Realigning Historically Informed String Playing in Beethoven's Orchestral Works

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Music Faculty

Abstract

Period-instrument performance is now well established, enjoying an increasingly mainstream profile within the classical music industry. However, despite commercial success, and partly because of it, its claim to be historically informed does not hold true throughout the broad range of repertoire performed nowadays by its exponents. 19th-century string performance differed markedly from modern playing in matters of both technique and expression; yet most period players lack the combination of theoretical knowledge and practical skill to recreate these differences. Conductors and leaders,themselves often ignorant about relevant performance practice issues, have been concerned primarily with achieving the tightest ensemble in the shortest time, aligning their performances with the expectations of commercial factors as well as 'modern ears'. Consequently, true 19th-century practices have never been fully explored or realised,and familiar, secure, yet inaccurate 'modern' techniques such as off-string bowings have been the default directive. Whilst recordings of Beethoven's Symphonies (e.g. by Gardiner, Hogwood and Norrington) are well respected and certainly offer interpretative insights, their acceptance as definitive examples of historical performance in this repertoire is misguided and dangerous. The string playing does not follow either technically or stylistically the conventions that were natural to performers of that time. This fact is widely accepted by the players on those recordings, many of whom will benefit from the outputs of the proposed research as current members of the OAE. The enthusiastic participation of the world-leading ensemble in this repertoire, confirms that current levels of knowledge and skill in this field are regarded as unsatisfactory. To date, there have been no recorded or concert performances which have given any meaningful realisation of early 19th-century string playing, because there simply are no players with the requisite skills to reproduce the style. Lack of available training (specialist conservatoire courses teach only baroque and classical style and never touch on later music) and the problems of interpreting and realising the available scholarly material in practical terms, mean that 19th-century performance practices continue to be grossly misrepresented.
This research will tackle orchestral string playing in core repertoire through practice-led investigations and outputs, thus increasing knowledge and understanding in a key area of historically-informed performance. The principal objective is to transform Beethoven performance by establishing and communicating the information that string players need to understand and assimilate in order to reproduce the bowing, fingering and expression that was natural to performers of his time. The project will document and illustrate the physical ways in which lost techniques of the early 19th-century may be recreated, examine relevant editions of Beethoven's orchestral and chamber compositions (in conjunction with the AHRC-funded Brown/Stowell project on early editions) and provide detailed case studies on Beethoven Symphonies for orchestral players and conductors. The project will be linked to 4 OAE concerts. A workshop day examining relevant string technique and style with OAE players and interaction between leaders, conductors and the Fellow, will ensure that knowledge transfer from the fellowship will directly affect these public performances. Preperformance talks will disseminate the research outcomes to audiences and expand their understanding of performance issues relevant to this repertoire. A workshop day at the RAM will enable valuable and unique knowledge transfer to conservsatoire students. Other outputs will be disseminated through conference papers, a seminar at the IMR, public concert performances, public lecture-recitals, a permanen

Planned Impact

Beneficiaries of the proposed project will also include performers, conductors, ensembles, and audiences. Instrumentalists will gain insights into how to reproduce 19th-century techniques and style, enabling them to perform to higher standards of historical fidelity. This will impact on their employability in a competitive freelance industry, increase their value to their various ensembles, and strengthen teaching expertise. The applicant is acutely aware of several former LCP members, who are keen to build on the limited, theoretical information received from Clive Brown many years ago.
Through their OAE links, conductors will be exposed to the research outcomes, which will impact significantly on their approach to Beethoven performance. They will gain a greater understanding of period principles of bowing, fingering and style, all of which clarify the composer's intentions regarding expression and articulation, and will work with string players better versed in historically informed performance issues, ensuring better use of rehearsal time, more convincing results and greater musical commitment. The research should also influence the 'non-period' world, as conductors increasingly work with both 'period' and 'modern orchestras, Also many 'modern' orchestras are re-evaluating their approach to 19th-century repertoire. (Ensembles such as the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra try to apply some 'period' stylistic effects e.g. 'pure tone' whilst playing modern instruments.)
Performance standards of period ensembles will improve markedly as the outcomes of the proposed research are disseminated; this in turn will make ensembles more attractive to promoters, record companies and the general public. Although the research will influence many ensembles, the OAE will be the most direct beneficiary, the resulting increase in the skills of its string players in core repertoire reflecting its aim to present historically informed performances of the highest standard. The benefits to the OAE would begin immediately and continue throughout the fellowship and beyond. 5 years' intake of young professionals on the OAE apprenticeship scheme would also benefit, as well as those professionals and students who participate in the workshops either as performers or observers. Although the project's main aim is to transform orchestral playing, The Eroica Quartet (working with Clive Brown on 19th-Century chamber repertoire) will make several visits to Cardiff University during the fellowship term making them also beneficiaries. The Fellow has performed with several members of the quartet who will be engaged at the outset of the fellowship.
One excuse used to justify the current misrepresentation of 19th-century playing style is that modern audiences find difficulty in accepting change. The research outcomes include educating audiences in the norms of 19th-century technique and style, notably through lecture-recitals and pre-concert talks (in London and Cardiff) involving practical demonstration. Two chamber concerts, as well as OAE performances, will offer audiences the experience of hearing this new, more faithful historically informed approach to Beethoven performance
In order to ensure outreach to the widest possible range of beneficiaries, a database of interested performers and researchers will be maintained throughout the project. Regular email updates, for example, will keep subscribers informed about the project's latest progress and developments as well as the various research outcomes available on the web, including the various demonstrations and explanations provided to enable players to re-create 19th-century techniques and style. The impact of the project will sustain well beyond its funded duration, influencing research, training and professional performance in the field long into the foreseeable future and provide a sound base for re

