Performer Composer Concept is Long Overdue. The idea for this blog came from: The Great Pianists- from Mozart to the Present. It is written by Harold C. Schonberg. He was the former senior music critic for the New York Times. I was quite taken with his text on John Baptist Cramer. What he wrote about can be applied to our current musical situation. From the following, I concluded that Cramer was instrumental in creating our current performer composer dichotomy.
Today, few pianists play their own compositions exclusively in concert. As a matter of fact, few pianists today even compose. It is all about other people’s music. The equivalent in the theatrical community is the entire genre of “tributes.” Thus, we have countless tributes to Rogers and Hammerstein, Steven Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, etc. Pianists often feature one or two composers in their concerts. Beethoven seems to be preferred. Then comes some of the Romantics like Chopin or Schubert. Regardless, playing ones own music has fallen out of favor. As a result we have tribute after tribute. Sorry, but after a while this becomes “old hat.”
So How Did the Performer Composer Concept Come to be Abandoned?
First, who was John Baptist Cramer? Johann Baptist Cramer (24 February 1771 – 16 April 1858) was an English pianist and composer of German origin. He was the son of Wilhelm Cramer. His father was a famous London violinist and conductor. The family is identified with the progress of music during the 18th and 19th centuries. My knowledge of him is through his masterful book of piano etudes entitled: gradus ad Parnassum. It translates from Latin to”steps to Parnassus”. It is sometimes shortened to gradus. The name Parnassus was used to denote the loftiest part of a mountain range in central Greece. It is a few miles north of Delphi. In Greek mythology, one of the peaks was sacred to Apollo and the nine Muses. It had two peaks. One dedicated to inspiring deities of the arts. The other to Dionysus.
As per Schonberg, Cramer was one of the 1st pianists to feature music other than his own in concerts. He especially performed Mozart and Bach. I personally am a great believer in cycles. With few exceptions, pianist composers have left the scene. Witness the return. I hope to be a leader in this way. Enjoy my compositions at the Gasparilla Inn.
- December 20, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – April 1, 2018 @ 6:30 pm