewise, readers with a general in- This may indeed be the case, but the expla- terest in the topic of music and myth will nation seems a bit far-fetched. One is left take much from Bertagnolli’s introductory wondering if Parry’s contemporaries inter- chapter, in which he offers an overview of preted the work in the terms suggested by the history of the Prometheus legend in Bertagnolli’s analysis. If they didn’t, the im- Western literature and music from the plications for the work’s “radical” content eighth century BCE through the nine- in its own day are greatly minimized. teenth century. Bertagnolli’s prose style throughout the The entire volume ends rather ﬂatly, volume is inconsistent. In providing histori- with a ﬁnal chapter on concert overtures by cal and contextual background for each of Bargiel and Goldmark. Having been pulled the pieces under discussion, the writing is in so many different directions throughout efﬁcient and often elegant. In his extended the volume, one feels the need for a sepa- analyses, the language adopts a more delib- rate, concluding chapter to offer a sum- erate pace. This is, perhaps, a somewhat mary assessment of connections between unavoidable trait of such writing, but, even the music explored in the preceding pages. allowing for this, Bertagnolli’s prose analy- One is left instead with the scattered pieces ses make for labored reading. Compelled of an intricate puzzle—chapters seem more by an apparent desire for comprehensive- like a series of related essays as opposed to ness, his analyses often adopt the tone of a a tightly integrated whole. Passing refer- blow-by-blow account of musical events— ences in the text suggest broader connec- even those that are not directly related to tions between the individual works and set his broader interpretive goals. The efﬁcacy up an expectation for the end of the book of Bertagnolli’s analyses might have been that is not fulﬁlled. At times having under- helped by including more annotated score estimated the synthetic abilities of his examples in the text. Lengthy musical ex- reader, Bertagnolli ultimately leaves his au- cerpts abound, but without any annota- dience needing something more. tions, one is left scurrying back to the prose Richard Giarusso discussion (often several pages removed Peabody Conservatory of Music from the example) to uncover the relevant point. A number of tables and charts help to summarize some of the analytical con- After the Golden Age: Romantic tent, and one wishes that Bertagnolli might Pianism and Modern Performance. By have had more faith in the ability of these Kenneth Hamilton. New York: Oxford visual aids to convey the information that is University Press, 2008. [x, 304 p. ISBN- more tiresomely duplicated in prose. 10: 0195178262; ISBN-13: For the amount of theoretical knowledge 9780195178265. $29.95.] Music exam- that Bertagnolli’s analyses presuppose of ples, illustrations, bibliographic refer- his audience, other parts of his discussion ences, bibliography, index. seem to give the reader remarkably little credit—hammering home observations In After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism with unnecessary repetition or offering and Modern Performance, Kenneth Hamilton elaborate comments that illustrate an all- challenges the monopoly of modern per- too-obvious point. Do we really need to be formance practice on romantic repertory. told
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