Viewing Legacy through Novel Lenses

Jeremy Cox

Guest Editor Jeremy Cox read Music at Oxford University and completed his DPhil there in 1986. His thesis was on the mélodies of Francis Poulenc and this repertoire has remained a lifelong passion. As a baritone soloist, he vigorously championed through performance the Poulenc songs that he was simultaneously studying, and developed through this a lasting conviction concerning the importance of unifying theory and practice in the development of the well-rounded, reflective musician.

After leaving Oxford, and alongside his work in a range of Music departments and institutions across the UK, Jeremy continued to pursue an active career as a singer and conductor. He moved to the Royal College of Music, London in 1995, first in charge of postgraduate studies and, from 1998, as Dean, with overall responsibility for learning, teaching and research. His interest in, and experience with, curriculum development led to his being increasingly involved in this area at an international level, especially through the Association Européenne des Conservatoires, Académies de Musique et Musikhochschulen (AEC). On behalf of AEC, he played a leading role in developing the music sector’s response to the Europe-wide agenda for the modernisation of higher education.

In late 2010, after a year as RCM Honorary Sabbatical Fellow, Jeremy accepted the post of Chief Executive of AEC. As CEO, he led the association through the important re-location of its office to Brussels as well as successfully overseeing a number of major European projects. Between 2013 and 2015 he combined the role with that of Executive Vice-President of the International Music Council.

After retiring from AEC in 2015, Jeremy was invited to join McGill University, Montreal, Canada as Schulich Distinguished Visiting Chair in Music for 2016-17, returning in early 2019 to assist colleagues in the Schulich School of Music with the development of their new Strategic Plan. Meanwhile, he continues to work on his book, ‘Poulenc, Apollinaire and the Mélodie in the Age of Modernity’.

by Jeremy Cox

Music & Practice, Volume 5


In July 2018, the Fifth International Conference of the Performance Studies Network (PSN) was held in Oslo at the Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH). Although PSN has always been international in its scope – and in the far-flung home locations of many of its attendees – this was the first time that the biennial event was held at a venue outside the UK. The call for contributions produced a substantial response, amounting to over 150 proposals, which were considered by an international committee of peer reviewers. In all, around 100 presenters, working singly and in groups, gave talks, performances and hybrid presentations combining these two elements. They addressed a wide range of repertoires, issues and approaches, all linked by their focus on how we understand music in relation to its manifestation through performance, how we analyse our experience of it as sound and how the creative and performative aspects of the art-form relate to one another.

The richness and variety of what was presented demanded that there should be some kind of more durable resource documenting, preserving and disseminating at least a portion of the material that had been laid before the attendees. In view of this, after the event, NMH issued a further call inviting those who had given presentations to take up, if they wished, the opportunity to develop them to be included in a set of publications celebrating PSN 2018. NMH supports an online journal, entitled Music & Practice, whose aims and focus chime closely with those of PSN. It was agreed with the Editor–in-Chief of Music & Practice, Erlend Hovland, that three special issues of the journal would be dedicated to articles and expositions, some of them scientific in scope, others more exploratory in nature, building upon presentations from the conference. Two of these issues would appear on its standard platform; in addition, a third would be mounted on the NMH’s portal within the Research Catalogue (RC) of the Society for Artistic Research (SAR). Here, presentations in which the performative element dominated over that of text or commentary would be published as ‘expositions’; in the standard issues, there would still be ample opportunity to benefit from the journal’s online format by including images, sound files, etc. within the papers, when required.

It was my privilege to be invited to serve as guest editor for these three issues. Doing so has brought home to me the vitality and diversity of activity taking place under the umbrella term of Performance Studies, as well as highlighting the important role that PSN, over ten years and five editions, has played in the development of the sub-discipline. Along with my gratitude for being commissioned to take on this task, I must pay tribute to the open and collaborative spirit in which contributors have engaged with me during the editorial process.

This issue, Volume 5 of Music & Practice, is the first of the three to be dedicated to PSN 2018 and takes as its overall theme the ways in which performance traditions have their own sense of legacy and their own routes of transmission. Showing how these traditions may be passed down through the generations, but also challenged and altered, is an area of study that is gaining increasing scholarly attention. The papers gathered here include examples both of observance and of divergence – and also of work that recognises the fluid interdependency of performance, creation and production in terms of how traditions may migrate and metamorphose. Other contributions emphasise the way in which musical traditions function even more diffusely, absorbing and being shaped by social influences while, often, exerting a reciprocal influence upon their cultural contexts and surroundings.

In their various ways, the eleven articles featured in the volume are therefore all concerned with the interrogation of a group of related ideas: musical codes and how – and why – they are formed, modified and re-interpreted for subsequent generations; musical traditions and how they develop, interact, evolve and, in some cases, decay; and musical lineage and how contact between musical artists, and between mentors and their students, can imprint the artistic equivalent of genetic markers upon those involved. Through the presentation of fresh material, whether textual, contextual or interpretational, each article adds new insights and perspectives to our understanding of these issues. With this in mind, the contributions in this volume have been grouped under the collective title: ‘Viewing Legacy through Novel Lenses’.

