Christina Kobb Talks to Michael Miller about Historical Keyboard Technique

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Christina Kobb, Pianist

Christina Kobb, Pianist

The Norwegian pianist and scholar Christina Kobb came to wider attention in the United States when a New York Times writer picked up an article in a Scandinavian science magazine about neurological research carried out on her to analyze her movements as she played an electronic keyboard using modern and nineteenth century technique, which she has researched in her dissertation.

Her work has made a strong impression on musicians and audiences of historically informed performance practice, since most if not all of the relatively small number of pianists who have adopted historical instruments have simply adapted the technique they have been using for modern instruments and have neglected to study the manuals of pianoforte technique published in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Johann Nepomuck Hummel’s Ausführliche theoretisch-praktische Anweisung zum Piano-Forte-Spiel, published in 1827 is especially interesting, since, as a pupil of Mozart’s, he can be thought to have drawn his method from the master himself.

In this interview, Christina Kobb demonstrated what she learned from her researches in a most musical and fascinating way on my totally unsuitable electronic piano. Complete fortepiano performances of the pieces she excerpted can be heard here:


About the author

Michael Miller

Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams. Currently, when he is not at work on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. In 2011 he contributed an introductory essay to Leonard Freed: The Italians / exh. cat. Io Amo L’Italia, exhibition at Le Stelline, Milan, and wrote the revised the section on American opera houses in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is currently at work on a libretto for a new opera by Lewis Spratlan, Midi, an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea set in the French West Indies, ca. 1930.

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