Volumes 5-7. Special 3-volume Edition, 2019-2020: Performance Studies Network Conference, Oslo, July 2018


Viewing Legacy through Novel Lenses

by Jeremy Cox| Read Full Text

Artists & Teachers

Beautiful Piano Tone – a Matthay Legacy?

by Julian Hellaby | Read Full Text

Piano pedagogue Tobias Matthay (1858–1945) was a major influence on English pianism in the first half of the twentieth century. His work emphasised tonal production and the means to achieve a varied and beautiful sound. His influence on English piano playing was, for a time, very considerable, his most famous pupil, Myra Hess, being often critically commended for her tone production.

This article examines whether beautiful tone was still a characteristic of Matthay’s pedagogical descendants during the 1950s and 1960s. It presents results from a series of focus groups comprising expert listeners who were played a selection of recordings, all featuring music of an expressive or lyrical nature which might therefore encourage pianists to engage a ‘beautiful’ touch. For comparative purposes, half of these recordings were made by Matthay-influenced English pianists, the other half by non-English pianists, and project participants were asked to rate the tonal beauty of the performance on a scale of 0 to 5.

The results provide evidence that a ‘Matthay sound’ is recognisable in the playing of English pianists from the middle years of the twentieth century. However, further empirically-based research suggests that this has now been largely absorbed into an international mainstream.

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Reflective Performativity in the Interpretations of Nikolaus Harnoncourt

by Emil Bernhardt | Read Full Text

This article explores the possibility of a relationship between reflection and performance, asking whether it is possible to combine the two concepts and, if so, how this combination might become manifest in actual performance. From a philosophical point of view, one might argue that there is a temporal tension between reflection and performance: reflection means looking back, taking different aspects into consideration, while performance means acting, towards the future, without necessarily knowing the result. This being so, is it possible to maintain the aspect of reflection in actual performance? Going further, is it possible to perform reflection in music, and if so, how?

Starting from the author’s own reactions to the interpretations of Austrian conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the article seeks to develop a notion of reflection that takes place in the performance or, more accurately, in the performative aspect of performance. It proposes that Nikolaus Harnoncourt actually succeeds in combining reflection and performance in a highly individual way, and that this particular combination is one of the characteristics that makes him interesting as an artist and musical interpreter.

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P is for Persona, Performance, Pogorelich: the Performer’s Identity as Creative Tool

by Lina Navickaitė-Martinelli

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In any process of performing music, no matter how much the performer may try to be faithful to the musical text, there is necessarily an element of interpretation, a subjective modification of the performance’s source. That is why a performance, an individual version of the text’s meaning(s), is not just a mechanical act of reproduction, but rather a distinctive type of creation, a complex and productive act, through which the creative ideas, insights and convictions of a performer are conveyed.

The process of musical performance, including the personal and artistic choices made by performing musician, is influenced by a rich variety of cultural, social and individual factors. Viewing the phenomenon of musical performance as a species of creative activity, the present article compares the art of the Croatian pianist Ivo Pogorelich to that of selected film directors. Taking into account the pianist’s most remarkable interpretations, and analysing both his distinctive creativity as a performer and the development of his public persona, the author investigates how the artistic, personal and social identity of a musician is communicated through performance, and examines the new musical and cultural meanings that are created in this process.

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Repertoires & Styles

Linguistic Stress and its Relationship to Phrasing: Rhythm and Metre in Lee Hyla’s Dream of Innocent III

by Bryan Hayslett

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Rhythm and metre are essential to the compositional aesthetic of Lee Hyla (1952–2014). Hyla was one of a small group of composers in the north-eastern region of the United States in the 1980’s who developed their compositional aesthetics incorporating influences from other genres, particularly rock and jazz. These composers embraced the aesthetics of time found in non-classical music, reflecting these temporal characteristics within their own rigorous compositional languages.

The saliency of metre and rhythm in Hyla’s music necessitates a different approach to analysis from analytical systems that prioritise harmony, particularly when parsing phrasing. More than pitched elements or harmony, rhythm and metre are the primary structural and stylistic determinants of Hyla’s music, which frequently reflects the tension between rhythm and metre found in rock and jazz. While his music sometimes features sections with a heard metre, he also works within the contrasting metrical framework of non-isochronous metre. And although events are notated within a metrical framework, that framework is not part of the music as heard.

This study of Hyla’s Dream of Innocent III presents an analytical model inspired by a fusion of Lerdahl and Jackendoff’s generative theory of tonal music and the linguistic stress theory of Bruce Hayes. Examining Hyla’s music from the perspectives of rhythm, metre and temporality contributes to the performer’s understanding of phrasing, in terms of both interpretation and perception.

