Piano-Playing Styles of the Nineteenth Century - Day Five

Piano-Playing Styles of the Nineteenth Century - Day Five

Guest Artists

Date and time
08 Feb 2024 (10:00am - 9:00pm)

Recital Hall, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

200 Jennens Road, B4 7XR


£20 Day Pass

£55 Conference Pass


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Booking Information

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10am Andreas Staier

11.30am Christopher Dingle (RBC)

12.15pm Salomé Chitaia (RBC)

1pm Lunch

2pm -5pm Bern University of the Arts: Manuel Bärtsch, Sebastian Bausch, Cecilia Facchini,  Philippe Gaspoz.  

5.45pm Ronald Woodley

7.30pm  Closing Concert.

As part of Piano-Playing Styles of the Nineteenth Century

10am  Andreas Staier

We welcome one of the greatest early keyboard players of our time to give a live (remote) Lecture-Recital followed by Questions and Answers.

11.30am Christopher Dingle (RBC)

Messaien as Pianist

12.15pm Salomé Chitaia  (RBC)

Ravel’s Piano Rolls

1pm Lunch

2pm - 5pm Bern University of the Arts: Manuel Bärtsch, Sebastian Bausch, Cecilia Facchini,  Philippe Gaspoz

Much more than just "Background Noise” – Unexplored Piano Roll Recordings of Forgotten Pianists as Evidence for General Norms and Tendencies in 19th-Century Piano Playing.

From 1905 on, piano rolls captured the performances of hundreds of pianists born and educated in the 19th century. While generally established as a major source for performing practice (e.g. through the publications of N. Peres da Costa), analysis of roll recordings has so far mainly focused on a rather small group of famous pianists, spanning several generations from Reinecke (born 1824) to Horowitz (born 1903). The majority of recordings, however, were made by virtually forgotten pianists. In some cases, their names were not mentioned at all on the box labels.

The University of the Arts in Bern, Switzerland, has 20 years of experience in research on recordings for reproducing pianos and organs. In 2023, a new large-scale research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation has commenced. Under the title “Nebendarsteller*innen in der Hauptrolle”, Manuel Bärtsch and his team aim to extend piano roll research by two important aspects: Recordings by little-known pianists and recordings for smaller roll companies besides the famous Welte-Mignon, Duo-Art, and Ampico. The famous pianists of the early 20th century generally cultivated highly individual and idiosyncratic performing styles. While they might share commonalities typical for 19th-century piano playing, they can by far not be considered “average”. Therefore, recordings by artists who shared a similar education but lacked the international careers of their more famous colleagues may tell us way more about what a 19th-century audience would have expected to hear when attending an everyday concert. For example, Leipzig-based pianist Georg Zscherneck, who was among the first to record for Welte-Mignon, might very well be representative of how pianists were trained by Reinecke and others at the Leipzig Conservatory.

Interestingly, his playing of a Brahms Intermezzo fits some of the performance practice instructions from the Brahms circle almost literally. Similarly, Eugenie Adam-Benard must have received practically the same aesthetic influences as her male colleagues Max Pauer and Eugen d’Albert when studying in the class of Ernst Pauer in London. As Welte’s in-house pianist, she recorded an extensive repertoire of the classical canon within less than a year, showing magnificent technique and impeccable taste, but lacking many of the eccentricities present in d’Alberts recordings.

In addition to being an invaluable source for empirical performance analysis, piano rolls provide performer-researchers with unique information about the technical aspects of 19th-century piano playing, such as pedaling, fingerings, and articulation. This makes the rolls a perfect starting point for practice-based research using methodologies such as embodiment and reenactment, which form a major part of the Bern research project. In a joint presentation, Manuel Bärtsch and his team present their current state of research. They will include several short live performances demonstrating how a combination of empirical analysis and embodiment allows them to distinguish different 19th-century performing styles (e.g., of the Leipzig Conservatory or the Roman Liszt school) in their own playing.

5.45pm Ronald Woodley

Ilona Eibenschütz: The Lost Tapes

7.30pm Closing Concert: J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2

Presented by RBC students on pre-Twentieth Century keyboards.

Book for this recital only.

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