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Pianism in the long 19th Century starry night

Pianism in the Long Nineteenth Century

Piano music, performance and composition all came into a ‘Golden Age’ during the Long Nineteenth Century (Hamilton, 2007). There was an undeniable goldrush across all areas of pianism, from pedagogy, performance practices of the piano as a solo and chamber instrument, to the role and identity of the pianist shifting from pianist-composer to idol and entertainer.

Not only during the nineteenth century was there a burst of activity, but contemporary scholarship has similarly blossomed around this period of the piano’s history (Timbrell, 2006). Performers and musicologists alike are drawn to the changing notion of pianism that came from the nineteenth century. The effect it had on methods of composition, performance, and pedagogy – without reference to the technological aspects of the period – are immense (Gooley, 2004; Samson, 2003).

This virtual conference brings together the expertise of performers, researchers, and pedagogues, and attempts to answer why the late nineteenth century was such a flourishing time in the history of pianism. While there are many texts that investigate individual elements of pianism, there are few that invest all the changing aspects of pianism. This day attempts to bring scholars together with the immense knowledge of performers and pedagogues. By inviting various experts to discuss pianism during the late nineteenth century, we aim to unite scholars, performers and teachers under the umbrella of ‘research’ and create space for further interdisciplinary investigation into this topic.

Papers and interviews will be available to delegates online a week prior online, with the event culminating in a Live Q&A on 4 March, 4pm British Standard Time.

Follow the Twitter account for the conference here and use the hashtag #19CPiano.

Conference programme

The timings for the virtual conference are included here. Abstracts for each talk can be viewed alongside the speaker biographies below.

4pm: Introduction and Welcomes, running order and zoom etiquette, explain how Q&A will work

4.10pm: Pianism and Pedagogy: Vanessa Latarche and Anna Scott

4.50pm: 10-minute interval

5pm: Schumann: Stephen Hough, Dana Gooley and Natasha Loges

5.40pm: 10-minute interval

5.50pm: Chamber music and Concerti: Neal Peres da Costa, Dana Gooley and Danny Driver

6.25pm: Wrap up/Thank yous

Featured experts

The conference will feature papers from:

Professor Natasha Loges, Royal College of Music

Natasha Loges, speaker

Natasha Loges’s research interests include German song, gender studies, concert history, practice research, word-music relationships, and the lives and music of Brahms and the Schumanns. She welcomes prospective PhD and DMus candidates in these areas.

Her research has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. Her books include German Song Onstage: Lieder Performance in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (Indiana University Press, 2020); Johannes Brahms in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2019); Musical Salon Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century (Boydell & Brewer, 2019); and Brahms in the Home and the Concert Hall (Cambridge University Press, 2014). Her monograph Brahms and his Poets: A Handbook (Boydell & Brewer, 2017), received the American Musicological Society's Thomas Hampson Award in 2016.

Her work has appeared in Music & Letters, 19th-Century Music, the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Göttingen Händel-Beiträge and Participations, as well as the Cambridge Companion to the Singer-Songwriter, the Cambridge History of Musical Performance, Music & Literature in German Romanticism and the forthcoming collections Branding Western Music and Song Beyond the Nation (funded by the British Academy). Recent keynotes have taken her to the University of California (The Intellectual Worlds of Johannes Brahms), Oxford (Clara Schumann and her World), Maynooth (Society for Musicology in Ireland) and Cornell (Performing Clara Schumann).

A committed public musicologist, Natasha performs regularly as a song accompanist, broadcasts on BBC Radio 3, reviews for BBC Music Magazine and gives talks and leads learning events for festivals and venues including the Southbank Centre, Wigmore Hall, the Oxford Lieder Festival and Leeds Lieder. She is a member of the Women’s Song Forum; the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Music Studies network; and currently chairs the Events Committee at the Royal Musical Association.

