Peter Adams (University of Otago)
A Forgotten Nightingale? Brahms, Mühlfeld, Draper and Kell: the clarinet as songbird.
The clarinet was the inspiration for the last four chamber works composed by Brahms. All four works had clarinet parts written for Richard Mühlfeld, the Meiningen clarinettist whose idiosyncratic playing inspired Brahms to come out of self-imposed retirement to create these late masterpieces.
A great deal of evidence has now been accumulated about how Brahms and his contemporaries performed his music: despite this however, it would seem that many modern-day clarinettists perform Brahms’ music largely ignoring this evidence – if they are even aware of it. The little that we know about Mühlfeld’s playing, and that of the English clarinettist Charles Draper and other early interpreters of Brahms’ clarinet music, seems to suggest a style of playing far removed from the aesthetic and approach of most contemporary clarinettists today.
This paper outlines in brief the relationship between Brahms and Mühlfeld, the link between Mühlfeld and Charles Draper, and the link in turn between Draper and Reginald Kell. We listen to short extracts of historic performances by Draper and Kell and hear some of the ways their performances differ from modern day clarinet performance practice. The controversial issue of vibrato on the clarinet is discussed, before the paper concludes with speculation as to when and why approaches to clarinet playing changed quite suddenly in the twentieth-century. Is Muhlfeld’s ‘Nightingale’ now all but forgotten by modern clarinettists?
Kate Bennett Wadsworth (University of Leeds)
Performing Brahms’ piano trio op. 101 with the help of Fanny Davies.
The starting point for this study is Fanny Davies’ oft-quoted account of the rehearsal she witnessed of Brahms’ op 101 trio by the composer and two of his closest colleagues, Robert Hausmann and Joseph Joachim. In addition to describing Brahms’ playing style in general, she has left us a detailed set of notes specific to his performance of the trio, both in the form of her personal score annotations and as a more in-depth description in her addendum to Donald Tovey’s article on Brahms’ chamber music for Cobbett’s. In preparation for a concert in Holland last week, the three of us set out to use Davies’ notes as a practical guide to performing the c minor trio, exploring whatever research questions cropped up along the way.
A major theme that emerged in the process was the importance of a multifaceted sense of rhythm, which features prominently in Davies’ description of Brahms’ own playing. After comparing her description with the advice we found in treatises by other members of Brahms’ circle, we looked closely at Davies’ own recording of Schumann’s Kinderszenen in search of a better understanding of the link between rhythmic inflection and musical character. In our presentation, we aim to apply what we learned not only to the many character markings found in Davies’ score annotations for the trio, but to Brahms’ expressive markings as well.
Jung Yoon Cho (University of Leeds)
Changes in performing style: Brahms sonata for violin and piano op. 78.
This paper will discuss how the performing style of the Brahms sonata has changed over the 20th century, with particular focus on evaluating the distance between modern performing approaches to the sonata and what Brahms or his contemporaries might have expected to hear. An investigation into early 20th century recordings, editions, and other treatise sources reveals that early performing expressive tools such as portamento, vibrato, and tempo rubato have gradually declined or altered in usage over time. In addition, some of the performing notation has condensed in meaning throughout the century. This paper, therefore, will look into the performing practices in detail that have mostly vanished from modern performing practice but were an essential part of the 19thcentury German violin performing practice: the issues of performing techniques, aesthetics, and notation as directly related to the sonata will be considered.
There have been some recent attempts by modern performers to expand their performing contexts by integrating some historical practices into their Brahms sonata performances. However, their experiments have not yet progressed much beyond playing on historical equipment or using vibrato in a more selective manner. This paper, therefore, will also draw attention to the question of to what extent the early practices could be integrated into a modern performing context and the possible benefits which might result, as well as the importance of understanding the practices through practical experimentation as a modern performer. The presentation will include some live performing demonstrations and/or some recorded extracts of my own performance will be played as examples.
Ann Cnop (University of Ghent)
Performing Brahms’s second sonata for piano and violin: putting the evidence into practice.
Last year, one of my students of “modern” violin at the Conservatory of Ghent asked me to help him find the best fingerings possible to play the second movement of Brahms’s opus 100. Trying to be as informative as possible, I showed him the editions of the music by violinist who were closely connected to Joseph Joachim and his way of playing. The next lesson, my student told me he would never use these fingerings in public, because they were to odd and strange. He was afraid the audience would make fun of him because of the constant “meowing”.
