March 9, 2018 | Author: Joshua Curtis | Category: Johannes Brahms, Orchestras, Pop Culture, Composers, Classical Music
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The Musical Performance...



MUSICAL PERFORMANCE The intricacies and challenges of musical performance have recently attracted the attention of writers and scholars to a greater extent than ever before. Research into the performer’s experience has begun to explore such areas as practice techniques, performance anxiety and memorisation, as well as many other professional issues. Historical performance practice has been the subject of lively debate way beyond academic circles, mirroring its high profile in the recording studio and the concert hall. Reflecting the strong ongoing interest in the role of performers and performance, this History brings together research from leading scholars and historians, and, importantly, features contributions from accomplished performers, whose practical experiences give the volume a unique vitality. Moving the focus away from the composers and onto the musicians responsible for bringing the music to life, the History presents a fresh, integrated and innovative perspective on performance history and practice, from the earliest times to today. C O L I N L A W S O N is Director of the Royal College of Music, London. He has an international profile as a period clarinettist and has played principal in most of Britain’s leading period orchestras, notably The Hanover Band, the English Concert and the London Classical Players, with whom he has recorded extensively and toured worldwide. He has published widely, and is co-editor, with Robin Stowell, of a series of Cambridge Handbooks to the Historical Performance of Music, for which he co-authored an introductory volume and contributed a book on the early clarinet.

is Professor of Music and Director of the Centre for Research into Historically Informed Performance at Cardiff University. He is also a violinist/period violinist, and he has performed, broadcast and recorded with the Academy of Ancient Music and other period ensembles. He is the author of Violin Technique and Performance Practice in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries (1985), and his more recent major publications include The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet (2003) and The Early Violin and Viola (2001).






Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi, Tokyo, Mexico City Cambridge University Press The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521896115 © Cambridge University Press 2012 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2012 Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library ISBN

978-0-521-89611-5 Hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


List of illustrations ix List of musical examples x Notes on contributors xiii Editors’ preface xxi PART I PERFORMANCE THROUGH HISTORY 1

1 . Performance today



2 . Political process, social structure and musical performance in Europe since 1450 35 WILLIAM WEBER

3 . The evidence



4 . The performer and the composer



5 . The teaching of performance



6 . Music and musical performance: histories in disjunction? DAVID WRIGHT


7 . The Ancient World



8 . Performance before c. 1430: an overview JOHN HAINES






9 . Vocal performance before c. 1430



10 . Instrumental performance before c. 1430



11 . Case study: Guillaume de Machaut, ballade 34, ‘Quant Theseus / Ne quier veoir’ 279 JOHN HAINES


12 . Performance in the Renaissance: an overview



13 . Vocal performance in the Renaissance



14 . Instrumental performance in the Renaissance



15 . Case study: Seville Cathedral’s music in performance, 1549–1599 353 OWEN REES


16 . Performance in the seventeenth century: an overview



17 . Vocal performance in the seventeenth century



18 . Instrumental performance in the seventeenth century DAVID PONSFORD

19 . Case study: Monteverdi, Vespers (1610) JONATHAN P. WAINWRIGHT






20 . Performance in the ‘long eighteenth century’: an overview



21 . Vocal performance in the ‘long eighteenth century’



22 . Instrumental performance in the ‘long eighteenth century’



23 . Case study: Mozart, Symphonies in E flat major K543, G minor K550 and C major K551 552 COLIN LAWSON


24 . Performance in the nineteenth century: an overview



25 . Vocal performance in the nineteenth century



26 . Instrumental performance in the nineteenth century



27 . Case study: Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde




28 . Musical performance in the twentieth century and beyond: an overview 725 STEPHEN COTTRELL

29 . Vocal performance in the twentieth century and beyond JANE MANNING AND ANTHONY PAYNE




30 . Instrumental performance in the twentieth century and beyond



31 . Case study: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gruppen für drei Orchester WILLIAM MIVAL



32 . The future?



Select bibliography 834 Index 894




8.1. 8.2. 8.3. 10.1.



15.1. 15.2. 22.1. 22.2. 22.3.

Illustrations of the façade, the concert hall and stairwell of the building Hochschule für Musik und Theater ‘Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’, Leipzig. Bibliothek/Archiv, A, II. 3/1: from the prospectus Das Königliche Konservatorium der Musik zu Leipzig, 1900 page 155 Conventional view of medieval music repertoires 232 Revised view of medieval music repertoires 234 Standard medieval repertoires revised 234 Country scene with players of tabor and pipe, and gittern. From Lyon Municipal Library, MS 27, fol. 13r (fourteenth century) (Photo, Lyon Municipal Library, Didier Nicole) 266 Giovanni del Biondo, Musical angels (fourteenth century), showing two players of organette and fiddle (courtesy of the National Museums, Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery) 273 Glorification of St Francis (attributed to Antonio Vite, School of Giotto); detail showing a wind ensemble (two shawms and bagpipe), organistrum and psaltery (fourteenth century). Church of St Francesco, Pistoia, Italy 277 Medallion on the choir stand in the coro of Seville Cathedral, showing a group of singers 362 Medallion on the choir stand in the coro of Seville Cathedral, showing the ministriles 364 Haydn instrumental works – percentage distribution by key 538 Mozart instrumental music – percentage distribution by key 538 Chopin distribution of works by key 539


Musical examples

8.1. 8.2.

8.3. 8.4. 9.1.





15.1. 18.1. 18.2.

Opening of the lament for Charlemagne page 238 Opening of ‘Bele Yolanz en ses chambres seoit’ (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, f. fr. 20050, fol. 64v) 239 Prose of the Ass from the Feast of Fools 243 Banquet song from Renart le nouvel 244 The opening of Léonin’s Viderunt omnes transcribed in measured rhythm (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, Pluteus 29.1, fol. 99) 257 The opening of Léonin’s Viderunt omnes transcribed as free rhythm (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, Pluteus 29.1 fol. 99) 258 In seculum viellatoris (Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek, MS. Lit. 115, fol. 63v), opening. The example is modelled after G. A. Anderson (ed.), Compositions of the Bamberg Manuscript (American Institute of Musicology, 1977), pp. 138–9 (used by permission of the American Institute of Musicology, Inc., Middleton, WI) 274 T’Andernaken al op den Rijn (Trent, Castello del Buonconsiglio, MS. 87, fol. 198v–199r), opening. The example is modelled after T’Andernaken: Ten Settings in Three, Four, and Five Parts, ed. R. Taruskin (Coconut Grove, FL: Ogni Sorte Editions, 1981), pp. 9–10 276 Machaut’s ballade 34, ‘Quant Theseus / Ne quier veoir’, edited from the Reina Codex (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, nouv. acqu. fr. 6771, fols. 54v–55r) 288 Guerrero, Duo Seraphim, opening 373 Froberger, Toccata 3, bars 5–7 428 Froberger, Toccata 1, bars 1–3 429


List of musical examples

18.3. Louis Couperin, opening of Prélude à l’imitation de Mr. Froberger 429 18.4. Buxtehude, Praeludium in G minor (ostinato theme, fugue subjects and time signatures) 430 22.1. Francesco Geminiani, The Art of playing on the Violin (London, 1751), Essempio VIII, section 20 546 25.1a. Schumann, ‘Die beiden Grenadiere’ 618 25.1b. Handel, Judas Maccabeus, ‘Sound an Alarm’ 618 25.2a. Bellini, La sonnambula, ‘Ah, non credea mirarti’ 619 25.2b. Verdi, La traviata, ‘Pura siccome un angelo’ 619 25.3. Verdi, Ernani, ‘O sommo Carlo’ 621 25.4a. Portugal (Portogallo), La morte di Mitridate, ‘Teneri e cari affetti’ 626 25.4b. Cimarosa, Penelope, ‘Ah, serena il mesto ciglio’ 626 25.5. Pacini, Niobe, Didone, ‘Il soave e bel contento’ 627 25.6. Mercadante, Andronico, ‘Soave immagine’ 627 25.7. De Garaudé, Méthode de chant 628 25.8. Appoggiatura-based ornamental patterns in Bellini, Norma, and Verdi, Nabucco 628 25.9. Zingarelli, Giulietta e Romeo, ‘Sommo ciel’ 629 25.10a–c. Nineteenth-century final cadenzas 630 25.11. Verdi, Ernani, ‘Infelice, e tu credevi’ 630 25.12. Bellini, Norma, three fragments from the role of Pollione as altered by Giovanni Mario 632 25.13. Facsimile from García the younger’s Treatise 639 25.14. Haydn, ‘She never told her love’ (Hob. XXVIa:34) 641 26.1. Beethoven, String Quartet in B flat Op. 130, opening of fourth movement 646 26.2. Schubert, Symphony No. 9 in C D944, finale 647



List of musical examples

26.3a. 26.3b. 26.4a. 26.4b. 26.5. 26.6. 26.7. 26.8. 26.9.

26.10. 26.11. 26.12a. 26.12b. 26.12c. 26.13. 26.14. 26.15. 26.16. 26.17. 26.18a. 26.18b. 26.18c. 26.19.

Schubert, String Quartet in G D887, first movement 649 Schubert, Impromptu D899 No. 2 649 Paganini, Violin Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, opening 650 Paganini, Violin Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, opening, as played 650 Portamento as suggested in treatises of Habeneck and de Bériot 651 Liszt, Grande Fantaisie de Bravoure sur la Clochette de Paganini 653 Chopin, Waltz in A flat Op. 69 No. 1, execution as  ski 654 described by Kleczyn Berlioz, Overture to King Lear, bars 364–8 661 Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto Op. 64, Allegro molto appassionato. Edition of David, with implied portamenti notated 666 Schumann, Fantasy Op. 17 667 Robert Schumann, Arabeske Op. 18 668 Liszt, Sonata in B minor, opening 673 Liszt, Sonata in B minor, towards end of first ‘movement’ 674 Liszt, Sonata in B minor, conclusion 674 Liszt, Consolation No. 3 677 César Franck, Violin Sonata, from fourth movement 679 Wagner, Overture to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, bars 89–90, 97–8 681 Bruckner, Symphony No. 7, Adagio. Funeral Music 684 Brahms, Intermezzo Op. 119 No. 1 685 Brahms, Ein deutsches Requiem, opening of seventh movement, ‘Selig sind die Toten’ 686 Brahms, String Quartet in C minor Op. 51 No. 1, third movement. 686 Brahms, Violin Concerto, first movement, bars 347–52, 460–3, solo part 687 Rimsky-Korsakov, Russian Easter Overture 691


J O N B A N K S combines a career as a Senior Lecturer in Music at Anglia Ruskin University with a full performing schedule. He specialises in the medieval harp and gittern as well as Oriental string instruments such as the santur and qanun, and has toured and recorded with groups including the Burning Bush, the Dufay Collective, Red Byrd, Joglaresa, Al-Ashekeen, the Jocelyn Pook Ensemble, Sirinu and the Tivoli Café Band. Recent publications include a book, The Instrumental Consort Repertory of the Fifteenth Century, and current research interests include a project on the repertoires of music preserved on Oriental clocks. Other activities include regular performances at the Globe Theatre, work with Iranian and Middle Eastern ensembles and freelance recording for film and TV. T I M C A R T E R was born in Australia and studied in the United Kingdom. He is the author of the Cambridge Opera Handbook on Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (1987), Jacopo Peri (1561–1633): His Life and Works (1989), Music in Late Renaissance and Early Baroque Italy (1992), Music, Patronage and Printing in Late Renaissance Florence and Monteverdi and his Contemporaries (both 2000), Monteverdi’s Musical Theatre (2002), and ‘Oklahoma!’ The Making of an American Musical (2007). In 2001 he moved from Royal Holloway, University of London, to become David G. Frey Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was chair of the Music Department from 2004 to 2009. He is currently preparing an edition of Kurt Weill’s first musical composed in the US, Johnny Johnson (to a play by Paul Green). S T E P H E N C O T T R E L L is Professor of Music at City University, London. His research interests fall into three interrelated areas: ethnographic approaches to musicians and music-making, especially within the Western art-music tradition; the study of musical instruments, particularly the saxophone; and the study and analysis of musical performance. A monograph on Professional Music-Making in London was published in 2004, and a further volume on The Saxophone is forthcoming. He has contributed to a range of other publications, including the British Journal of Ethnomusicology, Ethnomusicology, and Twentieth-century Music. He is an associate editor of the latter, and on the executive committee of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology. He is also an Artistic Adviser to the record label



Notes on contributors

Saxophone Classics. As a performer he has released several CDs of contemporary music, both as a soloist and previously as the leader of the Delta Saxophone Quartet. W I L L C R U T C H F I E L D is the Director of Opera for the Caramoor International Music Festival in New York. He has also served as Music Director of the Opera de Colombia (Bogotá) and Principal Guest Conductor of the Polish National Opera (Warsaw), and has been a guest conductor in various theatres, specialising in Italian opera. He has written on music for the Grove Dictionaries of Music, the New York Times, the New Yorker and various academic publications, and has served on the faculties of the Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music and the Mannes College of Music. J O H N H A I N E S is Professor at the University of Toronto, where he is crossappointed at the Faculty of Music and Centre for Medieval Studies. His publications include Eight Centuries of Troubadours and Trouvères: The Changing Identity of Medieval Music (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and Medieval Song in Romance Languages (Cambridge University Press, 2010). R O G E R H E A T O N , clarinettist and conductor, has worked closely with some of the world’s leading composers including Henze, Feldman, Bryars, Radulescu and Volans, and performs with such groups as the Fidelio and Archduke Trios, Kreutzer and Smith String Quartets. He was a member of the London Sinfonietta and Ensemble Modern, and has been a member of the Gavin Bryars Ensemble since the early 1980s. He was Music Director and Conductor of Rambert Dance Company during the 1990s, Clarinet Professor at the Darmstadt Ferienkurse für Neue Musik (1982–94) and is currently Professor of Music at Bath Spa University. His most recent CDs include music by Tom Johnson (Ants/Silenzio), clarinet quintets by Morton Feldman and Christopher Fox (Metier), Hugh Wood’s chamber music (Toccata) and Schoenberg’s (Greissle) Clarinet Sonata (Clarinet Classics). His book The Versatile Clarinet was published in 2006. C O R E Y J A M A S O N is a harpsichordist and conductor and is artistic director of the San Francisco Bach Choir and principal keyboardist of the American Bach Soloists. He has performed with a variety of ensembles including LA Opera, San Francisco Symphony and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and has appeared in recordings with American Bach Soloists, the violinist Giles Apap and the ensemble El Mundo. He is also co-director and conductor of Théâtre Comique, an ensemble that specialises in recreating late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American musical theatre according to historical performance practices. He teaches historical keyboards at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he is director of the Historical Performance Program.

Notes on contributors


N I C H O L A S K E N Y O N is Managing Director of the Barbican Centre, London. He was Controller of BBC Radio 3 1992–8 and Director of the BBC Proms 1996– 2007. He was a music critic of the New Yorker 1979–82, Editor of Early Music 1983–92 and edited the influential volume Authenticity and Early Music (1988). He is the author of The BBC Symphony Orchestra 1930–80 (1981), Simon Rattle: From Birmingham to Berlin (rev. edn 2001), The Faber Pocket Guide to Mozart (2005) and The Faber Pocket Guide to Bach (2011). He has been a council member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and a Governor of Wellington College, and is now a member of Arts Council England and a Board member of English National Opera and Sage Gateshead, and a Trustee of Dartington Hall. C O L I N L A W S O N is Director of the Royal College of Music, London. He has an international profile as a period clarinettist and has played principal in most of Britain’s leading period orchestras, notably The Hanover Band, the English Concert and the London Classical Players, with whom he has recorded extensively and toured worldwide. Described by Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung as ‘a brilliant, absolutely world-class player’ he has appeared as a soloist in many international venues, including London’s major concert halls and New York’s Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. His recent discography includes two volumes of sonatas by Lefèvre in their original scoring for C clarinet and cello. Colin has published widely, especially for Cambridge University Press. With Robin Stowell, he is co-editor of a series of Cambridge Handbooks to the Historical Performance of Music, for which he co-authored an introductory volume and contributed a book on the early clarinet. N A T A S H A L O G E S gained her B.Mus. in piano performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and her M.Mus. at King’s College, London. She completed her doctoral thesis at the Royal Academy of Music, before taking up her current post as Assistant Head of Programmes at the Royal College of Music. She has published articles on Brahms’s Lieder in Nineteenth-Century Music Review (2006), Indiana Theory Review (2005) and in Music and Literature in German Romanticism (2004). Natasha also works as an accompanist, and has performed in St John’s, Smith Square, London and the Holywell Music Room, Oxford; she has also broadcast live for BBC Radio 3. T I M O T H Y J . M C G E E is a music historian whose areas of research include performance practices before 1700 and Canadian music. His latest book, The Ceremonial Musicians of Late Medieval Florence was published in 2009. Other publications include The Sound of Medieval Song (1998), Medieval Instrumental Dances (1989), Medieval and Renaissance Music: A Performer’s Guide (1985) and The Music of Canada (1985). In 2002 he retired from the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto. Currently


Notes on contributors

he is an Honorary Professor and Adjunct Professor in the departments of English and History at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. S I M O N M C V E I G H is Professor of Music at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has published extensively on eighteenth-century instrumental music and on music in Britain, including Concert Life in London from Mozart to Haydn (1993) and, with Jehoash Hirshberg, The Italian Solo Concerto 1700–1760: Rhetorical Strategies and Style History (2004). He also co-edited with Susan Wollenberg a volume of essays entitled Concert Life in Eighteenth-Century Britain (2004). Current research projects include a study of the British symphony in the eighteenth century and a collaboration with Leanne Langley on London concert life around 1900. In addition he is a Baroque and Classical violinist, with a particular interest in the north Italian violin repertoire and in the development of the concert string quartet. J A N E M A N N I N G is an internationally known soprano, specialising in twentiethand twenty-first-century music, who has given more than 300 world premieres. An extensive recording catalogue includes many twentieth-century classics. She founded her own ensemble, Jane’s Minstrels, in 1988 and still enjoys an active career. Currently Visiting Professor at Kingston University, her academic work includes three terms as Visiting Professor at Mills College, six years as Honorary Professor at Keele University, and many shorter international residencies, including seminars at Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale Universities. Her published works include two volumes of New Vocal Repertory, a chapter in The Messiaen Companion, and the forthcoming Voicing Pierrot, the product of three years of research at Kingston University funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. She holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of York, Keele and Durham and is a Fellow of both the Royal Academy and the Royal College of Music. S T E F A N O M E N G O Z Z I is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA. His research focuses on the history of music theory in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. His publications include The Renaissance Reform of Medieval Music Theory: Guido of Arezzo between Myth and History (2010). W I L L I A M M I V A L is a composer, broadcaster, writer and teacher and is Head of Composition at the Royal College of Music in London. He has written works for, amongst others, the Belcea String Quartet, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Welsh Chamber Orchestra and the harpsichordist Sophie Yates. As a broadcaster he has been a frequent contributor to BBC Radio 3’s CD Review and Building a Library and was invited to discuss the concept of musical ‘resonance’ on BBC Television’s The Culture Show.

Notes on contributors


M I C H A E L M U S G R A V E is Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of London, Visiting Research Fellow at the Royal College of Music, and serves on the graduate faculty of the Juilliard School, New York. His fields of research are nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German music, and English concert life in the same period. He is author and editor of six books on Brahms, including (with Bernard D. Sherman) Performing Brahms. Early Evidence of Performance Style (2003); this won the 2003 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Award for Best Research in Recorded Classical Music. His recent work includes a biography of Robert Schumann. He is author of The Musical Life of the Crystal Palace (1995), and editor of George Grove, Music and Victorian Culture (2003). He is also a member of the Trägerverein of the ‘Johannes Brahms Gesamtausgabe’, for which he has edited the two orchestral serenades Op. 11 and Op. 16 (2006); other editions include the Liebeslieder Waltzes of Brahms in different versions for Carus Verlag and Edition Peters, and Schumann’s Piano Concerto, also for Peters (2009). He received the Fellowship of the Royal College of Music in 2005. I A N P A C E is a pianist and musicologist specialising in areas of nineteenth-century performance practice, the post-1945 avant-garde, and issues of music and society. He is a Lecturer in Music at City University, London, and has previously taught at Dartington College of Arts and the Universities of Southampton and Cardiff. He has published many articles, and co-edited the volume Uncommon Ground: The Music of Michael Finnissy (2008). His book Brahms Performance Practice: Documentary, Analytic and Interpretive Approaches was published in 2010. As a pianist he has played in over twenty countries, recorded numerous CDs, and given world premieres of over 150 works, by composers including Richard Barrett, James Dillon, Pascal Dusapin, Brian Ferneyhough, Michael Finnissy, Horatiu Radulescu, Frederic Rzewski and Gerhard Stäbler. He is also writing a book on the history of instrumental performance between 1815 and 1890, as well as researching the emergence of the avant-garde in West Germany after 1945. A N T H O N Y P A Y N E , composer, was born in London and studied at Durham University. His commissions include three orchestral works for the BBC Proms, and works for the BBC Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta and Cheltenham Festival. His discography includes two complete CDs of chamber music. He has published books on Schoenberg, Frank Bridge and Elgar’s Third Symphony, the completion of which, in 1997, brought him international acclaim, as well as South Bank and Evening Standard awards. It has been performed by the Philadelphia and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, as well as all the major UK orchestras. There are now six CD recordings in existence. He has been Visiting Professor at Mills College, California and Composition Tutor at the New South Wales Conservatorium, and is a frequent broadcaster for the BBC. He holds Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Birmingham, Durham and Kingston, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music.


Notes on contributors

K E I T H P O L K has produced numerous articles and several books on instrumental music of the Renaissance. He is also a French horn player, having performed with the San Diego Symphony, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Boston Baroque, and the Smithsonian Chamber Players, among others. He is Professor Emeritus, University of New Hampshire, and has also taught at Brandeis University, the New England Conservatory and Regents College, London. D A V I D P O N S F O R D is a scholar, organist and harpsichordist, and an authority on keyboard music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. An organ scholar at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, he studied the organ with Peter Hurford, Lionel Rogg and Piet Kee, and the harpsichord with Kenneth Gilbert and Gustav Leonhardt. He is an Associate Lecturer at Cardiff University, where he conducts the University Choir and the University Chamber Orchestra. He also teaches the organ and harpsichord at Bristol University, and gives series of lectures at Madingley Hall, Cambridge. Recent recordings include Bach’s complete violin sonatas with Jacqueline Ross, ‘Parthenia’ (1612), J. S. Bach’s Clavierübung Part 3, and the complete Handel recorder sonatas with Alan Davis. He has recently published an edition of Biber’s Mystery Sonatas (2007) and French Organ Music in the Reign of Louis XIV (2011). J O H N P O T T E R is a singer and writer. He was a member of the Hilliard Ensemble for many years and currently sings with the Dowland Project, Red Byrd, and the Gavin Bryars Ensemble. He collaborates with a number of instrumentalists and performance artists. He records for ECM and has an eclectic discography of some 150 titles which include five gold discs and several Grammy nominations. He is the author of Vocal Authority (1998) and Tenor: History of a Voice (2009), edited The Cambridge Companion to Singing (2000) and has contributed to several Cambridge Histories. O W E N R E E S specialises in Spanish, Portuguese and English sacred music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He is Reader in Music at the University of Oxford, and Fellow of the Queen’s College. Previously he held posts at St Peter’s College and St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and at the University of Surrey. He has published studies of the music of Cristóbal de Morales, Francisco Guerrero and William Byrd, and of musical sources and repertoires from Portugal and Spain. His first book, Polyphony in Portugal, considers music at the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, Portugal, and he is co-editor (with Bernadette Nelson) of Cristóbal de Morales: Sources, Influences, Reception. His work as a scholar regularly relates closely to his performances and recordings; he directs Contrapunctus, the Choir of the Queen’s College, Oxford, and the Cambridge Taverner Choir. E L E O N O R A R O C C O N I ’ S research interests focus on Ancient Greek Music and Music Theory, in which she specialised at the University of Birmingham under

Notes on contributors


the supervision of Professor Andrew Barker. Since 1999 she has been working for the Faculty of Musicology in Cremona (University of Pavia), where she is a Lecturer in Greek Language and Literature. Since 2000 she has been a member of the International Study Group on Music Archaeology (ISGMA), and in 2008 she became a member of the ‘Kommission für antike Literatur und lateinische Tradition’ within the ‘Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften’. She is charter member of ‘MOISA: International Society for the Study of Greek and Roman Music and of its Cultural Heritage’. Among her publications is Le parole delle Muse (2003). R O B I N S T O W E L L is Professor of Music and Director of the Centre for Research into Historically Informed Performance at Cardiff University. Educated at Cambridge University and the Royal Academy of Music, he is also a violinist/period violinist, and he has performed, broadcast and recorded with the Academy of Ancient Music and other period ensembles. Since his pioneering book Violin Technique and Performance Practice in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries (1985) he has published widely on issues of performance practice, organology, music of the ‘long eighteenth century’, violinists, chamber music and string playing in general. His more recent major publications include The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet (2003), The Early Violin and Viola (2001), a monograph on Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (1998) and a co-authored volume (with Colin Lawson) on historical performance (1999), the first of a series of which he is co-editor. J E R E M Y S U M M E R L Y is a conductor, musicologist, broadcaster and recording producer. He studied music as an undergraduate at Oxford University and musicology as a postgraduate at King’s College, London. He is founder-director of Oxford Camerata and the Royal Academy Consort, has conducted almost fifty original commercial recordings of music spanning nine centuries, and has directed choirs and orchestras in locations as far afield as San Francisco and Melbourne, Helsinki and Cape Town. He has edited four volumes of medieval and Renaissance music for Faber Music, presents programmes for BBC Radios 3 and 4, and produces location recordings for Hyperion Records and Naxos. He is the recipient of a European Cultural Prize and is an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music. J O N A T H A N W A I N W R I G H T is Professor and Head of the Department of Music at the University of York. He is a musicologist and performer and from 1996 to 2001 he was Director of the Girls’ Choir at York Minster. His research interests focus upon sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English and Italian Music and his publications include Musical Patronage in Seventeenth-Century England (1997) and From Renaissance to Baroque (ed. with Peter Holman, 2005), and his edition of Richard


Notes on contributors

Dering’s Latin Motets for 1–3 voices and continuo was published in 2008 in the series Musica Britannica. P E T E R W A L L S is Emeritus Professor of Music at Victoria University of Wellington and from 2002–2011 was Chief Executive of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. A Baroque violinist and conductor, he is the author of Music in the English Courtly Masque (1996), History, Imagination and the Performance of Music (2003) and numerous articles on historical performance practice. He is the editor of Baroque Music (2011) in the Ashgate series The Library of Essays on Music Performance Practice and of two volumes of treatises in the Geminiani Opera Omnia (General Editor, Christopher Hogwood). W I L L I A M W E B E R , Professor of History Emeritus at California State University in Long Beach, has written Music and the Middle Class (1975/2003), The Rise of Musical Classics in Eighteenth-Century England (1992), and The Great Transformation of Musical Taste: Concert Programming from Haydn to Brahms (2008). He edited Wagnerism in European Culture and Politics and The Musician as Entrepreneur, 1700–1914 (2005). He has been a member of doctoral committees in France, Finland and Canada as well as the United States and is an Associate of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at the University of California, Los Angeles. R I C H A R D W I S T R E I C H is a scholar, singer and teacher whose work centres on the cultural and social history of music-making in Europe in the period between about 1500 and 1800. More specifically, he investigates how vocal performance of all kinds contributes to the construction of individual and collective identities. His book Warrior, Courtier, Singer: Giulio Cesare Brancaccio and the Performance of Identity in the Late Renaissance was published in 2007, as was The Cambridge Companion to Monteverdi, co-edited with John Whenham; he is also co-editor, with Iain Fenlon, of The Cambridge History of Sixteenth-Century Music. He has an international profile as a singer of both early and contemporary music, specialising in the performance of fifteenth-, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century solo and ensemble song. He is Professor of Music History and Dean of Research and Enterprise at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. D A V I D W R I G H T ’ S recent work has focused on British musical life in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, particularly its institutional, social and concert history aspects. His publications include revisionist accounts of the founding of the Royal College of Music, nineteenth-century music examination culture, the London Sinfonietta and the Prom seasons of Sir William Glock. With Jenny Doctor and Nicholas Kenyon he edited The Proms: A New History (2007). He is writing a social and cultural history of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. He was formerly Reader in the Social History of Music at the Royal College of Music.

Editors’ preface

Over the past generation the intricacies and challenges of musical performance have attracted the attention of writers and scholars to a greater extent than ever before. The net has been cast widely, as research into the performer’s experience has begun to explore such areas as practice techniques, performance anxiety and memorisation, as well as professional issues such as alcohol and drug abuse. There has even been greater recognition that a true understanding of musical excellence draws fruitfully upon such diverse fields as exercise science, psychophysiology, sports psychology, cognitive science and medicine. Furthermore, a relatively recent sub-discipline loosely embraced by the term ‘performance studies’ has circled around a large range of subject matter while not always fully engaging the attention of the executants themselves. At the same time, historical performance practice has been the subject of lively debate way beyond academic circles, mirroring its high profile in the recording studio and the concert hall. Histories of music nevertheless continue stubbornly to be based on composers and their achievements rather than on those musicians who have been responsible for bringing the music to life. Like Heinrich Schenker, many theorists have considered ‘the mechanical realization of the work of art . . . superfluous’, not least because ‘a composition does not require a performance in order to exist’.1 Whatever the reason, ‘we have regarded performance as a totally secondary aspect of music, merely a clothing or a realisation of “the real thing”, which are the written dots on the page’.2 The complex relationship of score, musical work and performance demands a more flexible and detailed approach. ‘For generations, we wrote the story of music as the history of compositions. But it is surely a mistake to think that music actually exists on library shelves in weighty collected editions. It is the history of performance that has shaped the course of music, and the history of

1 H. Schenker, The Art of Performance, ed. H. Esser, trans. I. S. Scott, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 3. 2 N. Kenyon, ‘Musical Tradition in a Time of Anxiety’, Twelfth Leverhulme Memorial Lecture, The Leverhulme Trust (2005), p. 6.



Editors’ preface

performance has never been written. The history of repertories and institutions and taste and reception is only beginning to be written.’3 The Cambridge History of Musical Performance takes up the challenge, aspiring to be nothing less than the largest and most comprehensive history of musical performance to be published in the English language. Apart from Frederick Dorian’s The History of Music in Performance (New York, 1942), a now outdated book and of limited value, it can reasonably be claimed that there has been no previous publication on the subject, and certainly none matching the scope of the content and scholarly expertise represented within its pages. A collaborative project by leading music scholars, historians and practitioners, it seeks to trace the rich panorama of performance history, conventions and practices from the Ancient World to the present day, aiming to provide not only an invaluable and up-to-date source of reference about the subject but also an appreciation of the historical interrelationship of style and interpretation during the various musical epochs. The format of this volume aligns with others in the ‘Cambridge History’ series. It reflects the research and performance experience of an international authorship, presenting a synthetic historical overview of a fascinating and complex subject that demands distinctive treatment. Much of the book addresses performance and performance practices in specific periods of history from times ancient to modern. From the Middle Ages onwards, an overview chapter for each period lays the historical foundations on which the immediately succeeding chapters are built, devoted respectively to vocal and instrumental performance. Case studies outline the performance history and the performance practice issues involved in interpreting a particular work or works from six of the periods under scrutiny. By way of introduction to this investigation of chronological developments, the opening chapters address broader issues that are immediately relevant to the performance of music, focusing respectively upon ‘Performance today’, ‘Political process, Social structure and musical performance in Europe since 1450’, ‘The evidence’, ‘The performer and the composer’, ‘The teaching of performance’, and ‘Music and musical performance: histories in disjunction?’ With classical music increasingly being challenged in our society by pop music, world musics and a vast range of alternative mass entertainment, advocacy is clearly an important aspect of any performer’s work. Yet the digital age has brought new opportunities, as the ways in which musical performance is disseminated have become subject to radical change. Contributors discuss these technological developments along with other performance-related topics 3 Ibid.

Editors’ preface


such as repertoires, audiences, criticism, careers, patronage and venues. An analysis of the complex and ever-changing relationship between composers and performers centres upon several areas of enquiry such as notational conventions, leadership roles and the cult of personality. Performance through the ages has been subject to a variety of didactic practices, often focusing on musical learning within institutions, whether church, court, university or conservatoire. An appropriate curriculum for performers beyond the immediate study of music has been promulgated in many different contexts, one eighteenth-century source prescribing for music students ‘the whole of worldly wisdom, as well as mathematics, poetry, rhetoric and many languages’.4 This idealism scarcely found long-term favour, though in more recent times theory and analysis have gradually been supplemented by a host of other performance-related subjects, such as acoustics, performance practice, psychology and world music. In addition, the increasing interaction of performers with their communities has brought into focus the benefits of music to disadvantaged members of society. Recording has made musical performance durable, its natural evanescence captured and preserved by technology. No longer is music’s sound necessarily inseparable from the actions of the performers creating it, with a perishability once described by Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations, 1776) as ‘leaving behind no tangible, vendible commodity’.5 And social, economic and cultural change after Smith’s day – with new expectations of a more leisured society for its edification and entertainment – meant that the virtuoso eventually became a social achiever, acclaimed for his skills and exploited for his marketability. This was a new situation compared with Smith’s observation (1776) that being a professional performer was an essentially discreditable occupation, ‘a sort of public prostitution’. Such change over so short a time underlines the advisability of examining concepts of canon, repertoire and music reception in relation to the ways in which musical performance has been marketed and distributed. Traditionally, music was listened to within some sort of social context, such as a concert or a liturgical setting. This experience generated a collective aesthetic response in groups of listeners, giving rise to a common understanding of what constituted a canon of exemplary works. But today’s digital miniaturisation, and the unparalleled choice of recorded repertoire now available, puts consumers (with their own individual sensibilities and musical preferences) in complete control of what they listen to, when they listen and whether they listen to favourite moments or an entire work. Increasingly, 4 P. Poulin, ‘A view of eighteenth-century musical life and training: Anton Stadler’s “Musick Plan” ’, Music & Letters, 71 (1990), 215–24. 5 A. Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776), ed. E. Cannan, New York, Random House, 2000, p. 361.


Editors’ preface

therefore, today’s listening habits reflect little experience of music’s original social environments and conventions. This moves us away from the old acceptance of a hierarchy of works to more contingent and less codified musical values – effectively a disruption that challenges established patterns and ideologies of reception, and questions the continuing relevance of the canon. Given that musical performance takes place within the elusive medium of sound there is of course a sense in which much of its history before the invention of ‘non-human storage of music’6 has entirely disappeared. ‘Time and again, therefore, earlier epochs characterize performance as something valid only for the present, or for veiled, mediated recollection; and though performance may have been reflected, represented and even to some extent “recorded” in literary or visual art, music in performance was not essentially open to scientific or even philosophical inspection.’7 When Thomas Edison shouted ‘Mary had a little lamb’ into a phonograph in 1877, the musical world began to change; some twenty-five years later the recordings of Enrico Caruso acquired a mass market and the nature of the evidence for performance was revolutionised. Early recordings have recently attracted a great deal of attention, as have the attitudes and achievements of those pioneering musicians who embraced studio work with varying degrees of enthusiasm and reluctance during the first half of the twentieth century. Among pianists Wilhelm Kempff recognised the opportunity to achieve a perfect interpretation and over his long life became a studio master, exclusive to Deutsche Grammophon from 1935 until his death in 1991; yet on stage he was all too prone to disappoint, unable to reproduce the raptness or subtle variants of colour. During his lifetime, the art of recording and live performance became radically different in scope and intent.8 By contrast, Artur Schnabel argued that recording went against the very nature of performance, by a dehumanising elimination of contact between player and listener. Though later convinced to record, he found the process difficult; ‘I suffered agonies and was in a state of despair. . . . Everything was artificial – the light, the air, the sound – and it took me quite a long time to get the company to adjust some of their equipment to music.’9 In Beethoven and Schubert an inspirational spontaneity (unfettered by insistence on accuracy) was his legacy.

6 J. Dunsby, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 2nd edn, 29 vols., London, Macmillan, 2001, vol. 19, p. 346, art. ‘Performance’. 7 Ibid. 8 N. Lebrecht, Maestros, Masterpieces & Madness: the Secret Life & Shameful Death of the Classical Record Industry, London, Allen Lane, 2007, p. 8. 9 A. Schnabel, My Life and Music, Gerrards Cross, Colin Smythe, 1970, p. 98, cited in Lebrecht, Maestros, Masterpieces & Madness, p. 9.

Editors’ preface


In charting what he regards as the death of the classical recording industry, Norman Lebrecht has observed that Karajan, Pavarotti and Solti are the topselling classical artists (respectively 200, 100 and 50 million records). He claims that classical sales as a whole amount to somewhere between 1 and 1.3 billion records, a similar number to the Beatles. Lebrecht’s all-time classical chart is topped by Solti’s Ring Cycle (18 million), the Three Tenors (14 million) and I Musici’s Four Seasons (9.5 million). He excludes non-classical or crossover submissions such as Titanic (25 million) and Charlotte Church (10 million).10 It is worth recalling here that much of today’s terminology had no place in earlier times, with ‘crossover’ itself an obvious example. The same caveat applies to words such as ‘genius’ or ‘masterpiece’. In other words, historical evidence for performance needs to be read in the spirit of its own times. Audiences for performers before the age of recording inevitably had different priorities. The appearance of Paganini or Liszt for a one-night musical stand was about more than just music, or worse still, musical accuracy. Moving back in time, it is clear that in Mozart’s day musical cities such as Vienna and Prague boasted quite distinctive musical personalities. In earlier historical periods the question arises as to what can reasonably be defined as music (with or without notation). In recreating medieval song that is manifestly raw, dramatic and arresting, today’s singer might be forgiven for feeling shackled by concerns such as the replication of ‘correct’ tempos, ‘effective’ dynamics and ‘appropriate’ textures, to say nothing of issues of pitch, temperament and pronunciation. How, for instance, might latter-day performers recreate the medieval sound world of lone minstrels, choirs of monks, troupes of liturgical dramatists, ensembles of early polyphonists or gatherings of enthusiastic scholars? Clearly, any investigation of any performances from before the age of recording will pose many more questions than can readily be answered. This book is intended to stimulate intelligent thought about the role of performers and performance and shed new light on issues of performance history and practice. It includes contributions not only from scholars but also from accomplished performers, whose practical experiences have shaped their chapters and lent the volume a unique vitality and cogency. It aims to be wideranging but can never be exhaustive. Limitations of space have inevitably forced authors to be highly selective in their individual dissertations. Some have opted to use the microscope to address key issues relevant to their allotted topic/period, while others have considered a telescopic approach more appropriate to their needs. This decision has been theirs, but the final responsibility for content and coverage is ours. 10 Lebrecht, Maestros, Masterpieces & Madness, pp. 136–8.


Editors’ preface

As a final preliminary, some words of acknowledgement are in order. We should like to thank all our contributors, especially those who submitted their chapters on schedule, for their cooperation in discussing details of their material with us and with each other and making modifications as necessary. Many of them have shown enormous patience in waiting for the final pieces of a complex jigsaw to be put in place. We have also greatly valued the advice and encouragement of Andrew Parrott, who read some of the drafts and provided us with editorial guidance appropriate to some historical periods in which we questioned our own expertise. We are also grateful for financial support for the project from our respective institutions, the Royal College of Music and Cardiff University, some invaluable administrative support from Emma McCormack and Amy Blier-Carruthers (Royal College of Music) and, of course, the orderly input from our eagle-eyed copy-editor, Mary Worthington and proofreader, Sheila Sadler. Finally, thanks are due to Vicki Cooper, Commissioning Editor for the volume, and her team for their ideas and practical guidance throughout the project. Colin Lawson Robin Stowell





. 1 .

Performance today NICHOLAS KENYON

Once upon a time, before Music television, before remote controls, before books on tape and Internet streaming media, a possible method of enjoying a basic art form was this: a person would sit down and listen to an entire symphony, for however long that took. It is not so easy anymore . . . Halfway through the adagio they feel a tickle somewhere between the temporal and occipital lobes and realise they are fighting an impulse to reach for a magazine . . . With all the arts making their small sacrifices to hurriedness, music lovers can hardly expect to be immune. There is a special kind of pain, though. Music is the art form most clearly about time. James Gleick, Faster1

Please play I am in the middle of the Roundhouse, North London. The only thing in the centre of the bare circular space, once used for reversing trains, is an old harmonium. On the floor in front, it says PLEASE PLAY. It looks like a normal harmonium, except that out of the back of the instrument, an array of wires and leads stretches away, up and around the building. So I sit down. I press the keys, but instead of familiar sounds from the instrument, the whole circular building comes alive. Some keys produce metallic clanks on the pillars, some produce motor noises far away in the ceiling, some produce wheezing notes of indeterminate pitch . . . There is no skill required, no score of instructions: whatever you do is the performance. During the time I am there children, backpackers, a virtuoso with a self-timing camera to record the incident all try. The sounds are varied, random, striking. This is David Byrne’s Playing the Building.2 As I leave, I notice an advert for another event, Longplayer Live: ‘Lasting 1000 years, Jem Finer’s Longplayer is the longest non-repeating piece of music ever

1 J. Gleick, Faster, New York, Random House, 1999, pp. 191–3. 2 See www.davidbyrne.com/art/art_projects/playing_the_building.




composed. For its live debut, a 1000 minute section will be performed by 25 musicians on a 20 metre wide instrument, made up of six concentric circles of Tibetan singing bowls. Alongside the unfolding music, there will be a 12-hour series of one-to-one conversations between 24 speakers.’3 In the Daily Telegraph, art critic Richard Dorment writes about a Heiner Goebbels installation under the heading ‘Who cares what it is, it’s terrific’: ‘Stifter’s Dinge is a performance with no performers and a concert with no musicians. As you take your seat in the windowless vault (once used to test concrete for the Channel Tunnel by dropping it from great heights), you are confronted with a formal sculptural arrangement consisting of five pianos and a few bare branches. On the floor below are three shallow rectangular pools and three fibreglass cubes. Of the five pianos, two are uprights, played in the traditional way by hammers hitting strings – except that the keys are struck by invisible fingers, like player pianos. The rest are played by robotic “arms” sliding either across or up and down the strings. Other sounds include shivers, shakes, rattles, scrapes, thumps and booms made – as far as I could figure out – with tin sheets, a tennis ball, concrete blocks, and blasts of air forced down a long drainpipe.’4 This is performance today. You feel that all bets are off, and no rules apply. However, in another great circular building in London, the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall are presenting a wealth of newly written work alongside the central classics of the repertoire, played by supremely accomplished examples of that most traditional of Western cultural inventions, the symphony orchestra. So while the outer reaches of performance are explored, equally prominent is the regular recreation of the great achievements of Western music. The repertoire changes and expands constantly: in the 2010 Proms season, the music of Stephen Sondheim, which first slipped into a Prom in a late-night concert in 1996, had a whole high-profile, televised evening of its own, as did the partnership of Rodgers and Hammerstein. It is not so long since Gershwin and Bernstein would have had a battle to make it into the Proms canon.5 In the 2011 season, the net widens again to include Havergal Brian’s massive ‘Gothic’ Symphony, music by film composer Ennio Morricone, rock musician Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, and Hungarian folk music. The developments can be traced in a complete online database of Proms performances since 1895, which has taken some years to assemble and publish,6 whose bald but fascinating statistics conceal the traditional controversies

3 See Longplayer.org/live. 4 R. Dorment, ‘Who cares what it is, it’s terrific’, Daily Telegraph, 16 April 2008. 5 BBC Proms Guide 2010, London, BBC Books, 2010; BBC Proms Guide 2011, London, BBC Books, 2011. 6 www.bbc.co.uk/proms/archive.

Performance today


around the season’s repertoire, often fought out in the correspondence columns of the press: too little English music? Too much contemporary music? Too few central classics? What about women composers? Why so much jazz, and non-Western music? These debates expose the whole issue of the changing canon, the formulation of the repertoire that determines performance today. Repertoire is also shifting fascinatingly in our opera houses. A Purcell semiopera, The Fairy Queen, joined the Glyndebourne repertoire for the first time with huge success in 2009. Until quite recently Handel opera was unknown in our major houses, yet now it is a regular part of their seasons. In British opera houses, the core of great popular operas from Figaro to Bohème, Traviata to Rosenkavalier are now complemented by a huge range of ancient and modern pieces, from Monteverdi and Cavalli to Kurt Weill and Thomas Adès. The 2010–11 season at the Royal Opera House started not only with the staples of Così fan tutte and Don Pasquale, but also with the totally unknown Niobe, Regina de Tebe, by Agostino Steffani. At English National Opera, directors new to the art-form stimulate new perspectives about music drama: Terry Gilliam in Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust, Mike Figgis in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia. The art-form, previously the preserve of the few, has in recent decades become increasingly available and professionalised as new companies have become established in Leeds, Wales and Scotland; many small-scale groups from the Classical Opera Company to Music Theatre Wales have established themselves. Each summer from June onwards, ‘garden opera’ is a newly popular experience, weather permitting, from the well-protected Grange Park Opera (in a distinctive theatre set within a dilapidated Hampshire mansion) to Garsington Opera (now in a temporary auditorium on a private estate near High Wycombe) and Opera Holland Park in London. Meanwhile in churches and cathedrals, a variety of choral groups continue to provide the music for Sunday and other services, with a repertoire stretching all the way from Tye, Tallis, Byrd and Tomkins, to the church composers of today. The annual Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College Cambridge, in many respects a perfect example of an invented tradition, has admirably commissioned a carol each year from composers including Arvo Pärt, Judith Weir, James Macmillan and Gabriel Jackson.7 In April 2011, millions watched a royal wedding in Westminster Abbey, whose traditional musical values were articulated through the dominance of the music of Hubert Parry, a commission from John Rutter and a work by Welsh composer Paul Mealor. Choral music from across the centuries continues to be heard in the

7 On Christmas Day: New Carols for King’s. King’s College Cambridge Choir/Stephen Cleobury. EMI 107243 5 5807021.



context of numerous liturgies, from Anglican Evensong or the Roman Catholic Mass to those services which celebrate the rich wealth of other devotions that have become part of our diverse country over recent decades. Pentecostalism and inspirational religious gatherings have brought new musics into worship; elsewhere it tends to be the predominately unchanging nature of religious celebration and its use of a musical repertoire from the distant past, leavened with new work, that maintains its function and its appeal. New generations of children will receive the specialised training offered by choir schools and cathedrals, and be drawn into a historical repertoire of music that has helped to define our culture over centuries. Specialist institutions such as the Purcell School and Chetham’s School of Music offer an increasingly broad educational and musical experience. The future of music in the curriculum of state schools, however, is currently under question and the subject of extensive review.8 How many young people of diverse backgrounds will continue to be drawn to music if it is not at the core of school activities throughout the country? Still, in educational institutions from schools to conservatoires, aided by teachers, animateurs and creative leaders of many kinds, students gradually discover a repertoire through which they can develop their own personal skills of interpretation and understanding. They are developing skill and craft: as The New Grove sternly reminds us, ‘the requirements of musical performance in Western culture are stringent’.9 Richard Sennett has recently suggested a reason why young people would undertake this laborious and difficult work: ‘the motivation is lodged in an experience fundamental to all human development: the primal event of separation can teach the young human to become curious’.10 In learning and practising, they are discovering their own identities. But the structures within which they learn, and the principles on which they are taught, are shifting rapidly. This too, then, is performance today: it is based on a wealth of varying traditions which are rapidly being challenged by a multiplicity of new forms of listening, creation and reception. For not all of these performances depend on fidelity to a score, a skill acquired over years, and the active participation of a listening, concentrating audience. Many are much more open in their conception, and much freer in their reception. They can be posted on the web without the mediation of agents, producers or record companies. Around the world, there are radically different situations in both performance and education, in

8 D. Henley, Music Education in England, London, Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media, Olympics and Sport, 2011. 9 J. Dunsby, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols., London, Macmillan, 2001, vol. 19, p. 348, art. ‘Performance’. 10 R. Sennett, The Craftsman, London, Allen Lane, 2008, p. 158.

Performance today


America, in Africa, in the Far East, particularly in the emergingly powerful and influential musical world of China. That is beyond the scope of this chapter – such is the range of experience today that what is touched on here can only be a personal, partial picture. It attempts to provide a necessarily limited snapshot of current trends, from the perspective of the classical music scene, surveying its radically changing delivery and context. It glances into a world in which classical music takes its place among a huge range of musics, and no longer necessarily enjoys its habitual prominence or status.

