>On the contrary, the idea that sometimes composers write things that
>all their contemporaries are unable to play is entirely serious. ....
>... Liszt come to mind
Liszt was obviously at the top of the game, but not unique by any
means. For example, his contemporaries Thalberg, von Bulow, and
Gottschalk were at least equally proficient technically.
>I could find a message pointing out that composers during the early
>19th century development of the piano often wrote notes that did not
>exist on 99 percent of keyboards. As Bill says that is a comparatively
>trivial case in that mostly it can be worked around without adverse
>effect. (But just try playing Brahms op.118 #1 without the low A...
>can't get no satisfaction.)
I'm sure there are some examples, however the general practice was
always conservative with respect to instrument compass. Even
Beethoven, for example, didn't use sub-FF notes until Op 109 - the
famous contra E - until 1820, by which time 6 1/2 octave pianos had
become more commonly available.
All but a handful of notes in Schubert's entire piano works fits in
the standard Viennese 6 octave compass (FF-f4), and he died in 1828.
Brahms was highly conservative about pianos. Op 118 is a poor example
to cite, given the composition date is 1892.
Chopin (died 1849) did not use the sub-CC notes despite their
availability on some pianos. Seven octave pianos became more of less
the standard (AAA-g4 or A4) around 1850.
The case of the Brahms Piano trio #1 (B minor) offers interesting
insight into all of this. The first version Op 8 1854 is an early
work in which he carefully avoids using the BBB tonic. The revision
of 1891 is substantially different, and, in particular, he uses the
BBB tonic freely.