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Rococo, Rose, and Mirror – Contemporary Productions of Der Rosenkavalier

by Miku Oya

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For much of its history, Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss had been staged following the scenery and costumes created by Alfred Roller for the first performance in 1911. While other major operas by composers like Mozart, Wagner, and Verdi have been staged with new concepts since at least the 1920s, and especially since 1945, the dominance of the first staging of Der Rosenkavalier began to be challenged only towards the end of the twentieth century. Since then, directors have tried to interpret it in different ways. However, even today, it remains an issue how a new production can escape the concept of the first performance, with its rococo style, and how it can transform elements of that first performance into modern guise.

This paper discusses these tendencies in productions of Der Rosenkavalier. Selected modern productions are analysed with a focus on three motives: rose, mirror, and rococo. First, the meanings of these motives in the original libretto and Regiebuch (direction book) are outlined; then, the way these meanings are modified by modern directors is considered. Three productions are discussed: Herbert Wernicke (Salzburg 1995), Peter Konwitschny (Hamburg 2002) and Stefan Herheim (Stuttgart 2009). They are not only important modern productions of Der Rosenkavalier, but also share in common the fact that they each use at least two of the three motives, but with different meanings from the original libretto and Regiebuch.

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Disruption and Discipline: Approaches to Performing John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra

by Martin Iddon, Emily Payne and Philip Thomas

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The premiere of John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1957–58) is notorious for being disrupted by the behaviour of the orchestral musicians, decried by Cage as ‘foolish and unprofessional’. The interpretative options available to performers of the Concert are, however, many and baffling, the instrumental techniques required are arcane, and the response of the early performers, if apparently juvenile, is hardly surprising.

This article considers the challenges of performing the Concert, first by examining historical evidence for the early performances, analysing existing recorded performances and considering the performance choices Cage himself made, as conductor. It then draws on material from a major data-collection event with musicians from the ensemble Apartment House, as illustrated through films and discussion at cageconcert.org. The creative possibilities of Cage’s notations, and the ways in which musicians respond to their complexities and ambiguities, are explored, and the authors consider how these perspectives might contribute to a developing performance practice surrounding the work and informing the performance of indeterminate music more widely.

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Expressive Tempo Modifications in early 20th-century Recorded Performances of Operatic Arias

by Massimo Zicari

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Research that has been conducted into responses to recordings suggests that these are sometimes regarded critically for allegedly stifling artistic originality and significantly reducing performance individuality and variability. In the case of early recordings, uninformed listeners and even music students still tend to disregard these and respond with incredulity to the interpretations which they reveal.

This article reports on an ongoing investigation exploring the question of expressive tempo modifications in early twentieth-century recordings of operatic arias. The work focuses on three soprano singers nurtured in the Italian operatic bel canto culture, where the notion of dramatic poignancy was repeatedly insisted upon: Marcella Sembrich (1858-1935), Nellie Melba (1861 –1931), and Luisa Tetrazzini (1871-1940). The article focuses on eleven different renditions of ‘Ah! Fors’è lui’ from the ‘Scena ed Aria [di] Violetta – Finale Atto I’ of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata, which the three divas recorded in the years between 1903 and 1911.

A threefold approach is adopted that involves a) profiling the interpreters and their vocal style; b) determining the degree of tempo variability; c) analysing the concomitant use of ornamentation and cadenzas. Results show that these recordings present modifications which remained consistent over time with regard to both tempo and the use of ornamentation and cadenzas. Although at the outset of the discographic era these divas still cultivated the habit of altering the score according to a long-lasting tradition, these changes were no longer improvised but carefully prepared and long retained. Given the evidence amassed here, and despite the idea that the divas and prima donnas of earlier eras followed the whim of the moment, these interpreters are testament to a long and vibrant performance tradition which is deserving of more serious scrutiny by today’s pedagogues and students.

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Editions & Transcriptions

Historically-informed Performance Encounters Music Education and Examination: the Case of Vivaldi’s RV 356

by Jian Yang

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In the past decades, Historically Informed Performance (HIP) has had a strong impact on mainstream musical performance and, to some extent, on music education. At the same time, while there is plenty of early music in the performance tutorial literature and in examination syllabuses, the HIP elements reflected in these pieces are typically handled in different ways on stage and in recordings on the one hand, and in educational and examination contexts on the other.

