Accenting the Classics: Durand's Édition classique (c. 1915-25) as a French Prism on the Musical Past

Lead Research Organisation: Birmingham City University
Department Name: ADM Birmingham Conservatoire


This project will explore the music French publisher Durand's major edition in its centenary year to deliver scholarly and educational outputs, whose outcomes have the potential to change practice in French music research. The Édition classique is a significant, large, but little explored, collection of European piano music from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, supported by editorial prefaces, published by Durand in Paris from 1915 onwards. Its repertoire comprises music by well-known and since-forgotten composers, which was edited by well- and lesser-known early twentieth-century French composers, together with musicologists and teachers at the Paris Conservatoire. Other fin-de-siècle editions (for example, Henry Expert's edition, or Saint-Saëns's Oeuvres complètes de Rameau) have been the subject of thriving research, but the contribution of the Édition classique to this forum is not yet known.

This timely project (with most music now in the public domain) will investigate the edition in its first fruitful decade (c. 1915-25), as a prism through which to reinterpret the musical past. Three temporal positions are implied: the edition's World War I setting; the earlier period(s) of the original music; our present day. Enquiries will focus on the 'French accent' given to these 'Classics', involving interplay between musical subject and object; attitudes relating to time and place; French heritage and internationalism.

Investigation will start with detailed analytical case studies of edited music, which will uphold the highest levels of collaborative scholarship. These are selected on the basis of: a balance of musics; well- and lesser-known composers/editors; source availability; use of volumes with editorial commentary; comparative editions; and analytical interest. The initial group will include Ravel (editing Mendelssohn) and Debussy (Chopin); Emmanuel, Garban and Roger-Ducasse (Bach and Burgundian folksongs); balanced by music of the eighteenth-cy French harpsichordists, including Couperin (edited by Tiersot) and Rameau (Diémer). A second group will likely include: Closson (editing Les Classiques belges), Ropartz (Handel), Riéra (Liszt) and Roussel (Mendelssohn's chamber music). Access to sources will be secured via the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Durand and Paris Conservatoire archives, online resources and private collections.

Secondly, using blended archival, historical and interpretative skills, assessment of the role and wider cultural network of the Édition classique will offer new insights into early twentieth-century French cultural identity (e.g. incipient neoclassicism); relations with twentieth-century French composers' own music; canonic issues; Conservatoire pedagogy; wartime publishing, in the context of editions by Expert, Saint-Saëns and Heugel. The project will also embrace how today's users - students, scholars, musicians and the wider public - can benefit from (test out and inflect) this knowledge, including alternative interpretations for pianists and the promotion of 'lost' repertoire.

The main outputs will comprise: a catalogue of the Édition classique's contents (c. 1915-25; approx. 120 edited volumes, 18 editors, 22 earlier composers); three case study articles/chapters, some co-authored (about Ravel and Roussel on Mendelssohn; Debussy's Chopin edition and his own Études and sonatas; Francophone harpsichord music); three further articles (on revisionist implications of the edition's canon; Conservatoire pedagogy; cultural-economic issues of wartime publishing); associated conference papers; performance workshop(s); a hosted international conference and public concert, with follow-on co-edited volume (which may house some chapters above); and a BBC Radio 3 programme.

Pilot tests suggest that the 'French accent' can vary from a subtle re-inflection - often relating to phrasing and accentuation - through to a much more fundamental re-writing of musical history.

Planned Impact

While this project is centred on historical and analytical musicology, its connections with performance practice, pedagogy and creative industries (especially publishing) create considerable potential impact for intellectual, cultural and some economic capital beyond academia, which will be exploited wherever feasible. Some outward-facing elements are built into the project's structure. The two essential questions, concerning who will benefit from this research and how they will benefit, are addressed together under each category of research user:

1. Performers outside academia, ranging from capable high school-aged pianists to professional pianists and other keyboard specialists (harpsichordists, organists) in Birmingham and Manchester. Facilitated by the Project Team and specialist keyboard advisers, these performers will benefit from experimenting with alternative 'French-accented' performance materials in the project's workshop(s) and recorded concert, which in reciprocal fashion will feed back into the project. This is a matter of cultural capital, enabling appreciation of European diversity and richness, which should stimulate creative output and further enquiry into our shared musical heritage.