Publications

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Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/H03353X/1 01/10/2010 31/07/2014 £193,151
AH/H03353X/2 Transfer AH/H03353X/1 01/10/2014 11/03/2016 £47,411
 
Title Concert Holywell Music Room Oxford 
Description A concert of contemporary arrangements Beethoven, using techniques and performance characteristics that would have been common to performers in Beethoven's circle 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Approached by the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in Virginia USA to advise them on Beethoven and related repertoire 
URL http://www.music.ox.ac.uk/event/arranging-beethoven-concert/
 
Title Tarisio 
Description I gave a public lecture as part of the L'Archet Révolutionnaire exhibition of 18th century bows held in London by the auction house Tarisio. Following the lecture there was a public performance, given by myself and other members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment using the techniques and performance characteristics that I had discussed in the lecture whilst playing with bows from the exhibition 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact I engaged with a number of bow makers and professional performers who had not encountered the research before, as well as engaging in knowledge transfer with the general public 
URL http://tarisio.com/features/bows/archet-revolutionnaire-programme/
 
Description I have discovered new insights into the performance practices of string players at the time of Beethoven and have developed methods of teaching early C19th techniques to professional and advanced student performers and have developed methods of disseminating these findings to professional orchestras through knowledge exchange coaching projects
Exploitation Route They will be built on in the forthcoming 'Transforming C19th Historically Informed Performance' AHRC funded five year project
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description They have been in taught in universities and conservatoires in the UK and Europe. A number of Professional orchestras (in the UK, The Netherlands, and Argentina) have changed the way they perform standard repertoire (Beethoven Symphonies) as a result of the Fellowship findings.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Creative Economy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description CMPCP 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Department AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I presented a paper at the 2013 CMPCP conference and another paper for a CMPCP/IMR Research Seminar at Senate House
Collaborator Contribution I was invited to attend the 2013 and 2014 CMPCP conferences without paying the delegate fee.
Impact Paper for 2013 CMPCP conference Research seminar for CMPCP/IMR series 2014
Start Year 2010
 
Description Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Fellowship) 
Organisation Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution I have led workshops with professional performers in the orchestra and additionally with young professionals on the orchestra's apprenticeship scheme. I have presented pre-concert talks before concerts in the Queen Elizabeth and Royal Festical Halls as part of the orchestra's London concert series
Collaborator Contribution The orchestra has funded players to attend workshops I have given and has paid both me and other performers to participate in pre-concert events to disseminate the research of the fellowship. The orchestra has also used me for interviews with BBC Radio 3 before concerts which are broadcast. I have regualrly given lessons and provided advice to three of the orchestra's leaders on techniques and bowing in early 19th-century repertoire. I have also had discussions and provided written material on 19th-century style for conductors of the orchestra including Sir Mark Elder and Marin Alsop
Impact Pre-concert talk at Queen Elizabeth Hall Pre-concert talk at Royal Festival Hall Workshop with OAE professional players Workshop with OAE Academy young professionals BBC Radio 3 interview
Start Year 2010
 
Description Royal Academy of Music (Fellowship) 
Organisation Royal Academy of Music
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have presented a number of workshops (5 to date) with postgraduate students on early 19th-century performance
Collaborator Contribution The Royal Academy of Music chose to extend the number of agreed workshops from the one that was originally planned to at least two workshops each year.
Impact 5 workshops with historical performance students
Start Year 2010
 
Description Coaching workshop University of Poitiers 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I spent an afternoon coaching post-graduate students on Beethoven performance practices.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Public lecture and workshop for the Beethoven Festival of The Hague 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I gave a public lecture on arrangements Beethoven's music by himself and his contemporaries, and conducted a workshop with postgraduate student performers of the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague. The event formed part of the Beethoven Festival of The Hague 2018. About 70 people were present and there was a lively discussion session after the workshop and a panel discussion with other leading historically informed performers (Rachel Beesley and Bart van Oort).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://allevents.in/the%20hague/beethoven-arranged-a-lecture-by-claire-holden-u-of-oxford/200026172...
 
Description Radio interview for Croatian radio 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I recorded an interview for Croatian radio with Maya Zarkovic. The interview was recorded at the Royal Festival Hall London prior to a a performance I was giving and discussed the Fellowship and coaching professional orchestras, as well as a broader discussion of performing Beethoven in a HIP context
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Royal Academy of Music Workshop May 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I devised and led a whole day workshop on performing Beethoven Symphony 7 without conductor. The attendees were students from the Royal Academy of Music, University of Oxford and young professional players from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment's 'Experience' apprenticeship scheme.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Seminar University of Poitiers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A research seminar at the University of Poitiers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Week of coaching at the Jeune Orchestre de l'Abbaye aux Dames, Saintes, France 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I spent a week coaching post-graduate students and young professionals from Europe and Brazil on early C19th French orchestral repertoire and string chamber music repertoire.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.abbayeauxdames.org/agenda-joa/evenements/stage-musique-de-chambre/
 
Description Workshop with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I led a workshop for string players of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to facilitate knowledge exchange before a project with Sir Roger Norrington of Beethoven Symphonies including concerts in Oxford and at the Royal Festival Hall London. I coached on early C19 style and techniques. Many players found this challenging because the orchestra's approach fundamentally changed. The orchestra requested further knowledge exchange events
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Workshops with professional orchestral musicians in Argentina 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited by the Ministry of Culture in Argentina to help develop and establish a new HIP ensemble (Orquesta Independencia 1816) specialising in music from around the time of Argentinian independence (1816) I visited Argentina in March to audition the players and lead four days of coaching workshops in Buenos Aires and Cordoba (March 2015). Many of the players keep in touch and a network was developed between HIP performers and researchers in the UK and South America
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015