an afternoon symposium

Barnes Hall, Cornell University
Friday, February 3, 2017
beginning at 1 p.m.


The four-hand piano transcription was one of the defining musical objects of the long nineteenth-century. Once a ubiquitous household item, the two-player-one-keyboard medium domesticated “public” genres for consumption in the middle-class home. Miniaturizing the symphony, re-voicing the opera, and consolidating the oratorio, the transcription stood as the nineteenth-century’s choice medium of musical reproduction. While LPs, cassette decks, CDs, online music streaming, and the like, have since replaced it, the transcription has in recent years garnered critical attention precisely for its seeming prescience of these formats. Yet additionally, it raises a series of questions concerning private/public divides; the gendering of musical consumption; originals, copies, and the ontology of the musical work; embodiment and affect; media archaeological methods; musical labor diversification; the expansion of the musical print industry; pedagogical history; and even the foundations of Romanticism itself.

On Friday, February 3, 2017, the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies will host a symposium entitled Four-Hand Keyboarding in the Long Nineteenth-Century to investigate these topics. At this afternoon-long event, eight pairings of performer-scholars will give short, conference-style talks discussing a four-hand piece, composer,and critical theme, and proceed to perform four-hand music on Cornell University’s unparalleled collection of historical keyboard instruments. Topics will include Charles Burney’s formative piano duos; Franz Joseph Haydn’s pedagogical techniques; Carl Czerny’s “mechanical” pianism; Wagnerian-operatic transcription; the Second Viennese School’s transcriptive strategies; and more. Participants will include Cornell University graduate students, as well as faculty members Annette Richards and Roger Moseley, and special guest and four-hand expert, Thomas Christensen (University of Chicago).

[Image: NY Public Library]


Adorno, Theodor W. “Four Hands, Once Again.” Translated by Jonathan Wipplinger. Cultural Critique, 60 (Spring, 2005): 1-4.

Brett, Philip. “Piano Four-Hands: Schubert and the Performance of Gay Male Desire.” 19th-Century Music, 21, no. 2 (1997): 149-176.

Christensen, Thomas. “Four-Hand Piano Transcription and Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Musical Reception.” Journal of the American Musicological Society, 52, no. 2 (1999): 225-298.

Daub, Adrian. “Introduction” and “Four-Handed Monsters.” In Four-Handed Monsters: Four-Hand Piano Playing and Nineteenth-Century Culture. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. 1-23 and 105-134.

Leppert, Richard D. “‘Four Hands, Three Hearts’: a Commentary.” Cultural Critique, 60 (Spring, 2005): 5-22.

Noudelmann, François. “The Piano Touches Me.” In The Philosopher’s Touch : Sartre, Nietzsche, and Barthes at the Piano. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. 95-144.