I have never been taught to play rolled chords, and had never heard of anyone else doing it either. One was told to pay meticulous attention to the score, and that was it.
Then, over the last twelve years, I have found/stumbled upon numerous analog recordings of composers whose music had this very method of playing. Therefore, the news story is as follows:
The issue briefly stated is twofold: When a person is taught to play a chord, an octave, or double notes at the piano, they are taught to strike all of the keys at the same time. It is assumed that, because the notes on the printed score are all lined up vertically on the note stem, those keys are to be struck simultaneously.
My research, consisting of multiple written and recorded sources, has shown me that all of the composers of the Classical, Romantic, and Impressionist Periods regularly rolled their chords, octaves, and double notes. This was done commonly in the left hand, and also very often in the right hand.
Further, they also employed a performance technique known as asynchronization. This is where the bass note is played slightly ahead of the soprano note in order to enhance the melodic line.
It is most important to note that this is in no way a question of musical style. It is instead a reality of substance. It has nothing to do with tempo, dynamics or phrasing. One either plays all of the notes at the same time, or they do not.
Carl Friedberg, who was a student of both Brahms and Clara Schumann, proves this unequivocally in his live Julliard recital recordings, where he taught until 1946 (Marston Records). In Europe, Adelina de Lara was also doing the same, as is evidenced in the "Pupils of Clara Schumann" recordings (Pearl Records). She was also a student of Brahms.
Then, there are the digtal stereo recordings, "Debussy, The Composer As Pianist, and "Ravel, The Composer As Pianist" which are the piano roll recordings of the composers playing their own music. In both instances, there is arpeggiation/rolled chords and asynchronization throughout.
One of my written sources is Kenneth Hamilton, who is the author of "After the Golden Age," (OUP) and who has also recently confirmed my premise in the following e-mail excerpt:
"As for the issue of Debussy and Ravel recordings: I think your basic point about the performance-style of these composers and their musical associates is correct, but I'm afraid it isn't really "news". There is, for example, discussion of these topics and others in Roy Howat's book "The Art of French Piano Music" (Yale University Press, 2009)-- in particular pp.309-324 ("The Composer as Pianist") and pp.335-40 ("Composers' Surviving Instruments and Recordings"). "
Unfortunately, what professor Hamilton fails to recognize is that 99% of the world's piano students have never heard of Roy Howat. They sit down for a lesson, and then do what they are told. And, none of them are taught that the original composer rolled their chords.
Another more recent source is the new book by Dr. Neal Peres Da Costa of the Sydney Conservatorium, which is entitled “Off the Record: Performing Practices in Romantic Piano Playing” (OUP). He has a whole chapter on Unnotated Arpeggiation. His research, completely independent of mine, confirms my thesis in the following email:
"Thanks so much for sending this through. We are obviously on the same wave length here and its great that you are spreading the news. In will certainly pass your You Tube presentation on to everyone I know. Arpeggiation is one of the great expressive devices, though there is also the question of rhythmic alteration in all its forms and tempo modification, devices that I consider to be just as important in emulating the performers on early recordings and for historically accurate interpretations of pre-twentieth-century repertoire. I have dealt with these areas in my book and readers can hear some of the rich recorded examples on the Companion website."
Then, there is the email from Dr. Clive Brown of the University of Leeds who is considered the worlds leading authority on historical performance practice. He was Dr. Peres Ca Costa's professor for his PhD dissertation, which eventually became his book.
"I am sure your conclusions about 19th-century piano playing are correct and hope that your video will help persuade musicologists and performers of its value in performing this repertoire effectively. It has been a great frustration to me over the years that even pianists working in academia have been so resistant to the overwhelming evidence, despite my drawing attention to it in my 1999 book Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750-1900. I hope your video will nevertheless contribute towards making people think again about the idiomatic performance of pre-20th-century keyboard music. I will certainly mention it to people who may find it helpful.
Finally, I enclose for your perusal a link to my You Tube video of this story. It is a somewhat radical approach, but my goal is to see to it that every person on this planet who has ever played the piano is given the opportunity to hear the classical piano repertoire as it was originally composed, played, and taught.
Please feel free to share this news story with anyone you think might find it interesting so that together we can eventually bring the true joy, color, warmth, and beauty of this great music to the public, as it once commonly existed throughout the world.