Today’s violinists and audience indeed mostly find the use of portamento as the mane tool for expression of 19th- and early 20th-century violinist strange and often call it, in the best case, “old-fashioned”. The sparing use of vibrato, opposite to the constant vibrato of contemporary violinists, makes the picture even odder…
In the lecture-recital I am proposing, I will put all the different features of the Joachim style and tradition of playing the violin in contrast with the way we deal with these aspects in the contemporary tradition of the way we play Brahms’s second violin sonata.
The different topics I will discuss are the basis posture of the violinist, the fittings of the violin, portamento, vibrato and “tempo rubato”. In other words, I will discuss the means of expression of the 19th-century and the contemporary violinists.
I will illustrate every aspect on my violin. I would like to end the lecture- recital by playing the sonata in it’s whole, using as many features of the Joachim style as possible.
Andrea Massimo Grassi (Editor of Brahms Clarinet Quintet, b minor op. 115)
Inside Brahms’ Workshop: Interpretative choices suggested by the manuscripts of the Clarinet Sonatas op. 120.
It is quite rare to have on tap the documents which testify to the creative work of Brahms. The composer usually destroyed all the sketches and the manuscripts that could reveal the details and habits of his compositional process.
The case of the two Sonatas for Clarinet and Piano op. 120 is an isolated and fortunate case. In 1895, the precious manuscript was donated by Brahms to clarinettist Richard von Mühlfeld and since then was kept by the Mühlfeld family. Scholars and enthusiasts were not allowed to view it. In 1997 the original manuscript of the Sonatas op. 120 was put to auction and purchased by the Lehmann Foundation, then stored at the Morgan library of New York.
From that moment the interest in the Sonatas by Brahms grew enormously, because the scholars had at their disposal real evidence on how to reconstruct Brahms’ compositional process: the Sonatas autograph manuscript in fact, contains a large number of revisions and corrections and many important suggestions for the performer. Andrea Massimo Grassi was one of the first scholars to study this precious documents, about which published in 2006 the book ‘Fräulein Klarinette’. La genesi e il testo delle opere per clarinetto di J. Brahms [‘Fräulein Klarinette’. The genesis and the text of J. Brahms’s clarinet works].
The lecture will therefore show the stages through which Brahms arrived at his final version of the Sonatas op. 120 in order to see which opportunities can have the performer in studying and understanding the manuscripts: In particular to have the opportunity to correct mistakes, to suggests interpretative choices useful to the performer, to show us hidden meanings.
The main features of Brahms musical work as well as the differences between the first version and the final version, derived from Sonatas’ original manuscript, will be performed by the clarinet and piano.
Sheila Guymer (University of Cambridge)
Classicist, Gypsy, or ‘the best of all Wagnerians’? A study of rubato in Brahms performance practice
Historical sources suggest that Johannes Brahms used and advocated certain types of unnotated tempo flexibilities in performance, yet descriptions of his style of rubato vary widely. Fanny Davies described Brahms’s playing as ‘free, very elastic and expansive,’ while Richard Wagner found it ‘painfully dry, inflexible and wooden.’ Such conflicting descriptions from Brahms’s contemporaries hint at modern-day difficulties in discerning just when, how much, and what sort of rubato to use in performing Brahms’s works.
This study examines tempo change in six duos’ recorded performances of the first movements of Brahms’s Sonatas for Violin and Piano, Opp. 78 and 100. The recordings are discussed in the light of historical evidence of Brahms’s own notated and implied uses of rubato. The aim is to discern contexts, techniques, and influences of rubato use in Brahms performance practice, and the continuance (or not) of those practices into the twentieth century. The recordings were made between 1931 and 1967 by musicians who had some historical connection with Brahms’s circle: Rudolf Serkin and Adolf Busch, Georg Vásárhelyi and Emil Telmányi, Artur Schnabel and Joseph Szigeti, Artur Balsam and Szymon Goldberg, Artur Rubinstein and Henryk Szeryng, Julius Katchen and Joseph Suk. As the title suggests, three main influences were discerned: Viennese Classical, Viennese vernacular (style hongrois and the Viennese waltz), and Wagner.
Job ter Haar
Hungarian dances, bel canto style (Piatti’s transcriptions of Brahms).
This lecture/recital explores the relationship between the great 19th century Italian cellist Alfredo Piatti and the music of Johannes Brahms, by investigating the transcriptions that Piatti made of the Hungarian Dances by Brahms. Special attention will be given to the problems of transcribing piano music for the cello and the solutions Piatti presents for these problems. By studying Piatti’s transcriptions, we can gain valuable insights in his playing style and in the way he might have performed the music of Brahms. The recital part will consist of a performance of three of the Hungarian dances and fragments of various other arrangements.