The availability of everything Tastes change all the time . . . You do your research, of course, but all musical performance is to do with feeling, and the ways of feeling music tend to change through the generations.11 Sir Charles Mackerras 1925–2010 Sensibility alters from generation to generation in everybody, whether we will or no; but expression is only altered by a man of genius.12 T.S. Eliot

What is instantly available to us today is fascinating, disorientating and disturbing. You can click on YouTube to search for conductors and find archive clips of Thomas Beecham, Henry Wood, Toscanini or Karajan, endless snippets of rare performances, a cornucopia of research possibilities. Enter ‘Furtwängler + Beethoven 9’ and you can find several newsreel versions of the dreadful sight of him conducting that symphony on 19 April 1942 with Nazi banners draping the stage; Beethoven’s utopian vision of brotherhood is followed by Goebbels approaching the stage to shake the conductor’s hand. (Does Furtwängler somehow move his handkerchief to clean his hand afterwards? The film is not quite clear . . .) The images of wounded German soldiers, intently listening in the audience, have a strange resonance: they are not so different from those on the other side of the conflict. In Humphrey Jennings’s pioneering documentary Listen to Britain (also 1942), the famous National Gallery concerts in London are used to characterise the war, with empty picture frames as a reminder of the conflict, listened to by a British wounded soldier, with listeners placed by iconic pictures from the collection, as Myra Hess plays Mozart to the delight of Queen Elizabeth and Kenneth Clark.13 11 A. Clark, ‘Open to interpretation’, Financial Times, 25 July 2009. 12 T. S. Eliot, ‘Poetry in the eighteenth century’, in B. Ford (ed.), Pelican Guide to English Literature, vol. 4: From Dryden to Johnson, London, Penguin, 1957, p. 271. This seminal essay was written in 1930. 13 Included in the British Film Institute compilation Land of Promise: The British Documentary Movement 1930–50, BFI DVD 756.



To such uses has performance been put across the ages: to glorify power and to give hope to nations, to heighten the vanity of monarchs and prop up the power of potentates, to propagate a cultural view or to celebrate a dynastic marriage.14 It has marked key moments in political change: when musicians rushed to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall, Leonard Bernstein went so far as to rewrite the text of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for the occasion, turning it into an Ode to Freedom.15 The power of performance – in both its musical and iconographical aspects – is deployed on major occasions, such as the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing, and the inauguration of the American President in Washington (both these occasions, ironically, having been shown to involve pre-recording and lip-synching, making their claims to be live performances at all somewhat dubious). Performance – its nature, purpose and reception – is a rich subject for debate and analysis. Yet this has not always been recognised by musicologists and music historians, focused as they have been on composers and their work. In the twenty-first century, thanks to cheap and easily available technology, performance is more than ever totally democratic. Since the 1920s you have been able to listen to the radio broadcasts of music for absolutely nothing (in the UK, listening to the radio now does not even require the purchase of a TV licence); but what you listened to was selected – you heard what the BBC felt it right for you to listen to. Now, at a modest price, you can download any music you need onto your iPod, or listen to it online via Spotify. Some conventional means of dissemination, like radio, still flourish, and since 1992 in the UK, Classic FM has offered a commercial classical music station within the context of an advertising-funded, pop-music format, offering a much more limited repertoire than BBC Radio 3, but attracting a wider audience. (This mirrors the relationship in the post-war years between highbrow culture on the BBC Third Programme, and light classics on the BBC Light Programme.) The BBC runs orchestras, invests in new commissions and promotes the Proms; that reflects its public service role. Classic FM helps live music by marketing and on-air promotion, but in the end is judged by making money for its owners’ shareholders. Both are now active in offering online services, streamed content, and (where permitted) downloads.16

14 See T. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture, Oxford University Press, 2002. 15 The powerful live recording with an international orchestra is available on CD. Deutsche Grammophon DG 429861–2. 16 The internationally successful Radio 3 free downloads of the nine Beethoven symphonies, offered to complement its complete on-air Beethoven survey, proved controversial with the record companies, and the BBC Trust prevented a repeat of this offer, though individual programmes including music can now be downloaded as podcasts.

Performance today


Reissues of historic recordings are now a staple of the recording business, on labels such as BBC Legends and ICA Classics, and increasingly on video as well. Robert Philip has pointed out that as late as the 1970s, orchestral recordings of the past were ‘virtually ignored’,17 but now they are reissued with fervour and greeted with fascination (they are certainly cheaper than originating new orchestral recordings in the studio). The whole century and more of recorded music is out there, somewhere. But where? In this new world of availability and interactivity, do you know what music you want, and if not how do you find out? If you do know, can you find what you need? This is not so easy, given the present chaotic nature of classical music cataloguing on downloading sites (an interesting example of how material can be endlessly available, but informed access is still limited).18 There is a previously unimaginable variety of music available to all, but the traditional routes by which a teacher, critic, commentator or broadcaster selected it and recommended it for you are challenged. You are more likely to be listening to what your friends recommend to you one night, or, trying a web link someone somewhere sends you, or randomly searching YouTube. Serendipity and instant access rules. Is there too much dizzying choice in performance today?

Defining performance When we recently moved out of our house, I was struck by the variety of musical elements in the front room. We had a harmonium, a piano, a cello, several recorders and a bassoon. Then there was a bookcase full of orchestral scores on one wall, and another wall full of books about composers, performance and the history of music. There was a sound system, and piles of CDs. Instruments, scores, books, discs. What are they? Are they all ways of making music? Aids to performance? Help in listening to music? Which of them actually is ‘music’? The CDs certainly sound like music when you put them in the machine; you only need to know how to switch it on. The instruments make some sort of music if you know how to play them. The books explain music, or help you listen to it, if you can read. But the scores? Would anybody say, if casually asked

17 R. Philip, ‘Historical recordings of orchestras’, in C. Lawson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Orchestra, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 203. 18 In an early encounter with iTunes, doubtless due to my own incompetence, I downloaded a complete performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni which played not in numerical track order, but in alphabetical track order, a truly bizarre experience.



in that room, that it is the scores that are music while the rest are not? (What you can do with a score on its own is extremely limited, unless you have the very specialised ability to read it and hear in your mind what it suggests.) Yet for generations musicologists have behaved as if scores were the only real thing about music. The original focus of musicology on the establishing of authoritative texts was derived from philology, and helped give the emerging discipline in the nineteenth century a positivist sense of scientific authority. The consequence has been that the text has come first: the lines of collected editions on library shelves have somehow acquired a primary status in discussions about music. A distinguished scholar wrote not so long ago of the ‘notated essentials’ of music, to which is applied its ‘performative clothing’.19 But the vast majority of us – the audience, and indeed performers – experience music exactly the other way round. The performance is the primary experience, while the notes, along with many other things, account for how it came to sound that way. The notes are indeed critical to determining how the music sounds, but it is surely the sound which ‘is’ the music. Some different key elements affecting performance can be highlighted by a few recordings of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.20 There is one which actually changes Beethoven’s notes: Herbert von Karajan’s first recording of 1941 with the Berlin Staatskapelle,21 where the horn parts in the first movement have been rewritten (it must be deliberate as they do it twice) to play in thirds the way people think horns play, instead of playing with the harmony. (So they play a written D in bar 90 instead of the written C.) No doubt this was some old edition or corrupt tradition which was subsequently corrected: I have never found an origin for this tradition. In contrast, one of Furtwängler’s recordings, recorded a decade later than Karajan’s, in 1953,22 changes Beethoven’s metronome marks – a much more common practice this, indeed at one time almost universal. The Trio of the Scherzo sounds the battle hymn of some distant republic at dotted minim equals 42 (as against Beethoven’s mark of 84). Toscanini, on the other hand, performed it at Beethoven’s speed as early as 1935 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.23 There would be many who would argue that the metronome marks are not part of ‘the piece’ at all, but just an aid to interpretation to be followed or ignored at will. In the second movement of the symphony there is an issue about the articulation at the end of the movement. This is the question of which notes are arco or pizzicato in the 19 N. Cook, ‘Music as performance’, in M. Clayton, T. Herbert and R. Middleton (eds.), The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction, New York and London, Routledge, 2003. 20 See my Royal Philharmonic Society lecture ‘Tradition isn’t what it used to be’, 24 February 2001. 21 Berlin Staatskapelle/Herbert von Karajan, DG 423 526–2. 22 Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler, DG 427 401. 23 BBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo Toscanini, BBC Legends BBCL4016–2.

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violins, as the manuscript is not ideally clear at this point. A new proposal was made in the recent edition of the symphonies by Jonathan Del Mar for Bärenreiter,24 and was recorded by Claudio Abbado in his last Berlin Philharmonic cycle.25 It has not been generally followed in recent accounts I have heard, and is not a detail which makes a huge difference, but in a purist sense it does change ‘the work’. The question this raises is: what is part of ‘the work’ and what is part of ‘the performance’? Of the three things glanced at here, the notes, the metronome marks and the articulations, traditional thinking would of course say that the notes are most critical. But in this case, in terms of the effect of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony as we heard it, it was undoubtedly what many would regard as the least central, the metronome mark, that had the greatest effect. Furtwängler’s thought about that Trio was far more characterful in determining how we heard Beethoven’s Seventh than was an altered note from Karajan. The evidence of Furtwängler’s performance is that the piece meant something very different to him from whatever it meant to Toscanini. Surely this is how we react to performances generally, even if the wrong notes are not so deliberate and the product of the heat of the moment. (Who could possibly say that a performance of Beethoven’s ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata with a sprinkling of unachieved attempts at certain notes was actually not a performance of the ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata? I did, however, once hear on the radio a performance of the first movement of the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata with all the right notes in place, which, however, was so unimaginably slow that it made you question whether you were really hearing ‘the piece’.) A performer of genius sets his own terms and takes a view in a performance around which the notes of the music swirl, and a genius in that context is surely someone who can persuade us that this is the only possible performance for the length of time it takes. I loved the testimony of an orchestral player about taking part in a performance of the great Carlos Kleiber. ‘You can imagine it being done differently, but not done better!’ He then thought and added with a laugh, ‘actually you can’t imagine it being done differently!’ You feel there’s a core of interpretation, surrounded by the notes – exactly the opposite of the traditional musicologist’s view that there is a fixed score, realised in differing interpretations. Lawrence Rosenwald surely took a sensible middle view when he wrote that the identity of a piece of music is ‘something existing in the relation between its notation and the field of its performances’.26 24 Beethoven Symphonies 1–9, ed. J. del Mar, Kassel, Bärenreiter, 1996–2001. 25 Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Claudio Abbado, DG 469 004–2. 26 L. Rosenwald, ‘Theory, text-setting and performance’, Journal of Musicology, 11 (1993), 52–65. Discussed by Cook, ‘Music as performance’, p. 207.



All this is, of course, to reduce to banality a point over which great philosophical minds have laboured long and hard, often to little effect.27 All we need to agree is that performance matters. It is the means by which we, audiences and performers, actually experience music. Such a view has not been traditionally popular, but it is gaining in importance in the scholarly community, and it is one of the impulses that lie behind this book. A head-on challenge to conventional thinking has come from Nicholas Cook: ‘It is only when you have started thinking of music as performance that the peculiarly timeresisting properties of works in the Western “art” tradition come fully into relief.’ He attacks ‘the extraordinary illusion, for that is what it is, that there is such a thing as music, rather than simply acts of making and receiving it [my italics], [which] might well be considered the basic premise of the Western “art” tradition’. While some claim a transcendental permanence for pieces of music, Cook points up the ‘fragility of this snatching of eternity, as it were, from the jaws of evanescence’.28 Because of our valuing of its achievement and its impact on us, there is a tendency to think of great music as a monument, a supreme example of Western civilisation, and that therefore it must be a ‘thing’. There is a limited sense in which that is true, but we must accept that its effect is transitory and depends wholly on re-creation. This is not negative but a richness: to a far greater extent than in other art-forms like literature or the visual art, in music we the performers and listeners have to be the cocreators. We are empowered participants. The result is that for generations, we have written the history of music as the history of composers and compositions, sometimes extending to context and social change. But the history of performance has been as potent an influence on the course of the history of music, and the history of performance has never really been written.

Why study performance? If performance is the primary means by which we experience music, then the issue of how and why it has changed over time should be important to us. Moreover, in our lifetime there have been acute challenges to received performance style: on the one hand from creatively based, often non-score-based approaches to composition, and on the other by the revival of historically based

27 See for an extreme example S. Davies, Musical Works and Performances: a Philosophical Exploration, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2001; more fruitfully, P. Kivy, Authenticities: Philosophical Reflections on Musical Performance, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1995. 28 Cook, ‘Music as performance’, p. 208. This chapter is by some way the most powerful summary of the case for music as performance.

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styles by the period-instrument movement. As such new areas open up, performers have become more thoughtful and questioning about what lies behind their work, and this is a trend noticeable in British conservatoires; performance as creative practice has finally become accepted as a subject for academic research. Even so, there were some raised eyebrows both in the scholarly world and in the world of musical conservatoires when the Arts and Humanities Research Council gave a major research grant of nearly £1m to establish CHARM, the Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music from April 2004. There were many mutterings: what did studying recordings of the past have to do either with the central business of analysing the score, which had been the traditional role of musicology, or with the present-day task of teaching students to play, the traditional role of the conservatoire? In fact CHARM, and its more practice-based (but less memorably named) successor CMPCP, the Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice, both engage valuably with the practicalities of performance in a reflective context. Both complement and drive forward the work that had begun in both universities and conservatoires in using recordings and studying performances. The study of changes in performance style can be illuminating for scholars and performers alike, as they tussle with the question of what is an appropriate performing style for today in various repertoires. Do performers need to acquire what Will Crutchfield, nicely reflecting the technologies of a couple of decades ago, called ‘a floppy-disc mentality’ towards a bank of performance styles in the brain, all equally ready to be drawn on for different kinds of music?29 Recordings make such a databank easily available, and perhaps encourage students to react to that, rather than start from scratch: a good or bad challenge? Daniel Leech-Wilkinson suggests that living performance styles change by tiny mutations which accumulate, and it is only when you hear old recordings that you can identify and isolate those changes.30 The problem in adopting an academically rigorous approach to the study of performance is that at present we are only working towards agreed methodologies for undertaking such analysis, whereas those analysing scores have generations of argument and agreement about how to do it.31 Perhaps printed and broadcast music criticism over the years has something to answer for in this 29 W. Crutchfield, ‘Fashion, conviction and performance style in an age of revivals’, in N. Kenyon (ed.), Authenticity and Early Music, Oxford University Press, 1988, pp. 19–26. 30 D. Leech-Wilkinson, ‘Recordings and histories of performance style’, in N. Cook, E. Clarke, D. LeechWilkinson and J. Rink (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Recorded Music, Cambridge University Press, 2009, a major advance in thinking about this subject. 31 A different avenue not explored here is ‘a mode of analysis which might benefit rather than constrain performers’: J. Rink, ‘Analysis and (or?) performance’, in Rink (ed.), Musical Performance: A Guide to Understanding, Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 35; and N. Cook, ‘Analysing performance and performing analysis’, in N. Cook and M. Everist (eds.), Rethinking Music, Oxford University Press, 1999.



context. I would plead guilty to the charge that the habitual language of such discourse – in an average newspaper concert review or an edition of ‘Building a Library’ on BBC Radio 3’s CD Review – is largely anecdotal and descriptive, rather than analytical. That may be appropriate for its purpose (which is in the case of ‘Building a Library’ to recommend a chosen recording for the audience to buy) but it has set the parameters for the subject of discussing recordings in what now seems an unfortunately loose way.32 I recall the composer and critie Virgil Thomson demolishing the rich British critical tradition at one New York dinner party along the lines of ‘you are all just gentlemen amateurs: you went to Oxbridge and were part of Brideshead Revisited and thought that gave you some qualification to write about music!’ And, historically, the great gentlemen of British musical criticism were indeed amateurs in the truest sense, enthusiastically knowledgeable music-lovers who could communicate with a wide audience: to Ernest Newman, Neville Cardus, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Peter Heyworth and Andrew Porter we owe much for the popularisation of informed thinking about music in the United Kingdom. That tradition of writing from curiosity and interest goes back to George Bernard Shaw, who can still be read with pleasure (as can Virgil Thomson); but the attempt to make truly analytical writing accessible peaked with the brilliant programme notes of Donald Tovey.33 It was not until the supremely communicative analysis of the American Charles Rosen that the trend of popularising analysis was reinvigorated.34 Rosen is a performer, and the writings of another exceptional performer, Alfred Brendel, have brought together analysis and performance in a stimulating way, encouraging thinking about how the deep investigation of musical gesture and structure can actually be reflected in performance.35 Recent scholarly activity has begun to formalise and to codify the study of performance. The pages of the Oxford University Press journal Early Music under Tess Knighton’s enlightened editorship and after have amply demonstrated this in earlier repertoires. In later music, to take at random one example, Bernard D. Sherman’s meticulous analysis of speeds in performances of the Brahms symphonies36 makes comparisons not only between movement timings in a wealth of recorded versions, but also approaches the study of 32 Daniel Leech-Wilkinson takes a rather more generous view of this activity in The Changing Sound of Music: Approaches to Studying Musical Performances, London, CHARM, 2009, online at www.charm.kcl.ac. uk/studies/chapters/intro.html, section 1.2.2. 33 D. Tovey, Studies in Musical Analysis, 5 vols., Oxford University Press, 1935. 34 C. Rosen, The Classical Style, London, Faber, 1971. 35 A. Brendel, Alfred Brendel on Music: Collected Essays, 2nd edn, London, JR Books, 2007. This volume combines essays from Brendel’s Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts and Music Sounded Out. 36 B. D. Sherman, ‘Metronome marks, timings and other period evidence regarding tempo in Brahms’, in M. Musgrave and B. D. Sherman (eds.), Performing Brahms: Early Evidence of Performance Style, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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flexibility in tempo within movements. The 2010 yearbook of Keyboard Perspectives from the Westfield Center includes both an attempt to suggest how the reconstruction of Chopin’s performing style might also re-create the ‘ineffability’ of his playing, as well as a stimulating consideration of historically informed performance in Webern’s Variations Op. 27.37 One of the major research projects of CMPCP will be about ‘shape’ in musical phrasing, and how that is developed and perceived by performers.38 It was hardly surprising that when scholars eventually turned from analysing works to analysing performances they would try to do so in equally scientific, positivist and provable ways. This has produced some fascinating results, one of which had an impact on the story of performance today far beyond the narrow realms of academe. CHARM carried out a study into different performance styles of Chopin mazurkas, involving detailed scientific analyses of performance variations. In the middle of this something very odd happened.39 They had developed a clever graphic demonstration which could compare different recordings of a Chopin mazurka, with coloured sections showing different degrees of variation. One chart showed the similarities between a 1988 recording of Chopin’s Mazurka Op. 68 No. 3 by the pianist Eugen Indjic and one by the British pianist Joyce Hatto, who died in June 2006 (she had given no live performances for many years, but had released on the Concert Artists Recordings label a whole flood of recordings over the previous years). The analysis proved that these two recordings are not only similar but actually identical. The same conclusion was suggested by a listener who put a Hatto recording into his iTunes system, and had it immediately identified as a different recorded performance. Conclusive proof followed that most of the 119 recordings issued under Hatto’s name were versions, sometimes manipulated, slowed down or speeded up, of existing recordings, made by her husband William Barrington-Coupe and released on his label Concert Artists Recordings. This was a bizarre fraud which has a salutary message for performance today. What technology gives us – the ability to fake or manipulate a recording – technology can take away – via iTunes technology and computer analysis. We are conditioned to believe that live recordings are what actually happened, but how many versions and edits go even now into what are today referred to as ‘live’ recordings? Perhaps two or three live recordings are brought together 37 J. D. Bellman, ‘Chopin’s pianism and the reconstruction of the ineffable’, in A. Richards (ed.), Keyboard Perspectives III, The Yearbook of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies, Ithaca, NY, Westfield Center, 2010, pp. 1–22; N. Mathew, ‘Darmstadt pianism. “Historically informed” Webern and modernism’s vanishing performer’, ibid., pp. 49–74. 38 www.cmpcp.ac.uk/research.html. See Daniel Leech-Wilkinson’s project. 39 www.mazurka.org.uk.



and the best results taken from each. If there was only one ‘live’ performance, usually the rehearsal has been recorded to cover any problems. It is often suspected (see Stephen Cottrell, Chapter 28) that recordings have changed our expectations of musical performance away from spontaneity and towards mere accuracy. Some musicians feel they can achieve perfection more readily in the confines of a recording studio than in the concert hall,40 but many others feel the real experience of music-making is better captured live. For the audience, nothing beats the experience of seeing the person do it in front of our own eyes.

Tradition or Chinese whispers? This leads to a second reason why studying performance is essential, one which is perhaps more controversial. The alarmingly cosy assumption of too much music teaching has been that there was a single, clear way to create a good performance, in a tradition handed down from composer to teacher to pupil. (The New Grove puts it that ‘the history of performance shows multigenerational chains of apprenticeship and pedagogy’.)41 This was always suspect, dangerously complacent and always challenged by the best teachers and the most individual pupils. Perhaps it has almost disappeared. But the primacy of influence lay as an unspoken seal of good housekeeping upon certain stylistic approaches – if the piano was taught by a pupil who learned from someone who was taught by Czerny, the outcome must be right, or at least respectable. This was how different national schools were defined, replicated and handed down to new generations, even if the conditions that created them had ceased to exist. The extent to which the tradition was actually continuous or whether it had been interrupted by seismic cultural shifts was rarely debated. Yet the result could very easily be like one of those games of Chinese Whispers in which A whispers a phrase to B, B whispers what he thinks he heard to C – and by the time it reaches Z the phrase is completely different – especially in this case as many years may have passed between A and Z. (Richard Taruskin, in one of his typically acerbic asides, characterised the historical performance movement as cheating at this game, where Z just goes round to A and says ‘Is this chair free?’ and sits in it 200 years later.)42

40 R. Philip, Performing Music in an Age of Recording, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2004. 41 Dunsby, ‘Performance’, p. 348. 42 R. Taruskin, ‘Tradition and authority’, Early Music, 20 (1992), 318, reprinted in Text and Act, Oxford University Press, 1995; he calls the same game by its American name, ‘Telephone’.

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There is also the familiar appeal to continuous tradition as validation, something repeatedly stressed by long-running institutions like the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. This is an orchestra that genuinely does pass down its skills from generation to generation, sometimes actually from father to son, and from teacher to pupil within the same orchestral family. In the symposium for their 150th anniversary, they spoke proudly of their continuous links to the sound world of Beethoven’s Vienna, as if nothing could have changed in those 150 years.43 The clear implication was that the continuity of the institution guaranteed the continuity of the sound world, or at least guaranteed its connected spirit. Somewhat overlooked were the whole growth and establishment of public concerts, the development of instrument technology, the demands of larger performing spaces, the codification of the repertoire, the political upheavals that drove musicians into exile all over Europe, to merely begin a list of the radical changes further explored by Michael Musgrave in Chapter 24. The relationship between continuity and discontinuity in both teaching situations and performing organisations is an important area for further investigation. In the notes to the Vienna Philharmonic’s Beethoven symphony cycle recorded with Simon Rattle, issued in 2002, the orchestra’s president writes in the old mode: ‘There are bona fide reasons why the Vienna Philharmonic should regard itself as a guardian of musical authenticity’ but then adds: ‘like all timeless works of art, Beethoven’s symphonies have to be discovered afresh and appropriated by each new generation. Simon Rattle has brought the new forms of expression of the 21st century to bear on them’.44 These ‘new forms of expression’ are of course, in this case, mainly the insights of the early music movement that had for so long been ignored by the Vienna Philharmonic!

Technology abolishes tradition Our experience of performance today is radically different from that of previous eras. The central experience that has transformed our approach to performance is the development of new technology: the sheer availability of music has created a sea-change in our whole approach to repertoire, tradition and performance style. To vastly oversimplify, for a long time tradition developed directly. The only places where a corpus of the music of the distant past existed were in the cathedral tradition (where old music was always sung), and in some aspects of 43 O. Biba and W. Schuster (eds.), Klang und Komponist: 150 Jahre Wiener Philharmoniker, Tutzing, Schneider 1992, pp. 431–5. 44 Booklet note to Beethoven symphonies, EMI Classics, 7243 5 57445 2.



the teaching tradition (where counterpoint was taught through old models, as Mozart learned from Fux). Until the revival of ‘ancient music’ began in concerts in the eighteenth century, most people listened essentially to contemporary music. Otherwise it was the immediate past that existed alongside the music of the present. New composers accepted, developed, rejected or modified that tradition, sometimes in revolutionary ways. Composers deliberately placed themselves in a great tradition. When Brahms struggled with his First Symphony, he felt powerfully the influence of Beethoven. He did not reject that influence, and when the great scholar and critic Friedrich Chrysander reviewed the symphony he wrote that ‘the reference to Beethoven’s last or Ninth Symphony is so obvious here that we cannot postulate a weak, unproductive imitative intent. What we have here is a conscious intent, an artistic will that gives the work its historical significance.’ It was not a coincidence that it was those composers such as Brahms, feeling closely bound to tradition, who became most interested in the music of the past: Brahms owned the manuscript of Mozart’s 40th Symphony; he edited the Requiem for the new collected edition, and revived the choral heritage of Schütz and Gabrieli in his own concerts. The references to Bach in his Fourth Symphony are overt and deliberate; some also hear the relentless tread of the opening of Bach’s St Matthew Passion in the timpani strokes that underpin the opening of his First Symphony.45 Transmuting, not abandoning, tradition was what writing ‘new’ music was all about. There is a similarity here with what T. S. Eliot wrote about ‘the main current’ of poetic development: ‘we do wrong, when we praise a poet, to insist upon those aspects of his work in which he least resembles anyone else. We shall often find that not only the best but also the individual parts of his works may be those in which the great poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously.’46 That notion of a single developing tradition persisted for a long time. If you were going to experience orchestral music in the nineteenth century, you went to concerts, and perhaps bought chamber arrangements or piano duet arrangements to play at home. Performance style was hardly reflected on by the public, though Wagner’s On Conducting47 and other key pieces of thinking perhaps created a self-consciousness of style that had not existed before. The growth of a canon of accepted pieces of the past grew very gradually out of the antiquarian interests of the enlightened eighteenth century and the writing of music history by Charles Burney and John Hawkins. 45 Booklet notes for EMI recording by Roger Norrington and London Classical Players, EMI Classics 54286. 46 T. S. Eliot, ‘Tradition and the individual talent’, in The Sacred Wood, London, Methuen, 1920. 47 R. Wagner, Wagner on Conducting, trans. E. Dannreuther, New York, Dover, 1989.

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(The stages in this formulation of the canon have been documented by William Weber,48 see also his Chapter 2, and discussed by Joseph Kerman, see below.) It took root during the growth of public concerts in the nineteenth century, where institutions like the Royal Philharmonic Society in London and the directors of the orchestral bodies such as the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Vienna Philharmonic first formulated, consciously or unconsciously, a canon of ‘great music’. They wanted to feel that there was a validated, respected repertoire of music which should be communicated to the public. The impulse behind these educative intentions needs to be explored further; the effect was certainly longlasting, because a remarkable number of the decisions about what was important (like many other features of nineteenth-century concert practice, including orchestral players’ concert dress, a ridiculous anachronism) survive today in the need and desire to agree what constitutes the significant core elements of classical music. The canon was never fixed: it changed and developed. We would now take a more nuanced view of the influences on the canon than Joseph Kerman’s bald but influential statement: ‘Repertories are determined by performers, and canons by critics.’49 The key question of how reception influences the canon, and why performers choose to perform what they perform, has been the subject of very little reflection. (For every performer who wants to expand the repertoire, there are many, perhaps especially conductors, who want to perform what they know audiences want to hear.) ‘The test of time’ is often talked about in this context, but this is actually shifting and highly volatile. In the literary field, Barbara Herrnstein Smith has identified those involved in that process: ‘schools, libraries, theatres, museums, publishing and printing houses, editorial boards, prize-awarding commissions, state censors and so forth . . . are, of course, all managed by persons . . . and, since the texts that are selected and preserved by “time” will always be tend to be those which “fit” their characteristic needs, interests, resources, and purposes, that testing mechanism has its own built-in partialities.’50 For ‘texts’ read ‘music’, add ‘orchestras’ and ‘festivals’, and you have at least the beginning of an explanation of why some music gets performed and survives while some does not.

48 W. Weber, ‘The history of musical canon’, in Cook and Everist (eds.), Rethinking Music, especially p. 341. 49 J. Kerman, ‘A few canonic variations’, Critical Inquiry, 10 September 1983, 107–26, reprinted in R. van Hallberg (ed.), Canons, University of Chicago Press, 1984, p. 182. 50 B. Herrnstein Smith, ‘Contingencies of value’, in Critical Inquiry, 10 September 1983, 1–35, quoted by Mark Everist in ‘Reception theories, canonic discourses, and musical value’, in Cook and Everist (eds.), Rethinking Music, pp. 392–3, an ideal introduction to this subject.



The impact of recording and broadcasting Why has all this happened? Now that we can look at it from the perspective of the twenty-first century, the answer is blindingly clear. There have been huge changes in taste, and there have also been huge parallel changes in compositional style and the social circumstances of music-making. But the essential change from all previous eras is that we have now lived through a century of recording and broadcasting, which has made a vast range of music continuously available to us in a way that has never existed before. How could this overwhelming change not have a decisive impact on our way of listening to and understanding music? We are not in a linear development any more: the simultaneity of all music is something fundamentally new. Recording was originally thought of as just preserving a live performance, a faithful transcript of what happened (though the constrictions of early recording techniques made the performances that were captured in awkward circumstances often anything but natural).51 Radio broadcasting was thought of as something that simply made live performances more available to a wider audience. The influence of the possible repeated hearings that lay at the heart of recordings was central but overlooked. As the recording business grew, marketing became critical; through recording, Enrico Caruso was the first singer to become more than a touring artist: he became an international phenomenon. We were rather slow to grasp the implications of that preservation and that wider communication. As Timothy Day and Robert Philip have pointed out in their important recent studies of recordings,52 and Stephen Cottrell explores further in Chapter 28, recording began to affect musicmaking in many ways. The emphasis on accuracy is only one way in which recordings created new expectations of the concert experience – in that case, a change which may have had an inhibiting effect on performers. One result was that special styles of recording grew up which created a new genre of music-making suited purely to that medium. Leopold Stokowski was the first major conductor consciously to use the power of recording for his own ends.53 Another example, which deserves to be explored further, is the distinctive style of orchestral performance pioneered by Walter Legge with the Philharmonia Orchestra which he founded after the Second World War 51 However, for an important qualification about photographs of early recording sessions, see R. Philip, ‘Historical recordings of orchestras’, in Lawson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Orchestra, p. 270, n. 1: ‘players have been grouped closely together to bring them into the field of view of the camera’. 52 T. Day, A Century of Recorded Music: Listening to Musical History, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2000; Philip, Performing Music. 53 E. Eisenberg, The Recording Angel: Music, Records and Culture from Aristotle to Zappa, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2nd edn, 2005, p. 126.

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especially to make recordings: surely a direct response to the opportunities offered by the new LP, it cultivated a rich, vibrato-heavy string sound which was perfectly suited to the possibilities of the new medium, as it bore repetition and made the music more immediately attractive in the living room.54 Equally, when the compact disc and digital recording arrived in the mid1980s, they put a premium on clear, sharp, transparent sounds, which suited perfectly the taste of the times; in particular, it enhanced the attractiveness of the emerging period-instrument orchestral movement. It was precisely that period which saw the triumph with the CD-buying public of old-instrument Bach Brandenburg Concertos and Handel Messiahs, and then periodinstrument Beethoven symphony cycles as the record companies rushed to re-record familiar repertoire with the frisson of a new clarity and excitement. Unfortunately it was the short-sightedness of those record companies, which believed that this triumph of reinterpretation could last for ever, without sensing the potential of new media, that created the crisis for the larger companies in the 2000s. Smaller companies flourished, however, finding new hoards of rare repertoire and new performers to present, while their larger counterparts struggled with the challenge of a business model for digital downloads and web-based delivery. Similarly, radio from the beginning had created new music and formed taste. Jenny Doctor has written illuminatingly about the BBC’s enlightened support for the most advanced modern music in the late 1920s and 1930s,55 thanks to the presence on the staff of such figures as Edward Clark, and conductors as open-minded as Adrian Boult. Boult conducted the UK premiere of Berg’s Wozzeck after weeks of rehearsal in 1934; he and others introduced a vast range of new and recent music by Bartók, Prokofiev, Hindemith, Schoenberg, Falla, often with the composers present, performing or conducting, especially in the famous Concerts of Contemporary Music.56 That alignment of the BBC with adventurous music, particularly from the Continent, has been a leitmotif – ignored at times, in the conservative Proms of the 1950s under Malcolm Sargent, but then recurring in the 1960s when William Glock introduced to the Proms and the Third Programme works of the Second Viennese School, Messiaen, Boulez and Stockhausen (alongside an equally wide-ranging and

54 See M. Katz, Capturing Music: How Technology has Changed Music, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2004 , pp. 85–99; for a different analysis of vibrato in violin playing, and for a polemical view see R. Norrington, ‘The sound orchestras make’, Early Music, 32 (2004), 2–6. 55 J. Doctor, The BBC and Ultra-Modern Music 1922–1936: Shaping a Nation’s Tastes, Cambridge University Press, 1999. 56 Listed in detail up to 1936, ibid., Appendix B, pp. 366–89; see also N. Kenyon, The BBC Symphony Orchestra, London, BBC Books, 1981, pp. 488–98.



adventurous early music repertoire from Machaut to Monteverdi).57 It continues today in the regular BBC commissions heard at the Proms and in the concerts of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, while in recent times there has been a definite increase in the commitment to new music in the work of most UK orchestras. Another key trend is that, through discs, radio and the web, ‘world music’ has become as available to us as music from near to home. It is no use debating whether this trend (or the much disputed label for it) is a good or a bad thing: it simply is. Back in the 1920s musicians argued blindly against broadcasting, because it would supposedly diminish the provision of live music. It had exactly the reverse effect, stimulating a dramatic expansion in the appreciation of great music across the country. As Michael Tippett once said, ‘without the BBC, our musical life could never have become so rich and so thriving’. From The World in 100 Objects to Fairest Isle and Sounding the Century, radio has been crucial to our cultural lives. In Simon Garfield’s book, Our Hidden Lives, compiling Mass Observation diaries from the post-war period, there are moving testimonies to the power of radio as vehicle for music.58 Simon Frith argues for radio as ‘the most influential 20th century mass medium’, writing that ‘it was radio that shaped the new voice of public intimacy, that created Britain as a mediated collectivity . . . radio transformed the use of domestic space, blurring the boundary between public and private, idealising the family hearth as the site of ease and entertainment’.59 And even though the family hearth may be a thing of the past, radio is still a dominant influence on popular and classical musical taste. The influence of recordings on performance was, for a while, equally topdown. The record companies chose the great artists, and it built them up, nurtured them, marketed them and then had to follow their demands and their whims. This was a complex process in which commercial acumen joined hands with the growing popular thirst for great culture to be widely available. (One of the very few important studies of this area is Paul Kildea’s work on the recordings of Benjamin Britten.)60 Some conductors and performers acquired a remarkable cultural and financial power through the years of the LP and then the CD, and created a radical imbalance in reputations. Because of their limited recorded activity, Henry Wood, Malcolm Sargent, Adrian Boult and even Thomas Beecham did not have anything like the international profile and reputation of Arturo Toscanini and Herbert von Karajan, whose effective 57 D. Wright, ‘Reinventing the Proms: the Glock and Ponsonby eras 1959–85’, in J. Doctor, N. Kenyon and D. Wright (eds.), The Proms: A New History, London, Thames & Hudson, 2007. 58 S. Garfield, Our Hidden Lives: The Remarkable Diaries of Post-War Britain , London, Ebury Press, 2004. 59 S. Frith, ‘Music and everyday life’, in M. Clayton, T. Herbert and R. Middleton (eds.), The Cultural Study of Music, New York and London, Routledge, 2003, p. 96. 60 P. Kildea, Selling Britten: Music and the Marketplace, Oxford University Press, 2002.

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manipulations of the record companies may be read about in enjoyably gruesome detail.61 Those conductors and other leading classical artists were perhaps at their peak of influence in the 1960s, when the EMI royalty lists interestingly reveal that in the first quarter of 1964 Karajan earned £10,903, and Maria Callas £10,022, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau £7,165 and Klemperer £6,234 (against Cliff Richard’s £18,848 and the Beatles’ £46,983).62 The pre-eminence of conductors today as varied as Bernard Haitink, Colin Davis, Mariss Jansons, John Eliot Gardiner and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, with their huge discographies, all richly deserved in musical terms, was made possible by an extensive network of record-company contracts over the years, which ensured that they were partnered with some of the world’s leading orchestras and artists, and were marketed by the major companies (all those named have worked, for example, with the Vienna Philharmonic, and most have recorded with the Concertgebouw Orchestra). The result of the economic challenge to record companies has not been their disappearance, but their reinvention. John Eliot Gardiner’s public split with Deutsche Grammophon over his Bach cantata cycle and the emergence of his own Soli Deo Gloria label to release and complete that major series was just the most visible example of ruptures taking place behind the scene.63 The most characteristic sign of our times is the emergence of orchestral and opera house own-label ventures, supported by the musicians themselves, from the LSO, the Mariinsky Theatre, the London Philharmonic, the Hallé, often combining archive releases with new recordings in a way that builds a brand for the companies rather than the record label. Today the smaller companies are extremely active; overall there are fewer new recordings, but that is surely because there were so many unnecessary ones in the past. The doom-mongers who said that the classical recording industry is dead have been proved decisively wrong,64 but the correct analysis to which they pointed is that the industry is having radically to reinvent itself.

Live music, modern and postmodern There have been voices over recent decades to suggest that the era of live music is over, that you will experience music better in a great recording than in a

61 J. Horowitz, Understanding Toscanini, New York, Knopf, 1987; R. Osborne, Herbert von Karajan: A Life in Music, London, Chatto & Windus, 1998. 62 www.overgrownpath.com entry for 6 October 2009. 63 See a nice reading of the meaning of the label title SDG in T. Blanning, The Triumph of Music: The Rise of Composers, Musicans and their Art, London, Allen Lane, 2008, p. 400, n. 9. 64 N. Lebrecht, When the Music Stops, Managers, Maestros and the Corporate Murder of Classical Music, London, Pocket Books, 1997, a tendentious book which begins with a quotation from T. S. Eliot attributed to the wrong poem.



noisy concert hall, that in a time of ever more sophisticated recording techniques and digital distribution, all you need is an iPod and a deep armchair. It was that great pianist Glenn Gould who, forswearing the hurly-burly of the concert hall in 1964 for the deep peace of the recording studio, said he hoped people would not be going to live concerts in the next century. Think what you could avoid: struggling through the public transport system, over-priced coffee, people next to you coughing and spluttering, the struggle to get a drink in the interval and not to miss the last train home. Yet thousands upon thousands of people continue to do it, regularly, for the unbeatable inspiration of the live event. There is every sign that audiences are continuing to flock to great experiences, and in the recent economic crisis this has still proved to be true. Audiences have increased consistently over the last decade and more, partly thanks to a bedrock of sustained funding, which enabled artistic development. However great the funding challenges following the economic crisis, this resilience of the framework for concert-giving provides great hope for the future of performance, and a solid base on which to build. (Naturally, as I am responsible for a venue, I take a more positive view of the future of live performance than David Wright’s conclusion in Chapter 6 below that the reception of music will increasingly take place in the ‘self-constructed meanings of the private domain’, though we agree that the impact on canon and repertoire is likely to be radical.) Like every other area of activity, live performance too has been reinvented. Over the years I was involved in the BBC Proms from 1996 to 2007, there was a revolution in their dissemination: the arrival of free-to-air digital television allowed a far greater number of Proms than ever before to be televised, at a time when some other arts programming on television was under threat. The arrival of sophisticated big-screen technology allowed the invention of Proms in the Park for large audiences. Eventually every concert was streamed on the BBC website, and that meant they were instantly, freely, internationally available. There was much more interaction, participation, reviews from the audience, message-board debates. Surely one of the great excitements of performance in our time, which has made it the subject of debate and controversy, is the fact that we have not just been reproducing or continuing old styles, but have moved forward so that the idea of live performance has been moulded and remoulded, to mirror our changing tastes. The innovations of the historical performance movement remain to be fully documented: I was very struck by Daniel LeechWilkinson’s recent conclusion that the ‘outstandingly interesting’ aspect of this was that ‘probably for the first time since at least c1600, perhaps for the first time ever, an entirely new performance style was forged deliberately from

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nothing more than the will to change, and – most remarkable of all – it was made to work’.65 The question remains: what brought about this will to change? The process was surely driven by a cultural imperative, a subliminal dissatisfaction with the prevailing ways of doing things that led to a decisive shift in taste. Changes in approaches to performance have fascinatingly mirrored changes in approaches to composition. How very similar, in contrasting ways, are the statements of two post-war leaders of radical change, the conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the composer Pierre Boulez. Harnoncourt’s dogmatic declaration in the 1950s was that ‘an interpretation must be attempted in which the entire romantic tradition of performance is ignored . . . today we only want to accept the composition itself as a source, and present it as our own responsibility. The attempt must thus again be made today . . . to hear and perform [pieces] as if they had never been interpreted before, as if they had never been formed nor distorted.’66 Pierre Boulez has pleaded for a return to amnesia: ‘In an age ever more burdened with memory, to forget surely becomes of the utmost urgency . . . In straining for authenticity, we achieve only a sterile memory.’ He believes that today we need only memory of ‘an ungraspable, distorting, unfaithful kind, which retains of an original source only that which is directly useful and ultimately perishable.’67 Boulez’s are the words of a creator, while Harnoncourt’s are those of an interpreter. What they have in common is a strong strain of aggression towards the recent, immediate past, a desire to wipe the slate clean and start again: Harnoncourt the performer by appealing to history, Boulez the composer by creating the totally new. The fact that both of these were, in practice, impossible does not undervalue the importance of the position they took. We have experienced, both in composition and performance, a short-lived period of total rejection of the past, followed by a much longer period of increasing integration. The heady days of post-war serialism, just like the strident early days of the authenticity movement, even if wrong-headed, were a time of absolutely inevitable and necessary rejection of the past, an act of reaction to the biggest turmoil in European history. Some really valuable music, some really worthwhile performances, emerged: the boundaries had to be explored to their limits. The damage was done as usual not by the innovators, but by those who thoughtlessly copied them without the same range and imagination, turning originality into clichés. What happened in the later 1980s was a reintegration of contemporary composition in an extremely exciting way, 65 Leech-Wilkinson, ‘Recordings and histories’, pp. 253–4. 66 N. Harnoncourt, ‘On the interpretation of historical music’, (1954) repr. and trans. in Baroque Music Today, Portland, OR, Amadeus, 1988, pp. 14–18. Quoted in Kenyon (ed.), Authenticity and Early Music, introduction, p. 4. 67 P. Boulez, ‘The Vestal Virgin and the fire-stealer: memory, creation and authenticity’, Early Music, 18 (1990), 355–8.



one that paralleled what was to happen a decade or two later with the early music movement. It was not the death of the avant-garde, any more than the development of performance saw the death of the early music movement. It was the absorption of that avant-garde onto a much broader musical canvas, where elements of recent tradition, far-off influences, the avant-garde and the minimalist tendency could come together. The result in Britain today is the music of Thomas Adès, Julian Anderson and Luke Bedford, Harrison Birtwistle and Colin Matthews, Oliver Knussen and Mark-Anthony Turnage, Helen Grimes and Anna Meredith, a compositional range of amazing richness and variety.

Integrating historical performance As with composition, so too with performance today. There was a period of extreme innovation, of polarised change, defined in opposition to mainstream performance, which has gradually been integrated into a renewed performance tradition. There was a moment when, in trying to escape the bounds of an increasingly sterile and hidebound practice, the historical performance movement made unwarranted claims for itself. The attraction of a ‘neutral’ performance that connected directly with the composer was one of the aspects that gave the argument around ‘authentic’ performance such a powerful edge when that controversy was at its height. One of the attractions of the early music movement was that it seemed to offer the possibility of performances that were just the notes on the page: as one optimistic review put it, ‘a performance not merely under-interpreted but un-interpreted offers potentially an experience of unequalled authenticity’.68 We can be sure that none of the great early music revivalists, such as Gustav Leonhardt or Nikolaus Harnoncourt, would have subscribed for a moment to the idea of uninterpreted music-making, but it did underlie a lot of the thinking: ‘letting the music speak for itself’ became a late twentieth-century mantra, and not only among early music people, but in contemporary music circles too. Laurence Dreyfus, memorably but I believe mistakenly, said that the early music revival ‘drew a wondrous curtain on reality, forcibly repressed every sign of the present, and provided escapism from the horrors of the new’.69 On the contrary, maybe to the irritation of a generation of composers, early music was the new, and opened our ears to a whole new

68 E. van Tassel, review of Academy of Ancient Music’s Mozart symphonies, in Early Music, 12 (1984), 129. 69 L. Dreyfus, ‘Early music defended against its devotees: a theory of historical performance in the twentieth century’, Musical Quarterly, 49 (1983), 297–322.

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way of making music that sounded as contemporary as the newest piece of music. What is happening now is increasing cross-fertilisation. It is a generation since the pioneers of the period performance movement began to work with modern orchestras to encourage them to change their sound: Roger Norrington and John Eliot Gardiner with the Vienna Philharmonic, Simon Rattle and William Christie with the Berlin Philharmonic, several period-instrument conductors including Trevor Pinnock and Christopher Hogwood with the American orchestras and opera houses. Partly this has been a question of bringing conductors who have worked with period-instrument orchestras more into the centre of our musical life: Norrington’s work with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, pursuing a strictly non-vibrato string sound but on modern instruments, is typically individual. At the same time conductors brought up with conventional instruments have begun to work in the period field: recent conductors of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment have included Ivan Fischer, Vladimir Jurowski, and now Robin Ticciati and Edward Gardner. Near the centre of the performing picture are some chamber orchestras having the best of all worlds: Nikolaus Harnoncourt recording Beethoven symphonies with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe to great acclaim with modern instruments but vigorously individual period insights; Daniel Harding conducting Beethoven with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra using natural trumpets but modern horns; Ivan Fischer giving a Beethoven cycle in New York in 2010 shared between his own Budapest Festival Orchestra on modern instruments and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on period instruments; Ivor Bolton working with the Mozarteum Orchestra, as well as in the opera houses of Munich and Salzburg. It is not an exaggeration to say that these performers and others have transformed public taste over the last thirty years. Almost more remarkable is the change in those who have not used period instruments at all but whose performance style has evolved dramatically as a result of change around them: Bernard Haitink in his increasingly sharp-edged, lithe performances with the LSO and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe; and Claudio Abbado, posing a special problem with his new Orchestra Mozart – can you tell which of his fine recordings are made on period instruments and which not? The clarity and transparency of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s conducting of Berg’s Wozzeck or Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder surely owes a debt both to Boulez and to period-instrument practice. Meanwhile Simon Rattle, almost a decade into his Berlin chief conductorship, absorbs the traditional sound of the Berlin Philharmonic to create in 2009 a recorded Brahms symphony cycle owing



more to Furtwängler than Norrington. The melting-pot of performance styles bubbles away busily, creating new and unexpected brews.

Reinventing the big institutions All this radical questioning might well have led to the death of many of our major institutions. But our traditional orchestras and opera houses are continuing to survive and change their priorities. At one stage composers seemed to be moving away from the symphony orchestra as the favoured means of expression towards different smaller ensembles, and orchestras were resolutely failing to commission adventurous composers. In the 1950s the Proms commissioned little, and the ‘Cheltenham symphony’ backed itself into a siding. In the 1960s the impetus moved to the Pierrot Players founded by Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell Davies, and then to the Fires of London and the sensational achievements of the London Sinfonietta under David Atherton, Nicholas Snowman and then Michael Vyner, all fully reflected in William Glock’s dynamic Proms seasons of the 1960s and early 1970s. That emphasis has shifted subtly in recent years. There has been a noticeable pull back to well-established institutions such as the symphony orchestra and the opera house as a framework for performance and commissioning at the start of the twenty-first century. Perhaps this is because of their comparatively stable economic model, enabling them to take the risks that produce, for example, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole at the Royal Opera. Orchestras, perhaps finally conscious of the very threat to their existence, have committed themselves both to contemporary composition and to a great variety of performance styles. Opera houses have embraced period style: the first was Glyndebourne, which became a pioneer when Simon Rattle brought the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to the house for his Mozart/Da Ponte cycle in the late 1980s; Handel followed there under William Christie. Covent Garden hosted a visit by Christie’s Les arts florissants in 1995 for Purcell’s King Arthur, and in 2009 the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment played there for a Handel/Purcell double bill, bringing periodinstrument bands into the orchestra pit, diversifying the musical experiences on offer to the public, just as directors have diversified (more than some would like) the range of responses to the dramatic language of opera. How far have our professional performing institutions changed? Just sixty years ago, a neglected book was published called Music: A Report on Musical Life in England, sponsored by the Dartington Hall Trustees as one of a series of investigations, begun in 1941 but not completed until after the war, giving some account of the economic structure of our cultural life. It was finally

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published in 1949.70 (Among those involved in the preparation of the report were David Webster, Frank Howes, Thomas Russell and Michael Tippett, with Imogen Holst and Steuart Wilson as advisers.) What emerges very clearly is that this was the decisive moment for the establishment of a system of state support for music that has survived surprisingly intact to this day. The early years of the Arts Council of Great Britain (now Arts Council England), which grew out of the wartime Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, saw the support of a small number of orchestral and operatic companies to give them a sounder footing, and they are still at the core of provision today: the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Hallé, the Liverpool Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic. Four chamber orchestras, interestingly none still extant, received small sums. Sadler’s Wells Opera and the newly refounded Covent Garden were supported, but the report was able to point out that in Paris the Opéra and Opéra-Comique received far more and that in Germany eighty opera houses were subsidised by nation, state or municipality. Looked at simply in terms of public support through funding by Arts Council England, although there are now small amounts of money going to support all manner of new ventures, the vast majority of subsidy funding still goes into relatively few, big organisations. Within Arts Council England’s funding for 2009–1071 the largest recipients of music funding, supported by over £1m a year, are the Royal Opera House (£27.7m), South Bank Centre (£20.8m), English National Opera (£17.9m), Opera North (£9.6m), Welsh National Opera (£6.6m), Sage Gateshead (£3.7m), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (£2.7m), City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (£2.3m), LSO (£2.3m), Hallé (£2.1m), Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (£2.2m), Philharmonia (£2.1m), London Philharmonic (£2.1m), Glyndebourne Touring Opera (£1.5m), English Touring Opera (£1.5m), Aldeburgh Festival (£1.4m) and the Roundhouse (£1m). It is notable how relatively few new entrants to that list there have been in sixty years. Those figures will represent a peak of public funding as the cuts of the years 2011–14 begin to take effect, but it was striking that Arts Council England in its decisions of early 2011 made no radical changes to the balance of symphony orchestra provision, maintaining an equally small cut across all their budgets, while adding to the ‘canon’ of the national portfolio one new smaller orchestra, the Aurora, and two wellestablished period-instrument bands, the Academy of Ancient Music and the English Concert. 70 The Arts Enquiry: Music: A Report on Musical Life in England, sponsored by the Dartington Hall Trustees, Political and Economic Planning, 1949. 71 www.artscouncil.org.uk.



