Pianist plays the entire history of piano music, but it’s all in C major

10 September 2020, 21:08 | Updated: 11 September 2020, 09:08

C major piano
C major piano. Picture: YouTube / Frederick Viner

By Kyle Macdonald

Get ready for some white-keyed wizardry in a 200-year pianistic journey, all in the same key.

C major is the beginner’s key, right? No key signature to occupy the mind, or sharps or flats to confound your fingers on the piano.

Chances are, our first piano lessons all started with tunes in this key, before we went on to learn our F major preludes, our B flat allegros, and (heaven help us) D sharp minor toccatas.

Quiz: There are 7 musical modes and I’ll be impressed if you can identify them all >

It all got a certain pianist thinking... what if we could view the whole history of piano music through that one key?

Pianist and YouTuber Frederick Viner has taken a whopping selection of 46 great pieces written for keyboard, all penned in C major tonality. And it’s a fascinating look at the development of composition, technique and style.

Our pianist begins his chronological clavier journey in 1722 with Bach’s prelude in C major (funny that). From there, we tour Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Louise Farrenc, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and many more besides, all composed in the same major key.

The pianist says: “Watch out for the ever-increasing complexity of figurations, the gradual widening of the music’s registral span, as well as the very breakdown of C major itself in the early 20th-century examples. Note also how some figurations never went out of fashion, like the hopping right-hand chords in the Clementi, Moscheles, Heller and Stravinsky, or the famous alberti bass which underpins both the Mozart and Prokofiev.”

Expect a few black notes with the natural modulations and chromaticism of these pieces. But rest assured, all is in the same tonality and it’s quite wonderful.

What a great idea, and perfectly executed too. As a thank you, why not go subscribe to his channel here.