Robin Wilson and Rachael Beesley violins
Nicole Forsyth viola
Daniel Yeadon cello
Neal Peres Da Costa piano
Presentation and performance of Brahms Piano Quintet op. 34, to be followed by Q&A session.
In 2012 Ironwood embarked on a new creative research project – Brahms’ Piano Quintet op. 34 in performances that experimented with performing practices of Brahms and his circle as well as more general nineteenth-century practices described in written texts and preserved on early recordings. Ironwood was already established as a successful period-instrument ensemble specialising in music from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries. And yet approaching Brahms’s music in this way proved difficult in several respects particularly in relation to the use of tempo modification and rhythmic alteration as well as other expressive practices, which necessarily took the ensemble out of its comfort zone and challenged many preconceived notions about historical performance. A real turning point came with the publication of David Hyun-Su Kim’s article “The Brahmsian Hairpin” (2012) which opened the ensembles eyes to the possible underlying meanings of Brahms’ hairpin notation in its various contexts.
Earlier in 2015 Ironwood made a commercial recording of the op. 34 Piano Quintet for ABC Classics due for release very shortly. ABC Classics have made available a rough first edit of the first movement which affords comparison with a live recording made in 2012. We open our presentation with a discussion of the journey of experimentation and of our developing interpretation, followed by a performance of the Quintet.
Camilla Köhnken (Bern University of the Arts)
Academic or ‘neudeutsch’? – Liszt students performing Brahms.
Did Liszt’s students change interpretative attitudes when performing Brahms? Despite the notorious “Parteienstreit” Eugen d’Albert and Frederic Lamond were eager to promote Brahms’ music and worked with the composer himself on his pieces. Their recordings open an interesting perspective on the interpretative tools and choices that are described as typical for the Liszt school in pertinent instructions.
A comparison between d’Albert’s rendition of the Capriccio op. 76 No. 2 and the versions of the Viennese pianist Alfred Grünfeld (1908) and the Brahms advocate Harold Bauer (1939) helps to illustrate different approaches to the same piece.
After illuminating the historical context of these early sound documents, an additional step into understanding the aesthetics of this period is attempted by an reenactment session on the Ballade op. 10 No. 2 in Lamond’s version of 1910 based on methods that have been developed within the research project on instructive texts at the Bern University of Arts.
Kai Köpp (Bern University of the Arts)
Johannes Gebauer (Bern University of the Arts)
Sebastian Bausch (Bern University of the Arts)
Embodying the sound of the “Joachim-School”.
String players in search for a ‘Brahmsian’ performance style must necessarily start by analyzing and imitating Joseph Joachim’s violin playing as closely as possible. In addition to studying Joachim’s recordings of Brahms’s Hungarian Dance No. 1 and his own Romance in C through methods of close listening and software analysis (Sonic Visualiser), special attention will be given to a selection of written accounts of Joachim’s performance style in treatises and instructive editions by some of his students. The authors of these still underestimated ‘epigonal’ sources were very much concerned with faithfully preserving Joachim’s style of playing together with its underlying aesthetics and continued the Joachim-School well into the 20th century. But after meticulous analysis of all these sources, which is already a standard procedure in modern performance practice research, an even deeper understanding of Joachim’s playing can be gained by recreating his recordings in performance. This new method of ‘embodiment’, to uncover knowledge only accessible through a trained and professional musician’s body, will be discussed in relation to theories of re-enactment and methods of serious experimental archaeology.
In a joint lecture performance, Kai Köpp, Johannes Gebauer and Sebastian Bausch will present the steps necessary to include the method of ‘embodiment’ into performance practice research. The much neglected piano accompaniment will also come to its right, especially since Joachim’s concept of “Freispielen” assigns very distinct musical roles to the soloist and his accompanist. The presentation will culminate in an attempt to translate the results into a live performance of Joachim’s Romance.