Among the conclusions of the 1949 report was that ‘Britain is at last recognised to be producing some of the great music of our time . . . London has the chance of becoming the musical centre of Europe. British musical life has thus become exciting in itself, full of promise, and important to the British people as a whole.’ However ‘conditions today, though much improved as still far from satisfactory. Few musical organisations have any guarantee of permanence and the chance of doing excellent work. The lack of good buildings for music remains a constant hindrance.’72 This promise has certainly been fulfilled in the area of both performance and buildings: we have world-class orchestras around the UK, new opera companies, ensembles which have flourished in a period of increasing public support but now face challenges from a contracting economy. Public and private funding has provided outstanding buildings for music: Symphony Hall in Birmingham, Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, Sage Gateshead, the Anvil in Basingstoke, the Lighthouse in Poole, the Lowry in Salford, and most recently Aldeburgh Music’s fine new spaces for teaching and performance at Snape Maltings.

Towards a new generation This funding pattern represents a considerable continuity in the musical institutions of the post-war era, and new areas such as non-Western music, the support of diverse cultures, and early music have always had a struggle to establish themselves within a funding system that has so much committed to the continuance of present structures (witness the several failed attempts to reduce the number of London orchestras receiving public subsidy). Now the audience is changing, and changing fast. Thanks to crises in our education system, the assumptions about how new generations enter the world of classical music have been repeatedly challenged in recent years. (The arguments about applause at concerts between movements in symphonies and song cycles surely relate to varying levels of knowledge among the audience, and uncertainty about concert behaviour.) The picture of grants to venues, orchestras and opera houses conceals radically changing agendas in each of these performing organisations. In particular each is making an increasing commitment not only to creating performance at the highest level, but to programmes of education and outreach that complement and nourish that work. The vast growth and flourishing of those programmes of work over the last two decades deserve a special study: because they have become a central part of arts

72 The Arts Enquiry: Music, p. 14.

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organisations’ activities during that period, they have been and continue to be a key agent in changing performance today. This occurred for two linked reasons: first that the governments of the time were failing to provide adequate support for this activity within the education system, and second that it was possible to attract funding from others – trusts and foundations, corporate supporters and private individuals – for this work. A history remains to be written of the visionary efforts that the education departments of ensembles such as the London Sinfonietta under Gillian Moore undertook to build up a creative interaction with schools, communities and young people, inspiring a new generation to look towards them for a model of how to engage with performance and composition. The coming-together of performing groups, for example the London Symphony Orchestra with its well-established LSO Discovery programme in London, and conservatoires, notably the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with its pioneering work under Peter Renshaw, have transformed activity in this field over the last twenty-five years. In the City of London we have now brought the Barbican Centre and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama led by Barry Ife together in a joint department of Creative Learning under its director Sean Gregory, which in an ‘alliance for creative excellence’ with the LSO will offer new pathways to young people, linking local achievement with international excellence. The rapid growth of these outreach programmes has also affected performance directly. Composers have begun to work in a much more interactive way with performers: musicians like Peter Wiegold write collaboratively within a framework which mixes the performers’ creativity with that of the composer. Students from the Royal Academy of Music travel to Bosnia with schoolchildren to create a new version of The Soldier’s Tale across the ethnic divide. At first in pre-concert events, but increasingly also in the concerts themselves, audiences have been involved in the self-generated, imaginatively created music produced by young performers, and this has begun to shift our understanding of what contemporary music and performance should hope to achieve. The National Youth Orchestra has involved its players not just in the recreation of great masterpieces but in the creation of their own new work. Invisible Lines, a project for the BBC Proms in 2005, enabled the cellist Matthew Barley and project leader Lincoln Abbotts to work with four groups of skilled teenagers around the country, and bring them to London for a week which resulted in a semi-improvised, un-notated piece performed in the arena of the Albert Hall, broadcast both on radio and television, which captured the imagination of those present through its technical skill and emotional impact.73 73 BBC Proms, Saturday, 30 June 2005, Royal Albert Hall.



This kind of work draws on a radically different approach to performance and composition. As Sean Gregory has put it: ‘this emerging generation of musicians comes from a wide range of backgrounds, disciplines and experiences, with many of them interested in extending the nature of creativity and communication as performers, collaborators and listeners. They go into projects without fixed ideas, welcoming collaborators, be they instrumentalists, singers, electronic musicians or whoever, and create a shape out of sound sources they are given. The question now is whether arts and educational organisations can truly demonstrate their capacity to engage with this evolution.’74 It is beginning to happen: now a new thrust of orchestral work is likely to be towards collaboration and partnership, alongside the recreation of the changing canon of great work. Orchestras Live, the new Arts Council ‘national development agency for orchestral music in England’, reported case studies including Urban Orchestra: ‘young people in South Bedfordshire teamed up with the Orchestra of the Swan to create their own Urban orchestra’; ‘Messin’ with Mozart: young people from Medway worked with the City of London Sinfonia on creating new music for performance’; and Sounds of China, part of the Essex Jiangsu Festival; the report stresses ‘enabling creative projects’, and ‘addressing social agendas’ as key parts of its mission. This would have been impossible to imagine a generation ago.75 Not just for children but for adults too, the concept of added value and reflection on performance has lain behind such initiatives as developing the Centre for Orchestra being led by the London Symphony Orchestra and the Guildhall School, which will combine advanced training and continuous professional development for professional musicians with active reflection on performance. Courses, study days, discussions, pre-concert talks are in demand, mounted both by performing organisations and by academic institutions like the Institute for Musical Research (part of the School for Advanced Studies at the University of London) taking seriously their remit to reach the wider public; this is all part of the desire to take performance seriously, and to explore its background, which could provide a new agenda for all those academics and researchers anxious to achieve greater public impact with their work. If freshness and vitality in performance during the 1980s and 1990s were most frequently to be found in the early music movement, then in the 2000s the newest source of vitality has surely been from the spectacular achievements of the young. The annual appearances at the Proms of the National Youth 74 Sean Gregory, email to the author, October 2009. 75 Orchestras Live, Annual Review 2008–09, A Vibrant Landscape for Orchestral Music, also available online at www.orchestraslive.org.uk.

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Orchestra, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and the European Union Youth Orchestra have become ever more inspiring; youth proms and the choirs assembled by Youth Music have made a similar impression. The recreation of traditional pieces takes place side by side with improvised work that brings the young players’ own creativity to the fore. This is a major development that will shape both performance and composition tomorrow. The overwhelming impact made by the young players of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel at the BBC Proms in 200776 (they returned in 2011) and at the Southbank Centre in 2009 (returning in 2012), cannot be explained just by its novelty or its coloured Venezuelan jackets, or even by the deeply inspiring story behind its creation.77 Venezuela’s system of music education, El sistema, under the visionary leadership of José Antonio Abreu, took young people from the streets of Caracas and throughout the country, and created over thirty years a nationwide social programme that has transformed young people’s lives and has led to the creation of many orchestras. It is an inspiring and enlightened concept, but not necessarily one that can be simply replicated in this country (where a social programme needs to be integrated with the music education system that exists here). In the case of the top-notch Simon Bolivar Orchestra, the sophistication and exuberance of the playing, the boundless commitment of every musician to the end result, and the sense of communal team spirit, added to the liberating freedom of physical movement on stage, represents an ideal of performance today to which many aspire.78

Beyond ‘classical music’ Classical music has had to contend in recent years with a change from its privileged position in our society to one in which it is repeatedly, and in my view rightly, challenged by pop music, world music and a vast range of alternative mass entertainment. Its coverage in the press, especially the broadsheet press, which regarded it as a natural constituency, has diminished visibly (certainly since the years when as a reviewer I would write one of four or five classical concert reviews in the pages of a daily paper, sometimes of events attended by a handful of people). If this means that classical music is ignored by those who teach our children, plan our national events, support our institutions and edit our newspapers, then that is negative. If it means that classical 76 Chosen by the Daily Telegraph as one of the landmark cultural events of the 2000s, 31 October 2009. 77 M. Marcus, ‘From street to stage’, Guardian, 4 April 2009. 78 Unofficial video recordings, especially of the Proms encores, are searchable on YouTube by entering Dudamel + Simon Bolivar Orchestra.



music has more strenuously to argue its case and earn its place in our society, and prove every day the insights and excitements that it can bring, then surely that is absolutely positive. Classical music now exists alongside, interacts with and overlaps with many other musics in our culture, which command equal status and attention. A leading music critic of the present generation, Alex Ross of the New Yorker, writes passionately and engagingly about music from the classical tradition, but embedded within the experience of all kinds of music.79 The patrician assumption of the past that classical music is the only truly valuable part of our musical activity cannot be sustained. The biggest challenge to classical music performance today would be if it became irrelevant, and if those who practised it were content to see it become an esoteric sidelight in our national life. In a volatile and economically challenging time, we want that music to speak with passion and eloquence to the next generation, all of whom use music in many different ways as the soundtrack to their lives. Many are thirsting to participate, and to originate their own music in whatever genre. That route to performance today may be a very different one from that of earlier generations, but it is equally valid and equally to be respected; our responsibility is not to put classical music in a box, locked and marked ‘only for those in the know’, but to let it take its natural place in the firm belief that, once encountered, it will provide the appetite for a lifetime’s study and performance. Enabling us to unlock the continuous development of this essential, elemental excitement is what the future will be about. This is performance today; that will be performance tomorrow.

79 A. Ross, The Rest is Noise, New York, Harper Perennials, 2009, and his blog, the best of all classical webbased sites, formerly www.therestisnoise.com, now ‘Unquiet Thoughts’ at www.newyorker.com/online/ blogs/alexross.

. 2 .

Political process, social structure and musical performance in Europe since 1450 WILLIAM WEBER

I will examine the history of musical performance by, in political terms, seeing how a cultural community is shaped by differing groups and forces. Performing involves interaction among people involved in organising, paying, listening and interpreting. Their relationships may vary at any time from close collaboration to intense conflict. Different kinds of communities interact in this political process, variously the performing institution, a court or a city, and the state or a region of states. Negotiation must go on among participants, according to organisational rules, musical practices and financial constraints. Tradition and change compete with each other under pressure from social movements and individual opportunism. While these factors are usually just taken for granted, crises often make them articulated in print. An efficient way to enquire into these social and political processes is to examine dualities which have recurred in Western musical life since the late Middle Ages. Involving collaboration and conflict to varying extents, the dualities within performing relationships can help us go beyond the banal phrase ‘Music and Society’ by identifying the dynamics aspects of musical culture. The first section of this chapter briefly examines musical dualities under three headings – Location, Production and Taste. The second section discusses how the dualities generally played out during four periods of music history since around 1450. Scholars typically agree that a public musical world emerged by around 1450 in Western and Central Europe, and we can see lines of continuity from that time to the present.1 It is indeed enlightening to see how the origins of modern practices can reach back so far. Even though the dualities affecting musical life changed in nature from one period to another, they largely retained certain basic roles throughout our period: (A) Location: Court and city Nobles and bourgeois Cosmopolitan versus local or national 1 R. Strohm, The Rise of European Music (1380–1500), Cambridge University Press, 1993.




(B) Production: Amateurs and professionals Entrepreneurship versus association Vocal and instrumental music Virtuoso versus ensemble (C) Taste: Old and new music Performer and composer Different modes of listening

Location Location is the basis of the first three related dualities in musical life. A dialectic between the court and the city lasted to the end of the nineteenth century, involving competition among noble and bourgeois, and tension between the cosmopolitan, the national and the local which continues to this day. Much of modern music history has been wrapped up in the dialectic between the court and the city. On the one hand, the royal or aristocratic patron exerted personal leadership in idiosyncratic ways to shape musical activities in a court. Although court patronage could bring vital musical leadership for a period of time, the shift from one generation to another could have disorienting consequences for the musical community. On the other hand, the highly institutionalised nature of governance in a city could generate regular musical activity over succeeding generations.2 The funding available for musical activity was, none the less, often more limited in a city than in a court, especially for instrumental ensembles. The Italian cities of the early modern period most strikingly illustrate this contrast, as the differences between the extraordinary continuity in Venice and the discontinuities in courts such as Ferrara or Florence.3 Yet because a court was often based in a city, a court and the city’s government worked closely together, as can be seen in the evolution of opera houses in the early modern period. In Italian cities opera was based on different kinds of institutions – a major court in Naples, a small one in Parma and patrician leadership in Venice. During the eighteenth century, when the court was usually located a moderate distance from the capital city, the urban theatre then rivalled the one at the court. Whereas Louis XIV and English monarchs

2 Richard Leppert illustrates Flemish musical life in The Theme of Music in Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, Munich, Musikverlag Katzbichler, 1977. 3 I. Fenlon, ‘Music and Society’, in I. Fenlon (ed.), The Renaissance from the 1470s to the End of the 16th Century, London, Macmillan, 1989; E. Selfridge-Field, Song and Season: Science, Culture and Theatrical Time in Early Modern Venice, Palo Alto, CA, Stanford University Press, 2007.

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after 1688 took little leadership in opera, Frederick II in Prussia and Joseph II of the Habsburg Empire involved themselves considerably in such affairs. Rulers in the smaller courts in this period developed significant opera companies, as Daniel Heartz has shown in fascinating detail for Stuttgart and Mannheim.4 Courts continued to play important roles in musical life during the first half of the nineteenth century despite the burgeoning of urban music publics. Franz Liszt shifted his career from the concert stage to the court of SaxeCoburg-Meiningen in 1848; Louis Spohr, one of the most important composers in the first half of the century, was based in the court of Hesse-Kassel from the early 1830s until his death in 1859. While Liszt had considerable latitude from his patron, Spohr was burdened by traditional restrictions as to residence and repertoire. Continuity can also be seen in opera houses. Even though control of them gradually shifted from courts to municipalities, traditional leadership remained strong, as in Parma until Italian unification began in 1859 and in Dresden until the end of the century.5 During the twentieth century a dualism between state and private funding in effect replaced that of court and city. By the 1870s the value of public funding of concerts or opera was much debated in numerous countries. The greatest public support for music emerged in nineteenth-century German municipalities, not for the most part the Austrian Empire or individual German states. Until 1945 the least such funding existed in Britain. Publicly funded radio provided a major new source of funding for classical music from the 1920s in Britain and almost all other countries. The United States was the last major country where state funding developed. The steady public funding for opera and concerts in Germany led German emigrants to the United States to hold back from donating to local institutions.6 Music benefited considerably less than painting or sculpture from the National Endowment for the Arts begun in 1965.7 Nobles and bourgeois both collaborated and vied with one another on the historical stage. Nobility arose in the tenth century, only a century earlier than did the bourgeoisie. Once feudal relationships established titled families with control of land in the tenth century, bankers and professionals emerged in cities to manage the growing money economy. To be sure, because the 4 D. Heartz, Music in European Capitals: The Galant Style, 1720–1780, New York, Norton, 2003. 5 J. Toelle, Oper als Geschäft: Impresari an italienischen Opernhäusern, 1860–1900, Kassel, Bärenreiter, 2007; Philipp Ther, In der Mitte der Gesellschaft: Operntheater in Zentraleuropa, 1815–1914, Vienna, Oldenbourg, 2006. 6 J. Hecht-Gienow, ‘Trumpeting down the walls of Jericho: the politics of art, music and emotion in German–American relations 1870–1920’, Journal of Social History, 36 (2003), 585–613; and Sound Diplomacy: Music and Emotions in Transatlantic Relations, 1850–1920, University of Chicago Press, 2009. 7 D. Binkiewitz, Federalizing the Muse: United States Arts Policy and the National Endowment for the Arts, 1965– 1980, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2004.



bourgeoisie did not control land – the principal source of wealth – it appeared secondary to the nobility and therefore seemed to ‘rise’ in subsequent periods. But its source of capital and cash was vital to the nobility, some of whom became involved with business leaders in many regions of Europe as of the seventeenth century. One could find numerous nobles in southern England and northern France who took mortgages on their lands to develop mines and small arms factories.8 Nobles and bourgeois likewise collaborated extensively in musical life, serving as patrons, commentators and organisers of opera or concert institutions. Although much was written condemning the musical education of boys in eighteenth-century England, Horace Walpole served as a talent scout for the King’s Theatre, and John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich, was the principal founder of the Catch Club and the Concert of Antient Music.9 The opera companies in Venice, London and Prague were led in large part by men of the two classes. The original chamber-music concerts in the first half of the nineteenth century owed their existence to support variously from high nobles, bankers, socially prominent intellectuals and music teachers. The collaboration of people from different social strata was crucial to these concerts, which were unprecedented for involving no pieces for voice. Concert societies of the twentieth century likewise flourished only if their managers worked hard to maintain support from wealthy patrons and a large paying public. The dialectic between cosmopolitan and local or national music has been closely related with the dualities of court and city and noble and bourgeois.10 As applied here, the term ‘cosmopolitan’ indicates the authority carried by a genre – Italian opera most of all – that dominated repertoires and taste over a wide geographical region. No single country or region could exist on its own; involvement internationally was basic to musical culture, whether in collaborative or competitive terms. As Reinhard Strohm has shown, the dissemination of music across geographical boundaries was closely linked with diplomatic activity in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.11 A sovereign often took his or her leading musicians to other courts while negotiating for marriage, war or commerce, and numerous high-level musicians thereby served as secretaries

8 H. M. Scott (ed.), European Nobilities in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, 2 vols., Harlow, Longman, 1995. 9 R. Leppert, Music and Image: Domesticity, Ideology and Socio-cultural Formation in Eighteenth-Century England, Cambridge University Press, 1988. 10 For discussion of national styles, see C. Lawson and R. Stowell, The Historical Performance of Music: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 42–7, 81, 179. 11 R. Strohm, ‘European politics and the distribution of music in the early fifteenth century’, Early Music History, 1 (1981), 305–23.

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or emissaries. George Frideric Handel’s first visit to London occurred in 1708 chiefly because his patron, King George of Hanover, wanted to hear about the crisis-bound situation of English politics at the time. Cosmopolitan authority was vested in particular genres in musical culture.12 By 1700 opera originating in various Italian cities had become established as the principal repertoire in almost all courts and cities. Though still holding an Italian identity, operatic works became the cosmopolitan standard throughout Europe, being applied by locally born composers in their local communities. M.-P.-G. Chabanon might have been speaking for Italian opera when in 1785 he declared that ‘in their free circulation, the arts lose all of their indigenous character . . . [i]n this regard Europe can be thought to be a mother country of which all the arts are citizens’.13 Yet at the same time, genres rooted in a given region often rivalled cosmopolitan genres. The politics of musical life revolved around competition between local and cosmopolitan opera and the struggle of local composers to be recognised within the international community. Opera in the vernacular – called opéra comique, Singspiel, or English opera – thereby challenged cosmopolitan Italian opera. Not only did intellectuals challenge the hegemony of cosmopolitan opera, so did many members of the elites who often attended opera performances. Moreover, the concertos and symphonies by central European composers – not just Germans – acquired a similar if less powerful such role in the late eighteenth century. Less hierarchy among regions developed in performance of the highly international concerto, as was also usually the case with sacred music prior to the rise of classical repertoires during the early nineteenth century. The nature of cosmopolitan music changed fundamentally in the middle of the nineteenth century. The hegemony of Italian opera waned as the Parisian theatres acquired greater international prominence and proponents of German opera mounted a pointed ideological campaign, now taking Mozart into their company more fully than had been the case earlier. A crisis in Italian opera was even more evident in 1868, when the recently unified but deeply problematic Italian state ended all subsidies for opera from the nation or its provinces. Furthermore, by 1850 repertoires of classical music performed by orchestras and string quartets had become central to cosmopolitan culture, rivalling opera vigorously. Even though it was conventional to refer to classical music as German in origin (despite the presence of Italians and others from Central

12 See further discussion in W. Weber, The Great Transformation of Musical Taste: Concert Programming from Haydn to Brahms, Cambridge University Press, 2008, and ‘Cosmopolitan, National, and Regional Identities in Eighteenth-century European Musical Life’, in J. Fulcher (ed.), Oxford Handbook to the New Cultural History of Music, Oxford University Press, 2011. 13 Quoted in M. Noiray, Vocabulaire de la musique de l’époque classique, Paris, Minerve, 2005, p. 119.



Europe), it was expected that every orchestra would perform some of the classical repertoire for orchestra or quartet. The primacy of cosmopolitan classical repertoire in concert life by 1850 stimulated composers to define their music in nationalistic terms.14

Production The production and performance of music entailed three related dualities concerning relations between amateur and professional musicians, the entrepreneur and the association and practices of performing vocal and instrumental music. Both the amateur and the professional musician can be considered to have had careers. Amateurs followed extensive and in some cases significant careers in many periods, even though the term ‘patron’ may be more appropriate for amateurs in some contexts. There was a long tradition of a patron performing alongside a high-ranking professional musician in private. Isabella d’Este, wife of the Marchese Francesco Gonzaga in the late 1400s, was a distinguished singer, as was Empress Therese of the house of Habsburg between 1792 and 1807.15 British gentlemen sang with leading musicians of the Chapel Royal at the gatherings of the Noblemen’s Catch Club (1760).16 In the early nineteenth century amateur string players performed in private with musicians who were putting on public concerts of chamber music. This tradition still survives; for example, during the 1980s and 1990s Edward Edelman, elected Supervisor of Los Angeles County (which has authority over the Music Center and the Hollywood Bowl) often played with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in his home. During the eighteenth century the growing prominence of public concerts created tensions between amateurs and professionals in some contexts. Music societies in Britain often experienced this problem. There was great protest against bringing London singers to perform in an oratorio concert in Halifax in 1767, and the Edinburgh Musical Society all but collapsed in 1798 as a result of dispute of the same kind.17 The Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna worked out an interesting compromise over the question of amateur performance during the first three decades after its founding in 1814. Professionals

14 See Toelle, Oper als Geschäft, and Ther, In der Mitte der Gesellschaft. 15 W. Priser, ‘Lucrezia Borgia and Isabella d’Este as patrons of music: the frottola at Mantua and Ferrara’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 38 (1985), 1–33; J. Rice, Empress Marie Therese and Music at the Viennese Court, 1792–1807, Cambridge University Press, 2003. 16 B. Robins, Catch and Glee Culture in Eighteenth-Century England, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2006. 17 A Plain and True Narrative of the Differences, between Messrs. B–S, and Members of the Musical Club, holden at the Old-Cock, Halifax, In a Letter to a Friend, Halifax, 1767; D. Johnson, Music and Society in Lowland Scotland in the Eighteenth Century, Oxford University Press, 1972.

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could not appear in its orchestral series (the Society Concerts), but they did perform opera selections and virtuoso pieces at the smaller-scale Evening Entertainments. The ‘idealists’ in the society, unhappy about its repertoire and performing standards, created a semi-professional orchestral series called the Concert Spirituel (1819–48), where the first systematic classical repertoire appeared in Europe as a whole. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1842, involved only members of the opera orchestra but failed to present more than a few concerts a year until 1860. The Revolution of 1848 had the effect of dividing fundamentally amateur from professional concerts.18 Concerts by amateur choral societies were often performed with professional soloists and orchestral players by the middle of the nineteenth century. The English oratorio festivals originally involved professional singers, either from cathedral choirs or theatre choruses. But by the 1840s choruses made up of amateurs had become common, most prominently in London’s Sacred Harmonic Society, many of whose members came from the lower middle class. The new-found ability to train large numbers of amateurs to sing with some success in performances of choral-orchestral pieces expanded the resources of music-making greatly for the rest of the century. Professional singers seem sometimes to have helped lead the sections of otherwise amateur choruses. Choruses of varying size, social status and musical ability sprang up all over Europe and America, making Handel’s best-known oratorios as widely performed as the operas of Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti and Giuseppe Verdi. The British choral festivals nevertheless went into serious decline towards the end of the nineteenth century. The impresarios found it increasingly hard to please the public and get it to accept new works.19 Choral groups took a particular path in the United States, where college glee clubs kept active the English catch and glee tradition, with its special blend of sociability, through the twentieth century. The division between amateur and professional musicians became increasingly distinct during the twentieth century, in orchestras and choruses alike. A new kind of interaction between amateurs and professionals nonetheless arose in rock music. Since the 1960s young people have been building rock bands in local communities with the ambition of becoming high-level professionals, motivated by the success of such stars as the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Moreover, areas of popular music began to develop their own pedagogy.

18 Weber, Great Transformation of Musical Taste, pp. 197–207, 255–8. 19 G. Cumberland, ‘Musical Problems: IV. Musical Festivals’, Musical Opinion and Trade Review, 398 (November 1910), 90–1; H. Antcliffe, ‘Musical festivals and modern works’, Musical Opinion and Trade Review, 391 (1 April 1910), 483. See also R. Demaine, ‘Individual and institution in the musical life of Leeds, 1900–1914’, Ph.D. thesis, University of York (1999).



Whereas many singers and songwriters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were educated in conservatoires or with traditional music teachers, musicians in rock, country and folk music now are often trained within their own professions.20 We can differentiate between two ways of producing music: through entrepreneurship or association. It is possible to produce music either as a personal speculation, for either profit or loss, or through an association whose members intend to pursue larger collective goals. In present-day language, entrepreneurism is usually defined as the attempt to expand capital resources through corporate organisation. Yet prior to the late nineteenth century the term was used to denote individuals who performed services with limited, if any, economic resources, and included even those who bartered in a town’s market.21 Entrepreneurism goes far back in musical culture, for the travelling entertainer had to learn how to manipulate expenses and income in different kinds of places. Music publishing was highly entrepreneurial from the start. James Haar pointed to the ‘entrepreneurial urge’ and the ‘shrewd sense of self-promotion’ in the career of Orlando di Lasso.22 Though not a publisher as such, Lasso served as editor and business adviser for those who put his many volumes of music into print. During the eighteenth century the growing size of the musical world in some major cities led an increasing number of musicians to work on a freelance basis, putting on subscription series, giving lessons and sometimes even establishing music schools. Promenade concerts, finally, were almost always highly commercial enterprises from their creation by Philippe Musard in 1832 until after the Second World War.23 Aspirant rock groups likewise function today in entrepreneurial fashion even though they have to work through corporate management agencies. To be sure, a fine line exists between the two types of venture, because an association might make money, and a speculation can be driven in part by high principles. Yet the moral implications seen in the profit motive have often led to conflict between entrepreneurial and associative goals. As early as the 1770s musicians who published a lot of music for amateurs – Carl Philip Emanuel Bach, for example – came into considerable disrepute for being overly 20 For a picture of one such world, see R. Walser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music, Hanover, NH, University Press of New England, 1993. 21 W. Weber, in W. Weber (ed.), The Musician as Entrepreneur and Opportunist, 1700–1914: Managers, Charlatans and Idealists, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2004, Introduction. 22 J. Haar, ‘Orlando di Lasso, composer and print entrepreneur’, in K. van Orden (ed.), Music and the Cultures of Print, New York, Garland, 2000, pp. 129, 131, 126. See also P. A. Starr, ‘Musical entrepreneurship in fifteenth-century Europe’, Early Music, 32 (2004), 119–33. 23 A history of the enterprises sponsoring Musard’s concerts, and a proposal for a mixture of dance music and classical symphonies, can be found in the Archives Nationales, F 21 1157, ‘Concerts Musard, rue Vivienne, 1836–37; Concerts Vivienne, Concerts de la salle Montesquieu, 1833–36’.

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commercial. The word ‘charlatan’ was often used to criticise a virtuoso or a promenade concert conductor, whose ambitions were thereby contrasted with the higher goals seen in the concerts presented by groups of professional musicians. Joseph Joachim employed the term in January 1857 to accuse Louis Jullien of performing classical works in showy fashion.24 In the 1970s widely known experimental composers such as Philip Glass and George Crumb were derided by university composers for pandering to the commercial aspects of popular music. The musical association differed from entrepreneurial activity because it was collective and often indeed egalitarian in nature. A group of musicians would form a society to present concerts on a long-term basis. The earliest such organisations borrowed the term ‘academy’ from Italian or French societies that were devoted to intellectual dialogue rather than performance, even though sociability among colleagues existed in both cases. Thus the Academy of Ancient Music in London (1726–1802) brought together singers from the Chapel Royal and the cathedrals with a few of their patrons to sing works of ‘ancient’ music that were as old as the late sixteenth century. Almost all of the professional orchestras founded in the nineteenth century were likewise collective undertakings run by musicians, most prominently the Philharmonic Society of London (1813), the Société des Concerts in Paris (1828), the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (1842) and the New York Philharmonic Society (1842). The subscription series held at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, however, was governed by a board of laymen, as was often the case with American orchestras in the twentieth century. In the world of opera, however, blended forms of governance tended to arise, because the court or the state was often involved in some fashion along with an entrepreneur. At its founding in 1669, the Académie Royale de Musique in Paris was directed by Pierre Perrin, Jean-Baptiste Lully and a succession of directeurs, but received necessary financial support from the court.25 Holding a monopoly over French opera, the Opéra in 1725 then gave a privilège over all public concerts to the Concert Spirituel, the city’s central series, whose directeurs developed concerts at their own behest. By contrast, in London the Royal Academy of Music, which acquired the privilege of the King’s Theatre in 1720, was led by a collegial board of directors as well as

24 J. Joachim, ed. and trans. N. Bickley as Letters from and to Joseph Joachim, London, Macmillan, 1914, p. 141. Emphasis is original. 25 J. de la Gorce, L’Opéra à Paris au temps de Louis XIV: Histoire d’un théâtre, Paris, Éditions Desjonquères, 1992; V. Johnson, Backstage at the Revolution: How the Royal Paris Opera Survived the End of the Old Regime, University of Chicago Press, 2008.



an impresario. Made up of leading nobles and gentlemen, the board continued to exercise authority until the early 1830s.26 From the start, Italian opera companies were controlled in diverse fashion by a court, an impresario, box-owning patrons, or a combination of all three. From the early eighteenth century most Italian halls were governed by an impresario who obtained funding, an association of boxholders that protected their investments, and often a monarch who served as patron. In Venice the boxholders dominated, in Milan and Naples the patrons and in other cities all three interest groups.27 In German cities municipalities provided funding for opera during the nineteenth century. Yet close links between noble and bourgeois patrons underlay the functioning of the theatre in cities such as Dresden.28 The dualism between vocal music and instrumental music has been fundamental to Western musical culture. The two types of music needed and rivalled one another throughout this history. Until the twentieth century it was unusual for a court or public performance to involve just vocal or instrumental pieces. Even though string quartets were giving concerts with no vocal component in Vienna and Paris by 1815, singers continued to appear in some such concerts, and the great majority of orchestral series included solo or choral pieces until the First World War. This tradition reflected a deep fascination with virtuosity in its contrasting forms. Voices and instruments had long been thought to interact with one another in what Rodolfo Celletti called the ‘love duet’ inherent in the tradition of bel canto.29 During the late 1780s, for example, listeners would flock to a concert to hear a rondo by Domenico Cimarosa, followed by a violin concerto by Giovanni Viotti. The long prevalent ‘miscellaneous’ concert of opera selections and instrumental virtuoso pieces gave a coherent set of expectations and practices to the tradition. A programme of fifteen opera selections and virtuoso pieces, each half introduced by an overture, may seem unappealing to listeners today, but it was among the most sought-out kinds of musical entertainment during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A musician who put on such a concert followed what amounted to a political process in choosing performing forces, genres, composers and pieces, based on his or her sense of what the public

26 E. Gibson, The Royal Academy of Music 1719–1728: The Institution and its Directors, New York, Garland, 1989; J. Hall-Witt, Fashionable Acts: Opera and Elite Culture in London, 1780–1880, Durham, NH, University of New Hampshire Press, 2007. 27 J. Rosselli, The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi: The Role of the Impresario, Cambridge University Press, 1984. 28 See Ther, In der Mitte der Gesellschaft. 29 R. Celletti, Storia del Bel Canto, trans. F. Fuller as A History of Bel Canto, Oxford University Press, 1991, p. 3.

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expected in taste and in popular performers. The blending of short vocal and instrumental pieces lives on in our day in school concerts and recitals organised by music teachers. Still, performances in court or in private rooms might include only vocal or instrumental pieces. The need to accommodate a public did not apply as strictly to an aristocrat presenting music in a stately home as it did to a musician performing in public. For example, around 1800 the Habsburg Empress Marie Therese, a singer in her own right, presented several concerts a week made up almost entirely of vocal pieces, usually either opera buffa or opera seria.30 The patrons of Beethoven’s chamber music likewise held private performances dedicated strictly to quartets and related genres. The English heir apparent gave a concert in Devonshire House in 1823 made up of ensemble numbers from Rossini’s Il turco in Italia (1814), each half introduced by a sonata for horns.31 Philosophical, indeed often ideological, dispute developed over the aesthetic dichotomy between vocal and instrumental music. A critique of performing numerous opera selections at concerts began as early as 1800, and by the 1860s a few orchestras (the Prussian Court Orchestra in Berlin most of all) offered little vocal music. Opera and classical-music concerts became increasingly distant from one another, since the rationale for performing old operas evolved on a commercial rather than an idealistic basis intellectually. Such aesthetic dispute has persisted among scholars today. Music historians tend to disparage the eighteenth-century principle that aesthetic meaning must arise from poetic communication, leading to the argument that instrumental music became ‘emancipated’ from that principle as the idea of ‘absolute’ music arose in the early nineteenth century.32 Other scholars countered that commentators used poetic language to interpret Beethoven’s music and that vocal music remained central to aesthetic thinking, suggesting that ‘absolute music’ appeared much later.33 Distinctive types of homogeneous as opposed to miscellaneous programmes emerged in the nineteenth century. The recital – that is, performing entirely 30 J. Rice, Empress Marie Therese and Music at the Viennese Court, 1792–1807, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 90–2, 170–3. 31 ‘London’, Quarterly Music Magazine and Review, 5 (1823), 252. 32 J. Neubauer, The Emancipation of Music from Language: Departure from Mimesis in Eighteenth-century Aesthetics, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1986. For a critique of this argument, see D. A. Thomas, Music and the Origins of Language: Theories from the French Enlightenment, Cambridge University Press, 1995. 33 R. Wallace, Beethoven’s Critics: Aesthetic Dilemmas and Resolutions during the Composer’s Lifetime, Cambridge University Press, 1986; M. E. Bond, ‘Idealism and the aesthetics of instrumental music at the turn of the nineteenth century’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 50 (1997), 387–420; M. E. Bond, Music as Thought: Listening to the Symphony in the Age of Beethoven, Princeton University Press, 2006; Thomas, Music and the Origins of Language.



alone or just with an accompanist – did not develop until Franz Liszt experimented with it in the late 1830s. Pianists such as Clara Schumann and Marie Pleyel followed suit, and by the 1870s such programming was common in most cities. Concerts by string quartets became more homogeneous as well. While in 1850 their programmes almost always included several genres – a trio, quintet, or even octet – by 1900 a concert might offer just string quartets. In 1907 a London violinist put on a recital made up entirely of Nicolò Paganini’s Caprices, a programme that would have appealed to the virtuoso’s fans in the 1830s.34 Since the 1990s first the Juilliard Quartet and then the Pacifica Quartet have played all six of Elliott Carter’s string quartets in two sittings. Devoting a concert to a single work – an oratorio or a symphony most commonly – was by definition foreign to traditional practice in musical life. Still, performing a single work has come about when the genre has included contrasting solo, choral and instrumental elements. Unusually ambitious composers have made their careers in large part by framing choral-orchestral works in that fashion. Handel established the oratorio concert successfully because he knew how to write for his public and could control what went on in a London theatre. Gustav Mahler likewise monopolised many programmes with his long symphonies, in a time when orchestral programmes included relatively few recent works. He convinced orchestras to give a programme of this kind because he was so much in demand as a conductor and because his symphonies blended musical forces and evocative topoi.35 The relationship between the virtuoso and the ensemble is inherently a source of either collaboration or tension. The self-promoting individual can either threaten other musicians or open up opportunities for them as an ensemble. The instrumental performers who toured courts and cities from the time of the Middle Ages had to woo patrons and participate with local performers. Susan McClary has shown how Italian singers began touring as stars during the 1580s, applying something of the same tactics as instrumentalists.36 A city’s musical connoisseurs, listeners deemed to be good judges, helped facilitate negotiations between local and touring musicians. It was customary for such a person to invite a visiting musician to perform in private before musicians, learned listeners and potential patrons, making it possible for the performer to make contacts for teaching or performing and to organise a concert. The leading such figures during the late eighteenth century were J.-F.-K. Baron von Alvensleben in London, Gottfried Baron van Swieten in Vienna and Alexandre Le Riche de la Pouplinière in Paris. In the late nineteenth century concert agents often 34 Extant copy of the programme in the Centre for Performance History, Royal College of Music. 35 I am indebted to Paul Banks for this information and insight. 36 See forthcoming article ‘Soprano as fetish: professional singers in early modern Italy’ by Susan McClary.

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assumed this role. Pianist Artur Schnabel wrote that the Viennese agent Albert Gutmann presented ‘a star parade’ of both performers and composers in his home on Sunday afternoons.37 A crisis without precedent arose in the relationship between virtuosos and the rest of the musical profession between about 1820 and 1850. The very principle of virtuosity came into question in this period as idealistic commentators made a harsh critique of commercial exploitation, targeting especially the fantaisie on themes from a well-known opera.38 In 1843 a critic in the Musical Examiner went so far as to demand that the Philharmonic Society of London forbid pianist Alexander Dreyshock from playing any of his own music at its concerts.39 By 1860 most performers had abandoned the opera fantaisie and focused their programmes on classical works. The relationship between virtuoso and ensemble was re-established upon the classical repertoire, because many concerts involved chamber works led by the star performer. Clara Schumann, for example, often opened a concert with a piano quartet or quintet. Still, most virtuosos did continue to perform their own works, at least in genres for their instrument.40 An expansion in notoriety parallel to that of Paganini and Liszt occurred in the careers of Elvis Presley and the Beatles during the 1950s and 1960s. In both epochs new commercial frameworks were evolving which opened up wide new horizons for musical stardom. Yet rock music became established on a firmer basis than instrumental virtuosity, which had to share the stage with classics. Rock stars quickly learned how to work with the large-scale commercial world evolving in recording, radio and commercial publicity. The dichotomy between the star and the ensemble was mediated by managers and by the growing popular music press, which wielded great power over what individuals did musically or socially.

Taste A particularly strong dichotomy has existed in Western musical culture between old and new music. A balanced relationship between the old and the new usually existed in the worlds of painting and sculpture, even when academic styles retained hegemony during the nineteenth century.

37 A. Schnabel, My Life and Music, ed. E. Crankshaw, New York, St Martin’s, 1963, p. 9; W. Weber, ‘From the self-managing musician to the independent concert agent’, in Weber (ed.), The Musician as Entrepreneur, p. 119. 38 D. Gooley, ‘Battle against instrumental virtuosity in the early nineteenth century’, in C. Gibbs and D. Gooley (eds.), Franz Liszt and his World, Princeton University Press, 2006, pp. 75–112. 39 ‘Fair play to all parties’, Musical Examiner, 11 March 1843, 133–4. 40 K. Hamilton, After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance, Oxford University Press, 2008.



Traditionally, new music was thought inherently superior to the old. Johannes Tinctoris made an iconic statement along these lines in his treatise on counterpoint in 1477, declaring that ‘there does not exist a single piece of music, not composed within the last forty years, that is regarded by the learned as worth hearing’.41 Major disputes occurred when a new style began to replace an old one, as happened around 1375, 1600, 1710, 1800 and 1900. Canonic repertoires emerged in a few places before the nineteenth century, though without holding hegemonic authority over musical life in general. During the late fifteenth century a key musical canon developed in the Sistine Chapel prior to 1500, providing the context where Giovanni Palestrina’s music was performed after his death in 1594.42 No comparable repertoire has been found in Italian churches, but his hymns were sung in the Habsburg court chapel during the eighteenth century. Secular canonic repertoires began to arise at that time in the opera houses of Paris and Berlin, and in the concert life of London and other British cities. Practices shifted fundamentally during the early nineteenth century, as recent works became less and less common in some – though by no means all – concert programmes. Canonic repertoires gradually evolved in opera houses after 1850, but a coherent aesthetic rationale for it did not evolve until at least 1900. Classical music reached a peak in its hegemony in the 1950s, when orchestras and chamber groups played little else, and popular music was another world save perhaps for the efforts of Leonard Bernstein. Interest in new music came alive under the influence of minimalism in the 1970s, as groups such as the Kronos Quartet combined old, new, popular and classical works on the same programmes. The relationship between the performer and the composer changed in less categorical terms during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. To be sure, a great many church musicians of the 1600s and 1700s were expected to produce anthems or psalm settings as a matter of course, a professional expectation unusual today. Moreover, a virtuoso was by definition both composer and performer until the time of Charles Hallé or the later career of Clara Schumann. But some of the leading opera composers of the eighteenth century – such as Johann Adolf Hasse and Christoph Willibald Gluck – had so much to do setting new texts that they had relatively little to do with conducting in the pit or preparing singers for new productions. Late nineteenthcentury virtuosi such as Anton Rubinstein and Ignacy Paderewski continued to compose for their own concerts. From the 1920s the line between the 41 Quoted in H. M. Brown and L. K. Stein, Music in the Renaissance, 2nd edn, Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall, 1999, p. 7. 42 J. Dean, ‘The evolution of a canon at the Papal Chapel’, Papal Music and Musicians in Late Medieval and Renaissance Rome, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 138–66.

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performer and the composer became particularly indistinct in experimental music, thanks to new practices in performer choice and instrumentation. John Cage and the pianist David Tudor worked as colleagues in such a fashion, and the latter also toured alone playing his own works.43 The authority of the composer over the performer and performing institutions became a major issue professionally and ideologically at various points in music history. A patron of Josquin des Prez in the late fifteenth century admitted that the composer would not produce the proper kind of music for a court nearly as efficiently as less brilliant musicians. Claudio Monteverdi used his high reputation as cultural capital when he bargained with the Duke of Mantua over his demand that he be able to travel much more often than was conventional.44 The composer’s control of opera production grew significantly under Luigi Cherubini in Paris in the 1790s and then with Giuseppe Verdi in the middle of the nineteenth century. The independence of the highest-level composer expanded with Joseph Haydn’s freedom from the Esterházy court, Ludwig van Beethoven’s private patronage in his ailing years and Franz Liszt’s leadership of the Saxe-Coburg court in Weimar. Richard Wagner drew upon the rhetoric of revolutionary politics to assert his ability to control everything in an opera house. Composers began building institutions to defend their interests through the Allgemeine Deutsche Musikverein (1861) and the Société National de Musique (1871). The different modes of listening in different social contexts have also required negotiation among those involved in musical performance. Today’s readers bring to the subject firmly established sets of assumptions which originated in the break between what was eventually called classical music and popular music. It was often assumed in classical music concerts by around 1870 that the higher mode of listening takes place in a formal context where no movement or sound is permitted from the audience, although dispute breaks out periodically over applause anywhere other than at the end of a work.45 Practices vary today in the diverse kinds of jazz, rock, crossover or world music; audiences may be just as strict as in the classical world, or much less so. The intense moral assumptions which arose in the classical-music world make it difficult for us to understand etiquette prior to the early nineteenth century. Concert and opera came about recently, after all. The primary contexts where music was performed from the Middle Ages through the

43 W. Weber, ‘John Cage: his life and time changes’, Los Angeles Times, 28 March 1976, and ‘ “Rainforest”: an electronic ecology’, Los Angeles Times, 20 November 1975. 44 P. Weiss and R. Taruskin, Music in the Western World: A History in Documents, New York, Schirmer, 1984, pp. 97–100, 121–3, 180–4. 45 A. Ross, ‘Why so serious? When the classical concert took shape’, New Yorker, 8 September 2008, 79–81.



seventeenth century were in church services and before or after dinner. Purposes other than musical performance were always involved, and in some contexts people might move, speak or indeed sing during the performance. Social custom preserved a certain decorum by regulating what happened through an implicit negotiation between people with different interests. In the fifteenth-century Burgundian court, Howard Brown tells us, dinner, sweets and drink were consumed, then dancing would commence, and finally courtiers would sing solos or duets, seemingly to an attentive audience.46 During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries etiquette was the most varied in opera houses, since they were a key social gathering-point for the upper classes, and less disruption must have gone on in concerts.47

Four historical periods We will now examine the character which the patterns of collaboration and conflict in musical performance acquired in different periods. What was the nature of political structures in a period, and how did that influence the nature of performing institutions? How did dualities between court and city or old and new music play out in a period? In what respects did the structure of the musical community change from one period to another?

1450–1700 Historians agree for the most part that the four centuries from about 1300 to 1700 comprised a distinct period in economy, society and politics that is often called the ‘early modern’ period or the ancien régime.48 By around 1300 settled cultivation had become the norm in most parts of Europe, bringing something of a money economy focused on the cities. A limited but workable state sovereignty was achieved by rulers in France, England, Bavaria, Austria and Spain, and in different ways by the Holy Roman Empire and archbishoprics such as Mainz, Trier and Salzburg. Nobility and monarchy vied for power within complicated frameworks of authority and justice. Kings, dukes and 46 H. M. Brown, ‘Songs after supper: How the aristocracy entertained themselves in the fifteenth century’, in M. Fink, R. Gstrein and G. Mössmer (eds.), Musica Privata: Die Rolle der Musik im privaten Leben, Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Walter Salmen, Innsbruck, Helbling, 1991, pp. 37–52. 47 J. H. Johnson, Listening in Paris: A Cultural History, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1995; W. Weber, ‘Did people listen in the eighteenth century?’, Early Music, 25 (1997), 678–91; M. Riley, Musical Listening in the German Enlightenment: Attention, Wonder and Astonishment, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2004. 48 J. Merriman, History of Modern Europe, 2 vols., 2nd edn, New York, Norton, 2004, ch. 1; ‘Forum: the general crisis of the seventeenth century revisited’, American Historical Review, 113 (2008), 1029–99, especially J. Dewald, ‘Crisis, chronology and the shaping of European social history’; P. Goubert, trans. S. Cox as The Ancien Regime: French Society, 1600–1750, New York, Harper & Row, 1973.

