From Archives to Stage: Enabling New Performances of French Music through Editing

French Music Research Hub at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC) have had international impact on cultural life by enabling 21 performances by 5 leading ensembles in 11 venues across 5 countries.

The back of a group of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire students with their hands in the air at the end of a performance

Research summary

The research and subsequent editions completed by the French Music Research Hub have contributed to a Messiaen world premiere, a modern-day Rameau premiere and significant new realizations of other works by Clérambault and Rameau, providing valuable status events for renowned performers and Arts organizations (e.g. BBC Proms, Oper Komische Berlin, Versailles, Theater an der Wien and Utrecht Early Music Festival).

These previously unheard and revised works attracted 22 radio broadcasts in 12 countries and a global audience through the BBC World Service.

Research background

This research on the key editions created by Christopher Dingle and Graham Sadler, expands upon previous hub research on editions by Thompson, Moore and Mawe at the RBC.

Messiaen wrote the music for Un oiseau in short score, with a few indications of instrumentation, but did not write-up the orchestration. Internationally recognised as a leader in Messiaen research, Dingle’s realisation of the orchestration of Un oiseau drew on two decades of work on Messiae. Dingle’s edition required exceptionally detailed study of the composer’s orchestral voicings within Éclairs and other mature works, with problematic elements tested by performers.

Rameau’s Paroles qui ont précédé le Te Deum is a motet originally written for a concert given for King Louis XV in August 1744 when the king was gravely ill. Subsequently lost, it drew on music from his operas Castor et Pollux and Les Indes galantes. Through his unparalleled knowledge of the primary sources, Sadler’s 2018 reconstruction marries the text for the motet to the material from the operas – that he identified as being the basis of the music.

Sadler is one of the leading Rameau scholars, and his 2016 edition of the 1756 version of Zoroastre is the first in modern times and is a key element of publisher Bärenreiter’s prestigious Rameau complete edition. Sadler combines detailed study of extensive primary sources to create an edition that transparently provides performers with evidence-based practical solutions and alternate readings.

Sadler previously hypothesised that the manuscripts and first editions of La Muse de l’Opéra are not full scores, and a new edition of is the first realisation of this theory into practice, providing the missing parts to enable a full voicing of the music.

Impact and outcomes

The editions created by members of the French Music Research Hub have provided new work, new approaches, and new perspectives on the repertoire involved. These in turn enabled key events where renowned professional performers and arts organisations could present work to international audiences with the opportunity to encounter previously unheard repertoire by major composers.

Dingle’s realization of Messiaen’s, Un oiseau des arbres de Vie (Oiseau Tui), received its world premiere by the BBC Philharmonic under Nicholas Collon at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms.

Sadler’s new edition of the 1756 version of Rameau’s Zoroastre for the landmark Bärenreiter Rameau Opera Omnia received its concert premiere in Montpellier in 2016 by Ensemble Pygmalion under Raphaël Pichon.

Sadler’s reconstruction of Rameau’s motet Paroles qui ont précédé le Te Deum enabled the work to have its first performances since 1744 as part of the opening concert of the 2018 Utrecht Festival, one of the leading European early music festivals.

Sadler’s edition of the cantata La Muse de l'Opéra made it possible to recreate the work for the first time in its full orchestral form, enabling internationally renowned baroque specialist Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques to give the first modern performances at Potsdam, Germany in June 2016 and the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music, Austria in August 2017.

REF 2021

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REF 2021

Professor Christopher Dingle

Professor of Music

Christopher Dingle is a specialist in French Music, notably Messiaen, and the history and practice of Music Criticism. Messiaen’s Un oiseau des arbres de Vie (orchestration realized by Dingle), received its world premiere at the 2015 BBC Proms and is published by Editions Alphonse Leduc. Chris is Associate Director of Research at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and co-director of the French Music Research Hub.

Deborah Mawer

Emeritus Professor of Music

Deborah Mawer was formerly Research Professor of Music and Director of Research at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire; across 2016-19 she led a large AHRC-funded project, entitled ‘Accenting the Classics: Durand’s Édition classique (c. 1915 - 25) as a French Prism on the Musical Past’. She joined the Conservatoire in 2013, having previously held chairs at Lancaster University and the University of Huddersfield and been postgraduate external examiner at the University of Oxford (2009 - 12).

Graham Sadler profile photo

Professor Graham Sadler

Research Professor in Music

Professor Sadler is known internationally as an authority on French music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. After studying at the Universities of Nottingham and London and the Royal College of Music, he joined the Music Department at the University of Hull, where he remained as lecturer, reader and eventually professor until 2007. He was appointed as a research professor at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2012, having been a visiting tutor since 2007.

Rachel Moore

Research Fellow

Rachel is a Research Fellow on the three-year AHRC-funded research project, ‘Accenting the Classics: Durand’s Édition classique (c.1915–25) as a French Prism on the Musical Past’. She pursued doctoral studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, with a thesis on music and propaganda in Paris during the First World War. She held the post of Stipendiary Lecturer in Music at New College, Oxford, before becoming a Junior Research Fellow and Lecturer in Music at Worcester College, Oxford. From 2014–2017, Rachel held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship in Music at the University of Oxford. Her Leverhulme research examined the role of music in shaping concepts of ‘Allied’ identity during the First World War, focusing on a range of instances of musical exchange between Paris and London, from the cross-channel enterprises of touring theatrical troupes, to mass ‘Allied’ concerts, or street music performed by French and British soldier-musicians on leave.

Dr Shirley Thompson 2018

Dr Shirley Thompson

Interim Principal

Dr Shirley Thompson graduated from the University of Hull with a first class BMus degree in 1987. She subsequently undertook a PGCE (at the then Birmingham Polytechnic), and thereafter spent three years as teacher-in-charge of Music at a Northamptonshire secondary school. Having won a British Academy Major Scholarship to return to study for a PhD at Hull, she was awarded her doctorate in 1998 for a thesis on the music of the seventeenth-century French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier (‘The Autograph Manuscripts of Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Clues to Performance'). Following a five-year period as a Lecturer (then Senior Lecturer) in Music at the University of Wolverhampton, she moved in 2001 to Royal Birmingham Conservatoire where, after occupying a series of different roles, including Director of Postgraduate Studies in Music, she was appointed Vice Principal for Music in 2018 and Interim Principal in September 2020.