Besides the musical and aesthetical questions, a technical perspective on historical recordings will also be taken into account. This includes the re-enactment of an acoustic recording session: After test recordings have been produced with historical recording equipment on an Edison phonograph, the attention will be turned back to musical implications. How do musicians adjust their playing in order to produce a recording that closely resembles the sound of Joachim’s recordings? It can be assumed that, with the recording industry still in its infancy, a man like Joachim would not have made similar concessions to the recording situation as some of the major studio artists of the acoustic era reportedly did. But questions about the effect of dynamics, vibrato, portamento and other means of expression have to be answered in order to know how Joachim really played in the recording. As a side-effect, working with the phonograph will make it possible to determine its frequency response by applying a special “frequency sweep”. This will lead to a method to play back recordings made with modern recording equipment, either in ordinary CD-quality (with sound characteristics similar to today’s classical recordings) or as if made with the phonograph. To actually hear what an impression modern performance practices would have made in the era of acoustic recordings will be highly revealing.
Their tone of discourse: what is revealed by the rhetoric of the musicians closest to Brahms
Frequently how we discuss an issue reveals more than what we actually say about it. This talk will examine the writings related to the performance and teaching of the musicians closest to Brahms (as revealed in treatises, letters, and reminiscences) less in an effort to analyze their content, but rather in terms of their rhetoric, or tone of discourse. Did the musicians closest to Brahms use a type of rhetoric that was noticeably different from their contemporaries? Are these differences simply cultural or idiosyncratic, or could they be significant to our understanding of how Brahms’ favorite musicians viewed music-making? In addition to the often discussed issue of vibrato use, do we notice other subjects for which their tone of discourse changed dramatically? Can we learn from their writings as to how we might alter our own tone of discourse when discussing issues related to historical performance today?
The sources analyzed will include the writings of: Friedrich Wieck; Julius Stockhausen; GB Shaw; Amy Fay; Johann Georg Tromlitz; the students of Clara Schumann, Josef Joachim and Robert Hausmann; and several other lesser well-known German instrumental treatises from the late 19th century.
David Milsom (University of Huddersfield)
Performing Brahms’ op. 120/1 viola sonata: the interface between research and performance.
This lecture-recital explores a key question faced by performers and scholars – how might a stylistically-sensitive performance of a musicologically-researched work be realised in practice?
Based around the recent edition compiled by Clive Brown, Kate Haynes and Neal Peres Da Costa, this discussion looks at how twenty-first century musicians might realise this work in performance, and how they might utilise the detailed performing practice advice given by the above-named scholars and editors. A matter not often subject to research is how a published edition is used by performers. To what extent would the performer abide by editorial suggestions in respect of bowings and fingerings? In what ways might a performer – of the past or the present – adapt editorial suggestions (irrespective of the aesthetic alignment with the editors), and why might this be so? In terms of nineteenth century music, in what ways would the artistic license and performer individuality espoused by so many performers and theorists weave patterns within the parameters set by conventions of taste and performance approach, and how might this realistically be expected to exert an impact upon the twenty-first-century user of a scholarly performance edition?
Much has been made of the gap between ‘known’ research evidence, and even the most conspicuously-interested of ‘period instrument’ performers and resultant performances. This, as Clive Brown (and, to a certain extent, the present author) demonstrates, seems to point to some kind of line that will not be crossed, particularly as regards some of the most notable aspects of nineteenth-century performing practice (such as the conspicuous portamento, wide variety of departures and ‘flexibilities’ towards the written text especially as regards aspects of rhythmic inequality, rhythmic ‘sponteneity’, and tempo rubato). Whilst it is reasonable to expect a limited number of performers to take a highly evidence-based approach to such performance (including, of course, the use of period instruments and, in the case of Clive Brown’s own practice, even delving into specific issues of period posture), it seems more probable that a larger number of performers, their outlook predicated perhaps more pragmatically upon creating a ‘good’ performance able to communicate the inner content of the music effectively to an audience, will decide the extent to which historical evidence exerts an impact on their playing.
This lecture recital will discuss some of these issues, and will seek to demonstrate some interpretative possibilities afforded by greater awareness (and maybe integration) of historical performing practices. The use of modern instruments may thus be seen as somewhat provocative in a conference setting such as this, but it is so in order to look at the possible impact outside of the specialist, period instrument domain. The discussion concludes that historical performance evidence and indeed practice has the potential to influence, mould and resource the wider sphere of present-day performance, provided it is approached with pragmatism and respect for a range of practical, philosophical and aesthetic decisions which all performers must make for themselves.