Should HIP concepts and practices be introduced at early stages of learning? In cases such as Vivaldi’s Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in A Minor, RV 356, how did the work become popular in the tutorial literature and performance examinations, bearing in mind that the edition by Tivadar Nachéz (1859–1930) – widely-used in this area, often without any acknowledgment to him – heavily revised Vivaldi’s original, turning it into a piece in an almost romantic style? What are the implications of the different editions of RV 356 that are included in today’s performance tutors and examination syllabuses issued by ABRSM and other bodies such as the Central Conservatory and Shanghai Conservatory in China?

Using Vivaldi’s RV 356 as a case study, this article not only investigates how the HIP concept has spread among these ‘teaching pieces’ but also, by focusing on education and examination, predicts where things might go in the future. This largely depends on the tutorials, examination syllabuses, and teaching strategies reflecting a greater or lesser awareness of HIP. The author argues that, ideally, the new generation of young performers should be able to take in the HIP elements naturally from their earliest contact with this repertoire and as part of both their creative motivation and their acquisition of technical competence.

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Transcribing Couperin’s Preludes à la D’Anglebert: a Journey into the Creative Processes of the 17th-century Quasi-improvisatory Tradition

by David Chung

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The interpretation of the unmeasured preludes by Louis Couperin is contentious, owing to their rhythmically-free notation. Couperin’s system of notation is unique to him, but the complex system of lines that he apparently invented contains both ambiguities and inconsistencies between the two sources of this repertory. Modern editors are sometimes sharply split on whether lines are curved or straight, where they begin and end, and whether notes are joined or separated by lines.

In a possible attempt to remove some of the ambiguities of unmeasured notation, D’Anglebert converted his own preludes, first written in unmeasured notation in his autograph, into a new, semi-measured notation for publication. Other composers had their preludes engraved in similar ways as they readily saw the benefits of the semi-measured notation. It is likely that, if Couperin had the opportunity of preparing his music for publication, he would have taken similar steps of clarifying his intentions in print. The aim of this article is therefore twofold. First, it establishes D’Anglebert’s procedures of transcribing his own preludes from unmeasured to semi-measured notation. Second, by transcribing three of Couperin’s preludes, of different lengths and sophistications, into semi-measured notation ‘a la D’Anglebert’, it evaluates the extent to which a semi-measured notation might inform interpretative matters.

By playing and comparing the semi-measured version with Couperin’s ‘originals’, it becomes apparent that the semi-measured notation brings to the fore the otherwise hidden relationship between the structure and the musical details, in which ornaments, gestures and other idiomatic effects can be instinctively discerned. The semi-measured notation also provides contextualizing information for the performer when making decisions on critical matters, such as which notes to sustain and which notes to linger on for greater expressivity, while still being flexible enough for individual interpreters to carve out unique performances.

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Instrumental Genre & Corporeality

‘The Lady at the Piano’: from Innocent Pastime to Intimate Discourse

by Lise-Karin Meling

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This article will focus on why, in the 19th century, the piano was considered the most appropriate female instrument. Historical sources will be examined, and other practical or pragmatic reasons will be considered as well. Particular emphasis will be placed on the cultural perspective, whereby the image of the piano-playing young woman became a symbol of a whole set of 19th-century ideas: the bourgeoisie, virtuous conduct, and cultural formation. In addition to these, a piano performance might also be a means of intimate communication between two people and, in relation to this, the special significance of piano four-hand repertoire will be discussed.

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From Four-handed Monster to All-embracing Vishnu: the Case of “Middle Hands” within a Piano Four Hands Duo

by Cecilia Oinas

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This article examines cases in the piano four-hands genre in which the so-called “middle hands” – primo’s left and secondo’s right – somehow interchange or criss-cross with one another. After considering brief examples from the 19th and early 20th centuries, its main focus is on two four-handed works by György Kurtág, “Flowers we are …” and “Beating – Quarrelling”, both from Játékok VIII (2010). In these works, Kurtág’s distribution of primo and secondo creates a private space for the pianists, mostly excluding the audience who almost have the role of a voyeur (see Daub 2014). The intention of this research is to create bridges between performers’ tacit knowledge, music-analytical language, and a corporeal approach.

The article is a part of a larger research project that focuses on the special nature of piano duet music, extending from late 18th century to the present day. During the project, various piano duet ensembles and their rehearsal process are being examined through semi-structured interview and by following their rehearsals. By flexibly navigating between performance research and music analysis the aim is to acquire a holistic view on the piano duet, a genre that until recently has not been much studied from a performative point of view.

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Issue Editor

Prof. Jeremy Cox MA, DPhil (Oxon.), FRCM, Issue Editor