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archbishops accordingly competed with one another on a relatively equal plane in displaying the cultural pre-eminence of their courts.49 As usually discussed, the term Renaissance means a congeries of cultural, economic and political aspects with a period whose perimeters are difficult to define. Whether the revival of ancient works was related to the other aspects is a moot point, for as Randolph Starn put it, scholars look at the period with either fascination or denial.50 A longer period is now of greater interest to some historians, since so much of what was developing in the 1400s – economic expansion, state formation and growing literacy – can be traced back to the 1300s. The growing independence of secular from sacred music did not flow from any set of ideas such as humanism, but rather resulted from the growing power and centrality of secular institutions and the reshaping of Christianity. Sacred and secular music ended up mutually interdependent in the long run. Musical culture reached a new level of performing activity in both public and private contexts by around 1450, from southern Italy to eastern Germany and north to England. Reinhard Strohm characterised what went on in that period as ‘like a breaking of barriers everywhere, a flooding of ideas, an irrigation of deserts’.51 A set of practices for polyphonic as well as homophonic music spread widely across Europe, based on the composition of individualised pieces of music and the recognition of greatness in certain ones. Competition among magnates expanded musical activities enormously in scale and in quality. Ordinary people in many cities could easily hear masses or concerts in churches or plazas, the music often written by major composers from different parts of Europe. The most privileged members of the upper classes enjoyed a new kind of ‘privatised devotion’ when they sat down and listened to a singer, a lute duo and perhaps an instrumental ensemble. Composers began to acquire a selfconscious identity, though opinions as to when that occurred range from Guillaume Dufay in the early fifteenth century to Josquin des Prez a century later.52 During the early modern period the musical life in courts and cities tended to be fairly separate from one another, even though music and musical practices were often related and similar in many respects. A gulf lay between courts of the major monarchs and the cities they governed, as is best seen in the German states

49 For discussion of European history, 1300–1700, see Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, ch. 1; and Goubert, The Ancien Regime. 50 Brown and Stein, Music in the Renaissance, pp. 1–7; R. Starn, ‘Renaissance redux’, American Historical Review, 103 (1998), 122–4, and other articles on the problem in the same issue. 51 Strohm, Rise of European Music, pp. 1–10. 52 R. Wegman, The Crisis of Music in Early Modern Europe, 1470–1530, New York, Routledge, 2005; A. Planchart, ‘The early career of Guillaume Du Fay’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 46 (1993), 342–68.



around 1450. In any one city bourgeois and nobles interacted continuously, nobles living either inside or outside the walls, and city officials setting the standard of conduct. By 1500 at least 150 German courts and 100 cities provided strong musical activities, chiefly for processions, banquets and dancing. Sacred and secular music flowed back and forth from one to another, for they could not do without one other. But no other European city save Venice could equal the scale of musical activities found in a major court such as Dresden.53 Only in the eighteenth century did capital cities come to rival the courts. The world of opera emerged within the dualism of court and city. The complex of theatres in Italian cities included a multitude of mixtures between court and city institutions. Court productions and their audiences were sometimes larger than those in the city, but in neither context did the opera public involve many people outside the upper classes and professionals attendant upon their needs.54 Opera provided a place where political and social exchange could go on despite the disruptions of war, political upheaval or economic change. In Italy talented men tended to go into the theatre rather than business or government after economic decline and diplomatic irrelevance set in after the late sixteenth century.55 The social ambience in theatres – keen attention to key scenes yet talking and walking at other moments – suited the needs of European elites generally. By 1700 the musical and social strength and stability of Italian opera had afforded a model of elite entertainment for the rest of Europe. Italian vocal music began to serve as a cosmopolitan standard even where, as in France, listeners only heard it at concerts.

The eighteenth century European politics changed fundamentally in the late seventeenth century, following a hundred years of widespread civil war and economic decline. A new order developed whereby monarchs built standing armies and enjoyed territorial sovereignty unchallenged by dissident dukes. Countries achieved varying solutions to the threat of civil war as the nature of monarchy changed: nervous absolutism in Bourbon France, mixed authority in England, and dependence on Habsburg or Bourbon rule among the diverse Italian states. The notion of the public sharing in state authority – part of what Jürgen Habermas termed the public sphere – began to arise in Britain and France, 53 K. Polk, German Instrumental Music of the Late Middle Ages: Players, Patrons and Performance Practice, Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 68 and passim. 54 T. Walker and L. Bianconi, ‘Production, consumption and political function of seventeenth-century opera’, Early Music History, 4 (1984), 209–96. 55 H. Koenigsberger, ‘Republics and courts in Italian and European culture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries’, Past and Present, 83 (1979), 32–56.

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then Italy, Germany and the Habsburg lands. The vast expansion in the circulation of books and periodicals and the concentration of elites in capital cities limited state authority in significant ways. As freewheeling discourse began in salons and coffee shops, cultural life apart from courts took on a new primacy in the marshalling of public opinion. Musical life took on an increasingly urban and public focus in this context. Capital cities were much larger and more powerful than they had been a century earlier, and some musicians were motivated to take on more or less freelance careers. By 1700 many musicians in London and Paris were working variously with the court, the theatres, wealthy families, concert productions and the publishing business. A court was often now dependent upon the city near it, and principal court theatres came under municipal control. Cities differed in the relative importance of monopolies and entrepreneurism for musical activities within the city. Paris possessed by far the strictest set of cultural monopolies, followed fairly closely by Leipzig once the subscription concerts in the Gewandhaus were founded in 1781. Entrepreneurism went the furthest in London, where a sequence of political upheavals in the seventeenth century limited municipal control over concerts almost completely; Viennese musicians became equally adventurous from the 1780s. The growth of periodicals and the broadening of political participation for the better-off classes gave birth to the notion that the public held a form of political authority, even though that amounted essentially to the manipulation of opinion towards partisan ends. Those who wrote about opera and concert performances reified the Public in order to sway taste and give a new kind of authority to learned or opinionated listeners. Essays expressing controversial opinions set off episodes called querelles in France and these had close parallels in other countries. In 1706 John Dennis began a querelle over Italian opera in London with the Essay on the Operas after the Italian Manner, just as François Raguenet had done in Parallèle des Italiens et des François, en ce qui regarde la musique et les opéras (1702). It is wise to be careful with usage of the term ‘public sphere’, which can easily amount to cliché. Jürgen Habermas defined it as open-ended discourse on affairs of state authority, which ought not be seen as always extending into realms of society in that period. While cultural worlds interacted with state political issues, they had their own political institutions which need independent definition.56 Members of the nobility as well as the bourgeoisie participated in this intellectual activity; anyone able and ready to

56 C. Calhoun (ed.), Habermas and the Public Sphere, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1992; and T. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe, 1660–1789, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 1–25.



offer an opinion by definition formed part of the new framework of public discussion. Cosmopolitan taste, primarily for Italian opera, came to wield a specially strong hegemony in eighteenth-century musical life, its authority based in the capital cities. To be sure, wealthy or influential families had long defined their high status by flaunting the internationalism of their culture. But that tendency became more pronounced at the turn of the eighteenth century, by which time elite families were residing for a substantial part of the year in London, Paris, Madrid and Vienna. The metropolis predominated over the court in upperclass social life in these cities, and offered a new culture of upper-class consumption. A redistribution of wealth from countryside to capital city thus came about, enabled by the state, and fuelled the development of the capital cities.57 Those who led this culture were often called the beau monde or ‘the World’, which included people from the high nobility, influential professionals and the female demi-monde. London and Paris became the arbiters of taste within Europe as a whole. A new kind of consumer-oriented magazine kept readers informed about elite pleasures in those two cities – dress, promenading, equipage, politics, theatre and a lot of Italian opera. Germans, knowing how weak Berlin seemed compared to London or Paris, saw the change with particular clarity while reading the Journal des Luxus und der Moden, begun in Weimar in 1787, and the journal London und Paris begun in Leipzig in 1798. The latter periodical published articles only from London and Paris. Tensions sharpened during this period between the cosmopolitan and the local in musical taste. In Italy works written to texts in regional dialects were performed in the leading theatres, where educated – in effect, cosmopolitan – Italian was the norm. As historian John Rosselli put it, by 1720 opera with educated Italian became ‘a regular and foremost entertainment’ within northern and central Italy and from the Iberian peninsula to London and Central Europe.58 Yet many of the same opera-goers trooped to entertainments written to vernacular texts, the British ballad opera, the German Singspiel and regional Italian dialects. Even though cosmopolitan taste usually held sway over the domestic, local traditions and professional interests remained very much in play in the process of negotiation among these different musics. France was a special case in this regard. With only a few exceptions, the Opéra presented only works set to French texts by French composers until the 1770s. France had remained unusually inward-looking socially; its regional diversity in language, law and culture made the upper classes suspicious of 57 D. Ringrose, ‘Capital cities and urban networks’, in B. Lepetit and P. Clark (eds.), Capital Cities and their Hinterlands in Early Modern Europe, Aldershot, Ashgate, 1996. 58 J. Rosselli, Singers of Italian Opera: The History of a Profession, Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 20–1.

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foreigners, Italians particularly. Yet a cabal of connoisseurs spread taste for Italian vocal music among the public, encouraging performance of selections from Italian opera at the dominant concert series, the Concert Spirituel (1725– 91). The admission of Italian and Austrian works to the Académie Royale de Musique during the 1770s formed part of the rethinking of French politics, often called libération, which presaged the Revolution of 1789. In London the King’s Theatre followed a different – indeed, the opposite – policy with equal rigour: almost no work set by British-born composers was performed there until the premiere of Michael Balfe’s Falstaff, with Italian text, in 1838. British politics had a good deal to do with this: the Whiggish nobles, who dominated both the Hanoverian Succession and the King’s Theatre, defined their new authority culturally in the supremacy of Italian opera. Yet music by British composers was widely performed in the theatres, pleasure gardens, music clubs and benefit concerts. Operas by Thomas Arne, William Shield and Charles Dibdin drew a wide and passionate public, and during the nineteenth century a canon of their music developed in editions of songs from their works. What role did the Enlightenment play in musical life of the eighteenth century? The set of movements led by les lumières in France and called die Aufklärung in Germany – then dubbed the Enlightenment by American college professors in the 1920s – interacted with musical culture in complicated ways. The term is too often reified and made a simplistic label. The most specific definition of Enlightenment is to see it as a critique of tradition or custom, an effort to reform that was directed most intensively at the established Church, whether Catholic or Protestant. Daniel Heartz followed a broader definition in Music in European Capitals: The Galant Style, 1720–1780.59 Finding great differences between the movements across Europe, I tend to favour the strict definition, following Robert Darnton in distinguishing between the Enlightenment and the cultural life of the eighteenth century in general.60 We can speak of ‘enlightened’ opinion in the musical writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and in efforts to systematise musical knowledge in essays by such writers as William Addison or Johann Mattheson. Yet relatively few ideological campaigns against tradition comparable to those made against the Church can be found in musical life in this period. After all, most repertoires continued to be self-renewing, as new works succeeded the old, and printed musical commentary was in its infancy. The nature of the Austrian Aufklärung is particularly 59 D. Heartz, Music in European Capitals, New York, Norton, 2003. 60 R. Darnton, ‘In search of the Enlightenment: recent attempts to create a social history of ideas’, Journal of Modern History, 43 (1971), 113–32; R. Darnton, ‘The High Enlightenment and the low-life of literature in pre-revolutionary France’, Past and Present, 51 (May, 1971), 81–115.



problematic. Hermann Abert and Derek Beales have shown that Mozart avoided political or religious controversy and indeed followed Catholic dogma carefully in his settings of sacred works. Dorothy Koenigsberger pointed out that the Masonic ideas in Die Zauberflöte are rooted in late medieval ideas just as much as in enlightened thought.61 Despite the continuing predominance of new works over the old, a few canonic repertoires began to appear, chiefly in France and in Britain. The two countries possessed the most fully developed states, and music tended to remain in performance longer there because the monarch no longer served as the patron bringing in new works. The operas and ballets of Jean-Baptiste Lully were revived regularly at the Paris Opéra, and selections from them appeared in concerts in cities such as Lyon and Bordeaux.62 The unusually long performing season in Paris – with closure only for two weeks after Easter – made the Opéra need more repertoire than did its counterparts in London or Naples. An even longer canonic tradition existed in Britain, where sacred works from the late sixteenth century survived in the some cathedrals and chapels, and madrigals of the same vintage were sung in a few homes and clubs. The persistence of operas by Hasse and Carl Heinrich Graun in Berlin, the Prussian capital, confirms the pattern that canonic repertoire appeared in the most fully developed states where the monarch ceased to be patron. Lacking both money and will, Frederick II, King of Prussia, kept the operas in performance after the Seven Years War.63 The world of cultivated music existing in the 1780s was a tightly bound set of institutions and tastes that had been developing for a century and a half. Concert programmes tended to be similar in most contexts, mixing opera selections, concertos, symphonies, pieces from sacred works and in some contexts chamber pieces. Even though some genres were regarded as more elevated than others, sometimes performed in separate theatres, their links within the tightly bound musical community proved much more significant than any aesthetic hierarchy. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the word ‘popular’ did not carry strong ideological implications; it simply meant that a particular number of people liked a piece. A set of political 61 H. Abert, W. A. Mozart, trans. S. Spencer and ed. C. Eisen, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2007; D. Beales, Mozart and the Habsburgs: 1992 Stenton Lectures, University of Reading, 1993; D. Koenigsberger, ‘A new metaphor for Mozart’s Magic Flute’, European Studies Review, 5 (1975), 229–75. J. Van Horn Melton, ‘School, stage, salon: musical cultures in Haydn’s Vienna’, Journal of Modern History, 76/2 (2004), 251–79. 62 Weber, Great Transformation of Musical Taste, pp. 65–81; and W. Weber, ‘Les programmes de concerts, de Bordeaux à Boston’, in P. Taïeb, N. Morel-Borotra and J. Gribenski (eds.), Le Musée de Bordeaux et la musique de concert, 1783–93, University of Rouen, 2005, pp. 175–93. 63 J. Mangum, ‘Apollo and the German muses: opera and the articulation of class, politics and society in Prussia, 1740–1806’, Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Los Angeles (2002).

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processes – conflicts and compromises – endowed contrasting musical activities and tastes with a tenuous unity. Some people complained about noise at the opera, others about cliché-ridden ‘occasional’ pieces or virtuoso numbers. But save for a few exceptions – the idealistic commentator John Hawkins most prominently – idealists basically kept their peace in this period.

The nineteenth century By the time of the Congress of Vienna in 1814–15 the musical world just described had begun to fall apart. The ‘crisis of the old order’, as historians have long termed it, began with a series of internal crises as early as one in Geneva in the early 1760s, leading to upheaval of some sort almost everywhere in Europe and the Americas. The Napoleonic Wars now seem as important as the French Revolution of 1789 in widely bringing about a questioning of the nature of political authority. That instability helped produce change in cultural worlds that could be related to, but not necessarily derived from, national politics. Musicians and leading amateurs took advantage of the situation to start creating new kinds of musical presentation, either to take advantage of growing commercial markets or to apply idealistic principles of high-level music-making, or a mixture of both. A half century of turbulent change ensued, until the Revolutions of 1848–9 contributed to forcing the question of how musical life should be defined, and a new order came into existence within a decade or so. Much of the musical world found in 1870 still exists in our experience today. Thus did the periods of change in national politics and musical culture evolve in tandem. The expansion of musical activities and the public involved in them grew from the rapid growth in urban population, creating a set of social structures which could not be united in the fashion attempted in the 1780s. The rise of new kinds of production and marketing in cultural goods drew more people from the general population into musical life than had been the case previously. In 1837 the journalist and publisher Léon Escudier introduced the new periodical, France Musicale, by stating that ‘Music is proliferating with astonishing speed today. The art has passed from the theatre into the salons, from salons into the shops, from there onto the street, seeking to become a force among the masses.’64 The operas of Rossini and Giacomo Meyerbeer and the virtuosity of Sigismond Thalberg and Franz Liszt appealed to the new publics much more than did any concerts devoted chiefly to classical music. Nineteenth-century musical culture became deeply divided in its values. One can speak in relatively neutral terms about a dichotomy between commercial 64 ‘Prospectus’, France Musicale, 31 December 1838, p. 1.



and idealistic notions of musical activity. Commercial efforts sprang up most dynamically in the repackaging of well-known opera selections and virtuoso pieces for amateurs, as well as in piano transcriptions of classical works. Idealistic principles were part of the discourse emanating from orchestral societies and string-quartet series, which aimed to raise the taste of the heterogeneous new public. The term ‘classical music’ became standard by 1830 and was understood to denote firmly works by revered, usually deceased composers, their music being thought to elevate taste beyond the ‘trash’ of fantasies on opera melodies. By the 1860s the word ‘popular’ carried an ideological edge, which editors of booklets of opera selections used to their own advantage. Producers of concerts might borrow from the language of both classical music and popular song as they probed opportunistically to build new publics. Even though the opera fantasy was unusual in orchestral concerts by 1870, the Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna still offered selections from ageing operas and folk songs popularised by Jenny Lind. By the same token, the entrepreneurs who built ‘promenade’ concerts – where listeners could walk during the performance – would perform one or two movements from a Beethoven symphony along with opera medleys and quadrilles, waltzes and polkas. A new kind of ‘miscellaneous’ programme developed in promenade concerts and is still widely produced today. Musical institutions and professions became rooted in the new aesthetic vocabulary. During the 1830s music critics assumed for themselves an authority far stronger than any connoisseurs or commentators in music life had claimed previously. Such critics – almost entirely men – asserted their power variously by interpreting the classics and identifying the best performers. By the 1870s musicology was emerging as a scholarly discipline of sorts, rooted variously in the music conservatoires appearing in many cities, and also in some cases in universities. The breakup of traditional musical culture occurred most fundamentally in the rise of song concerts, usually called the music hall, the café-concert, or variété. Performing traditions in semi-private venues existed in almost every country, offering songs in rooms where listeners could eat and drink. The song-and-supper clubs in London resembled somewhat Paris’s cafés-chantants and goguettes where chansons were performed to airs du couplet related to skits of vaudeville; in both contexts one can find connoisseurs knowledgeable about the idioms presented. The musical venues which appeared during the 1840s and 1850s were much more public and commercial, focusing on star singers and involving a small orchestra rather than a piano. People from the lower middle class who attended these events had experienced music in public chiefly at theatres featuring songs

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


and skits, what was called vaudeville in France. Opera selections – Italian, British or French – were also performed at almost all theatres. For example, in 1862 Weston’s Music Hall in Holborn advertised that it would offer ‘Mozart’s great works’, a Rossini medley and a piece from Daniel Auber’s Gustavus III (1833), but, interestingly enough, a medley for four instruments based on music by Felix Mendelssohn and Vincent Wallace. For that matter, Canterbury Hall, located in Lambeth across the river from Westminster, presented the first British rendition of Charles Gounod’s Faust, in concert style in 1859.65 Yet the great majority of the repertoire comprised well-known songs such as ‘Look out for a rainy day’ and ‘Champagne Charlie’. The term ‘popular music’ – which was written occasionally – was just as much a novelty in 1850 as ‘classical music’ had been in 1810. That is why one has to be impressed with the prominence, scale and professionalism achieved by music halls and cafés-concerts in their early decades. Although these events grew out of strong traditions of music-making, what emerged by 1870 affected a far wider range of social classes and stood proudly independent from elite institutions. If the British music halls constituted the largest scale of entertainment, and ballad concerts the most distinct national taste, French cafés-concerts acquired what Bernard Gendron called a ‘cultural empowerment of popular music’, taking on an authority parallel to the Conservatoire concerts.66 Particularly significant divisions occurred over matters of taste in Britain as quarrels arose over who ‘possessed’ opera selections – the classical-music orchestras or the music halls. The city with the freest market in musical life was thus the most fragmented in taste. But the early opera galas stood apart from popular music. Opera was identified with neither classics nor with popular songs, and it was thereby able to contribute a common culture to the increasingly fragmented musical world.

The twentieth century The framework of institutions and tastes formed around 1850 continued to exist in the twentieth century to a considerable extent. Some old conflicts became even sharper than before, especially those surrounding the dichotomies between the popular and the classical, and between the new and the old. But fresh opportunities emerged in the exploitation of technology for novel performing techniques and expanding publics beyond the concert hall.67 Wholly new types of music revitalised public life: jazz, big-band dance music and rock ’n’ roll. 65 Weber, Great Transformation of Musical Taste, p. 292. 66 B. Gendron, Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-garde, University of Chicago Press, 2002, p. 5. 67 See R. P. Morgan, Modern Times: From World War I to the Present, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall, 1993.



Even though canonic repertoires became hegemonic over musical taste for many genres by 1870, many parts of the music public remained open to hearing new works for the most part. But around 1900 an ideologically driven position emerged that rejected new music categorically, including pieces written in conservative as well as advanced styles. For example, in 1913 a Leipzig magazine for amateur choral societies, whose music was rarely ‘progressive’, declared, ‘So you want even more modern music? Haven’t we had enough already? Isn’t it clear that as soon as a conductor brings on a new piece, the hall empties out immediately, and that is the best way to scare people off?’68 Thus did the twentieth-century suspicion of new music arise after Arnold Schoenberg turned towards atonality or Igor Stravinsky began his experiments in rhythm and texture. The feverish ideological climate of the pre-war period must have had something to do with this change. Prototypical examples of the twentieth-century conflict between classical and modern music are to be found in books by the British critic Henry Pleasants and the Russo-American encyclopedist Nicolas Slonimsky. Pleasants opened The Agony of Modern Music (1955) by declaring that ‘Serious music is a dead art. The vein which for three hundred years offered a seemingly inexhaustible yield of beautiful music has run out. What we know as modern music is the noise made by deluded speculators picking through the slagpile.’69 Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers since Beethoven’s Time (1953) pre-dated Pleasants’s book by two years, and indeed his Music since 1900 (1937) prefigured it.70 Essential to his dogmatic construct is the erection of a modernist counter-canon, founded upon the principle that great works will eventually be recognised. The opening chapter, ‘Nonacceptance of the unfamiliar’, uses vocabulary just as blunt as Pleasants’s ‘slagheap’, pointing to the ‘fossilised senses’ of the anti-modernists. ‘To listeners steeped in traditional music, modern works are meaningless, as alien languages are to a poor linguist. No wonder that music critics often borrow linguistic similes to express their recoiling horror of the modernists.’71 Yet in the long term the rhetoric that highlighted the dichotomy between classical and contemporary music served as a means of negotiation between the two sides. The stalemate between new and old music became institutionalised, but in the process practices emerged which enabled new music to maintain at 68 R. Oehmichen, ‘Mehr moderne Musik fürs moderne tägliche Leben’, Deutsche Sängerbundeszeitung, 7 (June 1913), 374; Weber, ‘Consequences of Canon: institutionalization of enmity between contemporary and classical music, c. 1910’, Common Knowledge, 9 (2003), 78–99. 69 H. Pleasants, The Agony of Modern Music, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1955, p. 3. 70 N. Slonimsky, Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers since Beethoven’s Time, New York, Coleman-Ross, 1953, p. 8. 71 Ibid., p. 4.

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


least a limited standing within general concert life. The language of deprecation of the new proved politically malleable despite its harshness; those who spoke it ended up working out new arrangements which permitted the new and the old to relate with one another to some fashion. Thus did the British Broadcasting Corporation fund extensive performances of avant-garde works beginning in the late 1920s, and four decades later the National Endowment for the Arts in the United States began requiring ensembles to be given grants to offer some new music. Whether that helped or hurt public appreciation of contemporary music is an open question, of course.72 Ideological conflict flourished in such contexts. In the United States, the committee awarding the distinguished Pulitzer Prize in Music (1943) came under harsh attack for its narrow selection in terms of style and the gendering of composers.73 Early examples of New Music concerts can be found as early as the 1830s, specifically in the meetings of the Society for British Musicians, and such events flourished from the 1860s under the auspices of the Allgemeine Deutsche Musikverein and the Société National de Musique.74 Arnold Schoenberg brought a harsh ideology to this kind of concert in barring members of the press from the Society for Private Performances in Vienna (1919–21). A counter-canon of music composed after 1900 began at a remarkably early date. Founded in 1922, the International Society for Contemporary Music gathered together composers of very different kinds, offering programmes which parallel the present-day canon closely. In the course of the twentieth century government support replaced private patronage to a great extent, thereby changing many dimensions of musical life. National identities became sharper than in the early nineteenth century as conservatoires and concerts came under the aegis of the nation-state, the (to some minds dubious) idea of a national music became deeply institutionalised. Even though some monarchs had previously set the tone for opera, resistance to the music they championed encouraged quite different composers and styles.75 The regimes in the Third Reich, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the German Democratic Republic enforced policies on music in some ways more restrictive than can be found in the nineteenth century.76 72 J. Doctor, The BBC and the Ultra-modern Music 1927–36: Shaping a Nation’s Tastes, Cambridge University Press, 1999; J. Pasler, ‘The political economy of composition in the American University, 1965–1985’, in J. Pasler, Writing through Music, Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 318–62. 73 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulitzer_Prize_for_Music. 74 Weber, Great Transformation of Musical Taste, pp. 138, 140, 238, 240–5, 252, 305. 75 G. Cowart, The Triumph of Pleasure: Louis XIV and the Politics of Spectacle, University of Chicago Press, 2008. 76 J. H. Calico, ‘“Für eine neue deutsche Nationaloper”: Opera in the discourses of unification and legitimation in the German Democratic Republic’, in C. Applegate and P. Potter (eds.), Music and German National Identity, University of Chicago Press, 2002, pp. 190–204.



Resistance to official policy did of course occur; many historians of these regimes in fact now avoid using the term ‘totalitarian’. Technology opened up a wide range of opportunities for different musical cultures. The phonograph and the radio widened the range of potential listening to an extent little imagined in 1900. The recording business almost started from scratch in conceiving and organising its lists of repertoire. Classics and popular songs were originally mixed together in lists of recordings, rather as was the case with early nineteenth-century editors of musical editions. A sorting out of musical and aesthetic categories came about as groups of listeners would meet in club-like gatherings to hear new recordings.77 Canonic frameworks took form as people began to hear works at their own leisure. During the twentieth century opera ceased to provide a common ground between classical and popular music as opera repertoires became even more rigidly canonic than orchestral ones by 1930. With the rise of rock music and the rage for the Beatles in the 1960s, intellectual links began growing among the widely separated regions of musical taste. In 1970 Richard Meltzer, claiming to have been expelled as a student from Yale University, published The Aesthetics of Rock. ‘So what’ he wrote, was ‘a fine aesthetic judgment – because it sums up a valid experience and leaves the work itself untarnished’.78 Much of the music Meltzer heralded eventually entered a canon parallel to that in the classical world. Likewise, by the late 1980s a jazz canon had become so firmly established that young jazz players struggled to be recognised just about as much as ‘new classical’ composers did. The process of fragmentation that broke up the eighteenth-century musical world around 1800 thus continued in incremental stages for two more centuries, as types of music and musical sociability expanded in number and variety. Crossover styles between jazz, rock, pop and classical music proved problematic; the main worlds remained stubbornly separate from one another. ‘Early music’ brought about a vital new musicality beginning in the 1960s but its self-definition – the much debated principle of ‘authenticity’ – remained controversial.79 Once again we find the main story of this book: the multiplication of musical cultures competing for public attention.

77 S. Maisonneuve, ‘La constitution d’une culture et d’une écoute musicale nouvelles: le disque et ses sociabilités comme agents de changement culturel dans les années 1920 et 1930’, Revue de musicology, 88 (2002), 43–66, and L’Invention du disque, 1877–1949: Genèse de l’usage des médias musicaux contemporains, Paris, Éditions des Archives Contemporaines, 2009. 78 R. Meltzer, The Aesthetics of Rock, New York, Something Else Press, 1970, p. 12. See also C. W. Jones, The Rock Canon: Canonical Values in the Reception of Rock Albums, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008; and M. Long, Beautiful Monsters: Imagining the Classic in Musical Media, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2008. 79 See Lawson and Stowell, The Historical Performance of Music; Nicholas Kenyon (ed.), Authenticity and Early Music, Oxford University Press, 1988.

. 3 .

The evidence ROBIN STOWELL

Evidence in musicology may be described, as in jurisprudence, as information discovered or provided in an investigation to establish conclusively the truth about something in question. It offers the vital raw materials for the progress of research in numerous musicological sub-disciplines, and it is especially important in performance for those who wish to recover knowledge and attempt to recreate a former sound world – and mostly without the benefit of any aural legacy from the period concerned. Such evidence takes a rich variety of forms, as illustrated by a memorial volume to Thurston Dart in which each contributor uses a particular type of source-study, creating a veritable ‘case-book of musical research’.1 Such diversity is also demonstrated in the present volume, especially in those chapters in Parts II–VII inclusive. Most performers utilise the evidence of source materials to forge so-called ‘historically informed performances’, implementing technique, styles and tastes appropriate to the music and attempting to establish features of it that conventional notation does not detail – these may comprise anything from musica ficta provision to the determination of, amongst other issues, instrumentation, pitch levels, tuning, rhythmic considerations, specific and extempore ornamentation, articulation, accentuation, dynamic nuances and, in Baroque music, the realisation of continuo accompaniments. Authoritative interpretation of the evidence for this variety of performance issues requires detailed historical study, and the potential exists for a diversity of interpretations of the information acquired, as well as for more than one acceptable solution. And, of course, all the evidence in the world will never guarantee performances that are convincing and vivid. There will nearly always be gaps in the total picture, as Colin Lawson verifies in his case study of Mozart’s last three symphonies.2 The situation worsens the further one ventures back in time from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as John Haines verifies in Chapter 8. Much music of ‘the medieval millennium’ was transmitted orally and little written-down music of that era has survived the 1 I. Bent (ed.), Source Materials and the Interpretation of Music, London, Stainer & Bell, 1981, preface, p. 11. 2 See Chapter 23.




ravages of time. It is only rarely that a thirteenth- or fourteenth-century writer about music will inform us about the musical instruments or performance practice of his age. The relationship between the performer, the instruments and the evidence is a constantly fluctuating one and the most meaningful performances result from an open-minded interaction between the three. What is vitally important is that the evidence furnished by the various sources prompts scholars and performers to raise questions and seek answers through enquiry, thought and experiment, applying performance practices as appropriate; and there has been an increasing understanding that the use of the fullest possible contexts around performances is helpful in amplifying and correcting sometimes simplistic approaches to performance practice. Stephen Crist, for example, demonstrates how information gained from biblical and hymnological sources can enhance the interpretation of music manuscript sources of Bach’s church cantatas;3 and the same parent volume includes Ellen Harris’s case study of Mozart’s Mitridate, in which she uses Mozart’s text and ornamentation practice, epistolary evidence, a contemporary treatise by Corri, practical experiment and her own musical experience to create a credible interpretation.4 Glen Haydon’s two principal categories of historical evidence used in musicology, ‘material remains’ and ‘written records’, will provide the cornerstones of this chapter and dictate its shape.5 ‘Material remains’ embraces musical instruments, sound recordings and film, pictures and reliefs, and all buildings used for musical purposes, whether churches, concert halls, theatres or opera houses; ‘written records’ include materials as wide-ranging as musical monuments (all music preserved in notation, whether printed or in manuscript), historical writings of all kinds, general literature, public documents containing records and data, private documents such as letters, diaries, household accounts and estate records, and newspapers, journals and concert programmes. Evidence from these sources is sometimes supplemented by oral tradition, as, for example, in instrumental and vocal pedagogy, in the addition of ornamentation to vocal and instrumental music, in musical performances involving improvisation, and in the fields of secular music of the Middle Ages, Gregorian church music, folk music and jazz.

3 S. A. Crist, ‘Historical theology and hymnology as tools for interpreting Bach’s church cantatas: the case of Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erlösen, BWV 48’, in S. A. Crist and R. M. Marvin (eds.), Historical Musicology: Sources, Methods, Interpretations. Festschrift for Robert L. Marshall, University of Rochester Press, 2004, pp. 57–84. 4 E. T. Harris, ‘Mozart’s Mitridate: going beyond the text’, in Crist and Marvin (eds.), Historical Musicology, pp. 95–120. 5 G. Haydon, ‘The sources of musical history’, in G. Haydon (ed.), Introduction to Musicology, New York, Prentice Hall, 1941, p. 267.

The evidence


Material remains Musical instruments Surviving instruments furnish much historical and ethnological evidence about performance issues and provide the vital apparatus for ‘laboratory’ experiments in matters of technique, interpretation and style. Even so fierce a critic of literal approaches to historical performance as Richard Taruskin acknowledges ‘the inestimable and indispensable value of the old instruments in freeing minds and hands to experience old music newly’,6 an importance amply demonstrated by, for example, Fenner Douglass, whose experiments with the realisation of ornaments on seventeenth-century French organs have proved far more instructive than reading theorists’ descriptions.7 Furthermore, the light touch, clear articulation and expressive flexibility of Viennese-action pianos are as much key to the understanding of Mozart’s music for performance as the recognition that Haydn intended his keyboard sonatas for the more sonorous English action piano by the mid-1790s;8 and Kerman concedes that ‘Certain notorious problematic Beethoven markings . . . make immediate sense in the sonorous world of the actual instrument he played when he wrote them’.9 The study of musical instruments in performance history before 1600 is very much in its infancy and is based almost entirely on secondary evidence, including paintings and ‘lists of instruments in literary works of the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (such as Machaut’s enumerations in his poems Remède de Fortune and La prise d’Alexandrie, and the lists in the anonymous fourteenthcentury Echecs amoureux)’.10 Howard Mayer Brown outlines the various kinds of evidence required to ‘form plausible hypotheses, or to reach defensible conclusions’, about the ways in which musical instruments were employed in the Middle Ages.11 It includes reliable information about which instruments existed at particular times and places, when each was invented or introduced into the major European countries, how each was played, how techniques and performance conventions may have varied nationally over the years, and which musical repertoires (written and unwritten) were regularly associated with instruments. Brown recognises the shortcomings of the various sources, bemoaning, for 6 R. Taruskin, Text and Act, Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 148. 7 See F. Douglass, The Language of the Classical French Organ, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1969, rev. 2nd edn, 1995. 8 See Chapter 22. 9 J. Kerman, ‘The historical performance movement’, in J. Kerman, Musicology, London, Fontana, 1985, p. 213. 10 In S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edn, 29 vols., London, Macmillan, 2001, vol. 19, p. 354, art. ‘Performing practice’. 11 See H. M. Brown, ‘Instruments’, in H. M. Brown and S. Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music before 1600, London, Macmillan, 1989, pp. 15–36.



example, that the history of the medieval fiddle, like that of many other instruments, has still only partially been traced, Bachmann’s acclaimed study of the origins of bowing in Western Europe notwithstanding.12 Still unknown is ‘how the instrument changed its shape and function from decade to decade and from country to country’, and ‘how both flat and rounded bridges were used (and when, why, and with which repertories)’; and some hypotheses must be offered ‘to explain the presence, in a number of pictures, of what looks like a second bridge between the bow and the fingerboard’.13 In traditional musical cultures instruments are artefacts which not only produce sounds but also convey meaning, thereby extending their value as historical evidence. This extra dimension is determined by their functional and symbolic role in society and the factors regulating their use, which is often linked ‘to beliefs, to the spiritual or temporal power, the institutions, the cycle of life, and various other circumstances, some codified and some not’.14 It thus follows that ‘the specific ceremonies accompanying the consecration of an instrument, the underwritten rules defining its part in ritual, the taboos presiding over its making and its use, and the myths (written or orally transmitted) about its origin (natural or supernatural)’ serve as evidence of its importance to that particular social grouping.15 The complex web of evidence yielded by research in this field may embrace any combination of musical, technical, aesthetic, symbolic, historical and ethnological issues. It may inform us how playing techniques influenced sound production (for example, continuous or discontinuous blowing in various aerophones), how instruments were constructed and how people used and developed the creative skills applied to that end (basket-making, pottery, metal-casting and forging, wood-carving or whatever). It may also lead us to conclude whether an instrument is indigenous or whether it was imported from another culture, and it may yield numerous musical ‘leads’ such as detail about the genre or general repertoire, the composer, the language of any text (if relevant), the ensemble, playing techniques and the mode of performance, or the circumstances of performance. Private and public collections worldwide have proved invaluable in preserving instruments, whether for use in performance, as objects of veneration or visual art, artefacts for financial investment, or to furnish ethnological and historical evidence, illustrate technological developments or serve as models for new construction. Some of the most significant early collections of Western 12 W. Bachmann, The Origins of Bowing and the Development of Bowed Instruments up to the Thirteenth Century, trans. N. Deane, Oxford University Press, 1969. 13 Brown, ‘Instruments’, in Brown and Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music before 1600, p. 18. 14 In H. Myers (ed.), Ethnomusicology: An Introduction, New York, Norton, 1992, p. 291. 15 Ibid.

The evidence


musical instruments were amassed by the Este family in Modena, the Contarini family in Venice, Prince Ferdinando de Medici in Florence and, during the sixteenth century, the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand at Ambras Castle near Innsbruck. One of the oldest institutional collections still prospering is that (est. 1824) of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. The acquisition of Clapisson’s collection by the Paris Conservatoire in 1864, the creation of the Brussels Conservatoire’s museum from the private collections of Fétis, Mahillon and others in the 1870s and the Berlin Königliche Hochschule für Musik’s procurement of Paul de Wit’s first collection in 1888 were matched by private collectors such as Auguste Tolbecque in France, Carl Engel and Alfred Hipkins in Britain and Morris Steinert in the USA. The explosion in the number of specialist instrument collections established since these sparks of interest is attested by the lengthy lists included in relevant publications.16 Among other leading centres of conservation today are the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna), Musikinstrumenten-Museums in Munich, Leipzig and Markneukirchen, the American Shrine to Music Museum (University of South Dakota, Vermillion) and the Smithsonian Institute (Washington, DC), and various British collections in London (Boosey and Hawkes, Horniman and Victoria and Albert Museums, the Wallace Collection, and the Royal College of Music), Gloucester (Folk Museum), Oxford (Bate Collection), Wigan (Rimmer Collection) and Edinburgh (University). Photographs, descriptions, construction plans, measurements and other detailed information included in the catalogues of many of these collections have also proved valuable in disseminating knowledge about organology. Some instruments have not survived outside museums – the crwth, pommer and viola bastarda, for example – while others have survived in modified forms, due to progress in their construction methods and, in some cases, radical technical developments. The increased practice of collecting instruments has inevitably raised the controversy over the relative claims of preservation and investigation through use. The potential benefits of restoration have had to be weighed continually against the possible destruction of original evidence.17 Most museums and institutions have taken the conservative option and preserved their instruments in stable conditions and in scientifically monitored environments, but some have attempted reconditioning and some private collectors and

16 A comprehensive list of instrument collections worldwide is provided in Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary, 2nd edn, vol. 19, pp. 432–67, art. ‘Instruments, collections of ’. 17 The complex set of issues surrounding the preservation, restoration and use of old instruments is discussed further by Robert Barclay in Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary, 2nd edn, vol. 19, pp. 468–70, art. ‘Instruments, conservation, restoration, copying of ’.



conservatoires have taken the bolder step of allowing their instruments to be loaned to careful users. The preservation of early instruments has proved of inestimable value to modern makers of reproductions; it made a reality of Harnoncourt’s dream to differentiate between oboes, oboes d’amore and the prescribed oboes da caccia for Nos. 48, 49, 59 and 60 in J. S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion. Harnoncourt commissioned replicas of oboes da caccia from Leipzig prototypes (by Eichentopf) discovered in museums in Stockholm and Copenhagen during the 1970s.18 A special form of taille or tenor oboe in F covered in leather and bent in a semicircle, with a brass bell like a hunting horn,19 the oboe da caccia had a unique dark timbre and dynamic flexibility. Bach employs it for especially tender moments, sometimes in combination with the transverse flute (as in Nos. 48 and 49). The replicas gain most of the advantages of restoration without endangering the original instrument and, thanks to organological research, may represent the original state even when the original instrument has been modified. More recently, sophisticated computer modelling software has been used, along with acoustical and other evidence, to recreate the long, slender trumpet-like instrument called the lituus for period performance of J. S. Bach’s motet ‘O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht’ BWV118.20 Examination of exhibits in the world’s collections has also provided instrument researchers with a rich mine of clues about issues of performance history. For example, the development of techniques such as dendrochronology for dating and authenticating wooden objects and instruments has led to a realisation that many bowed instruments may be of more recent manufacture or more drastically altered than had been previously thought. Long-held attributions have thus been challenged, notably the origins of Stradivari’s ‘Messiah’ violin, and a more realistic view of the development of viols and violins, especially in Italy, has begun to emerge. Some of the information gained is often frustratingly insufficient, notably that concerning pitch in the period and geographical area of some instruments’ construction (particularly woodwinds and organs). However, as David Ponsford reminds us in Chapter 18, much can be gained from their examination, provided that the problems of general wear-and-tear, as well as wood shrinkage in woodwinds and tuning damage and changes of wind pressure in organs, are taken into account.

18 N. Harnoncourt, ‘The oboe da caccia’, notes to Das Kantatenwerk, vol. 7, Teldec Records, 1973, p. 13. 19 Johann Heinrich Eichentopf was a distinguished Leipzig maker of brass instruments; models by other eighteenth-century makers generally have wooden bells. 20 This has been a collaborative project between the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and acousticians at the University of Edinburgh.

The evidence


Historically accurate replicas of accessories such as reeds, brass mouthpieces and strings are also essential, otherwise the perception of an instrument and its repertoire may be entirely transformed. Musical boxes, musical clocks, barrel organs and other mechanically governed ‘instruments’ from the eighteenth century onwards also provide fairly accurate information about relative pitch and rhythmic values.21 Some insight into absolute tempo values can also be gained by timing performances so preserved. Eleanor Selfridge-Field has drawn attention to some of the advantages and disadvantages of modern reconstruction of instruments for historical performance and demonstrates how the problems that modern makers have attempted to overcome can sometimes have a negative impact. She cites the Charles Fisk Organ (1983) at Stanford University, with its duplicate pipes for ‘mean-tone’ and ‘well-tempered’ tunings, pointing out that ‘it creates a corresponding need for “push button” adaptability among collaborating instrumentalists and singers that was not a requisite of earlier times’.22 Similar earlier attempts at conflating past and present to facilitate the performance process, such as the so-called ‘Bach bow’, various hybrid keyboard instruments and other organological freaks, have not gained currency. However, makers have allowed compromises in the construction of replica period instruments, notably the use of modern materials which have been proven to be more reliable (e.g. the use of ebonite rather than wood for early clarinet mouthpieces), the relocation of finger-holes on wind instruments to ‘improve’ intonation, or even the addition of some keys to woodwind instruments to facilitate accurate execution.

Sound recordings The evolution and development of recording technology from the late nineteenth century onwards have provided musicologists and ethnomusicologists with vital means for preserving, duplicating and moving raw data in a way that many other disciplines were unable to achieve until the advent of computer technology.23 For ethnomusicologists, recording (using sound recorders and photographic and video cameras) has become one of the primary methods of collecting evidence systematically during essential fieldwork. It has complemented the irreplaceable notebook since Jesse Fewkes first used the Edison cylinder machine in the field during his research with the Passamaquoddy Indians of the north-eastern USA (1890) and the Zuni and Hopi Pueblos of 21 The instruments of the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld, for example, suggest that he played at a0 =440, lower than the norm in many places for his time. See Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary, 2nd edn, vol. 19, p. 376, art. ‘Performing Practice’. 22 In H. M. Brown and S. Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music after 1600, London, Macmillan, 1989, p. 16. 23 Krister Malm offers a useful history of technological developments in ethnomusicological research in ‘The Music Industry’, in Myers (ed.), Ethnomusicology: An Introduction, pp. 349–64.



Arizona (1890–1).24 The phonograph and its numerous later developments enabled easy capture and transmission of evidence for oral, unwritten traditions and offered playback potential for transcription and analytical purposes (e.g. analysing ornamentation practices). Once considered merely as old-fashioned curiosities, acoustic and electrical commercial recordings furnish vital aural evidence of past performing practices, preserving some of the most distinguished readings of our forebears, often given or conducted by the composers themselves (for example, Rachmaninov, Elgar, Stravinsky and Bartók) or by musicians with whom they were associated, or whose interpretations they approved.25 We can even hear on record the vocal range, timbre and expressive vocabulary of the last castrato of the Cappella Sistina, Alessandro Moreschi, offering us clues as to the sound quality of a voice type which, though now obsolete, was so important in the performance of Roman Catholic church music and eighteenth-century opera. Recordings also illustrate performance practices of the early twentieth century in far greater detail than any prose account in any instrumental treatises or other printed documentation, as well as bearing witness to the evolution of more recent performing trends. Most importantly, they force us ‘to question unspoken assumptions about modern taste, and about the ways in which we use it to justify our interpretation of earlier performance practice’.26 The radical re-evaluation of early recordings as crucial evidence for mapping the history of style, interpretation and performance was assisted by various forwardlooking collectors, many of whom donated their collections to university and other archives such as the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound (est. 1958),27 the Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive at Syracuse University (est. 1963), the Smithsonian Collection of Early Jazz, the Rutgers University Institute of Jazz Studies Archive Collection, and the Marr Sound Archives (University of MissouriKansas City Special Collections Department). Such archives have been matched elsewhere in the world, notably by the UK’s National Sound Archive (British Library), and include a diversity of recorded materials across various musical styles in formats ranging from wax cylinders through private tape recordings, 78rpm and LP discs to compact discs. 24 Béla Vikár was the first to record Hungarian folk song (1896); Béla Bartók used the phonograph from 1906. Other researchers such as Percy Grainger (1882–1961) in England (from 1906) began recording folk songs on wax cylinders. 25 Stephen Cottrell outlines the impact of recording technology on early twentieth-century performance history in Chapter 28. 26 R. Philip, Early Recordings and Musical Style: Changing Tastes in Instrumental Performance 1900–1950, Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 2. 27 The Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound was one of the first major collections devoted to the acquisition, preservation and dissemination of historically and artistically significant sound recordings at an educational institution.

The evidence


The accessibility of these collections and the increasing dissemination of historic recordings have created exciting new avenues of performance research, with projects focusing on the evidence yielded by empirical study of early recordings. Recorded performances have been analysed using aural means or relevant computer software to provide evidence for vibrato usage (including the length, breadth and speed, as well as the incidence of vibrato), portamento, tempo flexibility, tempo proportions, ornamentation and improvisation practice, and other such performance considerations;28 and in ethnomusicology, Racy, Spiller, Stillman and others have used early recordings of Arab, Sundanese and Hawaiian musics to track changes in performance practice.29 Early recordings have also assisted in shedding new light retrospectively on nineteenth-century performance and have revealed some of the artistic roots of early recording artists as far back as about the 1860s. One case in point is the particular German style of vocal performance advocated by Julius Hey (1832–1909), the first singing teacher at Munich’s Königliche Musikschule as part of Wagner and Ludwig II’s scheme to reform vocal instruction in the city, particularly with performances of Wagner’s operas in mind. Hey coached many of the singers involved in the first complete Ring cycle in Bayreuth (1876), notably the tenor Georg Unger (Siegfried), and published a systematic, three-volume treatise on singing instruction, Deutscher Gesangunterricht (Mainz, 1885).30 Characteristic of Hey’s style, which gained a mixed reception overall, was his insistence on clear enunciation of the text as a springboard for expressive singing. Numerous singers, among them Felix von Kraus and Ernestine Schumann-Heink,31 adopted Hey’s principles and left recordings that furnish vital evidence regarding period singing of Wagner.32

28 Examples of published research using the evidence of early recordings include: Robert Philip’s Early Recordings and Musical Style and his Performing Music in the Age of Recording, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2004; Timothy Day’s A Century of Recorded Music: Listening to Musical History, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2002; and Will Crutchfield’s ‘Vocal ornamentation in Verdi: the phonographic evidence’, 19th-Century Music, 7 (1983), 3–54, as well as projects undertaken by the Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM; established 1 April 2004). 29 A. J. Racy, ‘Sound and society: the Takht music of early twentieth-century Cairo’, Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology, 7 (1988), 139–70; H. Spiller, ‘Continuity in Sundanese dance drumming: clues from the 1893 Chicago Exposition’, World of Music, 38/2 (1996), 23–40; A. Stillman, ‘Sound evidence: conceptual stability, social maintenance and changing performance practices in modern Hawaiian hula songs’, World of Music, 38/2 (1996), 5–22. 30 A condensed, single-volume edition of this treatise was later published as Der kleine Hey (Mainz, 1912) and has remained a standard German singing text. 31 Kraus made his Bayreuth stage debut in 1899 as Hagen (Götterdämmerung) and Gurnemanz (Parsifal). He later played the roles of Hermann (Tannhäuser), Titurel (Parsifal) and King Mark (Tristan und Isolde). Schumann-Heink became renowned in the roles of Erda, Fricka and Waltraute (Der Ring), and Brangäne (Tristan und Isolde). Her recordings as Erda and Waltraute (c. 1930) are particularly good examples of Hey’s principles of textual delivery. 32 See also Chapter 27.



Daniel Leech-Wilkinson has warned of the limitations of arguing backwards about performance styles. He claims that the evidence of a century of recorded music demonstrates that performance styles change very quickly, suggesting that significant change in general performance styles occurs over about two decades.33 Early recordings have also called into question the meaning and accuracy of some of the musical publications and documents that have long been used to interpret styles; the relationship between some performers’ publications and the evidence of their recordings is uneasy, and sometimes conflicting. Auer, a Joachim disciple, railed against the over-use of vibrato in his violin-playing manual,34 but some of his most celebrated pupils, notably Jascha Heifetz, were its masters, using it more as a continuous constituent of a pleasing tone than sparingly as an embellishment. Leech-Wilkinson cites a similar dichotomy between Lilli Lehmann’s instructions to avoid vibrato in her How to Sing with the strikingly wide vibrato evident in her recordings.35 Leech-Wilkinson offers us ‘three crumbs of comfort’: first, he suggests that performance styles probably did not change as quickly before as they did after recording was introduced; secondly, he opines that the evidence of the earliest recordings (by, for example, Joachim and Adelina Patti) suggests that a generally simpler performing style was cultivated ‘compared with the more demonstrative music-making of the next generation’;36 and thirdly, he argues that most performers develop a personal style by their late twenties and tend to retain it thereafter with limited change. Bearing in mind exceptions to this argument such as Artur Rubinstein and Fritz Kreisler, he concedes that it may be justifiable to use, for example, Joachim’s 1903 recordings as evidence for playing style c. 1860. However, he urges selectivity and caution in such back-tracking and stresses that knowledge of the performance circumstances and status of any recording so used is crucial if any accurate aesthetic or stylistic conclusions are to be drawn.