Alfia Nakipbekova (University of Leeds)
Lecture-recital: Sonata for Piano and Violoncello op.38 by Johannes Brahms
Brahms completed his Sonate für Klavier und Violoncello op.38 in E minor, in 1865, the first of his seven duo sonatas. Fifty years later, in 1915, Debussy composed his Cello Sonata, also the first (in his planned cycle) of Six sonates pour divers instruments, of which only three were completed. The common design shared by these two disparate musicians was their allusion to the past – in Debussy’s case to François Couperin, in Brahms’s – to JS Bach. The awareness of continuity and the living tradition is clearly manifest in these stylistically distinct compositions. Brahms took over Beethoven’s explorations of the possibilities of the cello as a solo instrument, equal to the piano. Beethoven’s Sonata op.102, op.1, composed fifty years before, in 1815, also demonstrates the link to the earlier sonata form.
It’s my belief that the art of interpretation encompasses the awareness of the broader cultural and social sphere and the aesthetic norms of a particular period of time. The interpreters, who are part of this complex milieu, express the attitudes and tastes of the cultural environment in which they develop their artistic work.
In the absence of audial documentation of performances of the Brahms’s Sonata op.38 by his prominent interpreter cellist Robert Hausmann (or other cellists of the time), one could look for the stylistic traditions carried by the early 20th century cellist Pablo Casals, who was 21 at the time of the composer’s death. Another link to this tradition is the Soviet cellist Daniil Shafran, whose live performances and recordings allude, to some extent, to the expressive domain of 19th century musical romanticism through his distinctive application of contrametric and agogic rubato, exuberant portamenti, and his idiosyncratic use of vibrato.
In my lecture-recital I will address the key issue of the search for a historically informed performance, which in my view is situated in the understanding of the meaning of these stylistic features practiced in Brahms’s time, and ask: what do they mean to us in our time, and how might we convey in our playing the composer’s intent and the spirit of his time (Zeitgeist) expressed in this particular composition?
Claudia Pacheco Chávez (Faculty of Music of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.)
Miguel Arturo Valenzuela Remolina (Faculty of Music of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.)
Experimentation around the performing practices in German circles during the late nineteenth century (with special attention to vibrato and portamento), applied to the second movement of the Second Sonata for Piano and Cello in F major, op. 99 of Johannes Brahms.
Performing practices for the nineteenth century repertoire in the German ambit changed during the course of the twentieth century. Documentary sources show that the Franco-Belgian style of interpretation, mainly from the Conservatoire de Paris, dominated the aesthetic taste for performing the nineteenth century repertoire, in particular for bowed string instruments. This form of interpretation has survived to this day, and is the reason why a number of expressive and ornamental resources concerning performing practices prevailing in the historical context of Johannes Brahms fell into disuse or changed their meaning.
In the first part of this exposition, a brief review of performing practices of the late nineteenth century in German circles will be presented, especially with regard to resources such as vibrato and portamento. The information exposed will provide support for sustaining and experimenting in musical praxis. Thus, in the first part we will address: 1) some aspects related to cello performing techniques in the historical context of Johannes Brahms; 2) performing practices based on the study of documentary sources consistent in their methods – v.gr. Violinshule of Joseph Joachim and Andreas Moser; 3) analysis of performance practices non-annotated – but present in existing recordings between 1900 and 1950; and 4) revision of musicological studies on how Brahms and his contemporaries performed his music – v.gr. Clive Brown, Robert Kennaway, Jon W Finson, Neal Peres da Costa, and Robert Phillip, among others.
The second part of the exposition will focus on specifications and rationale for performing practices (vibrato, portamento, tempo changes and tempo rubato) adopted in the performance of the second movement of the Sonata for Piano and Cello, op. 99 of Johannes Brahms.
This presentation has as background the experiences obtained during graduate studies in cello (2012) and currently, the Masters in Performing, both at the Faculty of Music of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Vasiliki Papadopoulou (Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW))
Performing Traditions in J. Brahms’ Violin Concerto op. 77 as reflected in Annotated Editions from the 20th Century and Modern Recordings.
Since the violin concerto (op. 77) was first published (Berlin: N. Simrock, 1879) and since the copyright expiration after the composer’s death lead to the edition of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, various annotated – instructive or performance – editions of this work have been published; this transpired in an era, when editions – before the spread of recordings – were still the simplest medium for musicians and teachers to convey their musical ideas.
In my paper I will deal with performing practices as documented in various annotated editions through the twentieth century, including those edited by Leopold Auer, Efrem Zimbalist, Carl Flesch, Karl Klingler, Otakar Ševčík and Adolf Busch. Changes and additions compared to the first-print and the revised edition by Joseph Joachim (in Joachim’s and Andreas Moser’s Violinschule, Berlin: N. Simrock, 1905) concern bowings, articulation markings, expression and tempo markings, dynamics, fingerings – including portamenti – or even vibrato (e.g. Ševčík). Furthermore, verbal explanations of selected segments are found in violin treatises.