Natasha Loges: ‘Unsuitable for concerts’: Schumann’s Kreisleriana and Carnaval

Robert Schumann’s piano cycles Kreisleriana op.16 and Carnaval op.9 are a mainstay of the keyboard repertoire. Yet they were rarely heard in their entirety during the century, and there is no reason to believe Schumann expected such collections to be performed complete. Indeed, he was unconvinced that they were performable in public at all. The most important exponent of his works, his wife Clara Schumann, shared his reservations, and took a creative approach to these cycles during her long career. Drawing on her surviving concert programme archive, I explore how she programmed the cycles in public, tracing how her approach evolved over the years. I conclude with some reflections for pianists today.

Professor Neal Peres Da Costa, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney

Professor Neal Peres Da Costa, speaker

Neal Peres Da Costa is Associate Dean (Research) and Professor of Historical Performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney. A world leader in scholarly interpretation, Neal has received high praise for his ground-breaking monograph Off the Record: Performing Practices in Romantic Piano Playing (OUP, 2012) and for the co-edited Bärenreiter edition of Brahms’ Sonatas for solo instrument and piano. Neal received a prestigious Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant (2017) for research into 19th-century piano playing, and most recently leading a stellar team for Hearing the Music of Early NSW 1788-1860 (2021). With Clive Brown he has produced the online Performing Practice Commentary to the 2020 Bärenreiter edition of the Beethoven Sonatas for Piano and Violin. Neal regularly performs with Ironwood, Bach Akademie Australia, and Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra, and has an extensive discography which, most recently, includes chamber music by Brahms, Saint Saëns and Farrenc with Ironwood, Beethoven’s Piano Concertos 1 and 2 with the Australian Haydn Ensemble, and chamber music for cor anglais and piano with Alexandre Oguey.

Neal Peres Da Costa: Saint-Säens, Farrenc and the Piano in Chamber settings

How did piano playing sound in mid-nineteenth-century Paris? Sigismund Thalberg in his L’Art du chant appliqué au piano op. 70 (c. 1853) gives rules intended to help pianists sing at the piano. Amongst these, Thalberg includes advice on the use of manual asynchrony (playing melody after accompaniment) and chordal arpeggiation to support melody notes. These two expressive devices were also promoted in other written sources of the era. Indeed, research points to these practices as being part of a continuum of practice dating back to at least the 17th century, which continued on throughout the 19th century, and were still to be heard in the playing of some pianists until the middle of the 20th century.

Of particular significance are the recordings of Camille Saint-Säens’ (1835-1921) on piano roll and wax disc, which provide an opportunity to hear how one of the oldest 19th-century pianists on record approached these performance practices. Saint-Saëns’ interpretations of his own works provide clearer understanding of the hidden meanings in his notation, its symbols and signs. Analysis of these documents help build a picture of Saint-Säens’ idiosyncrasies as a pianist/composer, as well as informing of general characteristics in 19th-century French pianism which have influenced recent creative work by the author. This presentation will present some examples and look at the implications for application in re-imagined interpretations of Piano Quintets by Saint-Saëns and Louise Farrenc.

Assistant Professor Anna Scott, Leiden University

Dr Anna Scott, Speaker

Anna Scott is a Canadian pianist-researcher who specializes in late-19th-century performance practices, with a broader interest in transforming how we play, hear, and understand canonic classical music repertoires. In 2014 she was awarded a practice-led PhD in early-recorded Brahms pianism by Leiden University, under the supervision of Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, Bruce Haynes, and Frans de Ruiter, and she has recently completed a two-year fully-funded postdoctoral research project entitled Reimagining the Romantics. An active pianist renowned for her startling performances of 19th-century solo, chamber, lied, and orchestral repertoires from Schubert to Debussy, Anna is Assistant Professor at Leiden University's Academy of Creative and Performing Arts and The Royal Conservatory of The Hague, where she is currently based.