2. Public concert-goers in Birmingham (and Manchester) will benefit from hearing alternative 'readings' of well-known classical European repertoire, as well as listening to more rarely performed music (for example, Dandrieu, Dagincourt, Duphly) in the performance workshop(s) and concert. Conversely, chamber music societies and concert promoters in the UK, France and other European settings, may be interested to exploit the French-inflected musical subject-matter of this project.

3. Radio/television broadcasting personnel, especially BBC Radio 3 producers, will have a strong opportunity to commission distinctive music programming and talks, building on the already successful centenary commemorations of the start of World War I. Existing working contacts here will be fully pursued. In due course, radio listeners (like the concert-goers above) will benefit from hearing this repertoire in a new light that challenges previous perceptions.

4. Commercial music publishers in the UK, Europe and USA, including representatives of Éditions Durand itself. They should potentially gain, culturally and perhaps economically, from this detailed historical exemplar (especially the outputs from Objective 2) of a large-scale publishing venture that seemingly proved highly successful, despite being conceived in acutely difficult financial times.

5. Institutions that promote French culture, such as the Institut français du Royaume-uni (currently very receptive to music) and Maison française d'Oxford, will benefit from scope for spin-off events and exhibitions emerging from the project's findings.

6. Historical instrument collections (beyond the Conservatoire's own collection). Organology is implicated via the performance outreach agenda, and instrumental museum collections in the UK, Europe and further afield will gain valuable knowledge from the comprehensive catalogue (database) of the edition's content (c.1915-25) about which instruments the music was edited on and for. (Ravel's Mendelssohn edition was very likely worked through on his favoured Érard piano.) This information can then fuel museum displays and demonstrations.
Description This first submission of data (March 2017) occurs just seven months into the 'Accenting the Classics' project. We are, therefore, in a position to offer a partial response.

The most significant findings to date are the following:

• Further research indicates that the Édition classique Durand is in fact an even more extensive collection than was previously acknowledged, and a substantial Annotated Catalogue is well under way. Thus our objective to balance the breadth and cultural scope of the edition (and its role as a prism on the past) by means of selective, detailed musical case studies (with a clearly defined timeframe) is well-placed.

• It is already evident that the nature of the French accent created by the Édition classique Durand is likely to be highly variable, dependent upon the composer-editor, the repertoire being edited and its own historical period. Some subject(ive) perspectives on the past are proving much more faithful to their chosen object of study than others; the discrepancies, however, tell us much about artistic and publisher practice in the period around and following the First World War. The forthcoming edited volume, Historical Interplay in French Music and Culture, 1860-1960, has enabled an important contextual and conceptual foundation for these enquires.

• The inherent focus of the project upon a French national accent, in conjunction with broader European dimensions (transnationalism, internationalism), is accruing increased topicality in relation to Brexit and other current cultural-political debates.
Exploitation Route Too early to specify (the award is still active).
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description We have already begun the work of exploring and sharing the performance dimensions of 'Accenting the Classics' with public concert audiences, commencing with a recital within Birmingham Conservatoire's Festival Parisien (20-24 February 2017), as detailed in the Engagement section. We shall develop this perspective further through selected concerts and workshops across the lifespan of the project.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Description Principles in Practice: Research Proposal Writing. Deborah Mawer (and Nicholas Gebhardt), PhD Research Seminar Presentation (video-recorded), 'Principles in Practice: Research Proposal Writing', October 2016, Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice, Arts, Design and Media, Birmingham City University.
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Description Festival Parisien, Birmingham Conservatoire Public Recital (24 February 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Festival Parisien, Friday 24 February 2017, 3.00pm, Recital Hall Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham. Public recital directed and introduced by Deborah Mawer, audio- and video-recorded. György Hodozso and Domonkos Csabay (pianists): Mendelssohn (ed. Ravel), Six pièces enfantines, piano 2-hands (1847/1918); Ravel, Ma mère l'Oye, piano 4-hands (1910). The purpose of this event was to showcase to a public audience a first test (pilot), through performance, of selected materials from the main research project. Music by Ravel, as both editor and composer, was linked by the idea of childhood, as an exemplar of French 'Accenting [of] the Classics'. After the concert, members of the public and Conservatoire students, including the performers, discussed informally what they had experienced (new enthusiasm for Mendelssohn's music was reported).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017