The next issue to be addressed is the comparison between these various practices and the concept of performing (already established) traditions in twenty-first century recordings, i.e. either as a deliberate attempt to document, perform and preserve these traditions or as a historically informed approach. On the other hand the power of a formed habit, that originates either in the learning process or through the listening of existing recordings or performances should not be underestimated. These similarities as well as the differences among the editions and recordings sketch the process that has taken place between innovation and tradition; they raise the question why some practices remained prevalent and can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century (and through Joachim to Brahms), as others faded away and – more importantly – changed through time, later editions serving as a first step in this process.
Sarah Potter (University of Leeds)
Singing Brahms in Context: Evidence of Nineteenth-century Vocal Practices.
Johannes Brahms and his musical contemporaries have long been the source of scholarly discussion, but analysis of the performance practices used by the singers with whom Brahms associated has not yet been completed. This practice-based research presentation will build upon recent exploration of changing approaches to vocal style and technique during the long nineteenth century, and present the preliminary conclusions of research into the responses of nineteenth-century singers specifically to the (solo) vocal compositions of Brahms. Inspired by existing biographical commentary on Brahms and the network of singers to which he was connected, this presentation will expand upon the research area by investigating evidence of the vocal practices used by singers known to (and admired by) Brahms. Research questions to be considered address issues of stylistic approach, methods of voice production, and the application of specific musical devices for expressive effect.
The source material considered by this paper will include existing scholarly research, biographical records, didactic material, performance criticism, and early vocal recordings; practical demonstration will illustrate the vocal practices highlighted. Discussion will reference singer Julius Stockhausen (1826-1906) as a key performer of Brahms’s work, analyse accounts of other performers that premiered or inspired vocal compositions by Brahms, and investigate links to other celebrated nineteenth-century singers and voice teachers. Possible correlation with the practices advocated by Manuel Garcia II (one-time teacher of Stockhausen, and other high-profile singers of the period) is an area of particular interest. Approaches used in the performance of works by other Lieder composers connected to Brahms will provide additional contextual evidence.
This research presentation will be illustrated with the performance of vocal repertoire by Brahms, realising nineteenth-century approaches to vocal style and technique as might plausibly have been applied by the singers in his musical circle.
Mayan Qu (University of Leeds)
Clive Brown (University of Leeds)
Reading between the lines of Brahms’ musical text: Internalising a conception of 19th-century musicianship.
Scholarship imposes rigorous intellectual criteria that are very different from the mental and physical processes that are required by a performing musician. A conscientious researcher into historical performing practices must weigh the evidence judiciously and, in many cases, frame provisional conclusions where certainties are unattainable. Conscientious scholars of historical performance who engage in practice as part of their research will find themselves challenging the boundaries of their pre-existing musicianship, which has been formed by their training and the context of contemporary music-making. As long as their practice-led research remains a tool it can be undertaken without fundamentally challenging modern norms. If scholar researchers want to go further, however, testing and refining their conclusions through the medium of public performance they are faced with a very different kind of challenge. For earlier periods of musical history their experiments will inevitably be highly speculative and almost certainly very far from any historical reality. For the later 19th century, on the other hand, we have recorded evidence that shows us just how different the musicianship of the past was from that or our own day. More than a hundred years of recording preserves a tapestry of stylistic development that could certainly not be imagined without that aural evidence. Here, at the interface between traditional scholarship and practice led investigation, the scholar-performer is faced with an unusual challenge. The nuanced argument and provisional conclusions of traditional scholarship will not do when the conclusions of research are communicated through performance. Uncertainty is impossible for musicians in the act of performance; they must present the musical work with total conviction, entirely at ease with the musicianship that lies behind it.
Our presentation aims to explore the means by which written and aural data may be used to internalise a conception of 19th-century musicianship, offering valuable insights into the hidden messages that 19th-century musicians were expected to read between the lines of the composer’s notation.
Anna Scott (The Orpheus Institute, Ghent, Belgium)
Romanticizing Brahms: Experiments in Early-Recorded Brahmsian Pianism.