Anna Scott: To Change One's Skin According to the Music at Hand

The pupils of Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann were neither composer-pianists, like their illustrious teachers, nor idols and entertainers, like their showier peers. But although they operated in a liminal space somewhere between or beyond these poles, their recordings, like so many pianists born in the 1860s and 70s, evidence a level of agency and variety—both between and within single performances—that is simply unheard of today. While it might be tempting to ascribe these qualities to their liberal use of the period's expressive devices, what one finds when precisely emulating their recordings is a deliberate, almost urgent, impulse to alter the notated detail, structure, and time of musical works. After charting this impulse via my imitations of recordings by Fanny Davies, Carl Friedberg, Adelina de Lara, Etelka Freund, and Ilona Eibenschütz, all five styles are applied in a single performance of Brahms's Intermezzo in A Major Op. 118 no. 2 in the hopes of experiencing a modicum of the stunning licentiousness and diversity of approach enjoyed by the Brahms-Schumann pianists

Professor Dana Andrew Gooley, Brown University

Professor Dana Andrew Dooley, Speaker

Dr. Dana Gooley is Associate Professor of Music at Brown University. His research centers on European music and musical culture in the nineteenth century, with an emphasis on performance, reception, and criticism. A specialist of Franz Liszt, he has published The Virtuoso Liszt (Cambridge, 2004) and co-edited two essay collections, Franz Liszt and His World (Princeton, 2006) and Franz Liszt: Musicien Europeen (Editions Vrin, 2012). He has also published articles on music criticism, musical mediation, improvisation, cosmopolitanism, and jazz. Gooley studied classical piano at New England Conservatory and is a self-taught jazz pianist. With his quintet he hosts the Sunday night jam session at Boston's historic jazz club Wally's Cafe.

Professor Gooley received a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to spend a year in Berlin researching his dissertation research, and an award from the American Musicological Society (AMS 50) to complete it. After completion he received a short-term research grant from the DAAD and has recently received research travel grants from the W. P. Jones fund and the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University. He received the Wendy Strothman Faculty Research Award in 2011. At Brown he has been awarded faculty fellowships at the Cogut Center for the Humanities and the Pembroke Center. In 2014 he won a research fellowship from the Howard Foundation for the completion of his book on improvisation in 19th century European music.

Featured pianists

The conference will also feature interviews with distinguished pianists: 

Professor Vanessa Latarche, Royal College of Music

Professor Vanessa Latarche, pianist and speaker

After studying at the Royal College of Music and completing her training in the USA and Paris, Vanessa was awarded many scholarships and prizes from international competitions. 

Vanessa Latarche’s concert career has taken her to Europe, the USA and the Far East, as well as many festivals within the UK, including Cheltenham, Harrogate and Huddersfield. Her interest in Bach led to a performance of the complete 48 Preludes and Fugues at the Lichfield International Festival in 1992, the performances being given over four consecutive evenings. She has performed as a soloist with international orchestras and those in the UK including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, working with many leading conductors. She is a Steinway Artist. 

She has broadcast for over 30 years for BBC Radio 3 and has also broadcast extensively on the BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4. She has been a juror for international competitions in China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Italy, New Zealand, and Hong Kong and has adjudicated the national keyboard final of the BBC Young Musician of the Year, which was broadcast on BBC television. In 2007 she was an advisor to the BBC TV programme ‘Classical Star’.  
 
Vanessa frequently travels to give masterclasses, to such institutions as Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory, Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Beijing Central Conservatory, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore, Tokyo College of Music, Seoul National University as well as to other UK conservatoires and specialist music schools She is an advisor to Lang Lang’s music school, Lang Lang Music World, in Shenzhen, China, where she formerly held the position of Vice-Chairman. 

Since September 2005, Vanessa has been Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music, having been previously a professor of piano at the Royal Academy of Music for 14 years, where she was made an Honorary Associate in 1997. 

A renowned pedagogue, with many international piano competition prize-winners amongst her students, Vanessa was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Music, for outstanding services to music, an honour conferred on her by HRH Prince of Wales in May 2010. In September 2011, she was granted a Personal Chair at the RCM, which gave her the title of Chair of International Keyboard Studies. In 2017, as an extension to her keyboard faculty work, Vanessa was made the Associate Director for Partnerships in China, which involves managing the RCM’s collaborative work in China, particularly the RCM/SHCM Joint Institute in Shanghai. 

