Posts Tagged 'interview'

Performance Practice: Interview with musicologist and Bärenreiter editor Clive Brown

Question: You are very well known for your pioneering work in performance practice. The term and all its ramifications are gaining in recognition and application today. Where does performance practice have its origins?

Clive Brown: It’s not a new thing. Already in the early 19th century people were concerned about performing the music of older composers in the style appropriate to it. When the 21-year-old violinist Spohr played in Leipzig in 1804, Friedrich Rochlitz admired ‘his insight into the spirit of different compositions, and his artistry in reproducing each in its own spirit’, which he had not observed to this extent in the playing of other musicians. Rochlitz found this particularly impressive in his quartet playing where he was ‘almost completely another person when he, for example, plays Beethoven (his darling, whom he handles splendidly), or Mozart (his ideal), or Rode (whose grandiosity he knows very well how to assume, without any scratching or scraping, yielding little to him, particularly in fullness of tone), or when he plays Viotti and galant composers: he is a different person, because they are different people.

Around the same time people were concerned that the proper tempos for Haydn and Mozart were being forgotten. In the second decade of the 19th century, Salieri provided Mälzel’s metronome with marks for Haydn’s Die Schöpfung, of which he had directed the premiere, and Gottfried Weber wrote an article about un-authentic tempos in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. During the next few decades interest in certain aspects of performing practice was also apparent in attempts by musicians such as Pierre Baillot, Ignaz Moscheles, and François-Joseph Fetis to revive earlier repertoire using old instruments. In mid-century, however, the veteran Spohr complained that people had already forgotten how to play the music of his youth in the manner expected by its composers. Towards the end of the 19th century Arnold Dolmetsch, a violin pupil of the Franco-Belgian violinist Hubert Léonard, championed the performance of Baroque music on old instruments; as his bowed and fingered edition of Corelli’s op. 5 Sonatas demonstrates, however, he seems to have played it in an essentially 19th-century style, even including portamento! The 20th-century period performance movement has been focused mainly on using period instruments and, as Richard Taruskin has trenchantly argued, the so-called ‘authentic’ performing style of the second half of the 20th century owed more to Stravinsky than to historical evidence. That style of playing Baroque music on period instruments, widely taught in conservatoires by its proponents, became such a valuable commercial product that, when interest extended to playing classical and romantic music on period instruments, it was essentially the techniques of modern Baroque performance that were extended to the later repertoire with only minor modifications. From my recent work with performers I sense a growing interest especially among talented young musicians, to experiment more boldly with the largely forgotten practices that were such an important part of late 18th– and 19th-century music making.

Q: What brought you to the study of performance practice issues?

CB: My interest in this field grew progressively during the late 1970s and 1980s. My doctoral dissertation was primarily concerned with reception history, focusing on The popularity and influence of Spohr in England, where his reputation as one of the great composer’s was particularly strong during the 19th century. Of course, Spohr’s music was of particularly interest to me, as an active violinist. I was especially intrigued by the care with which he marked up his violin music with bowing and fingering, and that, in his 1833 Violinschule, he explained his ideas about violin playing in such detail. But while I was working on my dissertation and my subsequent critical biography of Spohr (Cambridge University Press, 1984), this was of secondary importance.

Q: What surprised you? What was the first eye-opening finding or revelation that got you “hooked” on the subject?

Even before I began to come to grips with the implications of Spohr’s performance markings and the instructions in his Violinschule, I had become increasingly aware of the fact that modern violin techniques were in many respects very different from those of the past. I enjoyed regular quartet playing with a small group of like-minded professional string players; we met weekly when we were all in Oxford together and played mostly from old Peters Editions copies of standard classical repertoire, edited by 19th-century musicians such as Ferdinand David, Joseph Joachim and Andreas Moser. I found that my modern bowing style, with its frequent use of the lower half of the bow for crisp separation of the notes, was obviously not what these editors expected; I would often come to a long note marked with an up-bow sign while I was playing near the heel of the bow. The fingering too seemed strange and uncomfortable, and the marking of open strings and natural harmonics on long notes was obviously incompatible with my modern continuous vibrato. There were also many places where the same finger was used in legato passages for different notes, or where position changes were marked in a legato context that could not be accomplished without sliding. Naturally, like other modern players I had become accustomed, when playing from old editions of this kind (there were fewer Urtexts available in those days), to changing most of the fingering so that I could play cleanly without audible slides. Gradually, however, all these things began to come together and rather than ignoring or changing the old markings I started trying to make them work. At that time, early recordings of musicians such as Joseph Joachim were becoming more easily available. Listening to these helped me begin to understand the sonic implications of the old bowing and fingering, and I began working with some of the musicians, such as Christopher Hogwood, Roger Norrington, Roy Goodman, John Holloway and the Eroica Quartet, who were beginning to explore the performance of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven on period instruments during the 1980s. This led me to publish my first article specifically on performing practice: ‘Bowing Styles, Vibrato and Portamento in Nineteenth-century Violin Playing’ (Journal of the Royal Musical Association cxiii/1 (1988), 97-128).