The specific topics addressed range over a considerable area but have been categorised into four principal domains, which provide the structural outline for the entire issue. These are as follows: Artists & Teachers, Repertoires & Styles, Editions & Transcriptions and Instrumental Genre & Corporeality. Under the first of these, three authors examine three very different musicians, posing questions as to what has made them influential, inimitable or even downright controversial.

Julian Hellaby opens the volume with an article discussing whether a trait of piano playing particularly prized by a distinguished teacher may be discernible in recordings made by his pupils. In ‘Beautiful Piano Tone – A Matthay Legacy?’ he examines the influence of Tobias Matthay upon five pianists who, at first, second or third hand, absorbed his teachings. Through the results of a series of elegant surveys, Hellaby is able to make several interesting statements about the development of schools of pedagogy and performance in the mid C20th, as well as demonstrating how such stylistic differentiations by nationally-defined schools have tended to become effaced among the work of more recent pianists and teachers.

The focus of Emil Bernhardt’s article is the eminent and hugely influential conductor, Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Bernhardt seeks to delve deeply into the reason for his own admiring reaction to Harnoncourt’s recordings, sensing that, at the heart of it lies something which he describes as ‘reflective performativity’. The nature of this phenomenon, as he conceives it, is complex and polemical. Rather than attempting to resolve it into something more straightforward, the article allows its ambiguities to resonate, while suggesting that, with further work, the concept of reflective performativity may prove a useful tool in considering both the origins of a musical interpretation and the nature of how it is received and understood in-and-through the eventual sounds that strike the listener’s ear.

Finally, in this group, Lina Navickaite-Martinelli takes as her subject the Croatian pianist Ivo Pogorelich and proposes a tripartite analysis of how his distinctive and divisive identity as a musician is projected by him and perceived by us. She identifies three modes as follows: the sonic-interpretative, the verbal-communicative and the visual-representative. In Pogorelich, she finds a subject whose idiosyncrasy manifests itself in all three modes. Given the importance that she finds in the words and imagery he deploys, as well as the sounds he conjures up, she then suggests that some of his more extreme and controversial interpretative choices may be better explained in terms of their sharing an interdisciplinary affinity with the techniques of various cinematic directors. One lesson of her article, therefore, is that legacy is not always to be traced down the most obvious lines of succession and can be transmitted obliquely and from seemingly unlikely sources in other artistic media.

In the domain of repertoires & styles, three authors trace how first and early performances or productions of works can set precedents that variously sustain, inhibit or stimulate resistance in subsequent interpretations, while a fourth examines the ways that diverse influences can be identified and analysed in the work of even the more individual of composers.

It is this last contribution which comes next in the volume.  In it, Bryan Hayslett examines the work of American composer, Lee Hyla. Like Navickaite-Martinelli, Hayslett looks outside the more obvious sources of influence on Hyla and identifies crossover affinities with popular music and jazz on the one hand and the rhythms of spoken utterance on the other. As well as revealing much that is interesting about this under-studied composer, the article serves as a test-bed for a linguistically-based analytical approach, which Hayslett believes to have wider potential. His article demonstrates that even those musicians whom one may think of as outliers exist in their own unique webs of legacy and influence that the dedicated researcher can uncover.

Of course, some aspects of legacy are all too overt. A good example of this is the accretion of production details and conventions around the more popular operas, such that they become as intrinsic to the work’s character as the musical score and libretto. Miku Oya’s article on Der Rosenkavalier shows how the first productions of this work became atrophied for half a century as virtually the only way to stage it. She then goes on to consider three productions from the late C20th and early C21st that challenge such orthodoxy while referencing it in a dialectical manner. As she shows, key features of the original production, in terms of its use of the Rococo style and the pieces of stage business that it established around the two symbols of the rose and the mirror, are manipulated by the three modern directors in ways that subvert the legacy while paradoxically revivifying and continuing it.

Although based in a very different repertoire, the main thrust of Martin Iddon, Emily Payne and Philip Thomas’ article on John Cage’s ‘Concert for Piano and Orchestra’ is somewhat similar to Oya’s on Der Rosenkavalier. After giving detailed accounts of the early performances of this work, many of which featured behaviour from the musicians deemed by some to be childishly subversive, they not only suggest that such interpretations may do less than justice to the commitment of those involved but also identify an inconsistency in Cage’s highly deterministic indeterminacy. They note how Cage’s performances have themselves come to constitute an essential part of the work’s documentation – indeed, of its very identity – in a way that inhibits creative interpretation by contemporary performers. They argue that a closer focus on the score as an artefact in its own right may be paradoxically liberating in freeing it, and us, from the long and abiding shadow of the Cageian performance tradition.

