Thursday 17 October 2019
West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge
An intimate evening with David Owen Norris playing on his 1828 Broadwood Grand Pianoforte Mendelssohn’s Sonata in E Op. 6 and Rondo Capriccioso along with Sterndale Bennett’s Sonata Op. 46.
For the first thirty years or so of the nineteenth century, Broadwoods sawed their wooden sustaining pedals in two, the right-hand half raising the dampers from middle C up, and the left-hand half raising the dampers from middle B down. Mendelssohn and Sterndale Bennett were just two of many composers who took advantage of this potent device.
A similar mechanism existed in Johannes Zumpe’s square pianos of the 1770s, where the dampers, similarly divided at middle C, were operated by two hand levers. This meant that you couldn’t change the pedal, as it were, until you had a hand free. The apparent shortcomings of the device stimulated the fertile mind of Johann Christian Bach, a business associate of Zumpe’s, to ingenious musical innovations, and the later incarnation of the idea in the grand pianoforte proved no less conducive to brilliant contrivance. No-one knows why the divided sustaining pedal disappeared. David Owen Norris has caused several modern instruments to incorporate it, and players and composers are always fascinated by it. Other composers who wrote passages specially designed for the divided pedal include Clementi and JB Cramer.
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Running times are approximate and subject to change