Alessandro Cervino: Mapping the performer's creative space. An exploration in and through piano playing.

Doctoral Project

Alessandro Cervino, PhD in the Arts

Most pianists have been trained mainly with classic, romantic and early 20th century music. Consequently, their musical imagination has been moulded by a language governed by tonal principles and their comprehension of the form is limited to shapes with a more or less directly perceivable syntax. It is therefore easy to imagine the difficulties they experience when facing a contemporary work. What sorts of skills and knowledge may help them? In order to conduct a fruitful inquiry, I have limited my field of investigation to the piano sonata. It is indeed impossible to find a universally suitable answer for the problems faced in contemporary music.

What information is useful to conceive an original performance of these musical pieces? By considering all collected data, do these sonatas share commonalities with each other? In other words: after this research, will the words "contemporary piano sonata" acquire a specific signification for a performer (as complex as this signification may be)? These are the research questions to which I will develop appropriate answers in a written text.

There are other research questions that are as important as the questions already posed, but which can only be answered musically, with a performance of the sonatas. These questions include: which skills are needed to play these compositions? How can these scores be translated into sound?


  • Jan Christiaens (supervisor, KU Leuven)
  • Renaat Beheydt (co-supervisor, LUCA)

Research Unit: Music & Drama

Duration: completed 2012

Publicaties en realisaties


Creations in the Arts or Design: 

P. Boulez - Piano sonata nr.2 E. Rautavaara - Piano sonata nr.1 A. Schnittke - Piano sonata nr.3 E. Carter - Piano sonata