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Correct, but not beautiful performance

Deciphering the hidden messages in 19th century notation
This four-day event brings together musicians interested in exploring the meaning of notation from the 1800s. Join us as we experimentally apply well-documented 19th century expressive practices in performance.

Event details

Date: 27 - 30 September 2018

Venue: Recital Hall East and Atrium, Sydney Conservatorium of Music (Directions)

Registrations: Registrations are essential, register now

Keynote speakers

Professor Clive Brown

Source: University of Leeds

Professor Clive Brown
University of Leeds

Professor Clive Brown has published widely on 18th- and 19th-century topics, particularly performing practice, and remains active as a concert violinist specialising in the historically-informed performance of Classical and Romantic music.

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Professor Kai Kopp

Source: Orpheus Institute Ghent

Professor Kai Köpp
Bern University

Having taught at Zurich and Trossingen, he entered the Bern University of the Arts (BUA) in 2008 as music lecturer and teacher of interpretation practices, directing several publicly funded research projects since.

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Dr Anna Scott

Source: Leiden University

Dr Anna Scott
Leiden University

Dr. Anna Scott is a Canadian pianist-researcher interested in challenging understandings of canonic composers and their works in-and-through provocative acts of musical performance.

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Key information

Recent performing practice scholarship makes it abundantly clear that 19th-century and earlier music notation often signified something different to contemporary musicians than it does to those of the present day. In the first half of the 19th century, the characteristic qualities of highly artistic performance and the ways to achieve these were discussed by Johann Nepomuk Hummel in his Anweisung zum Piano-Forte-Spiel (1828) and Louis Spohr in his Violinschule (1833). Both state that an accurate, literal, or face-value realisation of the notation will produce a “correct” performance (richtiger Vortrag), which is the necessary first stage for an apprentice who wishes to become a master; they explain however that this falls far short of mastery, which requires “fine” or “beautiful” performance (schöner Vortrag), in which myriad rhythmic, tempo, and dynamic modifications of the notation, as well as a range of other un-notated expressive practices, such as piano arpeggiation, or portamento and vibrato in singing, string, and wind playing, are indispensable.

With the increasing internationalisation of musical culture during the 19th century, musicians (especially the younger generation) began to rely more on notation than on traditional performing conventions. Such a practice led Joseph Joachim to criticise the tendency of Franco-Belgian school violinists, such as Henri Vieuxtemps, to adhere “too much to the lifeless note-heads when performing the classics, not knowing how to read between the lines.” And for Carl Reinecke, a conscientious reading (following the score exactly) of Beethoven’s Op. 111 Piano Sonata, although it might transmit all the work’s essential details, left “much to be read between the lines which no composer can convey by signs, no editor by explanations.”

Over the course of the Symposium both professionals and students will be exploring these hidden messages in 19th century notation and in experimentally applying well-documented 19th-century expressive practices in performance.

Applications for presentations have now closed. We will be uploading the Conference Schedule later in June.