By contrast, Massimo Zicari focuses on a tradition which, having largely lapsed, is difficult for some to reconnect with in a serious manner. He argues for a greater readiness to listen with open ears, as well as open minds, to early C20th recordings of operatic arias. Without necessarily taking them as models to be slavishly followed, he suggests that there are good reasons why these recordings represent a valid source of information. By giving a detailed account of three early recording artists and their performances on record of the same Verdi Scena ed Aria, Zicari shows that their interpretations were carefully prepared and long retained. This, in itself, offers evidence that our prejudices, based on the clichéd image of a capricious and whimsical diva, should be revised. Moreover, given that attitudes among some teachers in conservatoires may be compounding the resistance to taking influence from sources such as these, he argues for a more universal welcoming of the lessons of performance studies into the teaching studios of music academies.

Next, under the heading of editions & transcriptions, two authors take very different routes into the ways in which we edit and notate C17th and C18th music for publication, and the effect this has on how we perform and teach it.

In the first of these articles, dichotomies between musical performance and musical pedagogy once again present themselves. Jian Yang considers the traditions surrounding the use of music from the C18th in the graded lesson books of the Suzuki method. He shows how these were originally incorporated by Suzuki, without any editorial gloss, in the form of late C19th and early C20th editions.  As a result, generations of Suzuki learners have come to know and love the works of composers such as Vivaldi, whose concerto RV 356 Yang takes as a case study, through the unmediated lens of editions including those of Hungarian violinist and composer Tivadar Nachéz. As Yang demonstrates, attempts to update this legacy by using urtext or editorially sensitive editions in re-issuings of the Suzuki lesson books have had mixed success, with some teachers asserting the pedagogical superiority of those by earlier ‘modernisers’ such as Nachéz. Indeed, he traces the way that, where more historically informed editions have been introduced, the grading level at which they are placed has often gone up. Finally, he offers an edition of his own (delightfully illustrated in a performance by his own son) which he feels may offer a model as to how artistic and pedagogical demands might be reconciled.

David Chung also grapples with the way in which how we depict music affects the manner in which we apprehend it. His focus is upon the unmeasured preludes of Louis Couperin. These come down to us only in manuscript form and both of the surviving manuscripts are by later hands and reveal discrepancies. When, shortly after Couperin’s death, works of this kind first began to be published, a more detailed way of notating their unmeasured properties emerged, notably in publications by D’Anglebert. Since we have D’Anglebert’s manuscript as well, in which details are more sketchy and closer to those in the Couperin preludes, Chung proposes an editorial approach that uses the manuscript-to-edition process discernible with D’Anglebert to construct hypothetical ‘publishable’ – but not modern critical – versions of the Couperin preludes. His article includes recorded extracts of his own performances using these editions. In taking a slightly later tradition and ‘reverse-engineering’ it into earlier repertoire, he creates a kind of retrograde legacy that has intriguing implications.

Finally, two authors address the solo piano medium and, in particular, the unique instrumental genre of piano compositions for four hands at one keyboard. Their studies consider the instrument and its repertoires from both social and performative standpoints and, when two players are involved, examine how the close physical proximity it requires of them is integral to the genre’s identity.

Lise Meling gives a detailed account of the piano in the C19th as the favoured instrument for young women. Her primary concern is with what the piano signified to those who composed for it, performed it and wrote about it during the period. Utilising a computerised word-search tool, she has identified a significant volume of references to the piano in contemporaneous Norwegian literature. Authors of these works well understood the status symbol represented by having a piano in the house and the mark of eligibility conferred upon a young woman by her being able to display pianistic skills. And, as Meling notes, they were also alert to the sublimated eroticism of a genre such as that of piano four hands, that permitted far greater intimacy between young men and women than social mores would normally allow.

Cecilia Oinas focuses exclusively upon the genre of piano four hands. She begins her account in the same era as Meling but takes us forward into the C20th, where the genre sheds many of its amateur connotations and becomes the focus of serious creative attention from composers such as György Kurtág. Writing from a performer’s standpoint, Oinas shows how the intertwining of hands between the Primo and Secondo players, rather than affording opportunities for fleeting flirtatious contact, can become an artistic tool and inspiration in its own right. Setting the two players in various kinds of close contention over the same area of the keyboard affords resistances that, as well as placing demands upon the performers, can provide metaphors, visual as well as aural in the case of live concert performances, for a whole range of ideas that the composer might wish to communicate.

I believe that the richness of content among these eleven articles is an encouraging reflection of the breadth of scholarly engagement that now exists within performance studies.  It shows how the field has not only expanded and diversified in its own terms but is also finding it necessary to take on other fields, such as music pedagogy, for which it has profound lessons that deserve greater attention. As guest editor, I hope that readers will enjoy the contents of this first volume of the special PSN edition of Music & Practice and that they will wish to access the two forthcoming volumes as they appear during the course of 2020.

DOI: 10.32063/0500