The Keyboard Magazine Columns,
He played not only from the well-known classical repertoire but, more to the point, from the music of the time, always by memory. His performances were truly memorable musical experiences.
He was also a writer on music. His best-known book, “Twentieth-Century Piano Music” (1990), is a historical and critical survey of the art. He won ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards in 1978 and 1979 for his writings in "Contemporary Keyboard" (later "Keyboard Magazine").
DAVID BURGE was a brilliant pianist, a gifted teacher, and a vigorous champion of Twentieth-century music.
THIS BOOK INCLUDES ALL THE KEYBOARD MAGAZINE COLUMNS, 450 pages of wisdom, wit and extraordinary insight
"The reader will quickly perceive that David's writing style in these essays is totally professional in its clarity and finesse. . .
I would warmly recommend this wonderful collection to both students and professionals who are interested in the ongoing literature for one of music’s greatest instrumental voices—the piano! "
George Crumb, preeminent American composer
"The myths and distortions to which he objected exist today as surely as they did when he began his career. As such, it is invaluable to read his words again. . ."
Director, Piano Studies
Steinhardt School of Music
New York University
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TABLE OF CONTENTS (Sample)
Technic and 20th Century Music
Repertoire, Part I
Repertoire, Part II
Repertoire Part III: George Crumb
Performing the Piano Music of George Crumb
George Crumb and I
Playing Inside the Piano
Luciano Berio’s Sequenza IV
A Look at Piano Competitions
Two Indeterminate Pieces
Planning 20th Century Recital Programs
Aaron Copland’s Piano Variations
Curtis Curtis-Smith’s Rhapsodies
Recital Programming Revisited
Pieces for Piano and Tape
What to Listen For
Untying Rhythmic Knots
“How Do I Know If It’s Any Good?”
Five New Pieces
New Pieces, Part II
Getting Your Works Published
Charles Eakin’s Frames
Some Samplings from the Book -
…Stay seated. I know for a fact that anyone five feet tall or more can, with practice, play virtually anything written inside the instrument while keeping the posterior planted decorously on the bench. Frankly, piano playing should not be very interesting visually, but when it is it is usually for the wrong reasons.
The pianist’s first objective as a performing musician is to serve the music well, to make the expressive substance as comprehensible as possible through sensitivity to and control of structure, line, and timbre. This should be true whether the performance deals with Beethoven, Schumann, Scriabin, Boulez, or a work completed the day before yesterday by a student composer.
…Today I realize that it is a beautifully logical philosophy of performing (and of learning and teaching, too,) that puts first things first: It begins with the musical concept.
The attitude of far too many performers toward today’s composers is both deprecating and patronizing (in the worse sense), and this does the art of music no good at all.
In this regard I try to make the point everywhere I go that new music must be treated as conscientiously and as lovingly as any; it must be understood and assimilated as deeply as any; it must be projected even more carefully than traditional music for the very reason that it is not traditional and therefore is less known and therefore is in need of greater understanding and care. (italics ed.)
It is strange, however, and this is the source of my continuing puzzlement, that these same dedicated people balk—protest violently in some cases—at the idea that one should think about music, that there is an intellectual as well as an emotional side to the appreciation and performance of our complex art. Strange or not, there it is, this pervasive attitude, this insistence that music is, at best, a vague, undefinable expression of feeling about which it would be better not to “get technical” for fear of losing the desired effect.
Above all, however, music is an art. In every age it expresses the essence of that age. It is, therefore, not enough simply to learn yet again to reproduce the musical creations of earlier times. An attitude insisting that this is the performer’s sole function is, to my way of thinking, basically anti-musical; it leaves out the most important part of the performer’s function and contribution. Music, if it is to continue as a truly living art, must include the sounds and musical thoughts of its present-day creators.
…when someone asks me: “Are there special exercises for those difficult leaps and awkward positions that one hears in modern music?” My answer to the [this] question can only be to suggest that we need to become far more knowledgeable musically with regard to recent music before we worry about technic. If one hears only “difficult leaps and awkward positions” rather than musical ideas, something is in error (but it is probably not technic!).
The ultimate aim of all music study, whether of solfege, Czerny études, the techniques of Eighteenth-century counterpoint, or the intricacies of sonata form, is to allow one to become a better musician. The sooner the separate parts of the study are given their place in the larger design, and the sooner this design is clearly understood and appreciated by every teacher and student of music, the more effectively this aim will be realized.
On the one hand, I know no good pieces that are solely intellectual in nature, just as I know none that cannot be better appreciated on every musical and emotional level through thoughtful study and investigation of an analytical kind. The two aspects of music are both necessary and inseparable.
George Crumb and David Burge
…With a well-known piece from the standard repertoire—a Mozart sonata, let’s say—I find I have to fight the impulse to play an imitation of what I have already heard so much in performances by others. It’s so easy for it to be all preconceived! Being able to approach the Mozart sonata compositionally—seeing the piece from where it really started—is a way out, a means toward creating your own interpretation.”
…at no time should the technic be in any way an end in itself…In other words, if one is to perform a work from a certain period, the technic to do so will develop in direct proportion to one’s increasingly precise understanding of the style involved.
My point, in conclusion, is that the more one knows of the inner workings of a piece and the more one tries to project meaningful relationships, the more sense a work will make, even to the uninitiated.
The emphasis, by and large, continues to move in the direction of pianism, how the piano is played, so-called effectiveness, rather than the development of a deeper interest in and understanding of what is being played. The one without the other, with showiness more important than musical content, is a form of musical display; pianism becomes another competitive sport.
…This point of view…may have a great deal to do with the bad performances one hears from so many potentially good performers; it may also be the cause of the popularity of so much “mindless” music today; it certainly helps to create a negative attitude toward the performance of the most challenging new music of our time.
It would seem that, despite an outpouring of wonderful piano music during every decade of the Twentieth century, the repertoire played by the majority of young and old pianists today is the same as in 1889, with just a few peripheral additions.
For most of these pianists, Twentieth-century music hardly exists. They remain proud of their ignorance of it, and spend their lives recreating the music of other times. But do you really think that there is a growing audience for this wonderful but punishingly over-played repertoire? If so, take a good look at the shrinking iceberg you're standing on before it gets too far from shore.
What is TIMELESS RELEVANCE?
It is a state of certainty; a belief that age will not weaken its significance; that fashion will not change its enduring realities.
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