A spate of recent publications, radio programs, and events centred around themes of amateur and domestic music-making, historical performance practices, socio-cultural issues, private letters, and early recordings as related to Brahms’s life and output, seems to evidence a desire to recast his identity as one implicated in rather than exempted from his Romantic milieu. Despite such rebranding exercises however, performer-scholars remain unwilling to radically challenge the way Brahms’s music sounds; perhaps revealing a profound investment in much more deeply-held beliefs concerning the identity of the composer and his works.
With special focus on Brahms’s late piano miniatures, this presentation seeks to demonstrate that lingering gaps between modern and late-Romantic Brahmsian pianism are mediated, not merely by changing tastes and standards, but by a pervasive aesthetic ideology underlying understandings of Brahms’s canonic identity, and reinforced by nearly immovable performance norms that resist the very experimentation that evidence of Brahms’s musical contexts seems to invite. By working with extreme examples of early-recorded Brahmsian pianism in ways that consciously reject such understandings and norms however, a style of experimentally-informed Brahms emerges that both proposes radically new sounds and reimagines Brahmsian identity; that implicates Brahms in his historical context, and us in ours; that tasks pianists with playing something other than the minutiae of Brahms’s scores, however enriched our relationships with those scores may be; and most importantly, that asks many more questions than it answers, particularly as related to where our Brahms performances are going as opposed to whence they came. Rather than aiming for desirable outcomes such as amplified expressivity, flexibility, understanding, and conviction, these experiments are instead every bit as unresolved, volatile, puzzling, asymmetrical, and ephemeral as their early-recorded models, and perhaps even more so; thereby revealing volumes about just how committed to rethinking Brahmsian sound and meaning we really are.
Towards an Historically Inspired Brahms Style: The Edwardian musicianship of violist Lionel Tertis in op.120 nr.1.
Numerous developments in Brahms’ performance research have prompted a rethinking of our performance possibilities when interpreting his music. Contributions by Neal Peres Da Costa, David Milsom and Anna Scott have been made based on the study of recordings of performances from Brahms’ inner circle. These studies reveal to us that the performance practice that was prominent in Brahms’ own time greatly differs from the current mainstream approach to his music. The first violist to record a Brahms Sonata was the English violist Lionel Tertis (1876-1975) who is widely acknowledged to have been the first viola player to make a career as a solo performer on the viola. His seminal recording of the Sonata op.120 nr.1 was made in 1924 for Vocalion Records. The timeline of Tertis’ career situates his performances somewhere between the older generation of string players like Joseph Joachim and the more modern players like Jascha Heifetz and William Primrose. Tertis’ Brahms recording makes for interesting study given its place as a kind of halfway point in style change in Brahms performance practice in the early 20th century. My proposal is to speak briefly about the style elements both foreign and familiar we encounter in Tertis’ recording of the first movement of the Sonata op.120 nr.1. My goal is to show how historically inspired performances might be realised by making use of some of these stylistic features.
Ronald Woodley (Birmingham Conservatoire/ Birmingham City University)
Ilona Eibenschütz’s solo piano arrangements of Brahms and Schumann Lieder: issues of performance style and genre.
Ilona Eibenschütz (1873–1967) as a young woman was one of the pianists most closely linked to the Brahms–Clara Schumann circle; indeed Brahms was once overheard to remark that ‘she is the pianist I best like to hear playing my works’. Her playing, to most modern ears extraordinarily volatile, rhythmically wayward, even perverse, is known from a small number of recordings now commercially available. With the recent researches, especially, of Anna Scott and Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, she is being recognized as opening an important window on how the spectrum of performance style in the solo piano repertory of this circle was in Brahms’s day much wider and extreme than is generally deemed ‘acceptable’ today. I have been fortunate in gaining special access to a number of tracks recorded privately by Eibenschütz late in her life, for her immediate family, which include some solo arrangements of Lieder by Brahms and Schumann, among other works. This paper will explore these newly discovered recordings from the point of view both of performance style and of concomitant issues of genre and register, in relation to concert and domestic music-making in such repertory.
Emily Worthington (Independent Researcher)
(Re-)Constructing Richard Mühlfeld? Rubato and Rhythmic Freedom in Brahms’s Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 No. 2 Mvt. 1.
There are no known recordings of Brahms’s clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld. Reports of his performance style, though plentiful, are vague and often conflicting, with details of his use of rubato, phrasing and ensemble flexibility remaining particularly unclear. This lacuna should present a tantalising creative space to be explored: yet the stylistic approach taken by most modern and HIP performers to Brahms’s clarinet works remains generally conservative, particularly in the case of Sonata Op. 120/2, commonly approached as the ‘Classical’ counterpart to the more impassioned Op. 120/1. This may in part be due to the absence of a significant body of research into late-romantic wind playing to provide authority or permission, if such is necessary, for a significant deviation from the prevailing approach.
