Friday, 26 February, 2021 | 5:00 PM

Mark Ainley

An Introduction to Historical Piano Recordings

Author of the popular Facebook group The Piano Files, Mark Ainley shares recordings by golden-age pianists Lipatti, Hoffman, Friedman and more.

Musical performers and academics often focus on what editions of scores or which treatises can provide an understanding of a composer’s intentions, but historical recordings allow us to hear the actual playing of musicians of the past. Although greats like Mozart and Beethoven didn’t live to record (neither did Chopin or Liszt), we do have recordings by legendary composers like Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, as well as of students of Liszt and grand-students of Chopin (as well as at least one pianist who heard Chopin play). What we hear in these recordings is very different from the playing on the concert stage or on recordings today.   Historical recordings provide an opportunity to travel back in time to hear some of the greatest performers of the past and witness playing that words can scarcely describe. Until today’s pianists have heard Josef Hofmann’s palette of tonal colours, Ignaz Friedman’s magical pedal effects, Marcelle Meyer’s sublimely fluid phrasing, and Dinu Lipatti’s stunningly transparent voicing, their interpretative choices are limited to present-day norms.  In this insightful presentation, pianophile Mark Ainley will explore the tremendous importance of historical piano recordings and how they can enhance both pianists’ and listeners’ understanding of musical interpretation and the rich array of possibilities that the piano can provide its performers. 

About the artist

Mark Ainley is an internationally recognized authority on the art of piano playing and historical piano recordings. He is best known for his work in discovering unpublished recordings of the legendary pianist Dinu Lipatti, which led to world premiere award-winning releases of over three hours of previously lost performances by the revered artist. He has since his late teens authored CD liner notes and magazine articles on a range of pianists of different sensibilities, and he has lectured across North America, Europe, and Asia. His popular Facebook page The Piano Files with Mark Ainley is a hub for professionals and amateurs alike to explore great piano playing via recording history. Ainley explores how historical recordings can help today’s performers and listeners better appreciate music written decades or centuries ago, in addition to presenting examples of piano playing that can be radically different than today’s norms.