In Conversation with Vanessa Latarche: Pedagogy from the Nineteenth Century to Now

Head of Keyboard Professor Vanessa Latarche joins Yuki and Ellen to discuss many aspects of pedagogy in the Nineteenth Century. A number of pertinent issues of pedagogy are covered, including how students and pedagogues alike deal with issues such as finding ‘the right sound’ and performers ‘finding their own sound.’ Professor Latarche elaborates on teaching different repertoires, teaching different sounds and techniques, and teaching through a pandemic. Her student Anastasiia Nesterova performs Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata as demonstrative of this discussion.

The conversation moves to Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn. Felix Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words are discussed as being not just pieces with great pedagogical applications, but beautiful and great works in their own right. Professor Latarche highlights the melodic and musical content within smaller structures shown in Mendelssohn’s works. The interview then turns to Mendelssohn’s sister, Fanny. Her Easter Sonata (1829) was rediscovered by Angela Mace Christian, and was given its UK Premiere in 2017 by Sofya Gulyak (RCM Piano Professor). We discuss this work itself, and Fanny Mendelssohn’s life and works, and their reception in recent years.

Danny Driver, Royal College of Music

Danny Driver pianist and speaker

Gramophone Award nominated pianist Danny Driver is recognised internationally as an artist and teacher of sophistication, insight and musical depth. His studies at Cambridge University and the Royal College of Music inspired his uniquely holistic approach to performance and have enabled him to cultivate an enviably broad solo and chamber repertoire.

Driver has performed with orchestras throughout the world including BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Minnesota Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Hong Kong Pro Arte and Uppsala Chamber Orchestra.  He has appeared twice as soloist at the BBC Proms.  Recent recital highlights include the Wigmore Hall, London Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series, Music Toronto, Salle Bourgie in Montreal, Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, and several performances of Ligeti’s Piano Études across the United States and in Japan.

Driver’s passion for chamber music sees him regularly invited to festivals such as Oxford May Music, O/Modernt, Eilat, Bard Music Festival, Carducci Festival, and the Australian Chamber Music Festival.  Long-standing musical partnerships with violinist Chloë Hanslip and baritone Christian Immler have produced a complete Beethoven Piano & Violin Sonatas cycle at Turner Sims Concert Hall (recorded live for Rubicon Classics), a recording of Bernstein’s Arias & Barcarolles (Avi Records) and concert performances across Europe and North America.

Driver’s decade-long relationship with Hyperion Records has spawned recordings of CPE Bach, Handel, York Bowen, Balakirev, Schumann, and Erik Chisholm.  His most recent release, Volume 70 of Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series, featured piano concertos by Amy Beach, Dorothy Howell, and Cécile Chaminade, while future studio projects are to include Ligeti’s complete Piano Études. His recordings have won him numerous awards including Limelight Magazine’s Instrumental Recording of the Year 2014, and his recent inclusion in the New York Times’ list of 2017’s Best Classical Recordings.

In Conversation with Danny Driver: Amy Beach and her Piano Concerto Op. 45

In this interview, Danny Driver discusses Amy Beach and her piano concerto Op 45, detailing the work’s performance history. Amy Beach – who was known as a child prodigy – received much criticism regarding form and instrumentation when she premiered the work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. However, when she toured the concerto in Europe and later in North America, the work was met with critical acclaim. Beach’s concerto, however, and works generally were largely not performed after 1917 until the 1970s. Interest in Beach’s works has grown gradually since then.