Q: Do you have a special area or period that interests you particularly?

CB: During the whole of the 1980s I was teaching academic music at Oxford University, and shortly after the publication of the article on bowing, vibrato and portamento, Oxford University Press invited me to write a book on performing practice, which I finished in 1995 and which was eventually published in 1999 as Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750-1900.

That period has remained the main focus of my work on performing practice since then. I have learned, and continue to learn about the extraordinary differences between the ways professional musicians currently understand and respond to the notion of 18th– and 19th-century music and the ways in which Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms and their contemporaries understood it. This inspires me to seek more effective ways of communicating that knowledge to practicing musicians. With the information available to us, we can never, of course, perform as they performed – nor would it be desirable if we could; but we can discover much about the parameters of performance at that time and the expressive resources that musicians employed to transform a merely ‘correct’ performance into a ‘beautiful’ one. Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn is that being as faithful as possible to the literal meaning of the notation (an idea that is still firmly embedded in much of our current music making) is certainly not what the composers of that time expected or wanted. Beethoven, Mendelssohn or Brahms would have been shocked at such an idea. As Joseph Joachim expressed it, an accomplished musician would not have been content with fidelity to the ‘dead note heads’, but would have learned how to ‘read between the lines’.

Q: Together with Kate Bennett Wadsworth and Neal Peres Da Costa you recently edited the complete Brahms chamber music for one instrument and piano. Is there one aspect in particular from your editions that you hear from players and teachers has affected their playing and interpretations?

CB: Since our edition appeared in print I have been invited to work on Brahms sonatas with young musicians in conservatories in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium Holland, France, Norway, the USA, and Poland, and have found not only students but also teachers very open to experimentation with unfamiliar approaches to performing these works. Many of the students, with advanced technical skills, are quick to integrate these ideas into their playing. Aspects that have initially aroused the greatest interest are enhanced flexibility of rhythm and tempo (especially agogic accent and compensatory rubato), for violinists the employment of expressive portamento and a more ornamental approach to vibrato, and for pianists the use of extemporary arpeggiation and asynchrony between the hands.

Q: You have been involved in a unique edition of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto op. 64 – which will be published by Barenreiter shortly – including a recently found important source. Brahms was still a child when Mendelssohn wrote this work. How would you describe the differences in performance practice between these two composers?

CB: There is no doubt that performing style continued to develop between the 1830s and the 1890s, but in many respects this happened in ways that it is impossible for us to envisage. Change was undoubtedly gradual, and also different for different locations and different repertoires. Many of the fundamental responses to notation by musicians that were associated with the German mainstream, however, remained relatively constant. Joseph Joachim serves as a bridge between Mendelssohn, whom he played with regularly as a teenager, and Brahms, whose music he championed throughout the composer’s career. And other prominent musicians such as Ferdinand David (1810-1873) and Carl Reinecke (1824-1910), the oldest important performer to make recordings, were associated with both composers. There is no doubt that these musicians treated their musical heritage with great reverence and sought to preserve what they regarded as its essential stylistic features.

Q: Why do you think it is important for musicians to investigate performance practice issues?

CB: Tastes in musical performance are constantly changing; more than a century of recording clearly demonstrates. The question is: where do we go in the future? If we still want to perform the great music of the past, and in doing so to get as close to the composer’s conception as possible, we could and, in my opinion, should enrich our technical and expressive resources with well-documented practices that are currently forgotten or neglected, and learn once more how to respond to the hidden messages that lie behind the notation of classical and romantic music. In doing so, we can give new life to compositions that are in danger of becoming stale through stereotypical or stylistically questionable repetition. I firmly believe that, if classical music is to retain or even enhance its cultural significance, the rising generation of musicians must engage more courageously with the historical evidence. By doing so they can hope to recapture the full measure of freshness, beauty, and excitement that composer’s expected their notation to convey to skillful performers and through them to the listener.

