Dedicated to a friend: a survey of piano pieces dedicated to great pianists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries

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The word "dedication" is given three interpretations in the Webster dictionary:

"1) to devote to the worship of a divine being;

  1. to set apart for a definite purpose; to give over;

  2. to inscribe or address as a compliment."

As I chose to research and record works dedicated to famous pianists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I felt that each of those describes factors of the relationship implied by a dedication between creator and procreator.

Up until the 20th century pianists were generally composers in their own right. Though favoring mostly light genres for immediate use, they knew firsthand composing experience. Well into the 20th century composers performed their and others' works in concert.

The phenomenon of dedication has been popular in the musical profession. While musicians were employees of princely courts or the church the dedications of new works glorified God, the aristocratic employer or commissioner. Occasionally dedications reflected the admiration or friendships between composers. In the 19th century, as free-lance musical employment commenced dedications to aristocratic benefactors remained widespread. However, dedications signifying appreciation of the artistry or personality of a musical colleague became ever more prominent. Sometimes a dedication signified admiration for the dedicatee's performance of the work in question. In such cases the dedications become not only curious facts, but useful hints for future performers.

What makes the turn of the century unique is the intense and close communication between composers and performers on a daily basis. I believe this was a factor decisive in the programming of much contemporary music along with masterpieces of the past. The immediate reaction to the pieces as witnessed by both the composers and their performers caused the quickly changing styles of the composers, and the ever evolving pickiness of the performers.

The relationship between pianists and composers may not always be based on mutual understanding, but I do think that it could only be nurtured by curiosity for each other's work. Since at this time both pianists and composers were involved in the performances of new works, they followed similar goals in their arts. Exploring these relationships, based on the existing dedications, could provide us with more intimate understanding of both the art of the famous pianists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the creative processes of the great composers of that period.