Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Scott Burnham

Committee Members

Raymond Erickson

Ursula Oppens

John Musto

Subject Categories

Music Performance


piano, score modification, virtuosic repertoire, Liszt


This dissertation is a defense of the value of score alteration in virtuosic piano repertoire. Score alteration is a performance practice, much heard during the so-called “Golden Age” of pianism, in which pianists would freely modify the score in order to suit their interpretation and make their performances more effective. In our present age of urtext editions and absolute fidelity to the score, I believe that a re-examination of score alteration is crucial to any modern performer.

I have examined numerous recordings and performances (many of them rare and not commercially released), to explore how the practice of score modification has evolved over time. I also looked closely at the scores of Franz Liszt, a seminal figure in the art of score alteration; Liszt’s revisions of his own piano works, and his additions to the piano works of others, are a trove of evidence of Liszt’s own performance practice.

In our own era, performers often feel compelled to respect the letter of the score, perhaps at the expense of the spirit. In this document, I would like to demonstrate that, for many of the great performers of the past, modification and improvisation were crucial tools for navigating virtuoso piano music. Those tools have lost none of their value, and they are still available to performers today.