Drawing on new research into early German recordings of wind chamber music, including the extensive discography of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Wind Quintet 1924–30, this lecture-recital reveals the extent to which wind players trained in the late 19th century made use of a wide range of temporal expressive devices, many familiar from studies of piano and string playing. Particular attention is paid to how such devices were applied to particular musical contexts, resulting in the de-emphasis of structural points, interpretative asymmetry between ensemble members, and the preference for horizontal shaping of individual lines instead of the vertical ensemble coordination which is at the heart of the modern performance paradigm. It is contended that though the playing of Mühlfeld himself may remain a mystery, the stylistic world into which Brahms’s clarinet works were born does not, opening the possibility of a far broader range of interpretative approaches. Finally, a performance of the first movement of Op. 120/2 demonstrates how one such approach prompts a re-consideration of the character of the music.
Annie Yim (Guildhall School of Music and Drama/ City University London)
Regaining a Lost Performing Tradition: The Schumann Circle and the Young Brahms’s Piano Trio op. 8a (original version, 1854).
This presentation explores the role of the performer in regaining a performing tradition for the neglected original version of Brahms’s Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8 (1854 [Op. 8a]), which was later revised (1889 [Op. 8b]). In light of my hypothesis that Robert Schumann was a major influence on the young Brahms and the genesis of his Op. 8a, I propose a set of informed performance guidelines for Op. 8a that reflect Schumannesque musical aesthetics distinct from Op. 8b.
Commentary is currently lacking on the performing tradition for Brahms’s Op. 8a, despite many scholarly comparisons, such as those by Roger Moseley and Michael Struck, of the two very different versions of this work. The general misconception that Op. 8a is an inferior, youthful version of the work contributes to its neglect. Distinctive features in Op. 8a are often mistakenly considered to be ‘un-Brahmsian’ and weak, which makes interpretation challenging; this is evidenced by the small handful of existing recordings that between them demonstrate a wide variety of approaches to interpreting the work.
My research in establishing performance guidelines for Brahms’s Op. 8a aims to speak directly to the newly emerging field of practice-based research, thereby addressing performance issues from the performer’s perspective. The repertoire to be discussed (and illustrated through performance) includes excerpts from Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17; Robert Schumann’s Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 63, and Fantasie, Op. 17; as well as Brahms’s Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8a. In the context of the output of the Schumann circle, my research offers new interpretations of Brahms’s Op. 8a that combine the performers’ interpretative creativity with musical-aesthetical knowledge.
Brent Yorgason (Marietta College, Ohio)
The Functions of Expressive Asynchrony in the Piano Music of Brahms.
The performance practices of chord-spreading and hand-breaking, often viewed as “mannerisms” by twentieth-century pianists, had specific expressive and communicative functions in late-Romantic music. Brahms’s piano music features many remarkable passages involving expressive asynchrony: a slight dislocation between hands or voices for expressive purposes. Such asynchrony can be spontaneously introduced by a performer or it can be incorporated into the score (using various notational tricks) by the composer. In this paper I will examine a number of passages from Brahms’s piano music that involve notated expressive asynchrony.
Chord-spreading can be used to create contrapuntal clarity, to resolve separate voice-leading strands, and to help articulate inner melodic voices. For instance, in the passage shown in Example 1, the widely rolled chords in measures 43-45 allow an inner voice to sing out, echoing the ^3-^2-^5 motive in the preceding phrase. Chord-spreading may occur at formal boundaries to link different sections of a composition together. For instance, in Example 2, a rolled chord in the second ending subtly separates the melodic arrival on E5 from the new beginning on G5. Chord-spreading can also create motivic connections between passages, as illustrated by the three tenderly rolled climaxes of Example 3.
Hand-breaking effects can be indicated in the score through the use of notational displacement between attacks, as with the downbeats in Example 4. This creates a much more agitated surface.1 Dislocation between hands in Example 5 creates the experience of what I call “metric drift,” which is resolved by a “transformational beat” in measure 43. A similar passage involving quick hand alternation in Example 6 is resolved by what may be perceived as a continuous roll in measure 22. By notating these temporal effects in his music, Brahms could specify to a degree the performance practices that were common in his day.