Piano-Playing Styles of the Nineteenth Century - Day Three

Piano-Playing Styles of the Nineteenth Century - Day Three

Guest Artists

Date and time
06 Feb 2024 (10:00am - 7:30pm)

Recital Hall, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

200 Jennens Road, B4 7XR


£20 day ticket

£55 conference pass


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Close up of piano keys

10am Anna Scott (Leiden University Academy of Creative and Performing Arts)

11.30am Break

12pm Yulia Chaplina

1pm Lunch

2pm Michael Gurevich (violin), Ursula Monberg (natural horn), John Thwaites (piano)

3pm Federico Ercoli (Eastman School of Music)

4.15pm Break

4.40pm Matthew Figel (Eastman School of Music)

5.30pm Steven Devine

As part of Piano-Playing Styles of the Nineteenth Century

10am Anna Scott (Leiden University Academy of Creative and Performing Arts)


12pm Yulia Chaplina

Rubato in Chopin

2pm Michael Gurevich (violin), Ursula Monberg (natural horn), John Thwaites (piano).

Symbolism, Allusion and Performance Practice in Brahms’s Horn Trio in E flat Op.40.

Exploring the sometimes fractious debate around folksong references, key meaning, the extra-musical connotations of Horn Fifths and Christopher Hogwood’s discovery of the Scherzo’s Trio in an earlier Göttingen Notebook alongside a consideration of performance implications - everything from a hand-stopped expiration to arpeggiated angels’ harps.

3pm Federico Ercoli (Eastman School of Music)

In defense of the inauthentic text: The use of “non-original” editions for aesthetic-performance research on the opening of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor, Op.31, No. 2

This presentation aims to investigate the role of so-called performative editions in research on 19th century piano performance practice. In particular, it will explore the difference between textual interpretation and creativity in performance. In the process, the case study will be Beethoven’s Sonata, Op.31, No.2. After contextualizing various non-original editions, including those edited by Franz Liszt, Frederic Lamond, Arthur Schnabel, Alfredo Casella, and Claudio Arrau, I will describe a selection of these focusing on passages of the exposition of the first movement, and comparing them with so-called “authentic” editions. Subsequently, I will use Sonic Visualizer to conduct a comparative analysis between the performative editions and the original recordings made by the same artist-publishers: Lamond, 1928; Schnabel, 1933-35; Arrau, 1966. This study will help to understand the difference between the various textual interpretations and the evolution in editorial treatment. In particular, it will delineate the difference between non-written performance tools, such as asynchronicity, arpeggios, or treatment of dotted rhythms, and interpretive techniques reported in the written text, such as tempo flexibility, pedal, and the reorganization of dynamic contrasts. At the same time, this process will try to show the role of the inauthentic editions as a fundamental resource in 19th-century piano performance practice research. My argument is that not only are these editions useful in understanding the use of interpretive tools reported in the edited score, but also for researching the evolution of reading musical texts, of musical notation, and the creative process of piano performance.

3.30pm Charles Wiffen (Bath Spa University).

The pianist as singer: an investigation of nineteenth-century pianism through the song transcription

This paper poses the question of how nineteenth-century pianism may be understood in light of the song transcription. Pianist-transcribers employed virtuosic means for expressive ends in a wide range of music through the long nineteenth century, including much vocal repertoire. Thalberg’s L’Art du chant appliqué au Piano may be seen as a metaphor for the embodiment of the human voice within the keyboard and for the urge to extend piano technique beyond the apparent technical, mechanical and acoustical confines of the instrument and performer. This paper therefore posits the song transcription as an analogue of nineteenth-century pianism.

The paper focuses on transcriptions of songs by Schubert and Richard Strauss: Schubert’s Gretchen am Spinnrade is transcribed by Liszt and Strauss’s Ständchen, op. 17, no. 2 is transcribed by Godowsky, Gieseking and Backhaus. I investigate how existing pianistic figurations are embellished within these transcriptions and how melodic, harmonic and textural content is variously distributed. I investigate how registral changes are used to provide structure and variety, how asynchrony and rubato function within the transcriptions (through notational evidence) and how the sustaining pedal may have a mimetic function. Finally, I explore how the prosody of a song may be maintained within a solo transcription through a transcendental approach to pianism.

4.40pm Matthew Figel (Eastman School of Music)

Reimagining Chopin’s Purported Casta Diva Transcription as Inspired by His Nocturnes.

An enigmatic solo piano transcription of Bellini’s famed Casta Diva, erroneously attributed to Frédéric Chopin, has recently crept into concert halls and recording booths. Closer analysis of this arrangement – from its awkward texture, skeletal melody, and limited range, quickly reveals anomalies that challenge the sole authorship of the Polish master. But must we dismiss this work entirely?

Instead, I argue that we can use this elementary transcription as a launching pad to imagine a more evocative performance that Chopin himself might have improvised, only complete through recreating similarly imaginative embellishments that characterize Chopin’s works.

This lecture recital will explore the endless possibilities of emulating Chopin’s style through

19th-century performance practices, particularly through the lens of fanciful ornamentation.

Following the curious life-cycle of the alleged solo transcription – beginning as an accompanimental sketch of Chopin and later metamorphosed into a solo reconstruction by scholar Wojciech Nowik, I will embark on a musical scavenger hunt through Chopin’s lexicon of melodic variants in his Nocturnes. After exploring the sheer variety of imaginative figurations in Chopin’s oeuvre, and the compositional function each might achieve, I will pair similarly florid gestures to decorate the barren melody of the original Casta Diva transcription. Moreover, I will demonstrate how Chopin cleverly utilizes pianistic figurations to replicate two particularly elusive vocal practices on the piano– portamento and vibrato.

Performances of his Nocturne in Eb, Op.9 No.2, Nocturne in Db, Op.27 No.2, as well as the Berceuse, Op.57, will provide the inspiration for a reimagined solo performance of Casta Diva in the style of Chopin utilizing my own embellishments. I will also discuss the relationship of tempo rubato to the libretto’s text, early vocal recordings that showcase the possibility of a varied reprise, and consideration of Chopin’s relationship with Bellini as evident in his variation in Hexaméron – whose key, meter, register, affect, and timeline bears curious resemblances to the Casta Diva sketch. Ultimately, this crash-course in Chopinesque ornamentation and style will demonstrate how one can utilize topics of 19th-century performance practice to transform even the most rudimentary vocal arrangements into a kaleidoscopic world disguised as Chopin’s own.

Repertoire: Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849)

Casta Diva (from Norma) – Vincenzo Bellini (transcr. “Chopin” / Wojciech Nowik)
Hexaméron, Morceau de Concert – Var.6: Largo
Nocturne in Eb, Op.9 No.2
Nocturne in Db, Op.27 No.2
Berceuse in Db, Op.57
Casta Diva (from Norma) – Vincenzo Bellini (transcr. “Chopin” / Matthew Figel)

5.30pm-7.30pm Steven Devine discusses 300 years of performance history with respect to Bach at the Keyboard. Included will be a workshopping of Bach’s “48” with RBC students, encouraging them to try different instruments and styles.

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