Master of Music
Department or Program
Dr. Cully Bell
The focus of this thesis is to examine the relatively unknown but pioneering teaching principles and technical approach of 19th century piano pedagogue Ludwig Deppe (1828-1890). A contemporary of Franz Liszt, Deppe maintained a well-respected private piano studio in Berlin for nearly a half-century and developed specific and refined playing techniques in numerous significant pianists of the era (including several of Liszt's students--both before and after their study with Liszt). The argument can easily be made that Ludwig Deppe is one of a handful of truly great 19th century piano pedagogues that are responsible for the cultivation and evolution of a modern piano technique (coinciding with the evolution of the instrument itself) and succeeded in inspiring many great pianists to fully exploit the vast sonic capabilities of the grand piano as we know it today.
The writings left by Ludwig Deppe himself are relatively modest in length, and consist mainly of a few journal articles, and some shorter works (as well as several musical compositions). However, several of his students have authored detailed and lengthy descriptions of their lessons with him and have written teaching treatises based on his teaching methods that also include observations from numerous master classes. Deppe intended to publish a large volume of his teaching ideology, but upon his death in 1890 the volume remained uncompleted. It was later finished and published as one of his final requests by Ms. Elisabeth Caland (one of his most dedicated students) in 1903. The difficulty with many of these sources today remains the ability to find them. Many have not been reprinted since their original publication which was most often a small run and by an obscure publisher. Others (including most of Deppe's articles) were printed in short-lived musical journals which are long defunct today, and very difficult sources to find. However, the obscurity of these sources has nothing whatsoever to do with their quality of content and relevance to musical (specifically piano) history. Comparing and contrasting the keyboard and physiological concepts within them can be extremely beneficial for any pianist, either amateur or professional. Deppe's ideas directly led the way to most (if not all) concepts in our modern 20th century piano technique. They have remained invaluable to teachers and pianists alike, which successive generations of pedagogues have expounded and built upon to fill-out virtually all the mental and physiological concepts comprising modern piano technique.
This research paper seeks to examine Ludwig Deppe's teaching, performing, writing and its relevancy alongside other dominant technical theories developed in the 20th century that coalesce in currently accepted playing practice today.