Film and video The media of film and, more recently, video or DVD have also served as evidence for performance history, particularly in the twentieth century. Film of celebrated conductors and performers of the past in rehearsal, concert and conversation can provide valuable insights into their performing ethos, as well as into issues of technique, interpretation and performance practice. Further, many renowned jazz musicians made appearances on screen in the early sound cinemas, among 33 D. Leech-Wilkinson, ‘Early recorded violin playing: evidence for what?’, www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/ humanities/depts/music/dwlpubs.html. Last accessed 22 June 2009. 34 L. Auer, Violin Playing as I Teach it, London, Duckworth & Co., 1921, pp. 22–4. 35 Leech-Wilkinson, ‘Early recorded violin playing’; L. Lehmann, How to Sing, New York, Macmillan Company, 1914, rev. 1924, pp. 140–5. 36 Leech-Wilkinson, ‘Early recorded violin playing’.

The evidence


them Duke Ellington (Black and Tan, 1929) and Bessie Smith (St Louis Blues, 1929). Jazz styles also became associated with the cartoon industry, especially in the 1940s, and several jazz performances were preserved as ‘shorts’, notably those of Louis Armstrong (Rhapsody in Black and Blue, 1932), Ellington and Billie Holiday (Symphony in Black, 1935) and the filmed jam session of Lester Young, Red Callender, Harry Edison, Marlowe Morris, Barney Kessel et al. (Jammin’ the Blues, 1944). Even the RCM Corporation’s short ‘soundies’, made for reproduction on optical jukeboxes in the 1940s, offer insights into a chapter of performance history, and the full-length films involving the Beatles (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964; Help!, 1965) and their ‘promo films’ marketing particular songs (for example ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’) have been used as evidence by writers about them and their performances. Video has been increasingly employed in the music industry since the 1970s, whether in ethnomusicology as another means of collecting pictorial evidence, in Western art music as a means of preserving examples of the work of celebrated conductors, performances and masterclasses, or in popular music as a marketing tool for a particular recording artist, group or song.37 Film archives have been established to preserve examples of such source materials. In addition to national archives, the Stanford Archive in California houses one of the world’s foremost collections for classical music; it holds film of approximately 300 conductors in rehearsal, concert and conversation, including extensive footage of Otto Klemperer.

Pictures and reliefs A picture is ‘worth one thousand words’, as the saying goes, and reconstructions of musical performances or events may be all the more convincing if they can be related directly to surviving iconography, whether pictures, the bas-reliefs on cathedrals, paintings, engravings, photographs, illustrated manuscripts, tapestries or other relevant material. Such sources can provide us with wide-ranging evidence about performance issues, including the history and construction of instruments, and knowledge about composers’ and performers’ lives and the social and intellectual atmosphere in which they worked. Howard Mayer Brown describes how they not only assist in explaining ‘the place of actual sounding music in society, but they also reveal the characteristic ways in which musical subjects were used symbolically or allegorically, and how music was used to illuminate the mythical, philosophical, theological or educational doctrines of an age’.38 37 For more information about video evidence, see S. Frith, A. Goodwin and L. Grossberg (eds.), Sound and Vision: The Music Video Reader, London and New York, Routledge, 1993. 38 In S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 1st edn, 20 vols., London, Macmillan, 1980, vol. 9, p. 17, art. ‘Iconography’.



Iconographical evidence should not always be taken at face value, however, and must be interpreted with care. The accuracy of the illustrations in Virdung’s Musica getutscht (Basle, 1511), for example, is questionable, their function being simply to enhance the text by giving some idea of an instrument’s appearance. That said, the clavichord keyboard is represented accurately (though in mirror image) and the depiction of the family of recorders offers valuable information about consort performance, showing that these instruments came in three sizes a fifth apart (discant, alto/tenor and bass) rather than four, as many have assumed.39 It is therefore prudent for researchers to compare a substantial number of illustrations before making firm conclusions regarding the physical characteristics of any given instrument or family. In so doing, Woodfield was able to conclude that artists depict particular types of viol (for example, the Valencian vihuela de arco and the early sixteenth-century German gross Geigen) with reassuring consistency and thereby assist the identification of ‘normal’ and ‘variable’ features.40 One of the most reliable early treatises on instruments appears in the second volume, De Organographia (1618), of Praetorius’s Syntagma Musicum (1614–18).41 Following almost a century after Agricola’s pioneering Musica instrumentalis deudsch (1529), the range and clarity of its information and the accuracy of its scaled drawings have enabled instrument makers to model their reconstructions precisely on the evidence provided. However, so authoritative a source is an exception rather than the rule, and conclusions from similar publications should ideally be corroborated from literary, archival or other sources, and by direct comparison with surviving instruments. And pictures of instruments obviously cannot reveal the impossible regarding the materials used, the size and shape of a bore, the thickness of a soundboard or the tension of a string. Pictorial evidence from newspapers, treatises or other sources may also supplement important textual detail about playing techniques and positions (engravings of bow holds, embouchures and fingering charts in treatises), the various accessories employed by performers (music stands, footstools etc.), and even whether the music was written or printed. Artists can often mislead on technical detail even if they are likely to prove fairly reliable regarding gesture, body movement and physical expression, but most seem to reproduce, if also enhance, reality. As Woodfield points out, ‘almost all fifteenth-century Aragonese 39 See B. Bullard, Musica getutscht: A Treatise on Musical Instruments (1511) by Sebastian Virdung, Cambridge University Press, 1993. 40 For example, the position, number and size of the sound-holes of the Valencian vihuela de arco tended to vary; see I. Woodfield, The Early History of the Viol, Cambridge University Press, 1984, p. 6. 41 M. Praetorius, Syntagma Musicum II: De Organographia I and II (Wolfenbüttel, 1618), trans. D. Z. Crookes, Oxford University Press, 1986.

The evidence


depictions of angels playing the rabab illustrate the downwards playing position (a gamba – that is, on or between the legs – if the angel is seated) and the underhand bow grip’.42 Similarly, Peter Walls concludes that there is a consistency about the way in which violinists are represented in seventeenth-century iconographical sources, with a low right-elbow position and the left thumb posted high.43 Iconographical sources may also furnish information about the social context and conditions of performances (whether indoors or outdoors, whether the performers were seated or standing, and whether or not an audience was present), the particular groupings of instruments and/or voices for various types of music at a given place and time,44 the constitution and distribution of orchestras and choirs, and whether or not there was a conductor. They have also proved a mine of information regarding dance postures appropriate to particular kinds of pieces, operatic costumes, scenery and stage settings, the machines used in opera performances, and the size, design, proportions and conditions of theatres and concert venues. Performers should always exercise caution in their interpretation of iconographical evidence, which must not be accepted as a reflection of contemporary reality without careful evaluation in its artistic and historical contexts. Investigation into the artist’s original intentions is of paramount importance in such assessment, and conclusions must be based on a broad sampling of sources in the same tradition. The truth may well have been distorted to satisfy aesthetic, social or political ends; artistic licence or ‘interpretation’ may have resulted in inaccurate representation of instruments, the telescoping of a whole evening’s events on one canvas,45 or even the invention of completely nonfunctional instruments for an intellectual or symbolic reason best known to the artist. Many drawings and engravings of performances had some satirical or other purpose, incorporating deliberate exaggerations of selected details, as attested, for example, by the numerous surviving caricatures of Paganini.46

42 Woodfield, The Early History of the Viol, p. 6. 43 P. Walls, ‘Report: Study Session 12’, in D. Greer et al. (eds.), Musicology and Sister Disciplines. Past, Present, Future: Proceedings of the 16th International Congress of the International Music Society, London 1997, Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 490–1. 44 Especially pre-1600, when composers scarcely indicated specific groupings. 45 See W. Weber, ‘Did people listen in the eighteenth century?’, Early Music, 25 (1997), 678ff. 46 For further discussion of general questions associated with the study of musical iconography, see H. M. Brown and J. Lascelle, Musical Iconography. A Manual for Cataloguing Musical Subjects in Western Art before 1800, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1972; E. Winternitz, ‘The visual arts as a source for the historian of music’, in J. LaRue (ed.), International Musicological Society, Report of the 8th Congress, New York, 1961, vol. 1, Kassel, Bärenreiter, 1961, pp. 109–20; and J. W. McKinnon, ‘Iconography’, in D. K. Holoman and C. V. Palisca (eds.), Musicology in the 1980s: Methods, Goals, Opportunities, New York, Da Capo Press, 1982, pp. 79–93.



Buildings Few of the buildings in which performances took place through history were designed specifically with concerts in mind. Ranging from those whose grand architecture was politically inspired to cathedrals and churches, small theatres, general-purpose halls, assembly rooms, taverns and other small spaces, they reflect the fact that the formal public concert developed during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries out of occasions where music coexisted with other social activities such as dining or religious worship. Simon McVeigh’s study of eighteenth-century concert life in London offers a unique snapshot of the situation; only two of the capital’s major halls were built primarily as concert venues – the Hanover Square Rooms (from 1775) and (from 1794) a room alongside the new King’s Theatre in the Haymarket.47 While some churches and theatres could accommodate large audiences,48 most halls were modestly proportioned. London’s largest at that time was the Pantheon, whose cruciform shape could accommodate over 1,000 people.49 The 3,000+ capacity (1,294 seats, standing room for about 1,850, and an additional 130 when there was no choir)50 of the Queen’s Hall for the Newman–Wood Promenade Concerts (est. 1895) reflected the increasing popularity of public concerts and established a completely different scale for concert venues. Descriptions of concert venues through history tended to dwell on their furnishings, artistic holdings, general decor and audience comfort; evidence of musicians’ concerns about acoustics is comparatively rare until the early nineteenth century. However, it is known that efforts were made (during the 1770s and in 1788) to suppress the over-resonant acoustics of London’s Pantheon by introducing a false ceiling;51 and both Kufferath and Spohr wrote positively about the sonority of the hall of the Leipzig Gewandhaus.52 Evidence suggests that performing venues (as well as the availability of players) frequently dictated the size and constitution of the performing forces (and often did so rather more than the demands of the music).53 Beethoven, for

47 S. McVeigh, Concert Life in London from Mozart to Haydn, Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 56. 48 McVeigh (ibid., p. 57) states that the new Drury Lane Theatre of 1794 seated 3,611. 49 Ibid. 50 J. Doctor, N. Kenyon and D. Wright (eds.), ‘Audience Capacities’, The Proms: A New History, London, Thames & Hudson, 2007, p. 285. See also Chapter 6. 51 McVeigh, Concert Life, p. 57. 52 M. Kufferath, L’art de diriger. Richard Wagner et La ‘Neuvième Symphonie’ de Beethoven. Hans Richter et La Symphonie en ‘ut’ mineur. L’Idylle de Siegfried – Interpretation et Tradition, 3rd edn, Paris, Fischbacher, 1909, p. 116, n. 1; L. Spohr, Lebenserinnerungen, ed. F. Göthel, 2 vols., Tutzing, Schneider, 1968, vol. 1, p. 78; L. Spohr, The Musical Journey of Louis Spohr, trans. and ed. H. Pleasants, Norman, OK, University of Oklahoma Press, 1961, p. 50. 53 See D. J. Koury, ‘Constitution of the orchestra in the eighteenth century’, chapter 2 of his Orchestral Performance Practices in the Nineteenth Century: Size, Proportions, and Seating, Ann Arbor, MI, UMI Research Press, 1986.

The evidence


example, related the desired size of his performing forces to that of the performing venue. ‘The larger the hall, the more players’, was his maxim; and he questioned Ferdinand Ries about such issues when contemplating a projected visit to London with two new symphonies for the Philharmonic Society. ‘How powerful is the Society’s orchestra?’, he asked, ‘how many violins and so forth?; and are there one or two of each wind instrument? Is the hall large and resonant?’54 Further, Berlioz confirms in his memoirs and orchestration treatise his belief in the close relationship between the performing venue, the numbers of performers and their placement, and the style of the composition, particularly when large forces are involved.55 Some scholars have lent support to the argument that the increase in orchestral size in the nineteenth century may have been directly related to the increased number of public concert venues, which became ever larger to accommodate a growing middle-class audience.56 Indeed, the old Gewandhaus in Leipzig, built in 1780, underwent modifications such as the addition of side balconies (1842) in order to increase its audience capacity but eventually proved inadequate for demand; the Neues Gewandhaus was built in 1886 to a much larger scale, offering a seating capacity almost three times as great.57 The supposed merits of its rounded corners found no favour in the design of most twentieth-century concert halls. A similar expansion of buildings, orchestras and audiences also applied for opera.58 Orchestra pits, however, tended to be spatially restricted, resulting in countless unusual placements for some players, and sometimes even the conductor.59 Wagner’s plans for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus demonstrate the results of his lengthy musings over the problems of concert and opera buildings and performing practices; along with reference to his correspondence, they allow us to enter the mind of a musician who had clear views about the representation of his music dramas and the roles of the musicians involved.60

Written records Musical monuments61 Although the various sources for the history of performance differ considerably by century and period, musical monuments in decipherable notation form 54 Ibid., p. 327. 55 Ibid., p. 328. 56 Ibid., p. 327. 57 This Neues Gewandhaus was destroyed in the Second World War. 58 Koury (Orchestral Performance Practices, pp. 328ff.) provides various dimensions as evidence. 59 See Koury, Orchestral Performance Practices, ch. 14. 60 See Chapter 27. 61 For an informative discussion of the trustworthiness of written or printed musical texts, see S. Boorman, ‘The musical text’, in N. Cook and M. Everist (eds.), Rethinking Music, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 403–23.



perhaps the most significant materials for the music of the last thousand or so years. The further back in history, the less common these ‘monuments’ are and the less information they impart for the performer, sometimes offering only very limited and tentative clues. Take, for example, the staffless neumes of some medieval manuscripts, which outlined the overall shape of generally known melodies but did not indicate exact pitches or intervals. Nevertheless, certain types of liturgical books – for example, ordinaries, customaries and ceremonials – include nuggets of information about the performance of sacred music, notably the participation (and sometimes the identity) of singers in services, as well as details of their number and distribution; but the information naturally refers (and may only be relevant) only to one specific venue or locality. Performers are thus required to understand the notational system used in the music to be performed and how such systems changed through history, as well as to interpret the meaning of the symbols in terms of sound, especially when working from a composer’s manuscript (holograph), or an autograph or printed edition approved by the composer. Questions must be asked such as: Does the written text represent the composer’s fixed intentions? How precise is the syllabic presentation (if relevant)? Was additional ornamentation frowned upon, permitted or expected? And are there indications of an intended tempo or tempo proportionality? If a modern edition is used, performers must be able to evaluate it, assess its strengths and weaknesses, and decide if the editor was suitably informed about the composer’s intentions. They may also seek additional information from secondary sources, especially if no holograph exists. Some forms of notation in Western music are limited in content. Tablatures for the lute or, for that matter, the Chinese qin, instruct players where to place the fingers of their left hand but include little interpretative information. Other notations are imprecise, concealing many well-understood performing conventions and leaving much for performers to add (including ornamentation, rhythmic alteration and expressive considerations). Although chant manuscripts are the principal source of information about the performance of Western medieval sacred monophony, they generally lack crucial details and throw up various contradictions, thereby demanding a substantially subjective interpretation. Descriptions of liturgical ceremonies date from seventh-toninth-century Ordines romani, and the monastic Rule of St Benedict (c. 530) also sets out guidelines regarding performance of the canonical Hours.62 Sources became more detailed in time and the Rules of religious orders such

62 See M. Andrieu (ed.), Les Ordines romani du haut Moyen-Age, Louvain, Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense Administration, 1931–61.

The evidence


as the Cistercians and Dominicans incorporate more specific information about liturgical usage. Early printed materials often raise questions of practicability such as those discussed by Jon Banks regarding Petrucci’s Odhecaton in Chapter 12. They may inform or mislead. For example, the printing of separate, unbeamed notes (where beaming would otherwise be expected) in some early seventeenthcentury sources may suggest implications for phrasing or articulation.63 But sources may not reveal the whole story about the instrumentarium used in performances of, say, Handel’s music; some scores seemingly laid out only for strings often involved oboes and bassoons doubling the string texture, as is revealed by in-text indications such as senza oboi, senza fagotto or even senza violini.64 Further, it appears from several title pages that, if available, horns, or trumpets, or timpani might be added to an instrumentarium for certain works as appropriate, even if no printed parts for them existed.65 Not until the nineteenth century did the musical autograph become the ‘more or less immutable record of the composer’s intention and the inviolable mandate for the performer’.66 Holographs and some autograph copies and early printed editions may include some annotations by the composer which provide useful clues as to his interpretative intentions or preferences. Fingerings, for example, may clarify the intended articulation or phrasing of a passage, the realisation of an ornament, or even the tone colour and projection in a texture. Beethoven, for example, added fingerings occasionally in his keyboard works and his string music, whether in his sketches or autographs, in other manuscripts such as fair copies supervised by him for the engraver, in the earliest editions of his works, which he may or may not have supervised further, or in the revisions that he addressed to publishers. Some fingerings are clearly non-interpretative and seem gratuitous, but most reveal something of Beethoven’s own approach to the performance of his music.67 Haydn, among other composers, also occasionally included some fingerings to indicate matters of expression or interpretation.68 One of his most unusual examples appears in the second movement of his String Quartet Op. 33 No. 2, his prescribed fingerings in 63 E. Darbellay, ‘Peut-on découvrir des indications d’articulation dans la graphie des tablatures de clavier de Claudio Merulo, Girolamo Frescobaldi et Michel-Angelo Rossi?’, in H. Glahn, S. Sørensen and P. Ryom (eds.), Report of the Eleventh Congress Copenhagen 1972, Copenhagen, Hansen, 1974, pp. 342–50. 64 See W. S. Rockstro, The Life of George Frederick Handel, London, Macmillan, 1883, p. 259. 65 See T. Dart, The Interpretation of Music, London, Hutchinson, 1954, pp. 67–8. 66 B. Friedland, ‘Some reflections on performance practice, musicology, and aesthetics’, Current Musicology, 12 (1971), 57. 67 W. S. Newman, ‘Beethoven’s fingerings as interpretive clues’, Journal of Musicology, 1 (1982), 171– 97. 68 See W. Drabkin, ‘Fingering in Haydn’s quartets’, Early Music, 16 (1988), 51–2.



the Trio (bars 34–68) having timbral implications and calling for specific portamento effects.69 As well as playing from old notations, an exercise that illuminates many aspects of performing practice by requiring musicians to solve problems in the same manner as their earlier counterparts, performers can glean evidence about appropriate phrasing, articulation and other interpretative issues from using early prints or facsimiles. Eugene Cramer has even demonstrated how various handwritten emendations made through history to extant sixteenth-century prints of works by Tomás Luis de Victoria can serve as useful evidence for performance practice.70 Such emendations range from simple corrections to musica ficta annotations, text underlay or textual change, the addition of vocal parts or changed cadences and endings to sections, the use of alternate settings, and the addition of new music or even complete pieces to some works. Several music publications furnish vital evidence on specific ornamentation practices. In Chapter 18, David Ponsford lists numerous ‘ornament tables’ relevant to singers and instrumentalists spawned by the highly embellished Italian style of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Many French composers matched this trend, prefacing their works with a table of ornaments employed, the signs used to indicate them and the manner in which they should be performed. The best-known eighteenth-century exemplar for extempore ornamentation in instrumental music is Roger’s 1710 issue of Corelli’s Op. 5 violin sonatas, which includes ornamentation for the adagios of the first six sonatas supposedly provided by the composer. Telemann’s twelve Sonate metodiche (1728, 1732), C. P. E. Bach’s Sechs Sonaten (1760) and Kurze und leichte Klavierstücke mit veränderten Reprisen (1766, 1768), the celebrated castrato Luigi Marchesi’s fourteen different embellished versions of a theme by Cherubini,71 Franz Benda’s thirty-two three-movement sonatas for violin and bass (c. 1760) and Haydn’s ornamented versions of arias in Il ritorno di Tobia (1775) are among other notable eighteenth-century models for extempore ornamental practices. Interesting examples of Mozartian ornamentation also survive, notably for arias in Lucio Silla (1772) and for Pharnaspe’s aria, ‘Cara, la dolce fiamma’ in J. C. Bach’s Adriano in Siria.72

69 See R. Stowell, The Early Violin and Viola: A Practical Guide, Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 134–5. 70 See E. C. Cramer, ‘Extant sixteenth-century prints as performance practice sources’, in J. Daverio and J. Ogasapian (eds.), The Varieties of Musicology. Essays in Honor of Murray Lefkowitz, Warren, MI, Harmonic Park Press, 2000, pp. 65–72. 71 See R. Haas, Aufführungspraxis der Musik, Wildpark-Potsdam, Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft Athenaion m.b.h., 1931; repr. 1949, pp. 225ff. 72 KV293e, written in Wolfgang’s or Leopold’s hand.

The evidence


Editions Responsible editions can do much to assist performers by providing reliable evidence on which to base their performances. Most modern editions take the form of either scholarly critical editions, complete with critical commentary and other Revisionsberichte, or practical (‘performing’) editions, which mostly present authoritative texts, but without detailed critical notes and other scholarly apparatus. A vogue for Urtext (‘original text’) editions started in the late nineteenth century as a reaction to the perceived unreliability of ‘performing editions’ of that era. Purporting to present the composer’s original, approved notation as the authoritative text, Urtexts normally used the earliest or safest sources (the MS or first printed edition) free of editorial intervention, and allowing performers to form their own interpretations.73 However honourable the concept’s intentions, even its staunchest proponents, such as Günter Henle and Georg Feder, eventually conceded that an editor’s critical intervention was inevitable.74 The term ‘Urtext edition’ is now largely discredited, hastened by the commercialisation of the concept in the period immediately after the Second World War.75

Scholarly critical editions The principal role of a scholarly critical edition is to present, normally in printed form, an ‘established text’ that most fully represents the editor’s conception of the work as it developed in composition and performance at the hands of the composer. Determined by a critical examination of the music, its textual history, the evidence and filiation of its sources and its historical context and style, an edition may represent only a snapshot in a work’s complex profile; by contrast, it may incorporate all of the work’s variant forms as found in the sources, or its aim may be, for example, to reproduce the Fassung letzter Hand – the composer’s final version. Indeed, most modern editors seem to prefer to base a new edition on one good source than to publish a conflation resembling nothing that actually existed during the work’s evolution. Difficulties arise if an autograph and an early printed edition supervised or used by the composer both survive and 73 The concept had begun to take root earlier in the work of musical antiquarians such as Charles Burney and Samuel Arnold (Arnold’s incomplete and inaccurate attempt to create a complete Handel edition was a pioneering effort); it was prompted further by a parallel trend set by the Bach-Gesellschaft in 1851 with the first of its historical editions devoted to the complete works of J. S. Bach. 74 See G. Feder and H. Unverricht, ‘Urtext und Urtextausgaben’, Die Musikforschung, 12 (1959), 432–54; G. Henle, ‘Über die Herausgabe von Urtexten’, Musica, 8 (1954), 377–84; W. Emery, Editions and Musicians, London, Novello, 1957, p. 9. 75 Primarily through the elegantly printed, but woefully unexplained editions published by Günter Henle Verlag, Munich, although Henle was not the only publisher to capitalise on the term to sell editions.



supply contradictory evidence; in such cases some editors (e.g. Georg von Dadelsen and Wilhelm Altmann) have favoured the printed edition, while others (e.g. Heinrich Schenker and Paul Mies) have given preference to the manuscript as the principal source. It is therefore vital for performers to understand fully an editor’s aims, objectives, working methods and dilemmas before formulating firm ideas regarding interpretation. It is also important that they seek editions for which the various primary sources (autograph sketches, autograph composing scores, autograph fair copies, autograph orchestral parts, secondary copies of orchestral parts corrected by the composer, scores/parts published during the composer’s lifetime, autograph arrangements) have been thoroughly examined, dated (using watermarks or other relevant procedures), evaluated and prioritised, and due importance has been accorded to any secondary material. Performers must be able to distinguish between editorial suggestions for realising the composer’s intentions and those markings found in the musical sources (perhaps regarding rhythmic issues in Baroque music such as overdotting, notes inégales or passages in which triplets coincide with dotted figures;76 the incidence and content of cadenzas and Eingänge in Classical concertos; or ornamentation in general), and correction of errors or inner inconsistencies (whether by conjecture or on the evidence of readings from other sources) must be noted, either in footnotes or, better still, as part of a detailed critical commentary. The evidence of the editor’s investigations must be accessible. His work, in Dart’s words, ‘is no longer a coat of protective varnish through which the composer’s picture shines undimmed, but a whole set of brush-strokes using the same painting technique and materials as the original artist’.77

‘Performing’ editions If scholarly critical editions are sometimes difficult or impossible to use in performance without more or less extensive re-editing, so-called ‘performing editions’ often fail to include sufficient evidence or information to allow a critical user to challenge editorial decisions. While they attempt to include all the information necessary for satisfactory performance, they place little emphasis on variant readings and the less obviously practical features of the original notation, and many obscure or obliterate altogether the composer’s intentions, not least by introducing precepts and prejudices of the editor’s own era.

76 See Chapter 18 for a discussion of sources for rhythmic conventions such as overdotting and notes inégales. 77 Dart, The Interpretation, p. 14.

The evidence


The period during which some of the most extravagant and, in modern terms, irresponsible ‘performing editions’ appeared and were most readily accepted was around the middle of the nineteenth century, when many fêted virtuosi and teachers simply updated earlier music to suit technical (and sometimes organological) developments. Such heavily edited publications have been scorned because they often obscure the composer’s original notation with undeclared editorial performance annotations (e.g. tempo markings, dynamics, phrasing, bowing and articulation indications, fingering and, where relevant, pedalling, cadenza suggestions, metronome marks and supplementary verbal instructions). The outcomes sometimes more closely approximated arrangements than editions, resulting in performers being deceived into seeing earlier music through the eyes of someone other than the composer. Nevertheless, these editions are becoming increasingly valued nowadays as historical evidence of the technique, style and performing practices that were understood by such renowned interpreters to lie behind and beyond the composer’s notation. Some editions are of repertoires with which the editors had close connections, such as David’s editions of Beethoven, Schubert, Spohr and Mendelssohn, and preserve practices that reflect those with which the composers will have been familiar.78 Others are less concerned with style than technical facilitation. Comparative studies of edited performing material can help us to discern historical trends as well as increase our knowledge of ‘schools’ of performance and other pedagogic relationships. They may also illuminate composers’ performance expectations, particularly when there is a direct and close relationship between editor and composer. One obvious compromise for publishers has been a ‘combined-purpose edition’ which offers the best of both ‘scholarly’ and ‘performing’ worlds: an established text, essential source information, and adequate interpretative advice, with every editorial addition, interpolation or interpretation clearly distinguishable.

Annotated scores/parts used by conductors/performers Preservation in collections and archives of performing materials used by conductors and players has provided another valuable source of evidence of performing practices in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Annotated instrumental parts

78 See, for example, C. Brown, ‘Ferdinand David’s editions of Beethoven’, and R. Stowell, ‘The Violin Concerto Op. 61: text and editions’, in R. Stowell (ed.), Performing Beethoven, Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 117–49, 150–94.



and conductors’ scores have preserved for posterity the performing approaches and preferences of many distinguished artists of the period. Study of the handmarked scores of the Austrian conductor Hans Swarowsky (1899–1975) has revealed, for example, the extent of the influence of Gestalt theory towards the fulfilment of his Werktreue objectives, an ethos he perpetuated through many of his pupils, notably Claudio Abbado, Zubin Mehta and Ralf Weikert.79 Archive collections of the performing materials of conductors such as Arturo Toscanini (New York Public Library) and Leonard Bernstein (Library of Congress, Washington, DC), soloists such as Yehudi Menuhin (Royal Academy of Music, London)80 and orchestras such as the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics also preserve valuable evidence of the various performing practices of their times, allowing researchers and performers to re-evaluate the artistry and cultural roles of the practitioners concerned. ‘The Toscanini Legacy’, for example, comprises a vast collection of copiously annotated scores, letters (including some of the conductor’s correspondence with Puccini), recordings (some unpublished of rehearsals and broadcasts with the NBC Symphony Orchestra), films and memorabilia.81 Evidence from similar sources can be used to reconstruct or, at least, approximate closely historical practices and styles. For example, Walter Blume’s copious annotations have been used to inform the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s 1997 recording of Brahms’s four symphonies under Sir Charles Mackerras (Telarc, CD-80450).82 These annotations record some of the Brahms interpretations of the German conductor Fritz Steinbach, a friend of the composer who followed Hans von Bülow as Kapellmeister of the Meiningen Hofkapelle (a chamber-sized orchestra which, under Bülow, had become one of the best in Europe) and became the accepted interpreter of Brahms’s orchestral music into the second decade of the twentieth century. Brahms is himself known to have favoured the more intimate orchestral blend of the Meiningen orchestra’s forty-eight players, as testified in a letter of 1886 from Bülow to Richard Strauss, and to have declined an offer to augment the strings for a performance of his Fourth Symphony (2 April 1886) in celebration of the birthday of the orchestra’s patron.83 According to Brahms’s friend and 79 Keith Griffiths has researched Hans Swarowsky’s legacy to the art of conducting, under the author’s supervision at Cardiff University. 80 The Royal Academy’s collections also include materials relevant to other distinguished musicians, including Sir Arthur Sullivan, Sir Henry Wood and Sir John Barbirolli. 81 Details of the holdings of other conductor-related archives in the USA may be found in H. Bloch, Directory of Conductors’ Archives in American Institutions, Lanham, MD, Scarecrow Press, 2006. 82 W. Blume, Brahms in der Meininger Tradition, Stuttgart, Suhrkamp, 1933. 83 W. Schuh and F. Trenner (eds.), ‘Hans von Bülow/Richard Strauss: Briefwechsel’, Richard Strauss Jahrbuch 1954, Bonn, Boosey & Hawkes, 1953, pp. 7–88, trans. A. Gishford as Hans von Bülow and Richard Strauss: Correspondence, London, Boosey & Hawkes, 1955, p. 27.

The evidence


biographer Max Kalbeck, Steinbach modelled his interpretations on those of Brahms. Blume, Kalbeck’s pupil, detailed Steinbach’s conducting of Brahms’s symphonies and ‘Haydn Variations’ bar by bar in his 1933 publication. He indicates some violent changes of tempo unmarked in Brahms’s scores, as well as individual features of articulation and lingering upbeats.84 Mackerras and the SCO recreate much of the detail of Blume’s work, embracing also period practices regarding orchestral placement, instrumentation (e.g. the use of leather-skinned timpani, ‘Vienna’ horns, rotary-valve trumpets and narrowbore trombones) and other appropriate interpretative issues. Attitudes towards the metronome have varied since its introduction in the second decade of the nineteenth century. For some years, twentieth-century performers ignored most metronome markings indicated by composers of the previous century, the perceived inappropriate results causing them to believe that the metronomes of that time were inaccurate. The period performance movement has shown more respect for original metronome markings as evidence of a composer’s intentions, even if some composers’ intentions wavered through the years.85 However, Brahms distrusted the metronome, and Wagner eventually renounced the use of metronome markings after Tannhäuser.86

Historical writings Historical writings of many different kinds constitute important evidence for the history of performance and performing practices. Sources range from practical and theoretical treatises, histories and concert programmes to documents such as memoirs, diaries, travelogues, letters, descriptions/eyewitness accounts of music-making or references in general literature to accepted performing conventions and actual practices in various eras. Evidence furnished by these sources establishes perspectives in the performance of music through history, brings performers’ personalities and conditions into sharp focus, offers an overview of musical thought and practice and provides justifiable solutions to often vexing problems. It reveals what constituted a concert in other times, how

84 See W. Blume (ed.), ‘Brahms in the Meiningen tradition: his symphonies and Haydn Variations in the markings by Fritz Steinbach’, in M. Musgrave and B. D. Sherman (eds.), Performing Brahms: Early Evidence of Performance Style, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 244–76. 85 For further discussion on metronome markings, see, for example, P. Stadlen, ‘Beethoven and the metronome – I’, Music & Letters, 48 (1967), 330–49, and ‘Beethoven and the metronome – II’, Soundings, 9 (1982), 38–73; C. Brown, ‘Historical performance, metronome marks and tempo in Beethoven’s symphonies’, Early Music, 19 (1991), 247–58; B. D. Sherman, ‘Tempos and proportions in Brahms: period evidence’, Early Music, 25 (1997), 462–77; L. Somfai, ‘Tempo, metronome, timing in Bartók’s music: the case of the pianist-composer’, in J.-J. Dunki and A. Haefeli (eds.), Der Grad der Bewegung, Bern, Peter Lang, 1998, pp. 47–71. 86 See Chapter 27.



musicians performed their music, how their audiences heard and received it and what liberties were taken with it, adding the flesh and blood to the bare bones of the notation of much of the music of the past and facilitating the re-creation of music-making in the sensibility of the relevant period.

Practical treatises Instrumental and vocal treatises offer the most direct access to information about the preferred technical practices and interpretative solutions for the musical problems of approximately their times; some also embrace more general matters such as notation, music history, expression, taste and aesthetics. Most practical treatises up to the middle of the eighteenth century were addressed to educated amateur musicians or provincial music teachers. They focused on matters pertinent to a single instrument or family of instruments but few discussed technique in detail.87 Nevertheless, Conrad von Zabern’s De modo bene cantandi (1474) far outstrips for detail the accounts of chant singing before or since,88 although the neumes in a few tenth-century chant books are supplemented with small letters, most of which indicate issues of pitch, rhythm or delivery (notably attack, tone, rhythm or tempo). Diego Ortiz’s Tratado de glosas (1553), a treatise on ornamentation for viols, also reveals that a detached style of performance was the norm;89 Simpson’s The Division-Violist (1659) documents not only the growing interest in consorts and ensembles but also the emerging recognition of instrumental music as a genre distinct from, yet closely associated with, vocal music. Mace’s Musick’s Monument (1676) specialises in the needs of lutenists and theorbo players; and keyboard instruments were the principal focus of attention for seventeenth- and early eighteenthcentury writers such as Adriano Banchieri (1605), Agostino Agazzari (1607), Andreas Werckmeister (1698), Francesco Gasparini (1728), Johann Heinichen (1728) and Johann Mattheson (1731), who incorporated detailed discussion of continuo playing.90

87 Giulio Caccini’s Le nuove musiche (Florence, 1601–2; repr. 1934) and Bénigne de Bacilly’s Remarques curieuses sur l’art de bien chanter (Paris, 1668; repr. 1971, 4th edn, 1681, trans. A. B. Caswell, Brooklyn, NY, Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1968) are notable exceptions for their times. 88 See Chapter 13. 89 D. Ortiz, Tratado de glosas, sobre clausulas y otros géneros de puntos en la musica de violones, Rome, 1553. 90 A. Banchieri, L’organo suonarino Op. 13, Venice, 1605; A. Agazzari, Del sonare sopra ’l basso con tutti li stromenti e dell’uso loro nel conserto, Siena, 1607; A. Werckmeister, Die nothwendigsten Anmerckungen und Regeln, wie der Bassus continuus oder General-Bass wol könne tractiret werden, Aschersleben, 1698; F. Gasparini, L’armonico pratico al cimbalo, Venice, 1708; J. D. Heinichen, Der General-Bass in der Composition, oder Neue und gründliche Anweisung, Dresden, 1728; and J. Mattheson, Grosse General-Bass-Schule, Hamburg, 1731. Peter Williams (Figured Bass Accompaniment, Edinburgh University Press, 1970), provides a useful ‘handlist’ of the principal seventeenth- and eighteenth-century publications devoted to thoroughbass; F. T. Arnold (The Art

The evidence


On a generally higher technical level were treatises such as François Couperin’s L’art de toucher le clavecin (1716), which represents a more independent approach to solo keyboard performance, and Hotteterre’s Principes de la flûte traversière (1707), which includes instructions for playing the flute, recorder and oboe, and is an important source of information about early woodwind practice in general, particularly tonguing and ornamentation. Tosi’s Opinioni de’ cantori antichi e moderni (1723) reflects the growth in popularity of opera, incorporating significant instruction about ornamentation, expression and tempo rubato. Significantly, Geminiani’s progressive The Art of Playing on the Violin (1751) was the first treatise addressed to violinists of advanced standard.91 Three other major treatises appeared in the 1750s whose content combined comparatively advanced technical instruction regarding their specialist instruments with copious details regarding performance practice and style: Quantz’s Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (1752), C. P. E. Bach’s Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (1753, 1762) and Leopold Mozart’s Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule (1756). The influence of the ‘class of the 1750s’ and the various editions of their work was far-reaching. The establishment of the Paris Conservatoire (1795) prompted a new development: the production of faculty-based treatises offering systematic courses of technical and interpretative instruction for aspiring professionals.92 Practical treatises also provide vital evidence for the concept of national style, which concerns not only the ways in which composers wrote their music, influenced by considerations such as tradition, function, social context and even language, but also its performance; the concept also extends to aspects of instrument construction and sound ideal. Like many writers before him,93 Quantz compares the Italian and French styles at some length, directly contrasting their respective approaches to composition, singing and playing, especially with regard to ornamentation.94 He also advances the case for a of Accompanying from a Thorough-Bass as Practised in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Oxford University Press, 1931, repr., 2 vols., New York, Dover, 1965), also summarises the content of such treatises, with relevant extracts in translation. 91 See Chapter 21 regarding other significant aspects of Tosi’s treatise. 92 The merits of the Conservatoire’s first singing treatise (1804), for example, are also discussed in Chapter 21. 93 For example, F. Raguenet, Parallèle des Italiens et des François en ce qui regarde la musique et les opéras (1702), in O. Strunk, Source Readings in Music History, New York, Norton, 1950, repr. 1965, pp. 463–88; J. L. Le Cerf de la Viéville, ‘Comparaison de la musique italienne et de la musique française’ (1704) in Strunk, Source Readings, pp. 489–507. Georg Muffat’s descriptions of the French style of his teacher, Lully, and the influence of Corelli’s style on him during his sojourn in Rome are also important. See, for example, his Florilegium secundum, Passau, 1698; Armonico Tributo, Salzburg, 1682; Ausserlesene Instrumental-Music, Passau, 1701; and his eclectic combination of French and Italian styles in his Apparatus musico-organisticus, Salzburg, 1690, for organ. 94 J. J. Quantz, Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen, Berlin, 1752, trans. E. R. Reilly as On Playing the Flute, London, Faber, 1966, pp. 334–5. See also Chapter 22.



‘mixed’ German style which makes ‘use of the good things in all types of foreign music’.95 Although both Couperin and Campra had earlier striven for a mélange des genres, it was left to German musicians to integrate French ‘delicacy’ and Italian ‘vitality’ into an expressive, ornate ‘galant’ idiom, thereby realising Quantz’s vision of ‘a good style that is universal’.96 Even with the emergence of a more ‘international’ style, various factors have often distinguished the music-making of one country from another, ranging from the influence of folk music and dance to extra-musical elements or even the use of instruments with specific ‘national’ sounds and characteristics.97 Among the most significant practical treatises published since c. 1760 were those of Türk (1789), Milchmeyer (1797), Clementi (1801), Adam (1804), Hummel (1828) and Czerny (1839) for the piano,98 and L’Abbé le fils (1761), Galeazzi (1791), Cartier (1798), Rode, Baillot and Kreutzer (1803), Spohr (1832), Baillot (1835), Habeneck (c. 1840), Bériot (1858), David (1864), Joachim and Moser (1902–5) and Flesch (1923–8) for the violin.99 Baillot, Levasseur, Catel and Baudiot (1804), Duport (c. 1806), Dotzauer (1832), Kummer (1839), Romberg (1840) and Piatti (1878) best represent the cello as does Labarre (1844) for the harp.100 Tromlitz (1791), Lefèvre (1802), Ozi (1803), Hugot and Wunderlich (1804), Brod (1825–35), Klosé (1843), Sellner (1825), Müller (1825), Berr (1836), Baermann (1864–75), Almanraeder (1843) and Jancourt (1847) were among those who bolstered the market for woodwinds.101 Prominent contributors to instruction materials for brass instruments were Altenburg (1795), Dauprat (1824), 95 Quantz, On Playing the Flute, p. 338. 96 Ibid., p. 342. 97 Examples include: the contrast between the light, shallow key action, thin, bright resonance, efficient damping mechanism and clear, ‘transparent’ sound of Viennese pianos and the greater cantabile potential and volume of ‘English action’ models; and the tonal differences between nineteenth-century French and German double-reed instruments. See also Chapter 28 regarding national styles of playing. 98 D. G. Türk, Clavierschule, oder Anweisung zum Clavierspielen, Leipzig and Halle, 1789; J. Milchmeyer, Die wahre Art das Pianoforte zu spielen, Dresden, 1797; M. Clementi, Introduction to the Art of Playing on the Pianoforte, London, 1801; J.-L. Adam, Méthode de piano du Conservatoire, Paris, 1804; J. N. Hummel, Ausführliche theoretisch-practische Anweisung zum Piano-Forte-Spiel, 3 vols., Vienna, 1828; C. Czerny, Vollständige theoretisch-practische Pianoforte-Schule Op. 500, 3 vols., Vienna, 1839. 99 L’Abbé le fils, Principes du violon, Paris, 1761; F. Galeazzi, Elementi teorico-pratici di musica con un saggio sopra l’arte di suonare il violino analizzata, ed a dimostrabili principi ridotta, 2 vols., Rome, 1791 and 1796; J.-B. Cartier, L’art du violon, Paris, 1798; P. Rode, P. Baillot and R. Kreutzer, Méthode de violon, Paris, 1803; L. Spohr, Violinschule, Vienna, 1832; P. Baillot, L’art du violon: nouvelle méthode, Paris, 1835; F.-A. Habeneck, Méthode théorique et pratique de violon, Paris, c. 1840; C.-A. de Bériot, Méthode de violon, Mainz, [1858]; F. David, Violinschule, Leipzig, 1864; J. Joachim and A. Moser, Violinschule, 3 vols., Berlin, Simrock, 1902–5; C. Flesch, Die Kunst des Violinspiels, 2 vols., Berlin, Ries & Erles, 1923–8. 100 P. Baillot, J. Levasseur, C.-S. Catel and C.-N. Baudiot, Méthode de violoncelle du Conservatoire, Paris, 1804; J. L. Duport, Essai sur le doigté du violoncelle, et sur la conduite de l’archet, Paris, c. 1806; J. J. Dotzauer, Violonzellschule Op. 165, Mainz, 1832; F. A. Kummer, Violoncello-Schule Op. 60, Leipzig, 1839; B. Romberg, Méthode de Violoncelle, Berlin, 1840; A. Piatti, Method for the Violoncello, London, 1878; T. Labarre, Méthode complète pour la harpe, Paris, 1844. 101 J. G. Tromlitz, Ausführlicher und gründlicher Unterricht die Flöte zu spielen, Leipzig, 1791; X. Lefèvre, Méthode de clarinette, Paris, 1802, repr. 1974; E. Ozi, Nouvelle Méthode de basson, Paris, 1803; A. Hugo and J.-G. Wunderlich, Méthode de flûte du Conservatoire, Paris, 1804, repr. 1975; H. Brod, Méthode pour le hautbois, Paris, 1825–35; J. Sellner, Theoretische-praktische Oboeschule, Vienna, 1825, rev. 2nd edn, 1901; I. Müller,

The evidence


Meifred (1840), Gallay (c. 1845) and Arban (1864),102 and Mancini (1774), Hiller (1774), Corri (1810) and García (1847) authored influential methods for the voice.103 Vocal treatises are especially helpful as evidence for ornamentation, extempore embellishment and improvisation, but few other than García’s venture into detail about the physiology of voice production. Evidence of how singing might have sounded in the past or changed during the course of history is thus somewhat limited – it is naturally closely related to linguistic issues such as speech patterns, rhythms, inflections and verbal articulation in general.104 However, Italian singers were predominant, adopting a smooth, euphonious style of singing, which was somewhat loosely described as bel canto. Early recordings clearly demonstrate that even within the last one hundred years or so radical changes in tastes and practices have occurred. The evidence of practical treatises can mislead, for several present the fruits of many years of thought, experience and observation and incorporate instructions that may lag well behind actual practice.105 Care should therefore be taken in the application of, say, Quantz’s instructions (1752), published when he was fiftyfive and beholden to practices fashionable in his formative years, to, say, performances of works by the young Mozart.106 Further, many treatises have led performers to devise theories mistakenly, make inferences from sources too hastily and use performing conventions erroneously, problems arising from either the use of wrong sources or the wrong use of sources. Neumann believes that treatise writers should be regarded not as ‘prophets who reveal infallible verities’, but rather as ‘very human witnesses who left us an affidavit about certain things they knew . . . believed in, [and] . . . wished their readers to Méthode pour la nouvelle clarinette et clarinette-alto, Paris, 1825; F. Berr, Méthode complète de clarinette, Paris, 1836; C. Baermann, Vollständige Clarinett-Schule, Munich, 1864–75; C. Almanraeder, Die Kunst des Fagottblasens, Mainz, 1843; E. Jancourt, Grande méthode pour le basson, Paris, 1847. 102 J. E. Altenburg, Versuch einer Anleitung zur heroisch-musikalischen Trompeter- und Pauker-Kunst, Halle, 1795; L. F. Dauprat, Méthode pour cor alto et cor basse, Paris, 1824; P.-J. E. Meifred, Méthode de cor chromatique ou à pistons, Paris, 1840, rev. 2nd edn, 1849; J. F. Gallay, Méthode complète pour le cor, Paris, c. 1845; J.-B. Arban, Grande méthode complète pour cornets à pistons et de saxhorn, Paris, 1864. 103 G. B. Mancini, Pensieri, e riflessioni pratiche sopra il canto figurato, Vienna, Ghelen, 1774, rev. and enlarged 3rd edn, 1777 as Riflessioni pratiche sul canto figurato; J. A. Hiller, Anweisung zum musikalischrichtigen Gesange, Leipzig, 1774, enlarged 2nd edn, 1798; D. Corri, The Singer’s Preceptor, London, Silvester, 1810; M. García [fils], Traité complet de l’art du chant, Paris, 1847. See Chapter 21 for details of the content of the treatises of Mancini, Hiller, Corri and others. 104 See P. H. Lang, ‘Performance practice and the voice’, in A. Mann and G. J. Buelow (eds.), Paul Henry Lang: Musicology and Performance, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1997, pp. 185–98. 105 P. H. Lang, ‘Performance practice and musicology’, in M. Bente (ed.), Musik. Edition. Interpretation. Gedenkschrift Günter Henle, Munich, Henle, 1979, pp. 316–17. 106 Burney, when visiting the elderly Quantz, found his music ‘truly stationary’ and his taste ‘that of forty years ago’. In P. Scholes (ed.), Dr. Burney’s Musical Tours in Europe, 2 vols., London, 1959, vol. 2, pp. 207, 156.



believe’.107 He likens the principles required of music researchers to the procedures of evaluating testimony in jurisprudence and claims that sources such as historical treatises cannot be used safely without thorough and satisfactory assessment of the personality, background, knowledge, status and influence of the writer, the credibility, reliability and consistency of both the treatise’s textual content and the musical style and aesthetic it propounds, the readership to whom it is addressed, its relationship to other sources, its geographical and temporal limitations, and its relationship to the repertoire (and the composers) to which it is applicable.

Theoretical treatises Numerous treatises on theoretical musical issues appeared through the centuries, ranging from the writings of Lanfranco (1533), Zarlino (1558), Praetorius (1614–18), Mersenne (1636–7), Zacconi (1592, 1622), and Kircher (1650) to those of Mattheson (1739), Avison (1752), Adlung (1758), and Mosel (1813).108 They were prepared largely for academicians and tended to explain the rules and aesthetics of composition, to provide inventories or descriptions of existing (or at least of theoretically possible) instruments, or to discuss mathematical and somewhat idealised historical aspects of music. While they help to exclude some avenues regarding interpretative issues, they rarely offer straightforward advice of immediately practical assistance, their authors often being closer to the ranks of philosophers than of musicians. Nevertheless, the works of Lanfranco and Zarlino incorporate important rules for the satisfactory realisation of text underlay;109 aestheticians provide useful descriptors of the character and ‘colour’ of specific tonalities;110 and the treatises of Praetorius, Mersenne and Adlung, among others, give vital clues on matters of tuning or pitch. Several specialist publications were also

107 F. Neumann, ‘The use of Baroque treatises on musical performance’, Music & Letters, 48 (1967), 316. 108 G. Lanfranco, Scintille di musica, Brescia, 1533; G. Zarlino, Le istitutioni harmoniche, Venice, 1558; M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, 3 vols., 1: Wittenberg and Wolfenbüttel, 1614–15, repr. 1959, 1968; 2: Wolfenbüttel, 1618, 2nd edn, 1619, repr. 1958, 1980; trans. 1962, 1986; 3: Wolfenbüttel, 1618, 2nd edn, 1619, repr. 1958, 1976; M. Mersenne, Harmonie universelle, Paris, 1636–7, repr. 1963; L. Zacconi, Pratica di musica, 2 parts, Venice, 1592, repr. 1967 and 1622, repr. 1967; A. Kircher, Musurgia universalis, Rome, 1650, repr. 1970, and Phonurgia nova, Kempten, 1673, repr. 1966; J. Mattheson, Der vollkommene Capellmeister, Hamburg, 1739; C. Avison, An Essay on Musical Expression, London, 1752; J. Adlung, Anleitung zu der musikalischen Gelahrtheit, Erfurt, 1758; I. F. von Mosel, Versuch einer Ästhetik des musikalischen Tonsatzes, Vienna, 1813, 2nd edn, 1910. 109 G. M. Lanfranco, Scintille di musica, Brescia 1553; G. Zarlino, Le istitutioni harmoniche. 110 Colin Lawson relates the work of Daniel Schubart to his Mozart case study in Chapter 23 but maintains that eighteenth-century aestheticians held a remarkable consistency of opinion regarding key colour.

