Emotional Performance Practices from the 18th Century to the Present


Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's famous keyboard - or harpsichord - method Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen, with Turkish translation The Real Way to Play Keyboardhas been meticulously studied by almost all musicians. However, in the first part of the book (Berlin Edition, 1753, p. 122) Bach's advice to performers continues to create differences of opinion among musicians.

According to this famous advice, the artist should first feel the emotions that exist in the music within himself so that the transfer to the listener can be achieved.

Here is the recommendation with its German and Turkish translation:

Indem ein Musicus nicht anders rühren kan, ersey dann selbst gerührt; so muss er nothwendig sich selbst in alle Affeckten setzen können, welche er bey seinen Zuhörern erregen will; er giebt ihnen seine Empfindungen zu verstehen und bewegt sie solchergestallt am besten zur Mit-Empfindung. Bey matten und traurigen Stellen wird er matt und traurig. Man sieht und hort es ihm an. Dieses geschicht ebenfals bey heftigen, lustigen, und andern Arten von Gedancken, wo er sich alsdenn in diese Affeckten setzet. Kaum, dass er einen stillt, so erregt er einen andern, folglich wechselt er beständig mit Leidenschaften ab. Diese Schuldigkeit beobachtet er überhaupt bey Stücken, welche ausdrückend gesetzt sind, sie mögen von ihm selbst oder von jemanden anders herrühren; im letztern Falle muss er dieselbe Leidenschaften bey sich empfinden, welche der Urheber des fremden Stücks bey dessen Verfertigung line.

It is out of question for the musician to make the listener feel the emotions in the piece unless they experience it. It must necessarily carry itself into the emotions that it wants to arouse in the listener. In this way, he can convey his own ideas and feelings to the listener. In the sad and sad episodes, he should be sad too. You should be able to see and hear this mood in him. The same principle applies to the projection of strong, exuberant and other emotions; The musician surrenders himself to these feelings. He barely calms one down before awakening the next, and therefore he is constantly oscillating between passions. He must fulfill this task in pieces composed by himself or someone else in a touching or emotional nature. The musician should be able to feel the emotions of the composer within himself.

Bach is very clear about the emotional engagement of musicians. However, the part that is open to interpretation is about how the constantly changing emotional dynamics should be conveyed during the performance of the piece. Should the performer also experience these feelings with his 'body' or should the transfer be limited to music and notes?

According to classical theorists, preachers, like actors, must first have to feel emotions within themselves in order to influence the masses.

Discovered in 1416 by Marcus Fabius Quintilianus Institutio oratorio In the works of names such as Michel le Faucheur, Géraud de Cordemoy and Nicolas Malebranche in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was emphasized that one should first stimulate the emotions within himself in order to capture the audience emotionally.

If you're going to make me cry, you must first feel the grief within yourself.

Horace, Art poetica, v. 102

Johann Joachim Quantz, just like Bach, King II. He was one of the court artists of Frederick the Great (1712-86). Quantz continued this duty between 1741 and 1773, and in 1752 he wrote on the flute. Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen His thesis named the artist one of the most important music theorists of the 18th century.

According to Quantz, the musician and the preacher had the same purpose; to penetrate the hearts of the listeners, to evoke new feelings and to carry them from emotion to emotion.

Although the part about how to achieve this contains somewhat contradictory statements, Quantz emphasizes that the performer should look for ways to enter the emotions he wants to convey, and that being able to experience the emotion of a piece is a skill that can be acquired over time.

One of the other important names with this point of view is Leopold Mozart. The famous violin method he wrote in 1756 Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule In , Mozart argues that one should place oneself in the emotion that is wanted to be expressed. [al. 'man muss sich in den Affect setzen, der auszudrücken ist']

Daniel Gottlob Türk, on the other hand, in the piano method published in 1789 (Klavierschule) writes:

Diese Wirkung [den Zuhörer in einem hohen Grade zu rühren], als das höchste Ziel der Tonkunst, kann nur alsdann hervor gebracht werden, wenn der Künstler im Stande ist, sich in den herrschenden und versetchen Tünkunst Affecthan

Arousing emotion in the listener is the most important goal of music. The only way to achieve this is for the performer to experience the emotion to be conveyed, to convey the emotions to the audience with music and sound.

Bach's published in 1787 The Real Way to Play Keyboard A footnote stands out in the expanded edition of his work:

Hierbey nehme man sich vor dem Fehler des Allzuschläfrigen und Schleppenden in acht. Man kann durch zu vielen Affect und Melancholie leicht darein fallen

Avoid the mistake of giving a slow and dragging performance caused by excessive emotionality and melancholy.

Emotional Practices

Sulzer's Allgemeine Theorie [Kind. General Theory]. Vortrag (Music) [Kind. According to the article titled Lesson (Music)], a skilled singer or violinist should be able to bring us to tears with tonal adjustments by holding just one note.

According to Quantz Adagio For his performance, the musician must be in a calm and melancholic mood, so that he plays by grasping the mood of the composer.

The fact that composers and musicians physically experience the emotions in music is also in line with the 18th century German belief, which adopted the idea that music is a natural human activity, devoid of rational or pretentious intentions. This understanding also supports that musical performance in 18th century German soil was not just about imitating emotions, but primarily aimed at arousing emotions.

CPE Bach's Sensations

Undoubtedly, no work of CPE Bach has been as surprising as this composition. This work, which we can translate into Turkish as 'Bach's Hisleri', was not published while the composer was alive. Although the name of the work seems to give a clue about its dynamics, no indications were made in the notes or passages.

There are two obstacles that the performer must overcome. The first is the improvisational nature of the work, and the second is the emotional depth and content that needs to be grasped spiritually.

If we consider the edition with violin accompaniment, we should also remember Bach's warning: “The accompanist must also be an attentive listener”. This wonderful work also shows us the changing musical perception at the end of the 18th century.

Modern Piano School

Written by Malwine Bree, a student of the famous pedagogue Theodor Leschetizky, a student of Czerny, and approved by his teacher before it was published. Leschetizky Method It is a publication that should be in every pianist's library. The first chapter of this book is “Attitude at the Piano” (Eng. Attitude at the Piano). Before moving on to the techniques, Leschetizky will have important warnings to pianists:

Poses by the piano are not acceptable. The usual method of posers is to lean back with inspiration, nod their heads coolly, and look magically upwards with ecstatic eyes. Soon after, they take a contemptuous pose or bury their heads in the keys. Emotional transfer in piano performance does not happen with poses. The performer shows his art not with his face but with his fingers. If these feelings are really formed in them, they will naturally express themselves.

Theodor Leschetizky


Oleskiewicz, Mary. “The Flutes of Quantz: Their Construction and Performing Practice.” The Galpin Society Journal, vol. 53, 2000, pp. 201–220.

Maria Bania, Tilman Skowroneck, Affective practices in mid-18th-century German music-making: reflections on CPE Bach's advice to performers, Early Music, Volume 48, Issue 2

The Leschetizky Method: A Guide To Fine And Correct Piano Playing (dover Books On Music) Malwine Bree, Dover Publications, 1997

CEBALLOS, SARA GROSS. “Sympathizing with CPE Bachs Empfindungen.” The Journal of Musicology, vol. 34, no. 1, 2017, p. 1–31.


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