Shop Bärenreiter editions edited by Clive Brown on Sheet Music Plus

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John Cage’s In a Landscape and more than a score…

By Jacy Burroughs

John Cage’s In a Landscape from more than the score… series

When I learned about John Cage for the first time as an undergraduate music major, I was only instructed in his most avant-garde concepts: the infamous 4’33”, his prepared piano pieces, and his chance compositions, some of which he composed using the I Ching (an ancient Chinese divination text, also known as the Book of Changes.) I recently heard a recording of Adam Tendler performing Cage’s piano solo In a Landscape. If I had not read on the score that the music was by Cage, I would not have believed it. It was so beautiful, and honestly, that’s not an adjective I would associate with Cage’s music.

I was sure there are others who share similar misconceptions about Cage’s music with me, so when I had the opportunity to meet Adam Tendler, I jumped at the chance.  Adam Tendler works closely with the John Cage Trust and has performed Cage’s music internationally. He has also recorded video masterclasses and performances of Cage’s music for Tido Music, a groundbreaking web resource and iPad app. The videos were produced by Edition Peters, John Cage’s sole publisher, and are housed in the app’s Piano Masterworks collection.

And now Peters has just released a new sheet music print series, more than the score…, which can be used alongside the video masterclasses and digital editions in Tido Music. The series includes In a Landscape, presented by Tendler. As a leading interpreter of Cage’s works, I knew Adam would have encountered the whole spectrum of opinions of Cage. Here is an excerpt of my interview with him.

Continue reading ‘John Cage’s In a Landscape and more than a score…’

Artist Interview – Hans-Gunter Heumann (The Classical Piano Method)

 Hans-Gunter Heumann

Hans-Gunter Heumann

By Brendan Lai-Tong

If you’re a music teacher, it’s likely that you are on the lookout for the something new to help teach your students more effectively. Whether this is new repertoire, etudes, or method books, it’s always nice to branch out to see what else is out there. You’ll never know when  something new will work really well for a particular student!

While we were at the Music Teachers National Association Convention in Anaheim, California we had the pleasure of meeting Hans-Günter Heumann. Many of you may know of his contributions to the piano repertoire. His original compositions, arrangements and educational methods for piano are enjoyed by pianists around the world, especially in Germany.

Hans-Günter studied at the Continue reading ‘Artist Interview – Hans-Gunter Heumann (The Classical Piano Method)’

More Teaching Resources – Interview With Michelle Sisler (Keys to Imagination)

By Brendan Lai-Tong

Michelle Sisler

Michelle Sisler

Music lessons should never be a dull or boring experience. There are many great method books and resources that teachers can use to make music lessons fun, interesting and engaging for students of all ages. We were on the lookout for some of these resources while at the Music Teacher’s National Association Convention in Anaheim, California.  Some great resources that stood out were teaching aids and games from Keys to Imagination. Michelle Sisler was running the Keys to Imagination booth right next to ours at the show!

Michelle’s uses of technology and creative teaching materials have gained her national recognition and a Continue reading ‘More Teaching Resources – Interview With Michelle Sisler (Keys to Imagination)’

Artist Interview – Donn Bradley (Audition Tips for Singers)

By Brendan Lai-Tong

Donn Bradley

Donn Bradley

As many of you already know, the audition process for obtaining singing roles in opera, musicals and other shows can be quite challenging. Just like singing, auditioning is a skill, and it can take a few tries to get a grasp of how the process works.

Today we will be sharing singing and audition advice from Lyric Baritone and Character Tenor – Donn Bradley. Donn is a native of Santa Cruz, CA, and current resident of wherever the work is, USA. Donn is a versatile singer, with solid technique in Opera, Musical Theater, and several popular styles.

He has performed five major roles with Townsend Opera, and narrated five major works for the Modesto Symphony Orchestra including Façade by William Walton, and performed as Bass soloist for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with VITA Academy in Sacramento (2008).

Previous major Opera/Operetta roles include: Ko-Ko in The Mikado (2012), Major General Stanley in Pirates of Penzance (2011), Njegus in The Merry Widow (2010), Monostatos in The Magic Flute (2009), Sir Joseph Porter in HMS Pinafore (2009), Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus (2001), Papageno in The Magic Flute (1998), The Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance (1998), and Louis in The Wandering Scholar (1997).

Hi Donn, thanks for taking the time to interview with us.

What inspired you to start a career in music?

