Grand sostenuto pedal use - "selective sustain" in the literature?

Discuss the piano literature and how to teach and learn it

Postby Cy Shuster » Sun Apr 02, 2006 11:53 am

The middle pedal on most grand pianos ("sostenuto") works as a selective sustain. If a chord is held down and then the pedal is depressed, that chord is heard after the keys are released. Any other keys played while the pedal is down sound normally, as though no pedal is held down.

I'm curious to what extent this pedal is used in the literature. There's an extensive mechanism to make it work, and yet I'm not even aware of a marking in music to indicate its use (unlike the other two pedals).

Do composers call out its use specifically, or is its use implied by the duration of held notes and the span of notes between the two hands?

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Cy Shuster
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Mon Apr 03, 2006 9:25 am

Cy, the reason you don't ever see the sostenuto called for in the 'standard' repertoire is that it wasn't invented until the early 20th century, and for a long time it was only found on American made pianos.

Some contemporary and avant garde composers have made extensive use of it, and some editors have suggested using it in isolated passages of the classical literature.

Bill Leland.
Technique is 90 per cent from the neck up.
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