As well as discussing the history and reception of the work, this discussion delves into other aspects of the work, including Driver’s own performances and recordings of the work. Beach’s position within the nineteenth-century cannon is questioned, both in terms of the Nineteenth Century, and concert programming contemporarily. Her melodic writing – which included a repertory of over 150 songs, as well as virtuosic piano writing – was very much of the tradition of Liszt and Brahms, without being derivative. To quote Driver, Beach’s compositional style ‘was not effeminate, […] but explosive, […] dangerous and huge.’ Driver makes note of the importance of hearing and engaging with this lesser-known repertoire, continually questioning what we are comfortable with, and how necessary it is for young and emerging performers to engage with music by lesser known and under-represented composers

Stephen Hough

Stephen Hough, speaker

Stephen Hough is widely regarded as one of the most important and distinctive pianists of his generation. From highly acclaimed performances of central repertoire in recital, in recording, and with the world’s greatest orchestras, to an interest in contemporary and neglected nineteenth-century works, he integrates the imagination and pianistic colour of the past with the scholarship and intellectual rigour of the present, illuminating the very essence of the music he plays. He was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 2001 in recognition of his achievements, and in the 2014 New Year’s Honours list he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Since winning first prize in the Naumburg International Piano Competition in 1983, he has appeared regularly with most of the major American and European orchestras under a range of leading conductors.

His extensive list of recordings has won four Grammy nominations and eight Gramophone Awards—including two ‘Record of the Year’ awards, for concertos by Scharwenka and Sauer (CDA66790) and for the complete works for piano and orchestra by Saint-Saëns (CDA67331/2), the latter voted in 2008 by readers of The Times as the finest classical recording of the last thirty years. Recordings of Mendelssohn, Mompou, Schubert, Brahms, Liszt, Chopin and Hummel have further reinforced his status as an artist of the utmost distinction and individuality. His live recordings of the complete Rachmaninov piano concertos with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Litton (CDA67501/2) have been overwhelmingly acclaimed as one of the finest cycles of these popular works ever captured on disc.

Stephen is also an avid writer of music and prose. He wrote a blog for The Telegraph website for five years with over six hundred articles, and his first novel The Final Retreat was published in 2018 by Sylph Editions, shortly followed by his book Rough Ideas, published in August 2019 by Faber. As a composer he is published by Josef Weinberger Ltd and has been commissioned by Wigmore Hall, the Genesis Foundation, the Gilmore Foundation, the Musée du Louvre, Musica Viva Australia and members of the Berlin Philharmonic amongst others. He is visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music, is on the faculty of The Juilliard School in New York, and is the International Chair of Piano at his alma mater, the Royal Northern College of Music.

In Conversation with Stephen Hough: Schumann Op. 16, 17 and 18

Stephen Hough joins Yuki and Ellen to discuss Schumann’s piano music, focussing on Hough’s upcoming CD to be released by Hyperion later this year. The CD features three famous works from the composer’s early period: Kreisleriana Op. 16 (1838), Fantasie in C Op. 17 (1839), and Arabeske Op. 18 (1839). Many pianists know the challenges of Kreisleriana and the Fantasie; being two of Schumann’s most famous works, but less is known of the Arabeske, which forms an encore to this CD.

In this interview, as well as detailing Hough’s upcoming album, we discuss Schumann’s nuance and beauty as a piano composer. Hough elucidates on what draws him to Schumann as a pianist: Schumann’s voice, how he was the first composer to write piano music, and not just music simply to be played on the piano. Hough details how Schumann not only was a trailblazer in his own way, but also gave other composers courage to treat the piano as a heroic figure in nineteenth-century music. Hough discusses the profundity in the smallness, particularly in relation to multi-movement works, and the world of imagination within smallness that audiences and performers alike can find in Schumann’s music.

Stephen Hough’s album of Schumann will be released later this year. In the meantime, you can visit Hyperion Records to purchase Hough’s other recordings, and his website for upcoming concert information.

This event is hosted and supported by the Royal College of Music, and generously supported by the Royal Musical Association.

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Get in touch

If you have any queries about the Pianism in the Long Nineteenth Century conference, please contact Ellen Falconer at the below email address.

Ellen Falconer

Research Student

ellen.falconer@rcm.ac.uk