I have been able to sing my whole life, though my Continue reading ‘Artist Interview – Donn Bradley (Audition Tips for Singers)’

Artist Interview – Mistheria

By Brendan Lai-Tong

Artist Interview – Giuseppe Iampieri (a.k.a Mistheria)

Welcome back to our Artist Interview series! We’re sure that you all can relate to how important it is to be a versatile musician. You never know what will be asked of you when on the job, and it will be to your advantage to be able to understand and play in many different styles of music. As you know, Classical, Jazz, Pop and Rock all have their respective performance practices. Today we are interviewing Giuseppe Iampieri (a.k.a Mistheria), a native of Italy who has had an incredibly diverse career. He has played piano and keytar professionally in many different styles and genres of music and this versatility has led him to have many exciting and varied experiences.  At the age of 6 Mistheria started studying music with Maestro Marco Aurelio Pisegna, a famous accordionist, composer and performer. By age 13 Mistheria was studying at the Music Conservatory “A. Casella” in Italy where he graduated with honors and distinction in 1995.

Continue reading ‘Artist Interview – Mistheria’

Artist Interview – Phyllis Thomas – Interactive Now! series

By Brendan Lai-Tong

Phyllis Thomas

Phyllis Thomas

Today we had the opportunity to interview Phyllis Thomas, co-author of the Interactive Now! series published by Heritage Music Press.

Phyllis, born and raised in Colorado, has had an extensive career in music as a performer and music educator. She graduated with a M.M. degree from the University of North Texas with a major in vocal performance. Phyllis has sung in productions with the Dallas Opera, Fort Worth Opera and other regional opera companies. Her years of experience as an elementary music teacher in Texas is what eventually led her to co-author the Interactive Now! series with Debbie Anderson, music teacher friend and colleague.

Each volume of the Interactive Now! series, previously known as SMARTBoardNow, is Continue reading ‘Artist Interview – Phyllis Thomas – Interactive Now! series’

Artist Interview – John Kreitler (Christopher Kazoo and Bongo Boo)

By Brendan Lai-Tong

Today we will be looking at the Christopher Kazoo and Bongo Boo series by John Kreitler!

John Kreitler

John Kreitler

John Kreiter is a film & T.V. composer, songwriter, music producer & classical music composer residing in Los Angeles, CA. He holds a B.A. in Composition from Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR where he studied violin, composition and conducting, before continuing his studies towards an MM in Composition from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

Kreitler began his professional career composing film scores for Avco Films and for independent filmmakers in the Midwestern United States as well as scores and songs for commercials before moving to Los Angeles. His composing credits include the award-winning films “To Beat the Devil” (Avco Films) and “6344” (Butterfly Films); songs for Material Girls (MGM/Sony) numerous television films & documentaries; numerous daytime television series, including As the World Turns, Guiding Light, Another World, All My Children; the European series Riviera,and the NBC drama Passions. He has also contributed underscoring, songs and source music for numerous prime-time series such as Law and Order, Friends, Homicide, Melrose Place, 90210, Lois & Clark, Saturday Night Live, and many others. He has won ten EMMYs since 1991 and been awarded the prestigious BMI/TV Film Award ten times.

In addition to his busy composition schedule, Kreitler is Continue reading ‘Artist Interview – John Kreitler (Christopher Kazoo and Bongo Boo)’

Kicking Kickstarter Up A Notch

By Brendan Lai-Tong

Crowd sourced funding seems to be all the rage recently! By turning to this method of fundraising, amazingly creative individuals are able to enlist the help of the community to make their dreams come true. Musicians, in particular, have been following suit in order to fund musical projects that wouldn’t have become a reality otherwise.

One example of this is film director and cellist Ty Kim. Ty is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and award-winning television producer.  Some of his accolades include six Los Angeles area Emmys, the National Edward R. Murrow Award, nine Golden Mikes, and the Associated Press Award for California.

Director Ty Kim with childhood idol, Muhammad Ali

Director Ty Kim with childhood idol, Muhammad Ali

Ty has played the cello since the age of four and was a student of Francesca Church.  At Stanford University, Ty continued his cello studies with Stephen Harrison and later formed a piano forte trio with two fellow students that were coached by Andor Toth.  More recently, Ty played two Continue reading ‘Kicking Kickstarter Up A Notch’

Dennis Alexander – Artist Interview

By Brendan Lai-Tong

Dennis Alexander

Today we had the opportunity to interview Professor Dennis Alexander, a prolific composer on staff at Alfred Music Publishing. In addition to his compositional duties at Alfred, Dennis is also an active soloist, accompanist, chamber musician and clinician.  Keep reading to learn more about Dennis and how he approaches his compositional process.

You may know his compositions from some of the books below:

What inspired you to start a career in music? 

 I grew up in Continue reading ‘Dennis Alexander – Artist Interview’


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