The evidence


devoted to these latter issues, different temperaments having the potential to inflect a performance with a variety of nuances.111 Orchestration manuals also became fashionable towards the mid-nineteenth century, commencing with the works of Kastner (1837 and 1839) and continuing with those of, for example, Berlioz (1843), Strauss (1905) and RimskyKorsakov (1913).112 They have proved invaluable reference material for the technique and potential of orchestral instruments, orchestral placement and other performance details, as have also the conducting treatises of Berlioz (1856), Wagner (1869) and Weingartner (1895), and many lesser studies.113 Several chapters of the present volume cite evidence for the vocal or instrumental forces available in various centres of creativity through history. A fair proportion of such evidence has been drawn from practical and theoretical treatises. In the first half of the eighteenth century orchestral size and constitution were dependent as much on circumstance as on the demands of the work to be performed. Available players and the size of the venue were important factors; thus a surviving score might not necessarily indicate how a work was originally performed, and fluidity of numbers and personnel could even characterise successive performances of individual operas.114 Further, as Selfridge-Field points out, ‘At the Cöthen court during Bach’s employment there (1717–23) the total number of instruments, between 13 and 15, was relatively stable, but their specific distribution in both the string and wind sections varied from year to year and from genre to genre.’115 Bach’s requirements ‘for a well-appointed church music’ stated in his famous memorandum to the Leipzig Council (23 August 1730) amounted to a mere 18–20 players; it thus seems clear that he lacked even what resources he deemed necessary.116 This memorandum has also sparked debate about the instrumental and vocal forces Bach used for Leipzig performances of his choral works, Rifkin proposing, on the evidence of surviving performance parts, that Bach probably

111 See Brown and Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music after 1600, Bibliography, pp. 507–11. Authorities such as Zarlino, Praetorius, Mersenne and Werckmeister clearly demonstrate that quartercomma mean-tone was predominantly employed throughout the seventeenth century. Peter Walls discusses the significance in the eighteenth century of Vallotti’s tuning in Chapter 22. 112 J.-G. Kastner, Traité général d’instrumentation, Paris, 1837, Cours d’instrumentation, Paris, 1839; H. Berlioz, Grande traité d’instrumentation et d’orchestration modernes Op. 10, Paris, 1843, trans. 1856; R. Strauss, Instrumentationslehre, Leipzig, 1905, trans. New York, 1948 [= Berlioz’s Grand traité rev. and enlarged]; N. Rimsky-Korsakov, ed. M. Shteynberg, [Principles of Orchestration], St Petersburg, 1913, trans. 1922, 2nd edn, 1964. 113 H. Berlioz, Le chef d’orchestre, Paris, 1856, trans. 1917; R. Wagner, ‘Über das Dirigieren’ (1869) in Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen, 1–10, Leipzig, 1871–83, vol. 8; F. Weingartner, Über das Dirigieren, Leipzig, 1895, rev. 3rd edn, 1905, trans. 1906. 114 In Brown and Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music after 1600, p. 7. 115 Ibid., p. 8. 116 Entwurff einer wohlbestallten Kirchen Music. See H. T. David and A. Mendel (eds.), The Bach Reader: A Life of Johann Sebastian Bach in Letters and Documents, New York, Norton,1945, repr. 1966, pp. 120–4.



used a small number of performers in his cantatas and Passion settings with, typically, one voice to each part.117 Zaslaw warns against too dogmatic a reading of the evidence for the constitution of orchestras and stresses the need to ‘study an orchestra over a period of time’ in order to discover its normal working size. Further, payroll entries can deceive regarding actual participation in performances and mathematical conclusions may be distorted by the common practice of musicians playing two or more instruments.118 Quantz’s recommendations range from an orchestra with four violins to one with twelve; there must therefore have been many occasions when equivalent instruments were freely substituted, according to what was available. Take Handel’s orchestras as examples. The orchestra at the Haymarket Theatre on his arrival in 1710 comprised (at full strength) 1 trumpet, 2 oboes, 4 bassoons, strings (11–2–6–1) and 2 harpsichords. His Rinaldo, premiered in February 1711, has 4 trumpets and drums in the famous march and elsewhere a flageolet, 2 recorders and a violetta in place of viola. Burrows has surmised that extra players were hired for the march and the rest of the requirements were fulfilled by ‘double-handed’ members of the orchestra.119 It seems likely that Handel’s orchestra remained fairly consistent between 1727 and his Foundling Hospital orchestra of 1754, whose strings comprised 14–6–3–2. A redistribution in the balance of the lower string parts involved a reduction in cellos and an increase from one to two double basses; and a gradual increase in viola strength reflected that instrument’s heightened role in the accompaniment of four-part oratorio choruses.

117 J. Rifkin, ‘Bach’s chorus: a preliminary report’, Musical Times, 123 (1982), 747–54 (revised as ‘Bachs Chor – Ein vorläufiger Bericht’, Basler Jahrbuch für historische Musikpraxis, 9 (1985), 141–55); ‘Page turns, players and ripieno parts: more questions of scoring in Bach’s vocal music’, Early Music, 25 (1997), 728–34. Rifkin’s proposals sparked a verbal conflict, particularly with Robert Marshall (Musical Times, 124 (1983), 19–22, 161–2) and Ton Koopman (Early Music, 25 (1997), 303–7, 541–2; 26 (1998), 109–21, 380), but received support from Andrew Parrott (‘Bach’s chorus: a “brief yet highly necessary” reappraisal’, Early Music, 24 (1996), 551–80; ‘Bach’s chorus: Who cares?’, Early Music, 26 (1998), 297–301; The Essential Bach Choir, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2000). John Butt (‘Bach’s chorus: what can it mean?’, Early Music, 26 (1998), 99–107), among others, joined in the debate. The principal evidence in Jonathan Wainwright’s discussion in Chapter 19 of the performing forces used through history in Monteverdi’s Vespers (1610) also supports a one-per-part vocal interpretation. 118 N. Zaslaw, ‘Toward the revival of the classical orchestra’, Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 103 (1976–7), 180. See also J. Spitzer and N. Zaslaw, The Birth of the Orchestra: History of an Institution, 1650– 1815, Oxford University Press, 2004, for more information on the size and distribution of orchestras, including four appendices with detail about sample orchestras within specified periods, and orchestral performance practices. Koury (Orchestral Performance Practices) also includes information on the constitution of various orchestras. 119 D. Burrows, ‘Handel’s London theatre orchestra’, Early Music, 13 (1985), 349. Among Burrows’s later evidence are lists of performing musicians from 1714 and 1727 when George I and II respectively attended festivities at the Guildhall on the first Lord Mayor’s Day of their reigns.

The evidence


Some festive occasions involved exceptional numbers of participants, notably the Handel Commemoration of 1784, where the concert in Westminster Abbey featured a chorus and orchestra of over 500.120 However, large-scale performances of works by Handel and other composers were also heard elsewhere in Europe, and Mozart was delighted by a performance of one of his symphonies using strings comprising 20–20–10–8–10, 6 bassoons and otherwise doubled wind.121 Pictorial evidence survives for a variety of orchestral layouts, and further commentary is provided in the theoretical works of Quantz, Junker, Petri, Reichardt, Galeazzi and Koch,122 as well as other instruction books, dictionaries, autobiographies, letters and more general musical literature. The role of the concertmaster in the eighteenth century is also described in various publications, Quantz and Galeazzi both stressing the concertmaster’s responsibility for distributing, placing and arranging the players in his ensemble.123 Evidence shows that some concert orchestras, like the Gewandhaus Orchestra, stood to perform and most eighteenth-century ensembles had the first and second violins facing each other, with principal cellist and bassist on either side of the harpsichord. Haydn introduced to London an amphitheatre arrangement, which has been reconstructed from surviving evidence.124 But in general there were no standardised placements, each hall, repertoire and orchestra having its own requirements. A sketch of the pit and stage of the Kärtnertortheater (1821) and layouts for a performance of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast (arr. Mozart) in 1812 and for the Concert Spirituel c. 1825 differ strikingly from today’s commonly employed placements,125 as do Verdi’s views on the placement of the string ensemble around the wind instruments (with the double basses grouped together) and Wagner’s theories, discussed in Chapter 27.

120 Burney, in discussing the commemoration, wrote that ‘Foreigners, particularly the French, must be astonished at so numerous a band moving in such exact measure, without the assistance of a Coryphaeus to beat the time, either with a roll of paper, or a noisy baton or truncheon’. 121 W. A. Mozart, letter of 11 April 1781; see N. Zaslaw, Mozart’s Symphonies: Context, Performance Practice, Reception, Oxford University Press, 1989, p. 455. 122 Quantz, Versuch; C. L. Junker, Zwanzig Componisten: eine Skizze, Bern, 1776, Einige der vornehmsten Pflichten eines Kapellmeisters oder Musikdirektors, Winterthur, 1782; J. S. Petri, Anleitung zur practischen Musik, Lauban, 1767; J. F. Reichardt, Über die Pflichten des Ripien-Violinisten, Berlin and Leipzig, 1776; F. Galeazzi, Elementi teorico-pratici di musica con un saggio sopra l’arte di suonare il violino analizzata, ed a dimostrabili principi ridotta, 2 vols., Rome, 1791 and 1796; H. C. Koch, Musikalisches Lexicon, Frankfurt am Main, 1802. 123 See R. Stowell, ‘ “Good execution and other necessary skills”: the role of the concertmaster in the late eighteenth century’, Early Music, 16 (1988), 21–33. 124 See McVeigh, Concert Life in London, p. 212. 125 In C. Brown, ‘The orchestra in Beethoven’s Vienna’, Early Music, 16 (1988), 4–20.



Other treatises A wide variety of other treatises holds clues as to performance issues of their times, even as far back as philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Boethius. Plato’s pivotal role between past and future practices, for example, yields interesting insights into attitudes towards musical instruments, number theory, harmonia, rhythm and the modes.126 On another tack, evidence for the accurate reconstruction of period pronunciation of texts in vocal music may be found in linguistic sources such as Hart’s An Orthographie (1569) or Palsgrave’s Lesclarcissement de la langue francoyse (1530).127 The implementation of accurate period pronunciation can have important consequences for tuning, rhythm and expressive effect. Familiarity with characteristic dance steps and patterns through history can provide clues regarding tempo and performance style. Dorottya Fabian, for example, argues that the Loure from J. S. Bach’s Partita No. 3 (BWV1006) for unaccompanied violin, often interpreted as ‘a somewhat sad or lyrical “romance with exaggerated sentiment” ’, is actually a ‘ “dance of Spanish origin with a certain amount of temperament and pronounced stresses on the strong beat” but not on the third or last (sixth) beats’.128 She concludes that its tempo ‘should be fairly fast and the articulation should recall the hopping character of the dance’. She also bemoans the fact that the characteristics of the Sarabanda (in Bach’s Second Partita (BWV1004) ), a slow, stately dance in triple metre with an accent on the second beat, are rarely replicated faithfully in performance, most violinists playing the movement ‘legato, in a sustained style, rhythmically even, and literal’.129 Despite Fabian’s convincing arguments in the limited repertoire with which she deals, performers should exercise caution in using dance treatises as evidence for the determination of precise tempos for specific dances. Dance steps and figures (and with them the tempos) varied widely at different times and places – compare, for example, the quick seventeenth-century English saraband with the moderate Italian and the slow French sarabande; and dances often underwent considerable transformation in the instrumental domain. As

126 See Chapters 7–9. 127 J. Hart, An Orthographie, London, 1569, facsimile repr. Menston, 1969; J. Palsgrave, Lesclarcissement de la langue francoyse, London, 1530, facsimile repr. Menston, 1969. See A. Wray, ‘Authentic pronunciation for early music’, in J. Paynter, T. Howell, R. Orton and P. Seymour (eds.), Companion to Contemporary Musical Thought, 2 vols., London and New York, Routledge, 1992, vol. 2, p. 1055. 128 D. Fabian, ‘Toward a performance history of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin: preliminary investigations’, in L. Vikárius and V. Lampert (eds.), Essays in Honor of László Somfai on his 70th Birthday, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 97. Fabian here quotes from a transcription of a talk by Jaap Schröder included in the Journal of The Violin Society of America, 3 (1977), 19. 129 Ibid., pp. 97–8.

The evidence


Peter le Huray points out, the allemandes in Corelli’s Op. 2 Trio Sonatas are variously headed presto, allegro, largo and adagio and the sarabandes of his Trio Sonatas Opp. 2 and 4 carry equally diverse markings.130

Histories Several histories of music offer valuable insights into important performance issues. Praetorius’s Syntagma musicum (1614–18) has already been mentioned for its second volume’s detailed organological drawings, and, despite its ‘characteristic digressiveness and occasional uncritical reporting’, Mersenne’s Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636–7) ‘contains his most developed and perceptive ideas on music, both theoretical and practical’.131 The writings of Roger North shed light on musical life in Restoration times and public concerts in London and range from socio-musical aspects, as discussed by John Potter in Chapter 21, to understanding how certain wind instruments produce sound and theories about harmony and the origins of music. National music and style form the chief aspects of Bonnet-Bourdelot’s Histoire de la musique et de ses effets (Paris, 1715) and Marpurg’s Der critische Musicus an der Spree (Berlin, 1749–50). Marpurg’s Historisch-Kritische Beyträge zur Aufnahme der Musik (Berlin, 1754–62, 1778) and Kritische Briefe über die Tonkunst (Berlin, 1759) adopt different formats but cover a variety of theoretical issues, including many on performance allied to his instrumental treatises. The expressive aspects of music and performance form the principal focus of Brown’s Dissertation (London, 1763) and Forkel’s Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik (Leipzig, 1788–1801), while Martini’s Storia della Musica (Bologna, 1757–81) incorporates valuable observations on plainchant (canto fermo). Two outstanding examples of historiography were published in direct competition in London in 1776: Burney’s A General History of Music and Hawkins’s A General History of the Science and Practice of Music. Hawkins’s work provides vast quantities of information and data, but often includes prejudices of a bygone era, while Burney’s eloquent prose evaluates and interprets the events recorded, with a heavy bias towards the history of music in England.132 La Borde’s Essai sur la musique ancienne et moderne (Paris, 1780) includes insights into eighteenthcentury theory and opera performance and the works of Ambros (Geschichte der Musik (Breslau, 1862–8) ), Fétis (Histoire Générale de la Musique (Paris, 1869–76) ), and others nearer our time contribute to the picture’s completion.

130 P. le Huray, Authenticity in Performance: Eighteenth-Century Case Studies, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 38. 131 A. Cohen in Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary, 2nd edn, vol. 16, p. 469, art. ‘Mersenne, Marin’. 132 K. S. Grant’s Dr Burney as Critic and Historian of Music, Ann Arbor, MI, UMI Research Press, 1983, includes (pp. 283–306) an assessment of ‘Burney’s achievement as critic and historian of music’.



Autobiographies, biographies, memoirs, travelogues and letters Autobiographies as sources are variable in their reliability, not least because musicians writing about themselves ‘seem often to be self-conscious or to yield to the temptation to dramatize their achievements’;133 but, whether by Dittersdorf, Grétry or Michael Kelly in the eighteenth, Spohr, Berlioz, or Wagner in the nineteenth, or violinists Auer, Spalding, Mannes or Flesch in the twentieth century,134 they cast light on many facets of the lives, conditions and practices of performers in their times. Spohr records, for example, how touring musicians arranged and presented concerts on their travels in the first decades of the nineteenth century. Biographies such as Mainwaring’s Memoirs of the Life of the Late George Frederic Handel (1760), Forkel’s first biography of J. S. Bach (1802), or Helen Henschel’s When Soft Voices Die (1944) are often similarly informative, if not always accurate. Henschel’s book provides a vivid picture of her family, its circle of musical friends (including Paderewski, Sargent and other prominent figures), and the music-making of their times (including Georg Henschel’s reminiscences of Brahms), combining hard facts with interesting anecdotes and shrewdly sympathetic characterisations of contemporary musicians. Memoirs and personal recollections of distinguished performers have also proved useful sources.135 But they should be interpreted with caution, not least because descriptions of particular sound worlds still leave readers with their own conjectures and imaginative interpretations. Schindler’s description of Beethoven’s piano playing from first-hand experience and Blume’s detailed notes on Steinbach’s conducting of Brahms are cases in point, as are the English pianist Fanny Davies’s or Ethel Smyth’s descriptions of Brahms’s playing.136 Berlioz’s Mémoires and other writings are especially informative

133 J. Westrup, An Introduction to Musical History, London, Hutchinson, 1955, p. 36. 134 Karl von Dittersdorfs Lebensbeschreibung, seinem Sohne in die Feder diktiert, Leipzig, 1801; repr. 1967, trans. London, 1896, repr. 1970; A.-E.-M. Grétry, Mémoires, ou Essais sur la musique, Paris, 1789; M. Kelly, Reminiscences, London, 1826, ed. R. Fiske, Oxford University Press, 1975; L. Spohr, Selbstbiographie, 2 vols., Kassel and Göttingen, 1860–1, trans. 1865, repr. 1969, 2nd edn, 1878; H. Berlioz, Mémoires, Paris, 1870; ed. and trans. D. Cairns, London, Victor Gollancz, 1969, rev. 3rd edn, 1975; R. Wagner, Mein Leben, privately printed, 1869, 1875 and 1881, 1st authentic edn, Munich, 1963, trans. A. Gray, ed. M. Whittall, Cambridge University Press, 1983; L. Auer, My Long Life in Music, New York, Stokes, 1924; A. Spalding, Rise to Follow, London, Muller, 1946; and D. Mannes, Music is My Faith, New York, Norton, 1938; C. Flesch and H. Keller (eds.), The Memoirs of Carl Flesch, London, Rockliff, 1957. 135 For example, E. Devrient, Meine Erinnerungen an Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy und dessen Briefe an mich, Leipzig, 1869, trans. 1869, repr. 1972; H. F. Chorley, Thirty Years’ Recollections, London, Harst & Blackett, 1862, repr. 1984; G.-H. Roger, Le carnet d’un tenor, Paris, 1880. 136 F. Davies, ‘Some personal recollections of Brahms as pianist and interpreter’, in W. W. Cobbett (ed.), Cobbett’s Cyclopaedic Survey of Chamber Music, 2 vols., Oxford University Press, 1929; 2nd enlarged edn, Oxford University Press, 1963, vol. 1, pp. 182–4; E. Smyth, Impressions that Remained: Memoirs, 2 vols.,

The evidence


about musical conditions in Paris, the problems of touring and concert organisation, playing standards, rehearsal practices and other such issues.137 The personal diaries of, for example, Pepys, Burney and Zinzendorf offer insights into performance traditions and social behaviour of their times, and the travelogues of such respected musicians as Burney or Reichardt provide vivid snapshots of an artist’s life ‘on the road’. Some refer to instruments,138 concert organisation, impressions gained in various significant musical centres and reactions to concert and opera performances and specific works, as well as performance practice issues and relevant non-musical factors such as the rigours and timeframe of travel, the conditions experienced and matters of safety en route. Some even supply a vital perspective and a structural framework on which to appreciate more specialist sources such as instrumental treatises.139 Burney’s observations and critical evaluations especially enrich the reader’s acquaintance with musicians and musical events in much of Europe in the eighteenth century; they have long carried authority as those of an intelligent and perceptive musician, even if Burney’s judgements may occasionally have been misplaced.140 Reports from missionaries, explorers and other travellers during the age of exploration have also informed the work for ethnomusicologists such as Philip Bohlman and Joep Bor.141 In Chapter 16, Tim Carter cites Giacomo Razzi’s written attempts to entice Giacomo Carissimi to succeed Monteverdi as maestro di capella of the Basilica of St Mark in Venice as evidence for the constitution of its musical establishment c. 1643.142 Similarly, the letters of Monteverdi himself, Mersenne, C. P. E. Bach, Gluck, Haydn, Beethoven, the Mozart family, Brahms, Wagner and others provide invaluable insights into musical performance of their times, often highlighting philosophical considerations that influenced musical practices, explaining the

London, Longmans, Green, 1919, and Female Pipings in Eden, London, Davies, 1933. See also G. S. Bozarth, ‘Fanny Davies and Brahms’s late chamber music’, in Musgrave and Sherman (eds.), Performing Brahms, pp. 170–219. 137 In addition to his Mémoires, see Berlioz’s Voyage musical en Allemagne et en Italie, Paris, 1844; Les soirées de l’orchestre, Paris, 1852; and A travers chants, Paris, 1862. 138 For example, Charles Burney (The Present State of Music in France and Italy, London, Bechet, 1773, repr. 1969, pp. 262–3) verifies the existence of Zarlino’s microtonal harpsichord. See also Chapter 12. 139 Burney, The Present State of Music in France and Italy, and The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands, and United Provinces, London, 1775, repr. 1969; J. F. Reichardt, Briefe eines aufmerksamen Reisenden die Musik betreffend, 2 vols., 1: Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1774; 2: Frankfurt and Breslau, 1776. 140 Burney managed to offend numerous German musicians, and he was also especially critical of the Paris Opéra. 141 P. V. Bohlman, ‘Missionaries, magical muses, and magnificent menageries: image and imagination in the early history of ethnomusicology’, World of Music, 30/3 (1998), 5–26; J. Bor, ‘The rise of ethnomusicology: sources on Indian music c1780–1890’, Yearbook for Traditional Music, 20 (1988), 51–73. 142 See also T. S. J. Culley, Jesuits and Music, Rome, Jesuit Historical Institute, 1970, p. 186.



reasons behind their or other composers’ particular revisions, or making other revelations of practical consequence.143

Dictionaries and general literature The work of lexicographers such as Rousseau, Koch, Sulzer and Rees is also especially informative about their particular national tastes and times.144 Many kinds of general literature, too, such as novels, plays, poems and essays, may offer useful, if limited evidence regarding the history of music and performance through depicting the musical life and thought of past epochs. Sometimes, of course, they may mislead on account of their terminology or ‘literary licence’. Nevertheless, some nuggets of information about musical instruments and performance have been gleaned, for example, from Gottfried von Strassburg’s version of Tristan und Isolde (c. 1210).145 Five centuries later, Fanny Burney paints a clear picture of the social status of concerts in her novel Evelina (1778), suggesting that their function was as much as a vehicle for conversation as for musical entertainment; this is confirmed by her father, who complained that even ‘the best Operas and Concerts are accompanied with a buzz and murmur of conversation’.146

Documents and records Documents and records, whether public or private, can offer all kinds of evidence about performers and performance traditions. Historical archives of English, French and Austrian courts, as well as of Italian churches and various sacred and secular institutions have furnished useful general information about musical activities, occasionally supplying extensive details of particular events.147 Annual almanacs summarising cultural events in a city or country and providing liturgical and civic calendars for the following year often elucidate details of repertoire and personnel,148 and the minutes and publications of learned

143 See, for example, S. Avins, ‘Performing Brahms’s music: clues from his letters’, in Musgrave and Sherman (eds.), Performing Brahms, pp. 11–47. 144 J.-J. Rousseau, Dictionnaire de musique, Paris and Amsterdam, 1768, repr. 1969, trans. W. Waring, London, 1779, repr. 1975; H. C. Koch, Musikalisches Lexikon, Frankfurt am Main, 1802; J. G. Sulzer, Allgemeine Theorie der schönen Künste, Leipzig, 1771–4; A. Rees (ed.), The Cyclopaedia; or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature, London, 1802–20. 145 See I. Finlay, ‘Musical instruments in Gotfrid von Strassburg’s “Tristan und Isolde”’, Galpin Society Journal, 5 (1952), 39–43. 146 C. Burney, An Account of the Musical Performances in Westminster Abbey and the Pantheon, May 26th, 27th, 29th; and June the 3rd and 5th, 1784, in Commemoration of Handel, London, 1785, p. 40. 147 For example, the minstrel guilds of the Middle Ages, the courts, cathedrals and academies of the Renaissance and Baroque, or the concert societies of the nineteenth century. 148 For example, Almanach musical, Paris, 1775–83, repr. 1972; Musikalischer Almanach für Deutschland, ed. J. N. Forkel, Leipzig 1781–8, repr. 1974.

The evidence


societies often incorporate information on performance issues.149 Descriptions of festive events have reproduced their pomp and splendour in vivid detail. Recognising Zaslaw’s warning, mentioned earlier, lists of personnel according to dates of hire or retirement, or those which reveal rates of pay, though ‘generally purely factual and non-committal’, have nevertheless assisted in both determining the general dimensions of choral and instrumental groups and providing information about the itineraries of peripatetic musicians.150 In Chapter 13, for example, Timothy McGee discusses the contentious issue of the number of singers normally involved in singing a sacred polyphonic composition in the Renaissance, using evidence from papal, cathedral and other records. And Keith Polk demonstrates in Chapter 14 how iconographical, theoretical and archival sources combine to inform us about instrumentaria and instrumental practices in the fifteenth century, even though instrumentalists of the period performed almost entirely without written music. However, such archives relate only to situations within an institutional framework;151 they often present problems of decipherability or incorporate mistakes regarding the names of personnel. Furthermore, they will not necessarily explain any system of rotation that the musicians may have served or indicate whether the lists include retired musicians and apprentices or ‘extras’ such as students, amateurs, town waits or military bandsmen. As Selfridge-Field observes: ‘the names of young musicians who served, but who could not officially be hired until a vacancy was created by the death of a senior musician, were not recorded’; changes in responsibilities were not consistently documented, ‘positions were sometimes sold, especially at the court of St James, without official note being made’; and, as already noted, one performer might serve in two distinct roles – ‘in eighteenth-century Venice oboists were often flautists as well, while in Vienna oboists doubled as trombonists and in Paris those who played the horn also played the viola’.152 Exploration of past records has also yielded clues as to the types of singers who participated in certain performances in medieval times, the numbers of voices involved, and whether or not those singers were accompanied.153 Inventories may provide clues about those instruments which were in or out 149 See A. Cohen, Music in the French Royal Academy of Sciences, Princeton University Press, 1981; L. Miller and A. Cohen, Music in the Royal Society of London, 1680–1806, Detroit, Information Coordinators, 1987. 150 Westrup, An Introduction, p. 45. 151 The Court of Burgundy, for example, during a certain period. See C. Wright, Music at the Court of Burgundy, 1364–1419: A Documentary History, Henryville, PA, Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1979. 152 In Brown and Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music after 1600, pp. 14–15. 153 See, for example: C. Page, Voices and Instruments of the Middle Ages: Instrumental Practice and Songs in France 1100–1300, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1986; David Fallows, ‘Specific information on the ensembles for composed polyphony’, in S. Boorman (ed.), Studies in the Performance of Late Mediaeval Music, Cambridge University Press, 1983, pp. 109–59.



of fashion.154 And McVeigh’s survey of London’s concert life in the eighteenth century uncovers detailed evidence about the financial aspects of commercial concert promotion, including receipts, artists’ fees, concert hall and other costs, gleaned from consulting ledgers, minute-books, archives and other such records.155 Opera production books and the sketches of cadenzas and ornaments for Italian arias preserved by singers such as the French soprano Laure Cinti-Damoreau also offer valuable insights into performance history.156

Newspapers and other print Journals, diaries and the monthly and weekly forerunners of modern daily newspapers have included significant observations on concert programme content, concert dates and touring schedules, the deployment of resources and the reception of particular musical events. Contemporary accounts of musical activities are rare before the eighteenth century. However, many periodicals of the eighteenth century and thereafter, whether specifically musical or general, apprise us about concert or opera performances and new publications and include performance reviews and other relevant articles. Although writers in the ‘press’ often had their own political, rather than aesthetic or musical, agenda when writing their critiques, the reviews of composer-critics such as E. T. A. Hoffmann, Weber, Schumann, Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner, and critics such as Scheibe, Hanslick or Shaw incorporate invaluable detail about performance style and interpretation.157 Among the most important eighteenth-century specialist music periodicals were the Journal de musique (Paris, 1770–7), the Magazin der Musik (Hamburg and Copenhagen, 1783–9) and the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (Leipzig, from 1798/9), while general publications such as the Journal de Paris, Mercure de France, the Gentleman’s Magazine or the Wiener Zeitung have also proved informative. The almost insatiable demand for such music periodicals in the nineteenth century prompted the production of A. B. Marx’s Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (1824) in Berlin, Fétis’s Revue musicale (1827) and Schlesinger’s Gazette musicale (1834; amalgamated from November 1835 with the Revue musicale to become the Revue et Gazette musicale) in Paris, and Schumann’s

154 An inventory of instruments owned by the Württemberg court (1718) evidently includes a separate section listing disused instruments (e.g. rackets, crumhorns and cornets); in Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary, 2nd edn, vol. 19, p. 367, art. ‘Performing practice’. 155 See McVeigh, Concert Life, chs. 10 and 11, pp. 167–205. 156 L. Cinti-Damoreau, Méthode de chant, Paris, Heugel, 1849. 157 J. A. Scheibe, Der critische Musikus, 2 vols., 1: Hamburg, 1738, 2: Hamburg, 1740; H. Pleasants (ed. and trans.), Eduard Hanslick: Vienna’s Golden Years of Music 1850–1900, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1950, rev. 2nd edn, New York, Dover, 1963, as Music Criticisms 1846–99); A. Robertson (ed.), G. B. S. on Music, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1962.

The evidence


celebrated Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (1834) in Leipzig, as well as the Musical World (1836) and Musical Times (1844) in London, the Gazzetta musicale (1842) in Milan and Dwight’s Journal of Music (1852) in Boston. Printed concert programmes are another valuable source of information about concert-giving, the content and length of concerts, and period repertoires, particularly in the nineteenth century. They reveal that concerts normally comprised a series of short items (including single movements from large works) set in a clearly defined order and with variety as an essential consideration, so that genres, vocal and instrumental music and categories of performer were alternated; it was unusual, for example, for two arias or two symphonic movements to be performed in succession. Each half of a Gewandhaus concert’s strict programme format in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries offered an overture, an aria, a solo instrumental work and a vocal/choral finale, from either an opera or an oratorio. Programmes also reveal that vocal music was pre-eminent in the eighteenth century, as in musical culture generally at that time, and that ‘ancient music’ featured prominently in eighteenth-century concert life, particularly in England, where the Academy of Ancient Music (est. 1726) and the Concert of Ancient Music (est. 1776) nurtured its popularity. Concerts devoted solely to instrumental music-making were comparatively rare, particularly in the century’s first half. Only when the Italian concerto and the German symphony grew in popularity and scale did instrumental idioms begin to play a more significant part. A particular genre of oratorio concert, built initially around a small number of Handel’s works, became established in many major British and European cities by the end of the eighteenth century and thereafter caught on in America. Programme notes about the works to be performed began to appear during the eighteenth century, especially in Germany.158 English venues were somewhat later off the mark, with Sir George Smart (Amateur Concerts) and John Ella (Musical Union) taking the lead. Programme notes gradually became standard ‘enhancements’ of concert life during the nineteenth century. Advertisements in the press provide all kinds of information regarding concerts, performers, major patrons and the genres of music to be performed. Closer to our times, they have trumpeted the merits of patented inventions, and new instruments and accessories, as well as a wide range of publications relevant to music making and performance.

158 See W. Salmen, Das Konzert: eine Kulturgeschichte, Munich, Beck, 1988.



Musical taste ‘Taste’ serves as the final arbiter in the interpretation of historical evidence in performance. It is no twentieth-century phenomenon – detailed reference is made to it in a variety of sources, particularly of the eighteenth century.159 For Geminiani, it involved ‘expressing with Strength and Delicacy the Intention of the Composer’; for Mattheson it was ‘that internal sensibility, selection, and judgement by which our intellect reveals itself in matters of feeling’.160 Taste requires performers to exercise discrimination and judgement concerning issues that will best serve the interests of the music and is informed by a thorough understanding of the parameters within which the composer was operating, the consequent national or other stylistic boundaries which should be heeded and a detailed acquaintance with relevant musical conventions. For the optimum tempo, for example, taste involves consideration of a range of factors such as the rate of harmonic change, the character of the figures, the type of texture and so on, right down to the acoustics of the performance venue. Similarly, the effective application of dynamics, stylish continuo playing (where appropriate), flexibility of rhythmic nuance, rubato and appropriate realisation of matters of expression, phrasing, articulation and ornamentation will often necessarily be dependent on sound judgements made in the light of thorough knowledge of the relevant repertoire. Taste is not an immutable quality; it has been in a state of flux through history. Burney commented that Geminiani’s two treatises on taste161 appeared ‘too soon for the present times. Indeed,’ he added, ‘a treatise on good taste in dress, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, would now be as useful to a tailor or milliner, as the rules of taste in Music, forty years ago, to a modern musician.’162 Mozart adapted Handel’s Messiah (1789) to the taste of his times, using a wider range of instrumental colour, implementing changes of order, length and key of various solo items, dispensing with continuo and

159 See, for example, F. Couperin, Pièces de clavecin: troisième livre, Paris, 1722, Preface; Quantz, On Playing the Flute, pp. 22–3; P. F. Tosi, Opinioni de’ cantori antichi e moderni o sieno osservazioni sopra il canto figurato, Bologna, 1723, trans. M. Pilkington, I.29, II.1, III.15 and 19, V.15, VII.4, VIII.4–5, IX.41–2, 63, X.8, 31 and VII.22–4. 160 F. Geminiani, The Art of Playing on the Violin, London, Johnson, 1751, p. 6; J. Mattheson, Die neueste Untersuchung der Singspiele, nebst beygefügter musikalischen Geschmacksprobe, Hamburg, 1744, p. 123. 161 F. Geminiani, Rules for Playing in a true Taste on the Violin, German Flute, Violoncello, and Harpsichord particularly the Thorough Bass . . . Op. VIII, London, c. 1748; A Treatise of Good Taste in the Art of Musick, London, 1749. 162 C. Burney, A General History of Music, 4 vols., London, 1776–89, ed. F. Mercer, 2 vols., London, Harcourt Brace, 1935, repr. New York, Dover, 1957, vol. 2, p. 992.

The evidence


adding expressive indications.163 Beethoven and Brahms wrote cadenzas in their own styles for Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor K466, and Mahler, Wagner and others ‘retouched’ Beethoven’s symphonies in keeping with the taste of their era. Further, Leech-Wilkinson has observed how tastes in singing style and interpretation of Schubert’s ‘Wandern’ (Die schöne Müllerin) changed from the simple, straightforward approaches of Elisabeth Schumann, Gerard Hüsch and Lotte Lehmann up to the early 1940s to the more dramatic postSecond World War accounts of, for example, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.164 In order to accommodate changes in musical taste through history performers must devise appropriate solutions to problems for which there may be no definitive or widely accepted answers. Well-considered application of musical taste can give interpretations individuality, variety and their intrinsic value within the flexible, though not indefinitely elastic boundaries of style. Evidence relating to the history of musical performance is wide-ranging and ever-expanding in line with the discoveries of musical research and the continued progress of music as a creative art. If it is to be used beneficially, such raw material must be amassed, criticised, arranged, evaluated and interpreted in accordance with its origin, content, quality and purpose. Problems often arise, for example, in assessing a writer’s background, his motives, his relation to his contemporaries, and his intended or actual readership; and it is rarely clear how widely most of any generation’s music or treatises were known. The various sources themselves may be unreliable to a greater or lesser extent, selfcontradictory or contradictory with one another in some respects and tiresomely repetitive in others. Nevertheless, either singly or as a group, they can assist towards completing a jigsaw which may have several missing pieces. Of course, the sheer weight and complexity of historical, archival and ideological considerations give rise to an extraordinary variety of interpretative possibility. Brown thus urges musicians to construct interpretations that fit as much of the available evidence as possible, drawing in all the various sources ‘to gain a three-dimensional view (admittedly always slightly fictional and coloured by our own preoccupations) of past societies’. The best hypotheses will be ‘those that take most into account and are best able to reconcile apparent contradictions’.165

163 Mozart also ‘modernised’ Handel’s Acis and Galatea, Alexander’s Feast and the Ode for St Cecilia’s Day for Baron van Swieten’s Sunday musicales. 164 D. Leech-Wilkinson, ‘Musicology and Performance’, www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/humanities/depts/ music/dlwpubs.html, p. 8. Last accessed 23 June 2009. 165 In Brown and Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music before 1600, p. 4.



While performers have to rely substantially on their intuitive response to the music’s expressive implications, their purpose in educating themselves as musicians is to enable them to play instinctively and express themselves imaginatively within a given stylistic framework. They should always be mindful of the dangers of allowing their attempts at stylish interpretation of the music of their forebears to be conditioned by the musical fashions of the intervening years or to be governed too much by rules. As Marpurg remarks concerning embellishments, ‘it is impossible to derive rules suitable to all possible occasions as long as music remains an inexhaustible sea of change, and one person’s feelings differ from another’s’.166 But in their efforts to express themselves within a style, they must attune their imaginations as closely as possible to the taste of the period of the music. In so doing, the knowledge gained from the quasi-archeological process of digging for, and uncovering relevant evidence is crucial.

166 F. W. Marpurg, Anleitung zum Klavierspielen, Berlin, 1755–61, p. 43. See also, for example, Quantz, On Playing the Flute, p. 298; C. Czerny, Complete Theoretical and Practical Pianoforte School Op. 500, 3 vols., London, 1839, vol. 3, p. 118.

. 4 .

The performer and the composer COREY JAMASON

His execution is not polished – that is, his playing is not unblemished . . . his improvising gave me much pleasure . . . sometimes he does astonishing things. Besides, he ought not be thought of as a pianist, because he is dedicated totally to composition and it is very hard to be at once a composer and a performer.1

This remarkable observation would have astonished earlier generations of musicians. In all likelihood it would have astonished Beethoven and most of his contemporaries as well. The idea that a composer could not be equally skilled as a performer was at the beginning of the nineteenth century revolutionary. Pleyel’s comment, however, is representative of a shift of perspective in many aesthetic considerations during this period. It signals the beginnings of a century-long transition towards a separation of the roles of composers and performers, when the very nature of their relationship changed at a rate unprecedented in history. This chapter will address this relationship by examining the perceived selfidentity of composers and performers, the leadership of ensembles and the changing views regarding so-called ‘fidelity to the score’. It will also survey relevant performance issues which inform this relationship, such as improvisation, tempo and rubato, focusing on increased notational specificity introduced during the nineteenth century.

Communication and collaboration The composer–performer relationship, at once both intimate and remote, is certainly among the most remarkable phenomena in Western music. Co-creators, like actor and playwright, choreographer and dancer, composer and performer have long collaborated fruitfully, but at the same time the relationship has been fraught with tension and potential misunderstandings. 1 Camille Pleyel on Beethoven (1805), cited in W. Newman, Beethoven on Beethoven: Playing his Piano Music his Way, New York, Norton, 1988, p. 80.




Chief among them have been matters difficult if not impossible to communicate through notation (e.g. tempo, melodic rubato) and improvisation, by its nature resistant to notation. Consider the various contexts in which the confrontation and exchange of ideas between a performer and a composer, or in the composer’s absence, performer and score, may occur in terms of actual music-making: a composer performs his own music alone; a composer leads other performers in the performance of his own music; a composer is not involved in the performance but his music is performed by contemporaries who share his performance practices; a composer’s music is performed in a style remote from his own, separated in time and place from his own epoch and performance practices; a composer’s music is performed by musicians separated from him in time and place but acquainted with the performance style of his era through the study of performance practice and the use of period instruments. One might examine the implications of any of these circumstances to any single era, composer or even specific composition, making the history of the performance style for any one era/composer/composition numbingly complex. As such, the possibility of identifying any one composer–performer relationship in relation to specific repertoire is untenable, since the context of every composition has undergone numerous transformations. Composers seek to express their ideas as precisely as necessary in notation, indicating all that is required for a successful performance. During most of music history, composers led performances of their own music, so confusions as to their intentions could easily be clarified if not through interaction with the composer himself then through the shared performance practices of the day. Beginning with fourteenth-century accounts of Francesco Landini, the most celebrated musicians were almost always performers and composers, practical musicians as well as creative artists.2 The interaction between composers and performers, always developing and changing, nevertheless had one fundamental element that remained essentially the same over many centuries across widely differing compositional and interpretative styles, namely, a belief that the relationship between composers and performers was highly collaborative. Prior to the nineteenth century ‘fidelity to the score’ meant that performers were expected to ‘complete’ the notation through a variety of means.3 Performers sought not only to express an individual composer’s

2 See Filippo Villani’s Liber de civitatis Florentiae famosis civibus, cited in P. Weiss and R. Taruskin (eds.), Music in the Western World, New York, Schirmer, 1984, pp. 72–5. 3 See ‘Negotiating between work, composer and performer: rewriting the story of notational progress’, in J. Butt, Playing with History: The Historical Approach to Musical Performance, Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 96–122.

The performer and the composer


particular style but were also very much working within a larger framework of shared performance practices within their time period and geographical area. Performers in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance periods were expected to complete musica ficta.4 Renaissance composers began to add notated accidentals in the sixteenth century, although as Howard Mayer Brown has written, composers in the Renaissance functioned within a highly collaborative system in which performers ‘had to know how and where to add accidentals, how to place the words under the notes in vocal music, and how to arrange compositions for effective combinations of voices and instruments, all crucial decisions that in later times became the exclusive privilege of composers’.5 Flexibility of instrumentation continued in the seventeenth century with Baroque performers expected to organise appropriate continuo bands.6 Tempo was indicated through a developing system that included mensural notation, proportional relationships, metre and its relationship to note values and representative dance movements, and, eventually, tempo words and metronome marks.7 As composers have sought to indicate their ideas clearly, performers have sought to render a composer’s work in a manner believed to be faithful to the score and the composer’s intentions. For almost a millennium, a notation which indicated pitches and later rhythm and metric organisation was sufficient to impart the information needed for a successful performance, since implied in these pitches, rhythms and metres was a host of signals specifically understood by performers to indicate appropriate affect, tempo, strong and weak relationships, as well as a variety of other interpretative decisions. For most of music history, performers could justifiably consider themselves co-creators. The remarkable changes in the nature of the composer–performer relationship during the nineteenth century were concurrent with new, individualistic approaches to composition, an increasing sense of the uniqueness of each creative artist, a newly found reverence for the composer as ‘hero’, as well as the emergence of a new reverence for compositions as important entities unto themselves.8 The intensely collaborative nature of the relationship, many centuries old, ended in what in retrospect seems a remarkably short period of time. Tempo, 4 For a fine introduction to issues relating to musica ficta and other important Renaissance theory and performance practice issues see S. Mead, ‘Renaissance theory’, in J. Kite-Powell (ed.), A Performer’s Guide to Renaissance Music, New York, Schirmer, 1994, pp. 289–316. 5 H. M. Brown, Embellishing Sixteenth-Century Music, Oxford University Press, 1976, p. vii. 6 See J. Ashworth and P. O’Dette, ‘Basso continuo’, in S. Carter (ed.), A Performer’s Guide to SeventeenthCentury Music, New York, Schirmer, 1997, pp. 291–5 for an extremely useful summary of norms of continuo band instrumentation. 7 See G. Houle, Meter in Music: 1600–1800, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1987. 8 See T. Blanning, The Triumph of Music: The Rise of Composers, Musicians and their Art, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2008.



long determined by metre and a relationship to note values and related dance movements, began in the late eighteenth century to be indicated by a succession of tempo words. These signalled both affect and relative tempo, particularly in relationship to the metre employed. The ambiguity of these words led the new technology of the metronome at the beginning of the nineteenth century to be greeted with the greatest of enthusiasm followed quickly by disillusionment as to its limitations. It should be noted that the nineteenth century was also the period in which many performing composers and important instrumentalists began to perform music of earlier composers in so-called ‘historical recitals’ as part of the newly developing tradition of the ‘solo’ recital.9 It is not hard to conceive that these artists’ confrontations with scores of Baroque and Classical composers may have inspired them to develop a more precise notation to transmit interpretative ideas in their own music. Their performances of ‘early’ music were the direct antecedent of the practice in our era in which most twenty-first-century performers perform music exclusively from the past. However, nineteenthcentury performers clearly were not so concerned with performance practice issues in their performances of Baroque and Classical repertoire. The idea of posterity had arrived on a wide scale, born both from a Beethovenian sense of the greatness and individuality of the creative artist, as well as inspired by this first wave of an early music revival in the nineteenth century, fired primarily by an intense interest by composers such as Mendelssohn, Liszt, Schumann and Brahms.10 A sense of the viability and necessity of performing music of the past arose, illustrated by Franz Liszt’s call in 1835 for the ‘inexpensive publication of a Collection of the most remarkable works of all early and modern composers. This publication, embracing in its entirety the development of the art, starting with folk song and arriving gradually, and in historical order, at the choral symphony of Beethoven, might take the title of MUSICAL PANTHEON.’11 This is echoed by Brahms, himself instrumental in the publishing of much ‘early music’, writing to Eduard Hanslick in 1884: ‘how little is being done about new editions of various works whose study and dissemination seem desirable. Specifically, older vocal music of every kind. True, you’ll say it’s not used, either – but it should be, and will be, more and more, without any doubt.’12 9 K. Hamilton, After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance, Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 33–71. 10 H. Haskell, The Early Music Revival: A History, London, Thames & Hudson, 1988. 11 F. Liszt, ‘On the situation of artists and their condition in society’, in C. Gibbs and D. Gooley (eds.), Franz Liszt and his World, Princeton University Press, 2006, p. 300. 12 J. Brahms, Life and Letters, selected and annotated by S. Avins, trans. J. Eisinger and S. Avins, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 614.

The performer and the composer


There are two broad categories of notation and the subsequent transmission of a composer’s ideas. First, all those matters which are firmly in the composers’ control: pitch level and relative duration. Secondly, almost all other matters (tempo, articulation, metric stress, dynamics etc.), which, while indicated by composers, are largely subjective and ambiguous. One might add to this list of subjective interpretative decisions important concerns regarding rhythmic freedom and general pacing. How an interpreter of any era responds to these ambiguities is largely what makes each performer unique. The relationship between composers and performers in all its implications is clearly too large to cover comprehensively in the space allowed here, but it is hoped that by addressing several of the most important elements influencing this dynamic relationship we may better understand the complex and changing elements of this fruitful collaboration.

Identity and leadership Surviving accounts of actual performances prior to the twentieth century describe performances by both performers and composers. Indeed, many, if not perhaps the majority of the most celebrated interpreters were also composers. Non-composing performers have, of course, been celebrated from the beginning of recorded history. We learn, for instance, of numerous performers in a c. 1480 treatise of Tinctoris, a work among the first to describe specific musicians celebrated for their playing as distinct from any compositional activities.13 Composer-performers were seen to possess all the supernatural abilities later accorded to the well-known virtuosi of the nineteenth century – often bordering on the fantastic, like this account of an observer of the young Domenico Scarlatti playing the harpsichord, pre-dating similar descriptions of Paganini and Liszt by well over a hundred years: he thought ten hundred devils had been at the instrument; he never had heard such passages of execution and effect before. The performance so far surpassed his own, and every degree of perfection to which he thought it possible he should ever arrive, that, if he had been in sight of any instrument with which to have done the deed, he should have cut off his own fingers.14

A fourteenth-century account of a similar nature is found in one of the earliest biographical accounts of a ‘composer’, Filippo Villani’s description of the blind

13 Cited in Weiss and Taruskin (eds.), Music in the Western World, p. 158. 14 From C. Burney, A General History of Music, cited in Weiss and Taruskin (eds.), Music in the Western World, p. 235.



Francesco Landini found in a discussion of fourteenth-century Florentines.15 He writes that when the youthful Landini: had come to perceive music’s charm and sweetness, he began to compose, first for voices, then for strings and organ. He made astonishing progress. And then, to everyone’s amazement, he took up a number of musical instruments – remember, he had never seen them – as readily as if he could still see. In particular, he began to play the organ, with such great dexterity – always accurately however – and with such expressiveness that he far surpassed any organist in living memory. All this, I fear, can hardly be set down without some accusation of its having been made up . . . it is worth mentioning however, that no one ever played the organ so well. All musicians grant him that.16

Even accounts of composers perhaps not the most brilliant performers concede a great ability and authority, as in Samuel Wesley’s description of Haydn’s playing in 1792 in which he reports that Haydn’s ‘performance on the Piano Forte, although not such as to stamp him a first-rate artist upon that Instrument, was indisputably neat and distinct. In the Finale of one of his Symphonies (No. 98), is a Passage of attractive Brilliancy, which he has given to the Piano Forte, and which the Writer of this Memoir remembers him to have executed with the utmost Accuracy and Precision.’17 To compose has naturally always been considered the height of the art. A feeling of reverence for composers particularly characteristic of the twentieth century was expressed by Gustav Leonhardt: ‘No, I have nothing to say, I am only a player.’ ‘As opposed to?’ asks the interviewer, Leonhardt’s response being ‘to a real musician, which is a composer’.18 The gulf between composers and performers offered wonderful opportunities for satire. Johann Kuhnau mocked would-be composer-performers in his satirical novel The Musical Charlatan: Music is one of those arts that demand the greatest industry to be learned. I shall ask only those who from childhood on have seriously pursued music along with their other studies – for I desire no answer from those scholars who are not at home in this noble science – whether they wouldn’t say that one could appear in the Frankfurt Catalog of Learned Authors more readily than compose a concerto of good invention and one without reproach . . . There are people who may understand how some notes go together or may even only 15 See R. Wegman, ‘From maker to composer: improvisation and musical authority in the Low Countries, 1450–1500’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 49 (1996), 409–79, for an important discussion of the development of the concept of a ‘composer’. 16 F. Villani, Liber de civitatis Florentiae famosis civibus, cited in Weiss and Taruskin (eds.), Music in the Western World, pp. 74–5. 17 S. P. Rosenblum, Performance Practices in Classic Piano Music, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1988, p. 19. 18 B. D. Sherman, Inside Early Music, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 203–4.

The performer and the composer


scratch out ‘La folie d’Espagne’ on the lute or saw away at ‘The Angel’s Bell’ on the viola da gamba, who always act as if Jupiter were their father and everyone has to revere them as Apollo.19

Prior to celebrated teachers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries such as Theodor Leschetizky and Leopold Auer, it was composers who were the teachers of the greatest fame, both of other composers and also of instrumental and vocal performers. A description of Josquin provides an early example: ‘My teacher Josquin des Prez never rehearsed or wrote out any musical exercises, yet in a short time made perfect musicians, since he did not hold his students back with lengthy and frivolous instructions, but imparted precepts in few words, while teaching practical singing.’20 In his 1702 discourse on harpsichord playing, M. de Saint-Lambert describes the merits of what makes a great teacher, recommending that ‘the knowledge of a teacher does not simply mean that he must be a skilful player of the harpsichord and an excellent composer of music; it must be understood that in addition to these two assets he should have the gift of demonstrating, which is a very distinct quality from that of being a famous musician’.21 Interestingly, Saint-Lambert seems to suggest that being a famous teacher and composer is in fact not necessarily enough to produce a great teacher, one must also have the capacity to ‘demonstrate’ as well. The basis of teaching composition during the Baroque era was largely achieved through the study of continuo playing, a performance art. C. P. E. Bach described his father’s teaching as such: ‘His pupils had to begin their studies by learning pure four-part thorough bass . . . the realization of a thorough bass and the introduction to chorales are without doubt the best method of studying composition, as far as harmony is concerned’.22 Direct involvement with a composer was clearly considered the most important means to learn that composer’s style. Musicians of the past frequently report that even contact with those who knew the composers, or who had heard them, was useful. Jean de Gallois, writing in 1680, provides an interesting instance of this concept in his discussion regarding Chambonnières: Some have imitated him because they were indeed his pupils and because, having taken lessons from him, it was easier in this way for them to absorb his style. The others did it simply on the basis of the impression they had retained 19 J. Kuhnau, The Musical Charlatan, trans. J. Russell, Columbia, SC, Camden House, 1997, p. 3. 20 A. P. Coclico, Compendium musices (1552), trans. A. Seay, Colorado Springs, CO, Colorado College Music Press, 1973, p. 16. 21 M. de Saint-Lambert, Les principes du clavecin, Paris, 1702, trans. and ed. R. Harris-Warrick as Principles of the Harpsichord, Cambridge University Press, 1984, p. 6. 22 C. P. E. Bach, cited in J. Lester, Compositional Theory in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1992, p. 65.



of his style of playing from having heard him; and others, merely on the imaginary idea which they had formed of his playing from having heard it described.23

Indeed, Johann Jacob Froberger (and presumably most other composers) thought it essential to have studied directly with himself, as Caspar Grieffgens, a Froberger pupil, recalled that the composer ‘indicated that the master was loath to part with his works to any but the best players, judging them impossible to play unless they had been taught by himself ’.24 J. F. A. von Uffenbach, a German student visiting Venice in 1715, recalls Vivaldi’s desire to demonstrate the performance of his works: ‘Vivaldi came to see me this afternoon, and brought me what I had ordered, namely 10 concerti grossi, some of which, as he said, he had composed expressly for me; and so that I might hear them better, he wished to teach them to me at once and come to see me from time to time.’25 The most celebrated professional musicians of the eighteenth century were at some level both composers and performers; however, non-composing eighteenth-century singers (as well as instrumental soloists) notoriously did as they pleased. Performers frequently rearranged works of their own as well as of other composers, and all solo performers, of course, improvised.26 This paints a picture in which we may assume even in performances led by the composer, leading soloists had a great deal of latitude in what they actually played or sang. Nevertheless, specific accounts of performances led by composers frequently suggest a certain level of control even within this period of tremendous freedoms accorded to performers. A report on Buxtehude provides a fine example: ‘Whoever does not like this should hear sometime the incomparable Mr. Buxtehude perform at Lübeck. He puts not two or three violins on a part, but twenty and thirty and even more. But all these instrumentalists must not change a single note or dot, or bow otherwise than he has directed.’27 Even in a not so subtle criticism of a composer’s performance, such as is found in this description of Vivaldi’s playing, there was a powerful sense of the authenticity of the interpretation: 23 D. Fuller, ‘French harpsichord playing in the 17th century: after le Gallois’, Early Music, 4 (1976), 23. 24 G. B. Sharp, ‘J. J. Froberger: 1614–1667: a link between the Renaissance and Baroque’, Musical Times, 108 (1967), 1094. 25 E. Preussner, Die musikalischen Reisen des Herrn von Uffenbach, cited in Taruskin and Weiss (eds.), Music in the Western World, p. 236. 26 See J. Spitzer and N. Zaslaw, ‘Improvised ornamentation in eighteenth-century orchestras’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 39 (1986), 524–77, for an important discussion of improvisational trends among ripieno players in eighteenth-century orchestras. 27 K. Snyder, Dieterich Buxtehude: Organist in Lübeck, New York, Schirmer, 1987, p. 383.

The performer and the composer


the manager of this theater is the famous Vivaldi, who was also the composer of the opera. . . . Vivaldi played an admirable solo to accompany an aria, at the conclusion of which he added an improvisation that really frightened me, for I doubt anything like it was ever done before, or ever will be again: he came within a hairsbreadth of the bridge, leaving no room for the bow, and this on all 4 strings, with imitations and at an incredible speed. He astonished everyone with this, although to say it touched me would not be true, because it was not as agreeable to listen to as it was cunningly contrived.28

There do exist some accounts of composer-performers having less than successful leadership turns. A description of Francesco Geminiani provides an interesting example of a brilliant performer and a fine composer not necessarily always successful in a leadership role, as described by Charles Burney: (after studying with Corelli in Rome) he went to Naples, where from the reputation of his performance at Rome, he was placed at the head of the orchestra; but, according to the elder Barbella, he was soon discovered to be so wild and unsteady a timist, that instead of regulating and conducting the band, he threw it into confusion; as none of the performers were able to follow him in his tempo rubato, and other unexpected accelerations and relaxations of measure. After this discovery, the younger Barbella assured me, that his father, who well remembered his arrival in Naples, said he was never trusted with a better part than the tenor, during his residence in that city.29

It is a mistake to assume that early forms of leadership, either by beating time or by leading from the violin or keyboard,30 were in any sense ineffective. Adam Carse provides an example of this opinion: The mental pictures of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century orchestras playing under the direction of ‘conductors’ seated at and playing the clavicembalo, of violinist-leaders struggling to control their forces with nods of the head and stamps of the foot, of Paris conductors thumping out the beats with a pole, of Gluck conducting ‘violin in hand,’ of Mozart who ‘thought it well to sit at the piano and conduct,’ or ‘taking the violin out of the hands of M. La Houssave, and conducting myself,’ of the ludicrous scene between Dr. Hayes and Mr. Cramer at the first Handel Commemoration Festival, even of Beethoven conducting the Choral Symphony without being able to hear it; these and dozens of similar stories of the musical past more than hint at standards of performance too harrowing for present-day composers to think about.31

However difficult some circumstances may have been, it was largely composers, leading by beating time or while playing the violin or keyboard, who founded 28 E. Preussner, Die musikalischen Reisen des Herrn von Uffenbach, cited in Taruskin and Weiss (eds.), Music in the Western World, p. 236. 29 J. Tarling, Baroque String Playing for Ingenious Learners, St Albans, Corda Music, 2000, p. 31. 30 See J. Spitzer and N. Zaslaw, The Birth of the Orchestra, Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 387–93. 31 A. Carse, The History of Orchestration, New York, Dover, 1964, pp. 336–7.



the art of orchestral excellence. And although these forms of leadership would be eventually superseded by independent conductors at the beginning of the nineteenth century (begun largely, it should noted, by conducting composers, i.e. Spohr, Berlioz, Mendelssohn etc.), earlier composers such as Lully, Corelli and Handel led what were in their day the most famous ensembles in Europe.32 The mechanics of these pre-conducting forms of leadership were entirely suitable for the repertoire as well as the disposition of the instruments performing. Still, it is clear that composer-leaders occasionally attempted to improve the mechanics of their contact with the players. A fascinating example is found in a report by Handel’s frequent librettist Charles Jennens of a new organ, apparently designed by Handel himself: Mr. Handel’s head is more full of maggots than ever. . . . His second maggot is an organ . . . this organ, he says, is so constructed that as he sits at it he has a better command of his performers than he used to have, and he is highly delighted to think with what exactness his Oratorio will be performed by the help of this organ; so that for the future instead of beating time at his oratorios, he is to sit at the organ all the time with his back to the Audience. (1738)33

Most leaders in the eighteenth century led while playing, as evidenced in Johann Mattheson’s opinion that ‘things always work out better when I both play and sing along than when I merely stand there and beat time. Playing and singing in this way inspires and enlivens the performers.’34 This was leadership at the most active level, actual participation in the creation of sound as opposed to leadership through beating time or later, by conducting.35 In the present day, it is a commonly expressed belief that composers are not necessarily considered the best interpreters. This somewhat paradoxical view would likely have astounded most musicians in the past since almost all composers prior to the twentieth century were performers themselves. However, we do begin to encounter the first stirrings of this opinion expressed as early as the 1750s by Quantz, in his discussion of the qualities needed for orchestral leadership: The greatest skill required of a leader is that he have a perfect understanding of how to play all types of compositions in accordance with their style, sentiment, and purpose, and in the correct tempos. He must therefore have even more experience with regard to what distinguishes one piece from another than a composer. The latter often troubles himself only with what he has written 32 For an account of Lully’s orchestra and for a discussion of Corelli’s leadership see Spitzer and Zaslaw, The Birth of the Orchestra, pp. 70–104 and 105–36. 33 Letter of Charles Jennens, 19 September 1738, London, cited in Weiss and Taruskin (eds.), Music in the Western World, pp. 243–4. 34 Spitzer and Zaslaw, The Birth of the Orchestra, p. 389. 35 For a discussion of the demise of this system, see ibid., pp. 390–1.

The performer and the composer


himself. Many do not know how to execute their own things in the correct tempos, whether from excessive indifference, too much ardour, or too little experience. A clever leader, however, can easily correct these errors.36

Quantz’s view was the wave of the future. Robert Schumann, writing some eighty years later, went much further, suggesting that composers are not the best interpreters of their own works: Experience has proven that the composer is usually not the finest and most interesting performer of his own works, especially his most recent ones, which he has not yet mastered from an objective point of view. Other people often know how to express our meanings better than we do ourselves. (Eusebius) Right. And should the composer, who needs rest at the conclusion of a work, strive at once to concentrate his powers on its performance, his judgement – like overfatigued sight that tries to fix itself on one point – would become clouded, if not blind. We have seen instances when composers have wholly misinterpreted their own works by such a forced operation. (Raro)37

As musicians in the nineteenth century began to reconsider the distinctive roles of composers and performers in actual performance, it may be safe to assume that composers initially gave up their participatory role as performers unwillingly. A removal from the process of preparation and performance would have been unthinkable to most composers in prior eras. In an account of Giuseppe Verdi leading rehearsals of Macbeth in the late 1840s, we gain a fascinating picture of a composer rehearsing his music with tremendous ardour: ‘The implacable Verdi spared no thought for his artists: he tired and tormented them with the same number for hours on end, and he never moved to a different scene until they had managed to perform the piece in a manner which fell least short of his ideal.’38 ‘Which fell least short’ of the ‘ideal’ performance as imagined by the composer may be assumed to be a worthy goal of any performer! The opinion expressed by Schumann may be thought to have taken hold in the minds of most musicians by the beginning of the twentieth century. As such, new problems and frustrations arose among composers from this newly established independence of performers, particularly when not involved with either the performance or preparation of their works, as expressed by Arnold Schoenberg in an indignant letter to fellow composer Edgard Varèse in 1922:

36 J. J. Quantz, Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen, Berlin, 1752, trans. E. R. Reilly as On Playing the Flute, London, Faber, 1966, p. 208. 37 R. Schumann, On Music and Musicians, ed. K. Wolff and trans. P. Rosenfeld, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1946, p. 50. 38 M. Conati, Encounters with Verdi, trans. R. Stokes, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1964, p. 25.



What offends me equally, however, is that without asking me whether you CAN and MAY do so you simply set a definitive date for my ‘Pierrot lunaire’. But do you even know whether you can manage it? Have you already got a suitable speaker [Sprecherin]; a violinist, a pianist, a conductor, etc.? How many rehearsals do you mean to hold, etc . . . etc.? In Vienna, with everyone starving and shivering, something like 100 rehearsals were held and an impeccable ensemble formed with my collaboration. But you people simply fix a date and think that’s all there is to it! Have you any inkling of the difficulties of the style, of the declamation, of the tempi, of the dynamics and all that? And you expect me to associate myself with it? No, I’m not smart enough for that! If you want to have anything to do with me, you must set about it quite differently. What I want to know is: 1. How many rehearsals? 2. Who is in charge of rehearsals? 3. Who does the Sprechstimme? 4. Who are the players? If all this is to my satisfaction, I shall give my blessing. But for the rest I am, of course, powerless and you can do as you like. But then kindly refrain from asking me about it. I regret not being able to say anything more obliging. But I must reject this exclusively business approach. I sincerely hope that another time I may have the occasion to be more cordial.39

With music of dead composers being performed with greater frequency in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a host of new problems and concerns arose; as not only the balance of control had shifted in the performance of new music, composers in particular could look upon performances and performers of ‘early’ music with dismay, as in this hilarious fantasy imagined by Claude Debussy: This one hurries, that one takes his time, but it’s always poor old Beethoven who comes off worse in the end. The informed will declare that so-and-so conductor’s got the ‘correct’ tempo. But who are they to know! Are they in receipt of communications from Above? It’s nothing more than posthumous chitchat – astonishing coming from Beethoven. If his errant spirit were to wander into a concert hall, I’m sure he would fly back as quickly as he could to the place where the only music is that of the spheres! And old Father Bach could say to him, with the hint of a reprimand, ‘but my dear Ludwig, I can see from your wilting soul that you’ve been down to that dreadful place again.’ Perhaps that would be the last time they’d speak to each other.40

The performance of music of the past (by independent, non-composing interpreters) brought about a torrent of concerns relating to fidelity and interpretation. At the same time the performance of new music was largely out of the hands of composers by the beginning of the twentieth century. This occurred at the same 39 E. Stein (ed.), Arnold Schoenberg Letters, trans. E. Wilkins and E. Kaiser, London, Faber, 1964, pp. 78–9. 40 C. Debussy, Debussy on Music, collected by F. Lesure, trans. and ed. R. L. Smith, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1977, pp. 23–4.

The performer and the composer


time, it may be said, that from a notational point of view, composers were enjoying more control than ever before. These developments lead to a reconsideration of what may be considered the real revolution of the nineteenth century. Frequently and accurately understood as an age of the virtuoso, the period from 1800 to 1900 may perhaps be better framed as an era in which composers succeeded in developing far greater control of the performances of their music than ever before, ironically in the next century to the very period in which they largely ceased to be performers themselves.

Improvisation The interaction between composers and performers was decisively changed by the banishment of improvisation as an important element of performance. Music history can be divided into two broad periods: a long period of time, which may be described as the age of improvisation, and a post-improvisational era. The first period, encompassing the entirety of music history until around 1850, may with some justification be defined as an age of creative collaboration and is notable for its intensely collaborative interaction between composers and performers in the creation of a ‘final’ product, achieved largely through free improvisation among other interpretative decisions. Our present era is largely absorbed in the performance of music composed during this improvisational age, indeed the predominant repertoire of many performers today stems from the compositions of the last flowering of improvising composers (i.e. Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt et al.).41 Examining the psychology of performers active during the improvisational age is thus crucial to understanding the expectations of composers active during this large period. Because of wide areas for potential abuse or disagreement, improvisation has always been among the most difficult of interpretative problems, with most composers urging restraint and sobriety. It started from the beginning of the era in which one can properly identify individual composers. Guillaume de Machaut provides a particularly early example: and by God it is long since I have made so good a thing to my satisfaction; and the tenors are as sweet as unsalted pap. I beg therefore that you deign to hear it, and learn the thing just as it is, without adding or taking away; and it is to be sung in a goodly long measure; and if anyone play it on the organs, bagpipe, or other instrument, that is its right nature.42

41 For an interesting discussion of Mendelssohn’s distaste of public improvisation see Hamilton, After the Golden Age, pp. 45–9. 42 G. Machaut, Le Livre du Voir-Dit, c. 1363, cited in P. Weiss (ed.), Letters of Composers through Six Centuries, Philadelphia, PA, Chilton Books, 1967, pp. 1–2.



Machaut, clearly prescribing the tempo as well as indicating a flexibility of instrumentation typical of the fourteenth century, appears to insist that his work be performed ‘as written’, ‘without adding or taking away’. But this is perhaps an unusual example. While it is clear that composers have always been concerned about over-zealous embellishment it is also clear that the art of improvisation by performers was an expected, crucial responsibility of performers within the collaboration between composers and performers, indeed, the success of a composition was largely dependent upon it.43 A recollection by Manuel García the younger regarding a c. 1815 rehearsal involving his father Manuel García, is a fine example of a performer fulfilling the intentions of the composer through improvisational co-creation: When his first aria had been reached he sang it off with perfect phrasing and feeling, but exactly note for note as written. After he had finished the composer said, ‘Thank you signor, very nice, but not at all what I wanted’. He asked for an explanation, and was informed that the melody was merely a skeleton which the singer should clothe with whatever his imagination and artistic instinct prompted . . . The elder Garcia was skillful at improvising . . . he made a number of alterations and additions, introducing runs, trills, roulades and cadenzas . . . The old composer shook him warmly by the hand. ‘Bravo! Magnificent! That was my music as I wished it to be given’.44

This fascinating recollection, relatively late within the period of improvisation, is representative of a centuries-old practice of active collaboration between composers and performers. But the practice was largely over by this time; as Clive Brown explains, the composer in question was of the ‘old Italian school’. Regardless of the account of Beethoven’s apparent delight with Bridgetower’s embellishments during a performance of the ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata, the act of adding embellishments to set compositions was essentially finished by the beginning of the nineteenth century, with the exception of continued improvisation in bel canto repertoire. As Beethoven wrote in his famous letter of apology to his student Carl Czerny: ‘you must forgive a composer who would rather have heard his work performed exactly as it was written, however beautifully you played it in other respect.’45 This proves that Czerny did ornament as a matter of course. Beethoven appears to be apologising for demanding a complete fidelity to the written notes because it was an exceptionally unusual request at the time. For all of history prior to the beginning of the nineteenth century, performers were indeed expected to ‘beautify’ a work, as explained by Thomas Mace in 43 See D. Fuller, ‘The Performer as Composer’, in H. M. Brown and S. Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music after 1600, London, Macmillan, 1989, pp. 117–46. 44 M. S. Mackinlay, Garcia the Centenarian and his Times, Edinburgh, 1908, p. 34, cited in C. Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750–1900, Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 419. 45 The Letters of Beethoven, trans. and ed. E. Anderson, 3 vols., London, Macmillan, 1961, vol. 2, p. 560, letter from Beethoven to Czerny, 12 February 1816.

The performer and the composer


1676: ‘For your Foundations being surely Laid, and your Building well Rear’d, you may proceed to the Beautifying, and Painting of your Fabrick.’ 46 ‘Beautifying’ meant adding both small graces as well as melodic embellishments. Small graces were to be added by performers for it was ‘troublesome’ for a composer to indicate them, as in this 1682 instruction by Nicola Matteis: ‘To set your tune off the better, you must make several sorts of Graces of your one Genius, it being very troublesome for the Composer to mark them.’47 A hyper-awareness of national style took hold in the Baroque era, in no area perhaps as distinct as in discussions of ornamentation, Quantz’s statement being representative of many commentators: ‘French composers usually write the embellishments with the air, and the performer thus needs only to concern himself with executing them well. In the Italian style in former times no embellishments at all were set down, and everything was left to the caprice of the performer.’48 This ‘caprice’ of the performer, however, frequently inspired enormous anxiety among composers as evidenced by innumerable statements by composers warning against excessive ornamentation in their works. These comments evoke an at times collegial, but more frequently, confrontational relationship between composers and performers. Of particular concern was the fear that performers would destroy the intended expression of the composition, as Count Bardi strongly stated, c. 1580, that ‘the noblest function a singer can perform is that of giving proper and exact expression to the canzone as set down by the composer, not imitating those who aim only at being thought clever (a ridiculous pretense) and who so spoil a madrigal with their ill-ordered passages that even the composer himself would not recognize it as his creation’.49 And from C. P. E. Bach, some 170 years later: Above all things, a prodigal use of embellishments must be avoided. Regard them as spices which may ruin the best dish or gewgaws which may deface the most perfect building. Notes of no great moment and those sufficiently brilliant by themselves should remain free of them, for embellishments serve only to increase the weight and import of notes and to differentiate them from others. Otherwise, I would commit the same error as orators who try to place an impressive accent on every word; everything would be alike and consequently unclear.50 . . . My feelings are these: Not everything should be varied, 46 T. Mace, Musick’s Monument, London, 1676. 47 N. Matteis, The False Consonances of Musick, London, 1682. 48 Quantz, On Playing the Flute, p. 163. 49 Count Giovanni de Bardi, Discorso . . . sopra la musica antica, c. 1580, cited in F. Neumann, Ornamentation in Baroque and Post-Baroque Music, Princeton University Press, 1978, p. 24. 50 C. P. E. Bach, Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen, 2 vols., Berlin, 1753 and 1762, repr. 1957, trans. and ed. W. J. Mitchell as Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, New York, Norton, 1949, p. 81.



for if it is the reprise will become a new piece. Many things, particularly affettuoso or declamatory passages, cannot be readily varied. Also, gallant notation is so replete with new expressions and twists that it is seldom possible even to comprehend it immediately. All variations must relate to the piece’s affect, and they must always be at least as good as, if not better than, the original. For example, many variants of melodies introduced by executants in the belief that they honor a piece, actually occurred to the composer, who, however, selected and wrote down the original because he considered it the best of its kind.51

Echoing this, Quantz wrote that: Some persons believe that they will appear learned if they crowd an Adagio with many graces, and twist them around in such fashion that all too often hardly one note among ten harmonizes with the bass, and little of the principal air can be perceived. Yet in this they err greatly, and show their lack of true feeling for good taste.52

These exhortations for discretion were one method for encouraging restraint, but by also notating their music more completely, composers began to take away the liberty of improvisation from performers by simply ornamenting the music for them. Music was changing and these changes were initially met with some degree of resistance, as found in Johann Adolph Scheibe’s 1737 diatribe against J. S. Bach: this great man would be the admiration of whole nations if he had more amenity, if he did not take away the natural element in his pieces by giving them a turgid and confused style, and if he did not darken their beauty by an excess of art . . . Every ornament, every little grace, and everything that one thinks of as belonging to the method of playing, he expresses completely in notes: and this not only takes away from his pieces the beauty of harmony but completely covers the melody throughout.53

Bach’s friend Johann Abraham Birnbaum responded to Scheibe’s criticism by invoking the practice of the French: ‘the Hon. Court Composer is neither the first nor the only man to write thus. From a mass of composers whom I could cite in this respect, I will mention only Grigny and Du Mage, who in their Livres d’orgue have used this very method.’54 J. S. Bach’s ornately composed music was representative of a new style of composition and may be considered an important example of the beginning of a transformation in the nature of the composer–performer collaboration. Echoing Scheibe’s complaint is this illuminating example from Anselm Bayly, writing in 1777, in which he both criticises composers for writing

51 Ibid., p. 165. 52 Quantz, On Playing the Flute, p. 120. 53 H. David and A. Mendel, The New Bach Reader: A Life of Johann Sebastian Bach in Letters and Documents, rev. C. Wolff, New York, Norton, 1998, p. 338. 54 Ibid., p. 346.

The performer and the composer


their own graces and admits that most singers are not adept at the art of improvisation: the business of a composer is to the air and expression in plain notes, who goes out of his province when he writes graces, which serve for the most part only to stop and confine the invention and imagination of a singer. The only excuse a composer can plead for this practice, is the want of qualifications in the generality of singers.55

Singers, however, were generally considered well versed in the art, as J. F. Agricola, in his 1757 translation of Pier Tosi’s 1723 vocal treatise, notes in an amusing description of what to him was a pretence of certain composers: ‘Appoggiaturas have become so familiar through regular practice that the student who has been correctly taught them, though just out of school, will laugh at composers who indicate them by notes because they either think this custom fashionable or want to give the impression that they know how to sing better than the singers themselves.’56 It is clear that in the area of melodic embellishment there were repeated calls for restraint. Regarding small ornaments, as observed above generally notated by the French, there exists no better example of a composer seeking to exercise complete control of the performance of his works than this famous passage written by François Couperin in 1722: I am always surprised (after the great care I have taken to indicate the appropriate ornaments for my pieces, which are rather completely explained in my description of my playing method known by the title L’Art de toucher le clavecin) to hear of persons who have learned these pieces without following my rules. This is an unpardonable oversight, the more so because it is entirely improper to add whatever ornaments one wishes. I affirm that my pieces should be executed exactly as I have marked them, and that they will never make the correct impression on persons of true taste so long as the performer does not observe to the letter all that I have marked, adding and removing nothing.57

Composers of the Classical era began to ornament their andantes and adagios with increasing complexity. The Artaria and Schott edition of W. A. Mozart’s Piano Sonata in B flat Major K332 (1772), gives a highly ornamented version of the Andante which may be compared with the far more simple version found in the autograph score. Clearly, much improvisation is necessary in Mozart’s music, particularly in numerous slow movements of his piano concertos and 55 A. Bayly, Practical Treatise on Singing and Playing with Just Expression and Real Elegance, 1771, cited in Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, p. 417. 56 J. Agricola, Anleitung zur Singkunst, Berlin, G. F. Winter, 1757, trans. J. C. Baird as Introduction to the Art of Singing, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 91. 57 P. Beaussant, François Couperin, Paris, Fayard, 1980, trans. A. Land, Portland, OR, Amadeus Press, 1990, p. 288.



in his earliest operatic arias; nevertheless, by publishing the ornamented version of this Andante as well as other similarly ornamented andante and adagio movements, Mozart was an important figure in the move towards notated ornamentation.58 Improvisation in the nineteenth century was largely practised by bel canto performers as well as in performances by virtuoso pianists.59 Here too, we find amusing examples of frustrations of composers as in Rossini’s reaction to an exuberantly embellished performance of his ‘Una voce poco fa’ by the celebrated soprano Adelina Patti: ‘very nice, my dear, and who wrote the piece you have just performed?’60 Chopin’s performing style was largely based on performances of celebrated bel canto singers. As reported by his pupils ‘his playing is entirely based on the vocal style of Rubini, Malibran and Grisi’.61 Chopin’s own improvisations were described by his pupil Karol Mikuli, writing that Chopin ‘took particular pleasure in playing Field’s Nocturnes, to which he would improvise the most beautiful fiorituras’.62 The practice of adding embellishment to Chopin’s own music appears to have lingered until the end of the nineteenth century and may be heard in the alternate figurations performed by Theodor Leschetizky’s 1906 WelteMignon piano roll performance of the Nocturne in D flat major Op. 27 No. 2. The act of improvising introductions, ‘preluding’, also appears to have been a common practice by many nineteenth-century pianists.63 As performers increasingly ceased to improvise, however, it was found necessary to find a manner of imitating the spontaneity of improvisation. A recommendation that ‘improvised’ cadenzas be learned, memorised and then offered in a spontaneous manner is described in 1789 by Daniel Gottlob Türk: ‘From what has been said it follows that a cadenza which perhaps has been learned from memory with great effort or has been written out before should be performed as if it were merely invented on the spur of the moment, consisting of a choice of ideas indiscriminately thrown together which had just occurred to the player.’64 The practice of freely improvising Classical era concerto cadenzas was in actuality 58 See R. Levin, ‘Instrumental ornamentation, improvisation, and cadenzas’, in H. M. Brown and S. Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music after 1600, London, Macmillan, 1989, pp. 276–84. 59 On the lingering tradition of improvisation in nineteenth-century vocal music see Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, p. 418. 60 Ibid., p. 420. 61 J. -J. Eigeldinger (ed.), Chopin, Pianist and Teacher: As Seen by his Pupils, trans. N. Shohet, Cambridge University Press, 1986, p. 45. 62 Ibid., p. 52. 63 For a fascinating discussion of this practice see Hamilton, After the Golden Age, pp. 101–38; and for a discussion of textual fidelity and improvisation among nineteenth-century pianists, ibid., pp. 179–223. 64 D. G. Türk, Clavierschule, Leipzig and Halle, 1789, trans. R. H. Haggh as School of Clavier Playing, Lincoln and London, University of Nebraska Press, 1982, p. 301.

The performer and the composer


short-lived. By 1811 we find the following instruction from Beethoven in his socalled ‘Emperor’ Concerto (composed between 1809 and 1811): ‘Do not improvise a cadenza, but begin the following (written-out cadenza) immediately.’65 Imitating the ‘feeling’ of spontaneous improvisation was recalled by Chopin’s pupil Wilhelm von Lenz: ‘It looks so simple! Chopin used to say of these ornaments that “they should sound as though improvised”.’66 The necessity to sound as if one was improvising was to become a major focus of the postimprovisational era, essential to foster a sense of believability and spontaneity, and largely achieved through the employment of rhythmic freedom.

Tempo and rhythmic flexibility As noted above, composers have sought to indicate tempo through a variety of means. Composers in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, for example, employed a precise system through which they were able to indicate general tempi through the use of specific metres, note values employed, and their relationship to corresponding dance movements utilising the same metre. These relationships indicated general tempo, affect, relative degrees of accentuation, strong and weak relationships as well as a general articulation scheme. Beethoven’s repeated enquiry after performances of his works, as reported by Schindler, ‘how were the tempos?’ was a question unlikely to be posed by Baroque composers.67 This is not to say that the Baroque sources are not littered with composers begging performers to use discretion. But Baroque performers shared a well-developed performance practice in determining tempo. The understanding of these Baroque tempo indications could be difficult to ascertain, as explained by Saint-Lambert: ‘The imprecise meaning of the time signatures is a defect in the art for which musicians are not responsible and which may easily be pardoned them.’68 But there was widespread agreement by many commentators as to the general signals regarding affect implied by the various metres. On the relationship of metre to tempo and accentuation, J. P. Kirnberger explained that: every piece of dance music has its particular ‘beat movement’ which is determined by the meter and by the note values which are used within it. With regard to meter, those with longer beats, such as the alla breve, 3/2 and 6/4, move more heavily and slowly than those with shorter beats, such as the 2/4, 3/4 and 6/8, and these in turn are less lively than the 3/8 and 6/16.69

65 66 68 69

See Rosenblum, Performance Practices, pp. 289–309. Eigeldinger, Chopin, Pianist and Teacher, p. 52. 67 See Rosenblum, Performance Practices, p. 321. Saint-Lambert, Principles of the Harpsichord, p. 65. Cited in A. Newman, Bach and the Baroque, Stuyvesant, NY, Pendragon, 1985, p. 25.



As Baroque dance forms in the early Classical era became increasingly obsolete and as the new compositional style became more varied, the system began to disassemble. To address the problem, composers began to add tempo words to existing means of indicating speed with greater frequency, replacing in some sense the function of the old-fashioned dances in the equation. Mozart’s report to his father on a performance of Muzio Clementi serves as an example of a concept of notation in which the indication of tempo was achieved through the combination of tempo words and metre: ‘Clementi is a Ciarlattano like all Italians. He writes Presto and even Prestissimo and alla Breve on his sonatas–and plays them Allegro in 4/4 time – I know, I heard him play.’70 A fundamental problem with tempo words was widely discussed during the late eighteenth century, namely, what did the words actually mean? Did they imply affect and character or actual tempo? Beethoven clearly had no certainty he could successfully communicate his ideas to performers through tempo words, due to their ambiguity. Addressing the relationship of note values to metre, his comments written on a working draft of his ‘Klage’ WoO 113 (c. 1790), provide insights into the composer’s attempt to comprehend the differing implications of notational decisions: ‘In the past, longer note values were always taken more slowly than shorter ones; for example crotchets slower than quavers. The smaller note values determine the tempo, for example. Semiquavers and demisemiquavers in 2/4 time make the tempo very slow. Perhaps the contrary is also true.’71 Beethoven’s frustration with tempo words provides a further example of his compositional/notational process, as indicated in an 1813 letter regarding his arrangements of British folk songs: If among the airs that you may send me to be arranged in the future there are Andantinos, please tell me whether Andantino is to be understood as meaning faster or slower than Andante, for this term, like so many in music, is of so indefinite a significance that Andantino sometimes approaches an Allegro and sometimes, on the other hand, is played like Adagio.72

There is no doubt that in many instances tempo words implied expression perhaps more than an absolute tempo; in this way tempo words replaced the dance and became an indicator of affect.73 Yet even as an indicator of affect, Beethoven expressed real frustration with tempo words, as he explained in a letter addressed to Ignaz von Mosel:

70 Mozart’s Letters, Mozart’s Life: Selected Letters, ed. and trans. R. Spaethling, London, Faber, 2000, p. 353. 71 R. Kramer, ‘Notes to Beethoven’s education’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 18 (1975), 75. 72 Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, rev. and ed. E. Forbes, Princeton University Press, 1967, p. 555. 73 For a discussion of the multiple implications of tempo words see Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, p. 337.

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I am heartily delighted to know that you hold the same views as I do about our tempo indications which originated in the barbarous ages of music. For, to take one example, what can be more absurd than Allegro, which really signifies merry, and how very far removed we often are from the idea of that tempo. So much so that the piece itself means the very opposite of the indication . . . As for me, I have long been thinking of abandoning those absurd descriptive terms, Allegro, Andante, Adagio, Presto; and Maelzel’s metronome affords us the best opportunity of doing so.74

The introduction of the metronome promised to be one of the most important developments in the transmission of a composer’s intentions to performers. Indeed, no composer was initially more enthusiastic than Beethoven, as may be observed in his request to his publisher to wait for his metronome markings for the Missa solemnis: ‘Do wait for them. In our century such indications are certainly necessary . . . We can scarcely have tempi ordinari any longer, since one must fall into line with the ideas of unfettered genius.’75 This is a quotation of extraordinary importance, demonstrating Beethoven’s belief in the individuality of the creative artist as well as the success of the metronome in dealing with the newly found problem of communicating tempo, independent of commonly understood, comparative models like the dance. Beethoven and Hummel, indeed a whole generation of musicians, believed that the problem of communicating tempo had finally been solved. As Hummel optimistically wrote: to composers it offers the great advantage, that their compositions when marked accordingly to the degrees of the metronome, will be performed in every country in exactly the same time; and the effect of their works will not now, as formerly, (notwithstanding the most carefully chosen musical terms), be lost by being played in a hurried or retarded movement.76

Of course, almost immediately a sense of the limitations of the new technology arose, diminishing this initial enthusiasm.77 The practice of assigning any one tempo to a composition was realised almost immediately to be absurd. Igor Stravinsky mused on the problem: ‘The metronome marks one wrote forty years ago were contemporary forty years ago. Time is not alone in affecting tempo – circumstances do too, and every performance is a different equation of

74 The Letters of Beethoven, vol. 2, p. 727. 75 Ibid., vol. 3, p. 1325. 76 Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 10 (1809), 603, trans., in Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, p. 305. 77 See Rosenblum, Performance Practices, ch. 9, and Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, ch. 8, for thorough examinations of late eighteenth-century tempo conventions and issues related to Beethoven’s metronome markings.



them. I would be surprised if any of my own recordings follow the metronome markings.’78 It was also observed that the use of the metronome was problematic for performers as it had the potential to disrupt an essential part of a tasteful performance, namely, subtle modifications of the pulse. The danger, as Hummel wrote in 1828, was that ‘many persons still erroneously imagine, that, in applying the metronome, they are bound to follow it in equal and undeviating motion throughout the whole piece, without allowing themselves any latitude in the performance for the display of taste or feeling’.79 Hummel’s concern is remarkably similar to Gustav Mahler’s on the necessity for flexibility. Expressing his almost mystical concept of tempo, Mahler purportedly stated that: of all the most important things–the tempo, the total conception and structuring of a work–are almost impossible to pin down. For here we are concerned with something living and flowing that can never be the same even twice in succession. That is why metronome markings are inadequate and almost worthless: for unless the work is vulgarly ground out in barrel-organ style, the tempo will already have changed by the end of the second bar.80

Subtle modifications of the pulse had been frequently described in the eighteenth century as a key ingredient in a tasteful performance. Again, on this matter, there were frequent exhortations for restraint. Nevertheless, many commentators, most importantly C. P. E. Bach, Türk and Czerny, described contexts with great specificity when pulse modifications were indeed appropriate.81 Türk explained: In compositions whose character is vehemence, anger, wrath, fury, and the like, the most forceful passages can be played with a somewhat hastened (accelerando) motion. Also, certain thoughts which are repeated in a more intensified manner (generally higher) require that the speed be increased to some extent. Some, when gentle feelings are interrupted by a lively passage, the latter can be played somewhat more rapidly.82

He then proceeds to describe contexts in which he considered ritardandos appropriate. 78 I. Stravinsky, ‘Dialogues and a diary’, in E. Schwartz and B. Childs (eds.), Contemporary Composers on Contemporary Music, New York, Da Capo, 1978, p. 57. 79 J. N. Hummel, Ausführliche theoretisch-praktische Anweisung zum Piano-forte Spiel, Vienna, 1828, unattrib. trans. as A Complete Theoretical and Practical Course of Instructions, on the Art of Playing the Piano Forte, London, Boosey, 1828, pt. 3, p. 65. 80 Cited by R. Philip in Brown and Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music after 1600, p. 472. 81 See Rosenblum, Performance Practices, pp. 369–73, for an important discussion of sectional changes of tempo as well as appropriate contexts for accelerandos and ritartandos as suggested by Türk, Clementi and Czerny. 82 Türk, School of Clavier Playing, p. 360.

The performer and the composer


Of equal importance, melodic rubato was frequently linked with pulse modification in discussions of rhythmic nuance. As described by Louis Adam in 1805, a successful performance was largely dependent on a balancing act between the two distinct but obviously related forms of rhythmic freedom: it is not permissible to alter the beat unless the composer has indicated it or the expression demands it; still it is necessary to be very sparing of this resource. . . . Doubtless expression requires that one holds back or hurries certain notes in the melody, but these rallentandos should not be continual throughout a piece, but only in the those places where the expression of a languid melody or the passion of an agitated melody requires a rallentando or a more animated tempo. In this case it is the melody which must be changed and the bass should strictly mark the beat.83

Descriptions of melodic rubato abound in the literature, perhaps most famously in Mozart’s letter in 1777 to his father in which he remarks that ‘everyone is amazed that I can always keep strict time. What these people cannot grasp is that in tempo rubato in an Adagio the left hand should go on playing in strict time. With them the left hand always follows suit.’84 He is clearly describing a style of performance in which a solo part employs great rhythmic freedom over a steady, unchanging accompaniment. In the employment of rubato in ensemble playing, C. P. E. Bach cautioned that one must make judicial use of the technique depending on the context as well as the quality of the other performers: Yet certain purposeful violations of the beat are often exceptionally beautiful. However, a distinction in their use must be observed. In solo performance and in ensembles made up of only a few understanding players, manipulations are permissible which affect the tempo itself; here, the group will be less apt to go astray than to become attentive to and adopt the change; but in large ensembles made up of motley players the manipulations must be addressed to the bar alone without touching on the broader pace.85

Contradictions abound in the literature as to what was the proper degree of rhythmic nuance. Chopin provides a particularly interesting and problematic case study. The contradictory statements of Mikuli and Berlioz, to cite just two examples, are indicative of their differing tastes and point of view. As described by Mikuli: In keeping time Chopin was inexorable, and some readers will be surprised to learn that the metronome never left his piano. Even in his much maligned 83 L. Adam, Méthode de piano du Conservatoire, Paris, 1804, p. 160, trans. in Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, p. 397. 84 The Letters of Mozart and his Family, trans. and ed. E. Anderson, London, Macmillan, 1966, p. 340. 85 C. P. E. Bach, Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, pp. 150–1.



tempo rubato, the hand responsible for the accompaniment would keep strict time, while the other hand, singing the melody, would free the essence of the musical thought from all rhythmic fetters, either by lingering hesitatingly or by eagerly anticipating the movement with a certain impatient vehemence akin to passionate speech.86

This is certainly in sharp contrast to Berlioz’s criticism that Chopin ‘was impatient with the constraints of meter; in my opinion he pushed rhythmic independence much too far . . . Chopin could not play in strict time.’87 While there have been widely differing views on appropriate degrees of rhythmic freedom, its general use was certainly never in question prior to the twentieth century, indeed the innumerable comparisons to rhetoric and the delivery of an oratory to musical performances were largely concerned with rhythmic nuances. Why performances in the twentieth century were largely devoid of pulse modification (and even melodic rubato) has been the subject of much recent debate. Roger Smalley has written convincingly of the rhythmic norms appropriate in much French music as well as the music of Webern and other modernists: pure sonority has always been particularly characteristic of French music, and it is significant that the music of Alkan, Berlioz, and Fauré responds very badly to injudicious choice of tempo and willful use of rubato. This particular trend is epitomized by the music of Debussy and Ravel, and initiates a turning point in the relationship of composer and performer. The significance of Debussy’s instrumental writing has been very well defined by Stephen Pruslin: ‘In Debussy, the succession of sounds no longer represents the meaning, but is the meaning, so that no mental process other than simple aural reception is necessary to grasp the full musical statement . . . This quotation is almost equally true of the later music of Webern and of much of the music which followed. If a performer realizes accurately all the indications in the score then his performance will be an authentic projection of the composer’s intentions.’88

This concept of the ‘accurate’ rendering of a score is problematic when applied to almost all music prior to the twentieth century (Alkan and Berlioz being exceptions, according to Smalley) as it ignores overwhelming evidence regarding the use of rhythmic freedoms by performers in the past. Indeed, many modern performers have unwittingly deprived themselves of an interpretative freedom that performers of the past utilised as part and parcel of the expression of their individuality as performers. Recorded performances of nineteenthcentury artists provide modern-day performers with fascinating models of this

86 Eigeldinger, Chopin, Pianist and Teacher, p. 49. 87 Ibid., p. 272. 88 R. Smalley, ‘Some aspects of the changing relationship between composer and performer in contemporary music’, Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 96 (1969–70), 75.

The performer and the composer


individuality expressed largely through the rhythmic sophistication of their interpretations. Arnold Schoenberg, reacting to these trends in 1948, responded with a rather unique perspective as to the causes of the mystery: Today’s manner of performing classical music of the so-called ‘Romantic’ type, suppressing all emotional qualities and all unnotated changes of tempo and expression, derives from the style of playing primitive dance music. This style came to Europe by way of America, where no old culture regulated presentation, but where a certain frigidity of feeling reduced all musical expression . . . All were suddenly afraid to be called Romantic, ashamed of being called sentimental . . . to change tempo, to express musical feelings, to make a ritardando or Luftpause. A change of character, a strong contrast, will often require a modification of tempo . . . It must be admitted that in the period around 1900 many artists overdid themselves in exhibiting the power of the emotion they were capable of feeling . . . Nothing can be more wrong than both these extremes.89

Other causes of this mysterious, self-imposed restriction may be reactions by performers to the realities of recording, namely the combination of multiple ‘takes’ to create a new, unreal, recorded ‘performance’ as well as a general austerity felt in response to harsh political and cultural changes in the first half of the twentieth century by the artistic community. Most convincingly, however, is the argument that modern interpretative approaches may be born from a misplaced respect for ‘the score’ by the Urtext movement, ‘misplaced’ as rhythmic freedoms were obviously never ‘notated’ and thus cannot appear in a score. This factor, as well as a retroactive application of certain modernist composers’ call to simply ‘play what is written’, resulted in a style of performance never imagined by composers prior to the twentieth century.

Changing views of ‘fidelity’ Towards the end of the improvisatory era new issues relating to fidelity arose, related to a concept of the individuality of each composer-creator. Beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, we begin to encounter the idea, as expressed by Quantz and others, that a performer should ‘divine the intention of the composer and seek to enter into the principal and related passions that he is to express’.90 Quantz was of course working very much within a context of the

89 A. Schoenberg, ‘Today’s manner of performing classical music’ (1948), in L Stein (ed.), Style and Idea: Selected Writings, trans. L. Black, New York, St Martin’s Press, 1975, pp. 320–1. 90 Quantz, On Playing the Flute, pp. 124–5.



improvisational age, in which expressing the ‘intention of the composer’ still included ‘completing’ their ideas through improvisation. In the nineteenth century a distinctly new view arises: a composer was considered a unique artist, an individual independent of long-established rules of art, as Beethoven had written, ‘unfettered’. Robert Schumann suggested that: The compositions of a man who understands Shakespeare and Jean Paul, will be different from one who draws all his wisdom from Marpurg, etc., alone. Did not Beethoven, on the title page of his Overture in C use the expression ‘Gedichtet von’ instead of ‘composed by’. There are hidden workings of the soul, which a suggestion in words, by the composer can make more comprehensible, and these should be gratefully accepted.91

According to Schumann a composer should not derive his ideas through the study of theoretical writers such as Marpurg, that is, through a study of the ‘rules of art’, but engage in an expression of his own ideas, expressing the inner ‘workings of his soul’. A pride in the existence of compositional rules, studied as well as observed in practice, had always been central to those engaged in the craft. Haydn’s famous description of his compositional process provides a fine example: I sat down (at the keyboard) and began to fantasize, according to whether my mood was sad or happy, serious or playful. Once I had seized an idea, my entire effort went toward elaborating and sustaining it according to the rules of art . . . And this is what is lacking among so many of our young composers; they string together one little bit after another, and they break off before they have barely begun, but nothing remains in the heart when one has heard it.92

How did late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century performers respond to this newly developed sense of the individuality of composers and the uniqueness of their compositions, as illustrated by Schumann’s comments? Rather than a complete suppression of the individuality of the performer, many commentators at this time began to express a concept describing the merging of the two souls of composer and performer.93 Mary Hunter cites J. A. P. Schulz on this subject: ‘Every good composition has its own character, and its own spirit and expression, which it broadcasts throughout; the singer or player must transmit this so exactly in his performance that he plays as if from the soul of the composer’ (emphasis added).94

91 P. Nettl, The Book of Musical Documents, New York, Greenwood Press, 1969, pp. 228–9. 92 Cited in E. R. Sisman (ed.), Haydn and his World, Princeton University Press, 1997, p. 136. 93 M. Hunter, ‘ “To play as if from the soul of the composer”: the idea of the performer in early Romantic aesthetics’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 58 (2005), 361. 94 Ibid., 364.

The performer and the composer


Composers occasionally expressed enormous pleasure with the performances of their works by specific artists, recognising that these performers had, in a sense, entered into the hearts of the composer. As Beethoven wrote in 1817 to Marie Pachler-Koschak: ‘I have never yet found anybody who plays my compositions as well as you do, not even excepting the great pianists, for they either have nothing but technique or are affected. You are the true guardian of my intellectual offspring.’95 A similar sentiment was expressed much later by Claude Debussy, describing Mary Garden’s performance of the death of Mélisande: ‘At last came the fifth act– Mélisande’s death–a breathtaking event whose emotions cannot be rendered in words. There I heard the voice I had secretly imagined–full of a sinking tenderness, and sung with such artistry as I would never have believed possible.’96 When composers encountered performers they believed successfully fulfilled the responsibility of expressing the ‘inner workings of their souls’, these performers became in a sense, re-creators, displacing the earlier role of co-creator during the improvisational era. As explained above, there were multiple forces at play determining performers’ interpretative choices in new as well as in old music during the first half of the twentieth century. As the century was a dynamic period of change in the composer–performer relationship any attempt to identify a dominant trend is stymied by a fragmentation and multiplicity of activities of both composers and performers. Most strikingly, many performers ceased to perform new music entirely. According to composer Lukas Foss: Around 1915, composition withdrew underground, leaving the field to the performer and to the music of the past. That this created a sterile state of affairs ‘above’ ground was perfectly clear to the more educated virtuoso, who has been trying ever since to resolve the conflict, often leading a Jekyll and Hyde existence on account of it. Thus, Arthur Schnabel gave his audience Beethoven and Schubert; his lifelong involvement with Schoenberg was kept to himself.97

Those performers who were actually engaged in the performance of new music were told not to ‘interpret’ a work, but rather, to simply ‘play what is written’, leading the performer of new music in the early twentieth century ever closer to a complete suppression of their individuality.98

95 W. Newman, Beethoven on Beethoven: Playing his Piano Music his Way, New York, Norton, 1988, p. 82. 96 Debussy, Debussy on Music, p. 227. 97 L. Foss, ‘The changing composer–performer relationship: a monologue and a dialogue’, Perspectives of New Music, 1 (1963), 45–6. 98 Smalley, ‘Some aspects’, p. 23.



At the most extreme level, newly developing technologies of electronic music made possible the total absence of the performer. This appears to have been a source of delight to some twentieth-century commentators. Patric Stevenson, after bemoaning the interference by performers between the composer and the audience, writes in what almost reads like a satirical proposition that: This state of affairs is very unsatisfactory. What we want to get at through music is the mind of the composer, and fallible mediums which come between us and him must be regarded as necessary evils until some new invention or development renders them obsolete. Science is now making the abolition of the ambiguous score and the erring performer a practical proposition.99

The phenomena of electronic music, in which the performer is entirely removed from the expression of a composer’s ideas to an audience, had unexpected consequences however, as explained by Lukas Foss: Electronic music showed up the limitations of live performance, the limitations of traditional tone production, the restrictiveness of a rhythm forever bound to meter and bar line, notation tied to a system of counting. Electronic music introduced untried possibilities, and in so doing presented a challenge, shocked live music out of its inertia, kindled in musicians the desire to prove that live music ‘can do it too’.100

In the first quarter of the twentieth century, notational development, as Roger Smalley has written, did not initially develop past nineteenth-century models: The minutiae of performance were indicated with increasing meticulousness (often with copious verbal explanations) by composers such as Brahms and Mahler, and by the beginning of the twentieth century this whole complex notational system was accepted as the norm. The music of the father-figures of twentieth-century music – Debussy, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg – although revolutionary in many ways – did not necessitate the evolution of new methods of notation. The relationship of the performer to the score remained as before. Naturally the increasing conciseness of Schoenberg’s and, especially, Webern’s music caused the number of directives to proliferate to an unprecedented degree. In fact in some of the later works of Webern signs of dynamics, articulation and phrasing, previously considered only to be aids to performance became integrated into the actual structure of the music and pose quite new problems for the interpreter.101

By mid-century, as composers began experimenting with new forms of notation as well as a return to improvisatory-like freedoms in aleatoric music, new collaborations between composers and performers developed resulting

99 P. Stevenson, ‘Exit the Performer?’, Musical Times, 77 (1936), 797–8. 100 Foss, ‘The changing composer–performer relationship’, 47. 101 Smalley, ‘Some aspects’, 73–4.

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in a re-examination of traditional roles. Lukas Foss addressed this newly rediscovered collaborative spirit: The methodical division of labor (I write it, you play it) served us well, until composer and performer became like two halves of a worm separated by a knife, each proceeding obliviously on its course . . . The conflict still rages, and yet the feud between composition and performance is over. The factor which led to the conflict, the division of labor (performance/composition), will remain with us. The procedural advantages are too great to be sacrificed. But a creative investigation is under way. Composers have had to abandon Beethoven’s proud position: ‘Does he think I have his silly fiddle in mind when the spirit talks to me?’ Composers are again involved in performance, with performance. More–they work with handpicked performers toward a common goal.102

Foss then identifies numerous celebrated composer–performer teams such as John Cage and David Tudor, Luciano Berio and Cathy Berberian, and so on, as evidence of this newly discovered ‘joint enterprise’. According to Aaron Copland, performers should largely shoulder the responsibility for the continuance of a vibrant new music scene: Every composer has had occasion to think about what he might say or do to reawaken these musicians to a sense of responsibility to the art they serve, to reanimate their interest in the whole corpus of musical literature, old and new. What, after all, is the responsibility of the performer to the art of music? Isn’t it to keep music fully alive, renewed, refreshed? And how is that to be accomplished if the interpreter fails us?103

A greatly influential development in the twentieth century was the rise of the early music movement. Performers throughout the world began to pursue the original performance practices of music of the past as had never been done before. In the process of returning to a creative partnership between composers and performers they hoped to approach the spirit of the past. Unlike other developments in the composer–performer relationship, frequently driven by composers and changes in compositional style, this movement has been entirely generated by the activities of today’s performers, completing a process begun in the late eighteenth century with the first performances of ‘old’ music in Vienna and London.104 The philosophies of the early music movement re-energized many sectors in today’s classical music world, inspiring performers on modern and period instruments alike to re-examine long-held interpretative assumptions in a wide 102 Foss, ‘The changing composer–performer relationship’, 46. 103 A. Copland, ‘Interpreters and New Music’, in A. Copland, Copland on Music, New York, Pyramid, 1963, p. 263. 104 See Haskell, The Early Music Revival, pp. 13–26 for a discussion of Baron van Swieten and John Pepusch’s energetic support of the performances of old music in the eighteenth century.



variety of repertoire. For the first time in history, performers have actively sought to comprehend and recreate, as much as is possible, performance practices of the past, however distant from present tastes. This attempt by early music performers to recreate past practices of improvisation and rhythmic freedoms may serve as a reminder of a largely forgotten collaborative spirit between composers and performers of the past and inspire composers and performers alike to seek and develop new, similar, partnerships, resulting in a continued new music scene which is ‘fully alive, renewed, and refreshed’.

. 5 .

The teaching of performance NATASHA LOGES AND COLIN LAWSON

Throughout history the ability to perform has been transmitted in different ways that naturally reflect music’s position within particular societies. Yet while the underlying educational issues have remained remarkably constant, as is illustrated throughout this book, musical training within each part of the world continues to inspire a wide variety of educational practice in a range of contexts. A comparison of the UK, America and Russia amply demonstrates the point, while the developing love affair between China and Western music bears witness to an ever-changing global landscape. Performance training occurs at various levels; witness the continuing popularity of the independent examination boards across the world, which cater to a vast amateur market while also identifying potential in the very young. In addition, as has recently been observed, musicians have a continuing didactic influence on others outside a conventional teaching environment. Contemporary examples might include competition adjudicators, orchestral players, studio engineers, writers of programme notes, critics or composers.1 One relatively recent phenomenon that forms part of the training of most young professionals is the music competition, ranging from local amateur events, including children, chamber groups and choirs to international, highly pressured events. The value of competitions is hotly debated, with some deploring the attempt to judge objectively between practitioners of an art that is, at least in some aspects, subjective. As one correspondent in 1885 put it, ‘it is degrading to any art to turn it into a means for commercial advancement’.2 A further issue is that instrumental competitions tend to encourage conservatism in repertoire choice. Educationally, their value is suspect; arguably the main use of such events is to give exposure to the competitors to further their professional chances. A multi-authored comprehensive historical survey of music education has been published relatively recently, comprising articles on the ancient (classical) 1 See K. Swanwick and P. Spencer, ‘Education’, in The Oxford Companion to Music, www.oxfordmusic online.com. 2 The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, 26, No. 512 (1 October 1885), 613–14.




world, schools, conservatoires and universities.3 Hence the present chapter will not venture a chronological survey of the teaching of performance, but rather will seek to touch on a variety of didactic practices, focusing largely on musical learning within institutions. While few would argue that the core of successful performance training lies in long-term instruction from a professional, no less important are the institutions which have played a major part in formalising this training, whether church, court, university or conservatoire. An appropriate curriculum for performers beyond the immediate study of music has been promulgated in many different contexts, one eighteenthcentury source prescribing for music students ‘the whole of worldly wisdom, as well as mathematics, poetry, rhetoric and many languages’. Within the broad study of music, theory and analysis have gradually been supplemented by a host of other performance-related subjects, such as acoustics, performance practice, psychology and world music. In addition, the increasing interaction of performers with their communities has brought into focus the benefits of music to disadvantaged members of society.

Musical education before the rise of the conservatoires Noting Plato’s belief that music and physical education were crucial for the development of young people, Swanwick and Spencer have suggested that music’s status was possibly higher in ancient Greece than at any subsequent period of Western civilisation. For the Greeks, ‘music’ was the generic term embracing dance, the visual arts and drama, making an important contribution to the formation of a person’s character. ‘The person educated in music would be able to discriminate between the ugly and the beautiful in art and nature, and rhythm and harmony are thought to enter the soul, “bearing grace with them”.’4 The richness of Greek musical culture projected by Eleanor Rocconi in Chapter 7 was based initially on individual tuition, often an apprenticeship model in which a younger man was associated with an older one. Choral training was undertaken for each religious festival and was sometimes given continuously, often involving young girls who had been schooled in singing and dancing. Systematic education dates from the fifth century BC, where a kithara teacher taught both instrumental technique and lyric poetry. Later were added a grammatistēs and paidotribēs to teach ‘letters’ and physical training respectively. From vase paintings it is clear that kithara instruction was 3 See ‘Education’, Oxford Music Online, www.oxfordmusiconline.com. 4 Swanwick and Spencer, ‘Education’. In the sixth century BC the Chinese system of education promoted by Confucius also valued corporate music-making as a means of promoting disciplined character.

The teaching of performance


individual, but with other pupils present; teacher and pupil played simultaneously.5 In Roman society professional performers enjoyed relatively high status and played an important part in the many entertainments. Still, music was not regarded as a suitable occupation for the aristocracy, though in the Empire a number of emperors became accomplished amateurs. Indeed, the musical legacy of Rome turned out to be more theoretical rather than practically based. Early Christian communities rarely included music-making in the curriculum, but as Charles Plummeridge points out in his New Grove article, the Judeo-Christian tradition of psalm and hymn singing always provided an important medium for worship, and the founding of the Schola Cantorum in Rome during the fourth century ensured firm and lasting connections between music, the liturgy and education. When song schools were established throughout Europe to disseminate Roman church music they were to have a seminal effect on institutional music education for centuries to come.6 In the Middle Ages (discussed by John Haines in Chapter 8) one could expect to encounter an enormous range of musical performance. The chief source of formalised musical (and other) education was the church schools, which also fostered the study of Latin grammar and general religious training. The musical training represented the cutting edge of practice; Reinhard Strohm includes within the teaching content ‘plainsong, extemporized descanting techniques, music theory (solmisation, mensural notation, counterpoint) but also keyboard playing, for example’.7 Universities, guilds and hospitals added to the numbers of these schools, which flourished for hundreds of years in some cases. The training of the large body of secular professional musicians from the twelfth century onwards, included chiefly under the title of ‘minstrel’, is harder to trace. In an historical era notable for its lack of emphasis on the individual, it is interesting to note Stephen Nichols’s comment that ‘the early troubadours . . . created the first “modern” European examples of the individual artist, a genius set apart from the common folk’.8 A troubadour might be a member of the aristocracy or the humblest itinerant instrumentalist. Despite the disparity in backgrounds, these musicians would have shared the common ground of largely oral transmission of their repertoire, an improvisatory approach to performance and a dedication to technical expertise.9

5 W. Anderson, ‘Music education, classical: Greece’, Oxford Music Online, www.oxfordmusiconline. com. 6 C. Plummeridge, ‘II. From the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century: 1. Christian education’, Oxford Music Online, www.oxfordmusiconline.com. 7 R. Strohm, The Rise of European Music 1380–1500, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 288. 8 S. G. Nichols, ‘The early Troubadours: Guilhem IX to Bernart de Ventadorn’, in S. Gaunt and S. Kay (eds.), The Troubadours: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 66. 9 See Gaunt and Kay, The Troubadours, pp. 68ff.



More formally, the minstrel schools of the late Middle Ages provided opportunities to share practice and repertoire.10 These annual meetings convened mainly in cities in Franco-Flemish and German towns in Holy Week. Minstrels would make long and hazardous journeys to attend these ‘conventions’, in which instruments could be purchased, jobs could be negotiated – and new melodies could be taught and learnt by the attending virtuosi. Furthermore, not all of these schools were temporary conventions; there is evidence of the existence of professional teachers and continuous minstrel schools in larger cities such as Paris and Bruges.11 The eventual formation of musicians’ guilds took place in conjunction with the greater prosperity of European towns and consequently the growing need for professional civic musicians.12 The existence of a guild was a not unmixed blessing; however, it did facilitate the formalisation of musical apprenticeships in imitation of other crafts.13 Details of the actual nature of the teaching are typically scarce, although one can imagine that it involved technical study and, most importantly, the learning (through memorisation) of repertoire. At the Parisian Confrérie of St-Julien des Menestriers, 1321, the duration of the apprenticeship was six years. It is likely that each master was allowed to take only one or two apprentices; this made sure that all masters could benefit from the system (ultimately the apprentice functioned as an unpaid colleague) and that the numbers were carefully controlled. In addition, there is evidence that these musicians tended to live in particular areas of cities and that musical skills were passed on within the family, from father to son, or shared between musical families through intermarriage.14 How useful might apprenticeship have been? At its best, as within the Mozart and Bach families, it produced outstanding and technically competent musicians, but Pamela Poulin cites the introduction to F. E. Niedt’s treatise

10 The earliest known gathering of this sort was in 1318 at Bruges (though there may have been one at Ypres in 1313) and the last was in 1447 at Damme. L. Gushee and R. Rastall, ‘Minstrels’, Oxford Music Online, www.oxfordmusiconline.com. 11 For more background on this topic see M. Gomez and B. Haggh, ‘Minstrel schools in the Late Middle Ages’, Early Music, 18 (1990), 213–16. 12 See, for example, K. Polk, German Instrumental Music of the Late Middle Ages: Players, Patrons and Performance Practice, Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 110ff. for an account of the guilds of instrumentalists in towns of the German-speaking region. 13 Kay Slocum argues that this move not only ensured that their needs were met, that the monopoly was controlled, but also that high standards could be achieved and maintained. See K. B. Slocum, ‘Confrérie, Bruderschaft and Guild: the formation of musicians’ fraternal organisations in thirteenth- and fourteenthcentury Europe’, Early Music History, 14 (1995), 257–74, for a detailed discussion of the development of guilds. Keith Polk presents an alternative view that suggests that the guilds were as much a hindrance as a help to their members, creating tension between high-status and usually foreign guild members and local musicians. See Polk, German Instrumental Music, p. 124. 14 See for example F. Kisby, ‘Royal minstrels in the City and suburbs of early Tudor London: professional activities and private interests’, Early Music, 25 (1997), 199–219; and G. Peters, ‘Urban ministrels in late Medieval southern France: opportunities, status and professional relationships’, Early Music History, 19 (2000), 201–35.

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Musicalische Handleitung (1700–21), with its hint of other less successful pedagogical methods: Once, however, [my master] became especially inventive and attempted to kick Art into my body, because any treatment without foundation could not drive the thoroughbass into my head. He pulled me by the hair off the organ bench where I was sitting in front of the keyboard, threw me onto the ground and yanked me up by the hair, to let my head fall back with a crash onto the ground. Then he stepped on my body, stamped around on it for a good while until the Basso Continuo finally so robbed him of his senses, that he dragged me out of the parlour near a staircase leading on to the street and said, ‘this shall be the end of your apprenticeship years and with this you shall receive your certificate, which I shall throw into the bargain’.15

The remark by Quantz that ‘there was no instruction available other than that which one apprentice gave, as well as he could, to the other’ suggests little improvement in the guilds during the eighteenth century.16 Poulin observes that as least as important as the apprentice’s training was travel and the copying out of manuscripts by other composers, so that overall the system in Germany and Austria was haphazard and poor.17 There were alternatives; Ruth Halliwell has usefully charted Mozart’s likely options if his father had not been a firstrate teacher: Had Leopold Mozart not taught Mozart himself, the alternatives would have been a choir school education, like that received by the Haydn brothers, an apprentice-style education, like that received by Leopold’s resident pupils the Marchands: or education at an Italian conservatory . . . The Mozarts belonged to a community whose common values formed an integrated whole, accommodating musical expertise within the social and religious framework.18

Halliwell notes that besides music Leopold also gave systematic tuition in arithmetic, French, Italian and Latin, reflecting his own Jesuit education and his strong beliefs that ‘young minds were broadened and sharpened by good literature in different languages’. Mozart was also exposed to ‘enormous

15 F. E. Niedt, The Musical Guide: Parts I (1700/10), 2 (1721) and 3 (1717), trans. P. L. Poulin and I. C. Taylor, Oxford University Press, 1989, p. 15. 16 ‘Herrn Johann Joachim Quantzens Lebenslauf, von ihm selbst entworfen’, in F. W. Marpurg, Historischkritische Beyträge zur Aufnahme der Musik, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1754), trans. in P. Nettl, Forgotten Musicians, New York, Philosophical Library, 1951, p. 281. 17 See P. L. Poulin, ‘A view of eighteenth-century musical life and training: Anton Stadler’s “Musick Plan” ’, Music & Letters, 71 (1990), 215. 18 R. Halliwell, ‘Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: education’, in C. Eisen and S. P. Keefe (eds.), The Cambridge Mozart Encyclopedia, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 323. In her entry ‘Marchand family’ (p. 267), Halliwell notes that the Mozart correspondence and Nannerl’s diary give an engaging idea of the educational experience of Gretl, Heinrich and Hanchen, Mozart family resident pupils. ‘They lived as part of the family, helping with household tasks and joining in all social activities, including the musical jamborees planned by Leopold whenever the children’s parents visited.’



quantities of European drama’, the family being passionate patrons of the theatre. The comments that Mozart was to make regarding his own piano pupils give some indication of his own concerns as a performer and judge of character. For example, he wrote of Josepha Auernhammer’s ‘enchanting’ playing, while noting that in cantabile ‘she has not got the real delicate singing style’.

Treatises as a pedagogical tool: some strengths and limitations A number of practical treatises are discussed by Robin Stowell in Chapter 3, where he makes the important point that most such sources were addressed to educated amateur musicians or provincial music teachers until the middle of the eighteenth century. This was a trend that continued in Britain until well after 1800. Stowell rightly warns against making inferences from particular treatises without due regard for the status of the writer, the textual content and likely readership, as well as geographical and temporal limitations. Nevertheless, Alec Hyatt King was a touch too cautious in suggesting that, whilst valuable in relation to contemporary style in performance, Leopold Mozart’s Violinschule of 1756 was relevant to the south German school of composers rather than acting as a guide to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus.19 Certainly, a great deal of historical information needs to be read in the spirit of the times, occasionally bordering on the idiosyncratic. In relation to diet, for example, J. F. Agricola observed in 1757 that the castrato Farinelli was in the habit of eating one uncooked anchovy before going on stage. Agricola’s more general recommendation for singers was a healthy diet of pheasant, lark and trout, noting that ‘the old teachers specifically prohibited herring’.20 In the early nineteenth century, when health was still a relatively fragile affair, Joseph Fröhlich’s Vollständige theoretisch-praktische Musikschule (Bonn, 1810–11) recommended for wind players a moderate lifestyle and the avoidance of anything that could damage the chest, such as running, horseback riding and the excessive consumption of hot drinks. One should not practise after a meal, so the afternoon was best avoided; furthermore, one should not drink immediately after practising if the lungs are still warm, since this had been the cause of many an early death. In the case of dry lips – very bad for the embouchure – the

19 A. H. King, note to 1985 reprint of L. Mozart, Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, Augsburg, author, 1756, trans. E. Knocker as A Treatise on the Fundamentals of Violin Playing, Oxford University Press, 1948, p. vii. 20 J. F. Agricola, Anleitung zur Singkunst, Berlin, 1757, trans. and ed. J. C. Baird as Introduction to the Art of Singing, Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 86–7.

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mouth should be rinsed with an alcoholic beverage to give the lips new strength.21 Treatises contribute significant evidence of performance practice to many of the chapters within this book. For example, Timothy McGee’s survey of vocal music in the Renaissance uses organised singing instructions from 1474 onwards to illustrate objectives and priorities in the period; the chapters by Richard Wistreich and John Potter draw on later vocal sources as a central focus for their studies of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century practice. The mid-eighteenth-century treatises by Quantz (1752), C. P. E. Bach (1753, 1762), L. Mozart (1756) and Türk (1789) variously encourage an holistic approach to what it is to be a performer. The hugely influential Quantz found it desirable for a musician to have at least some knowledge of mathematics, philosophy, poetry and oratory. Significantly, only ten out of his original 334 pages are devoted exclusively to the transverse flute, ranging over such topics as ‘Of the qualities of those who would dedicate themselves to music’ and ‘How a musician and a musical composition are to be judged’. Quantz writes that a would-be composer ‘must have a lively and fiery spirit, united with a soul capable of tender feeling; a good mixture, without too much melancholy, of what scholars call the temperaments; much imagination, inventiveness, judgement and discernment; a good memory; a good and delicate ear; a sharp and quick eye; and a receptive mind that grasps everything quickly and easily’. He suggests that instrumentalists need many of the above qualities, as well as appropriate physical attributes. He then remarks: ‘My last counsel for someone who wishes to excel in music is to control his vanity, and to hold it in check . . . since it can easily cloud the mind and obstruct true understanding.’22 C. P. E. Bach’s technical advice is complemented by a chapter on performance that states at the outset, ‘Keyboardists whose chief asset is mere technique are clearly at a disadvantage’. It contains a celebrated passage emphasising the importance of characterisation in which Bach observes that ‘a musician cannot move others unless he too is moved. He must of necessity feel all of the affects that he hopes to arouse in his audience, for his own humour will stimulate a like humour in the listener.’23 The scholarly and well-read Türk also aims to instruct the teacher as well as the student, offering a commentary that informs the practical aesthetic of his time, the state of historical information and 21 See E. E. Rousseau, ‘Clarinet instructional methods from 1732 to ca.1825’, thesis, University of Iowa (1962), pp. 161–4. 22 J. J. Quantz, Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen, Berlin, 1752, trans. E. R. Reilly as On Playing the Flute, London, Faber, 1966, pp. 12–13, 25. 23 C. P. E. Bach, Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen, 2 vols., Berlin, 1753 and 1762, repr. 1957, trans. and ed. W. J. Mitchell as Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, New York, Norton, 1949, pp. 147, 152.



contemporary pedagogical views. His chapter on execution is nothing less than an introduction to the classical style, admitting that some musical effects cannot be described, since they must be heard.24 Like Quantz, Leopold Mozart similarly warns against empty virtuosity, entering a plea for sound musicianship. He ranges across various aspects of performance practice, with a glossary of technical terms and specific chapters on written and improvised embellishments. His book immediately won the praise of F. W. Marpurg, whose Historisch-kritische Beyträge in 1757 remarked: ‘One has long desired a work of this kind but hardly dared to expect it. The sound and skilled virtuoso, the rational and methodical teacher, the learned musician; qualities, each and all of which make a man of worth, are manifested here.’25 In the nineteenth century, treatises continued to proliferate. The more honest authors admitted that their uses were limited. The tenor Manuel García, in the preface to his Exercises and Method for Singing (1824) declares that he has written his treatise ‘in a progressive manner so as to remove every obstacle that can be met with in the management of the voice’, but also mentions that ‘to others who may chose [sic] to adopt them the instruction of a Master will explain any difficulty they may meet with’. This treatise by one of the most celebrated singers and teachers of the century glibly states of an aspiring singer: ‘it is not precisely singing the note but the manner of singing it which constitutes the distinguished singer, and raises him above mediocrity.’26 In the absence of a teacher, it is hard to see how an aspiring student could capture this ‘manner’. García’s son continued the tradition with the immensely successful Traité complet de l’art du chant (1840–47), which reflected newer preoccupations with the scientific approach to singing. Manuel García the younger enjoyed a successful teaching career, particularly in London where he taught at the Royal Academy of Music between 1848 and 1895. García the younger attempts to explain intricacies of vocal technique through physiology and the results are occasionally baffling, for example: The following is the process by which the glottis shortens its dimensions. The moment it emits a sound, it changes the triangular form, which it holds during repose, for the linear form, which it assumes during vocal action; and its sides firmly fixed, and meeting at their extremities, leave towards the centre alone, a space, for the escape of air when required. Of these extremities, however, the posterior, which alone are of cartilaginous substance, have the 24 D. G. Türk, Clavierschule, Leipzig and Halle, 1789, trans. R. Haggh as School of Clavier Playing, Lincoln and London, University of Nebraska Press, 1982, p. 337. 25 A. Einstein, in preface to L. Mozart, A Treatise on the Fundamentals of Violin Playing, p. xxviii. Marpurg, Historisch-kritische Beyträge, vol. 3, 1757, p. 160. 26 M. García, Exercises and Method for Singing, with an Accompaniment for the Piano Forte, London, Boosey, 1824, preface.

The teaching of performance


power of motion; opening the glottis by separating, and closing it by collapsing; the anterior extremities are always fixed.27

On the thorny issue of successful expression, García recalls C. P. E. Bach when he states: Expression is the great law of all art. Vain would be the efforts of an artist to excite the passions of his audience, unless he showed himself powerfully affected by the very feeling he wished to kindle; for emotion is purely sympathetic. It devolves, therefore, upon an artist to rouse and ennoble his feelings, since he can only appeal successfully to those analogous to his own. The human voice, deprived of expression, is the least interesting of all instruments.28

Despite their obvious limitations, both these treatises are invaluable guides to the elements of performance training which are easy to describe on the page: hence the advice on the different styles of Italian opera singing, and notated elements such as ornamentation of arias, in particular on cadenzas, is a very useful document of historical practice.

Conservatoires in Venice and Naples The modern conservatoire developed from charitable institutions of Venice and Naples, the ospedali, which existed to house and care for the needy.29 Between the start of the seventeenth century until their eventual bankruptcy at the end of the eighteenth century, the identities of these institutions shifted greatly: what began as a means of providing musical support for the Mass mutated into a specialised and competitive industry, responsible for training some of the greatest vocal and instrumental performers of the day. The seeds for the development of the conservatoire were already sown by the time of Pope Eugenius IV, who in the 1430s issued a series of papal bulls that resulted in the establishing of a number of charitable schools with a strong emphasis on music-making, known as the scuole Eugeniane.30 Practically, there were strong reasons why the resident orphans might benefit from a musical education: musically trained children were useful to the orphanage chapels, and would be 27 M. García, Traité complet de l’art du chant, Paris, author, 1847, trans. as Garcia’s New Treatise on the Art of Singing, London, Cramer, Beale & Chappell, 1857, p. 5. 28 Ibid., p. 64. 29 The four main Venetian ospedali were the Ospedali della Pietà (for foundlings), degli Incurabili (for syphilitics), dei Mendicanti and dei Derelitti, also called the Ospedaletto (both for the chronically ill). See D. Blichmann, ‘Anmerkungen zur Musik an den venezianischen Ospedali im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert, Acta Musicologica, 74/1 (2002), 77–99. In Naples, there were a number of institutions including Sant’ Onofrio, Santa Maria della Pietà dei Turchini, San Pietro a Majella, Santa Maria di Loreto and Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo. See, for example, D. Arnold, ‘Instruments and instrumental teaching in the early Italian conservatoires’, Galpin Society Journal, 18 (1965), 72–81. 30 For a more extensive discussion of this, see Strohm, The Rise of European Music, p. 288.



able to support themselves upon their departure; typically, the institution would retain half of the income from the collection plate, the libretto sales and the pew hire, and the orphans would receive the other half.31 Thus an excellent orphanage choir could generate not only a regular income to supplement the state support and donations, but also be able to accumulate a fund for each child to take away upon their departure. The main repertoire associated with the conservatoires was the oratorio, although other vocal genres such as the motet were also common. The genre was brought to Venice by the members of the Order of St Philip Neri (the Oratorians) around 1660. These early oratorios required small forces; Denis Arnold suggests a small group of singers and a continuo group with a theorbo and violone, possibly an organ, and occasionally a string quartet.32 This repertoire rapidly became more ambitious; by the 1730s the virtuosic demands were equal to anything on the operatic stage. Instrumentally, the great strength of the Venetian conservatoires was stringed instruments, but Arnold has shown that by the middle of the eighteenth century, the Pietà taught every possible instrument.33 There were many admirable aspects of the curriculum at the conservatoires; thanks to healthy competition between the conservatoires, the girls were rigorously trained. Martinelli, teaching at the Derelitti, mentioned giving four lessons per week to each chorister.34 Although the teachers might be of the highest calibre, the training was expected to be carried out on a shoestring budget, in keeping with the charitable (and permanently financially overstretched) nature of the institutions. The reputable maestri would teach only the most gifted of the girls in the coro. At the Pietà, this was just twelve, and later fourteen girls, who were known as the figlie di coro (later maestra). These figlie enjoyed certain privileges, such as higher pay, but were therefore expected to teach in turn the main chorus members, who themselves were responsible for training the beginners.35 They were also allowed to teach two fee-paying pupils (the figlie in educatione), who might be boarders from an aristocratic or musical family. The most gifted teachers could remain part of the choir or become teachers at their own institutions, perhaps eventually attaining the post of maestra di coro or 31 The first mention of this practice of the choristers retaining half the alms is at the Derelitti in 1575. See M. Constable, ‘The Venetian “Figlie del Coro”: their environment and achievement’, Music & Letters, 63 (1982), 186. 32 See D. and E. Arnold, The Oratorio in Venice, London, Royal Musical Association, 1986, p. 10. 33 Between 1703 and 1708, the Pietà made many instrumental purchases including oboes, flutes, violas; by 1740 they had clarinets, by 1747, they had horns, and eventually they also purchased timpani. See D. Arnold, ‘Instruments and instrumental teaching’, 80. 34 Constable, ‘The Venetian “Figlie del Coro”’, 201. 35 M. Talbot, ‘Tenors and basses at the Venetian Ospedali’, Acta Musicologica, 66/2 (July–December 1994), 126.

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even of prioress, the highest rank possible, whose job it was to administer the music education overall.36 In that sense, the ospedali provided a rewarding career path for women with few other options. Alternatively, this ‘privilege’ might be perceived as a life sentence; in 1604 the Mendicanti expected that gifted girls should be retained by the institution as teachers; ‘not to be sent away from the pio luogo for any reason, but be obliged to train the other girls’.37 The Neapolitan conservatoires furnished similar opportunities for male musicians. Margaret Constable’s 1981 study of conditions at the Mendicanti presents the fullest picture of the experience of being a music student at one of these institutions.38 Many of the teaching staff were high-profile musicians with flourishing careers outside the institution. By the eighteenth century many teachers had what can only be described as ‘portfolio careers’, writing church music for large churches like San Marco, composing opera seria and buffa for the numerous opera houses, teaching and performing with the ospedali students, and to some extent administering the teaching too. Earlier, in the seventeenth century, the maestri were chiefly known for the leading positions they held at large churches. At the Ospedaletto, for example, members of the teaching staff such as the singer-composer Baldassare Donato and his successor the great cornettist Giovanni Bassano both held leading positions in the San Marco (Donato held the post of maestro di cappella at San Marco; Bassano led the instrumental ensemble).39 But with the rise of opera, theatre connections grew more common – and it became increasingly difficult to retain staff. Some of these musicians virtually used the conservatoires as resting places between promoting and composing operas. The composer Nicola Porpora (1686– 1768) is a classic example: educated at the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo as a fee-paying student aged thirteen, he was teaching junior pupils within three years. Although he enjoyed an operatic career that spanned London, Vienna, Dresden, as well as Naples and Venice, his lasting reputation arguably rests upon his fame as a vocal teacher. Over the course of his life he taught at no less than five ospedali. This extraordinary range was not untypical; Porpora’s operatic career was not a consistent success, and the conservatoires seem almost to have been a refuge and reliable source of income. One can compare Porpora’s patchier career with that of his more successful 36 See Blichmann, ‘Anmerkungen zur Musik’, 82. 37 Quoted in Constable, ‘The Venetian “Figlie del Coro”’, 189. 38 Ibid., 181–212. 39 See D. Arnold, ‘Music at the Ospedali’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 113/2 (1988), 156–67. Arnold lists various musicians who enjoyed a high reputation in the Church and taught at one or more of the ospedali. He also suggests that the performance forces of the ospedali may have been frequently reinforced by musicians from San Marco; ‘The Mendicanti used the singers and players of S. Marco so freely’ (p. 158).



contemporary Antonio Vivaldi. Vivaldi’s longest period of teaching at the Pietà was between 1703 and 1709, and then again in 1711; after this, his career as an international opera composer took off. Nevertheless he maintained his association with the institution for most of his life. By the mid-eighteenth century, the training itself was an international attraction and the church services were more akin to public concerts. Individual pupils started to gain star status; from the start of the eighteenth century, specific pupils’ performances garnered praise, and by the 1740s, soloists’ names were included in the librettos for the Masses.40 As the training attracted international attention, it became common to take in fee-paying boarders from privileged and/or musical backgrounds.41 According to Constable, this led to internal problems. Despite their musical reputations, all the ospedali maintained their charitable work; thus the privileged music students would have been surrounded by the poor, the sick and the orphaned, while themselves being permitted to dress up for gala occasions and enjoy luxurious meals and entertainments. Meanwhile the increasingly woeful finances of the ospedali meant that the governors had to beg for additional support from the state. Finally, the conservatoires had undertaken financial commitments which were to have disastrous implications; they undertook to invest money on behalf of the wealthier fee-paying pupils at an agreed rate of interest, which meant that they were committed to paying this money even as their income declined, leading to their eventual bankruptcy.

Towards the nineteenth-century conservatoire One of the many visitors to the conservatoires was Charles Burney, who was inspired to transfer the model of the Venetian conservatoire to England; these hopes were fulfilled only during the early nineteenth century.42 His ‘Sketch of a plan for a public music-school’ was proposed to the governors of the Foundling Hospital in 1774 and ultimately rejected by them.43 Kassler notes that it was one of only five British proposals to have been written between 1762 and 1822, when London’s Royal Academy of Music was founded. The others were by John Potter (1762), G. F. Graham (1816), F. W. Horncastle (1822) and Philharmonic Society plans transmitted by J. F. Burrowes (1818) 40 Ibid., 156–67. 41 For the Mendicanti and the Derelitti, the date was 1749. See Constable, ‘The Venetian “Figlie del Coro”’, 195. 42 J. C. Kassler, ‘Burney’s sketch of a plan for a public music school’, Musical Quarterly, 43 (1972), 210–33. This article cites Burney’s complete text. 43 Burney’s manuscripts containing the sketch form part of the Osborn Collection housed at Yale University.

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and T. F. Walmsley. Kassler usefully charts the background of educational theory and its application to music noting that while British gentlemen had the benefit of a liberal education, traditions handed down to the late eighteenth century warned against the inclusion of music in such an education. Since reason was thought to be the guide of man, the method of attaining proficiency was directly related to the amount of scientific understanding required. C. J. Dorat remarked that gentlemen should be scholars and study music as a science, facilitating the knowledge of its practice. Yet ladies should ‘be taught music so as to understand what they perform [i.e. to read notation], and perform no more than what falls within the easy compass of their execution’.44 The lack of a liberal education and the desirability of better training for native Britons were among the catalysts for the establishment of a national academy of music. Burney had lamented the prevalence of ‘the productions and performances of Strangers’. As Kassler notes, ‘While the Royal Academy of Music represented a radical departure from the past in providing Britain with its first music school devoted solely to the professional education of girls and boys, its support by private subscription and its purpose and curricula adhered to tradition.’45 Yet R. M. Bacon immediately criticised the plan because ‘the intellectual cultivation of the pupils is not sufficiently provided for’.46 The Academy’s committee of patrons stated in the prospectus that ‘the first object to be attended with respect to the pupils, shall be the strict propriety of their education in religion and morals, and in the study of their own and the Italian language; and next their general instruction in the various branches of Music, particularly in the art of singing, and in the study of the pianoforte, of harmony, and of composition’.47 A more formal curriculum of musical education emanating from the Mozart circle was brought to wider notice in the 1960s by Ernst Hess. He published a transcription of the fifty-page German document comprising the clarinettist Anton Stadler’s so-called ‘Musick-Plan’, a response (dated July 1800) to sixteen questions contained in a letter (now lost) by Count Georg Festetics, the answers to which were to serve as the basis for a music school in Hungary on the count’s estate at Keszthely on what is now Lake Balaton.48 In 1990 Pamela Poulin published an authoritative article on the subject, to which much

44 Anon., Euterpe; or, Remarks on the Use and Abuse of Music, as a Part of Modern Education, London, c. 1780, published anonymously. 45 Kassler, ‘Burney’s sketch’, 225. 46 Unsigned editorial, Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, 4/15 (1822), 370–400. 47 Cited from Kassler (‘Burney’s sketch’, 225), who notes that the curricula for boys and girls continued to differ; while the boys were copying music, the girls were to spend that hour doing needlework. 48 E. Hess, ‘Anton Stadler’s “Musick-Plan” ’, Mozart-Jahrbuch (1962–3), 37–64.



of the following paragraph is indebted.49 According to Stadler the count’s goals in founding a music school were: to improve and staff the church music of the region; to set up a small chamber group for Stadler; to create the opportunity for the landed aristocracy to have their young people instructed in music; to instruct schoolmasters in organ playing and music. Classes, rooms, staffing, grades, levels, textbooks, musical aesthetics, repertoires and library resources are all matters for consideration. Recognising three aspects of music – theory, performance and composition, Stadler’s ambitious six-year curriculum supplemented practical matters with the observation that anyone wanting to understand music must acquire a broad knowledge of the world, and mathematics, poetry, rhetoric and several languages. All students would be required to participate in singing, piano, organ or thorough-bass, violin and wind instruments. Two of Poulin’s quotations from Stadler’s text are worth citing again here. Conductors should remember that instrumentalists ‘are not to be shouted at when they make a mistake, or made [to look] ridiculous, or treated with sarcasm, because then [they] lose their composure; their attentiveness is lost even more because their heart is put to shame or [they] become embittered; and [they] are no longer capable of a gentle and co-operative spirit if once the presence of mind is upset’. Secondly, there is no accounting for the particular mood of an audience on a particular evening: ‘for example, yesterday the cards were unfavourable for this lady [in the audience], this young gentleman has been jilted by his sweetheart, this official was passed over in advancement . . . the banker has won only 99% [interest], the malicious denouncer has failed to catch his prey, the junior officer who has served only 24 hours is not already at least a brigadier-general [and] in such a mood in a large part does the public condemn the author, composer, actor, performing artists’.50 Poulin notes that four months after the plan was signed, the music school opened under a local musician, Peter Stark, in November 1800. She has traced documents in the estate archives that show that it was organised according to Stadler’s precepts. Zaslaw and Spitzer have recently commented on the ‘enlightenment sensibility’ of the Musick-Plan. In its musical and educational aspirations it was to be unmatched among fledgling European conservatoires for some time to come.

The Paris Conservatoire The Conservatoire de musique, founded in 1795 in the wake of the French Revolution, was the first truly modern institution for music education, 49 See Poulin, ‘A view’.

50 Ibid., 220–2.

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organised on a national basis, free from charitable aims and with an entirely secular, indeed anticlerical background. It was founded on the new democratic principle of education for the qualified, irrespective of social status. Its development was the result of careful planning, artistic vision and astute political action. The staff was to serve both as performers and teachers; students of both sexes, admitted between the ages of eight and thirteen, were to be chosen from each geographical area by means of competitive examination. There would be prizes at the end of each school year. In this way, many features of institutional musical life today were set in train, with consequences which remain subject to vigorous debate. Because of its initial function of providing ceremonial music, many of its teaching staff specialised in wind instruments. But the curriculum catered for all the usual instruments, together with singing and keyboard skills, as well as the theory of music. Examinations were introduced on a regular basis. The staff included many distinguished composers, such as Gossec, Méhul, Cherubini and Boieldieu. From the outset, teaching was taken very seriously at the Conservatoire. In the words of Méhul, ‘To perpetuate oneself through numerous students of distinguished merit means to crown with dignity a long and honourable career; it means to discharge the indebtedness of one’s talent towards his country.’51 And as Schwarz has observed, the Conservatoire elevated the teaching profession to a position of unprecedented dignity and importance; the professeur de musique, formerly a call boy for the nobleman, became a pillar of musical culture and tradition.52 But, as with many such situations, not everything was as rigorous as the syllabus might imply. In 1798 the twenty-three-year old François-Adrien Boieldieu from Rouen was appointed to the piano faculty and his teaching was described by one of his pupils, François-Joseph Fétis: ‘Too occupied with his career as a dramatic composer to take an interest in lessons of instrumental technique, Boieldieu was a rather bad piano teacher, but his conversation was studded with very fine remarks on his art, full of interest for his students and not without profit for their studies.’53 If conservatoire culture attracted idiosyncratic teachers, talented student rebels were soon to be represented by Berlioz, who encountered a characteristic institutional conservatism and felt that his early career was blighted by the Conservatoire Director, Cherubini (whose music he none the less admired).

51 E. Méhul, Éloge on Gossec (1808), quoted in A. Lavignac and L. de la Laurencie (eds.), Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du Conservatoire, Paris, Delagrave, 1913, part 1, vol. 3, p. 1639. 52 B. Schwarz, French Instrumental Music between the Revolutions, New York, Da Capo, 1987, p. 44. 53 F.-J. Fétis, Biographie universelle des musiciens, 2nd edn, 8 vols., Paris, Didot, 1860–5, vol. 2, p. 3.



In Chapter 3 Robin Stowell has already mentioned the faculty-based Conservatoire treatises that offered systematic courses of technical and interpretative instruction for aspiring professionals, incorporating exercises and studies for advanced players. But this tended to be at the expense of the philosophy of musical rhetoric and the communication of emotion. In the eighteenth century an understanding of musical language had been an integral part of learning a language, but the new tutors replaced verbal descriptions with pictorial elements. Institutions were bound to encourage competition and virtuosity was an element that could easily be measured and encouraged. Visitors to Paris in the 1820s and 1830s such as Spohr, Mendelssohn and Chopin were all appalled by the sheer quantity of empty virtuosity they encountered. In our own time Nikolaus Harnoncourt has gone so far as to argue that developments in France after the Revolution marked the beginning of a shift from music’s position as one of life’s moving forces to a mere adornment.54 By 1805, bassoon, cello, clarinet, flute, piano and violin had newly written manuals for them. Jean-Louis Adam’s Méthode de piano remained in use for many years and was translated into German in 1826 by Beethoven’s pupil Carl Czerny. His advice on pedalling is important: ‘the large [damper] pedal is to be employed only during consonant harmonies, when the music is very slow and when the harmonies do not change.’55 This reflects Beethoven’s notation in his Sonatas, and Czerny’s recollection that he pedalled much more frequently than indicated may well reflect practice as it had developed by the 1840s. Defining the trill as a structural rather than an ornamental device, Adam is among the first writers to suggest that it might well start on the principal rather than the upper note. The multi-authored treatise for violin by Baillot, Rode and Kreutzer regarded flexibility of tempo as an essential musical effect, an aspect of interpretation that is especially difficult to characterise in words. As a whole it emphasises musical taste and certainly cannot be accused of advocating mere virtuosity. Characteristically, wind tutors offered fewer hints as to musical taste, though Étienne Ozi’s bassoon method has some useful hints about the articulation of staccato notes and also about extempore ornamentation, which was still widely practised. Xavier Lefèvre’s Méthode de clarinette (1802) was still being translated into other European languages as late as the 1930s. He notes the importance of musical characterisation and admits that the coldness and monotony often ascribed to the clarinet is in fact the responsibility of the performer, whose 54 N. Harnoncourt, Musik als Klangrede, trans. M. O’Neill as Baroque Music Today: Music as Speech, Portland, OR, Amadeus, 1982, pp. 22–7. 55 J.-L. Adam, Méthode de piano du Conservatoire, Paris, Magasin de musique du Conservatoire Royal, 1804, p. 219.

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armoury must include a good knowledge of harmony and sound musical taste. His technical groundwork would be sufficient for most Austro-German music written by the generation of Mozart, though not for the radically expanded horizons within the Beethoven symphonies. Conservatoire students soon began to set new performing standards in orchestral music. Already in 1800 a critic in the Décade philanthropique could write: ‘A numerous orchestra, consisting entirely of young people, performed with unity, precision and firmness, using intelligence and discretion in the accompaniments, which is even more difficult.’56 Later, especially under the direction of the violinist François Habeneck, the unified and disciplined bowing of the string players won particular praise. Despite variable audience reactions – after the ‘Eroica’ Symphony was played in 1811, a reviewer in the Courier de l’Europe et des spectacles showed an equal measure of understanding and horror, referring to ‘a few harsh germanisms, which [the composer] used by force of habit’57 – the role of the Conservatoire in performances of Beethoven became a celebrated part of its early history,

Leipzig – advantages and disadvantages of the conservatoire model Following Paris, the concept of a state conservatoire for music soon spread throughout Europe, to Prague (1811), Graz (1813) and Vienna (1817), as well as London’s Royal Academy of Music. The Regio Conservatorio di Musica in Milan was established in 1824, with a curriculum which modified that of Paris and with students recruited partly on a fee-paying basis and partly by state subvention. Somewhat later, the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in Leipzig proved a huge influence from its inception in 1843. The Leipzig Conservatoire emerged from an environment in which the fascination with music-making as a domestic activity had led to a burgeoning of public, semi-private and fully private music schools operating under varying standards, as well as large numbers of poorly trained barely competent private teachers milking the middle classes. Leipzig was in many ways the ideal city in which to site an institution to tackle this situation, thanks to its legendary Gewandhaus orchestra, and its peerless musical leader, Mendelssohn.58 A parallel can be drawn with the St Petersburg Conservatoire, 56 Cited in C. Pierre, Le Conservatoire nationale de musique et de declamation, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1900, p. 461. 57 Cited in J.-G. Prod’homme, Les symphonies de Beethoven, Paris, Delagrave, 1906, repr. 1977, p. 121. 58 For a detailed background to the establishment of the Leipzig conservatoire see P. Röntsch (ed.), Bericht über die ersten 75 Jahre des Königlichen Konservatoriums zu Leipzig, erstattet zum 2. April 1918, Leipzig, Linnemann, 1918, pp. 5–6.



opened in 1862 under the aegis of Anton Rubinstein. Under Mendelssohn’s directorship, the Gewandhaus gained a reputation for pedagogy through its carefully structured concerts which laid emphasis on ‘classical’ works from the past.59 Part of the inspiration for the conservatoire lay in the need for proper instrumental training in tandem with a rise in orchestral standards, particularly given the fact that the piano increasingly reigned supreme and interest in other instruments correspondingly declined.60 Thus, the conservatoire existed in a symbiotic relationship with the concert orchestra; the latter would provide teachers and exposure to high-level concert life, and the former would provide new players when members left or retired. The institution was aimed not at amateurs, Liebhaber or dilettanti, but at future professionals. Mendelssohn’s educational vision is revealed in the letter he wrote to the Kreisdirektor Falkenstein in April 1840. Importantly, he believed that group teaching would provide advantages over one-to-one lessons: That through the participation of several students on the same elements of learning and the same studies, a genuine musical sense would be awakened amongst the students, which would keep them fresh, and motivate them to be diligent and competitive, and protect them from insularity.61

While this approach has its advantages, in the conservatoire context it was to pose many problems; after Schumann had met his first pupils, Clara Schumann wrote in her Tagebuch, ‘I have no idea how one can teach six students at once.’ Such teaching, as practised by Liszt in his legendary masterclasses, is arguably better suited to proficient musicians; it is known that Liszt paid no attention to issues like technique or fingering, concentrating solely on interpretation, and never hearing a piece more than once. The most notable aspect of the curriculum is its emphasis on theoretical teaching; in his desire to promote profound knowledge of the repertoire, Mendelssohn opened a question that has been argued constantly in conservatoires since: how much theory do performers need, and how best should it be served up? At Leipzig, students were expected to attend a three-year theory course which looks admirably thorough, embracing harmony, voice-leading and advanced counterpoint, including writing of fugues. It also included 59 See R. Grotjahn, ‘Die Sinfonie im deutschen Kulturgebiet: Ein Beitrag zur Gattungs- und Institutionsgeschichte’, thesis, Hanover (1997). See also Y. Wasserloos, Das Leipziger Konservatorium der Musik im 19.Jahrhundert: Anziehungs- und Ausstrahlungskraft eines musikpädagogischen Modells auf das internationale Musikleben, Studien und Materialen zur Musikwissenschaft, vol. 33, Hildesheim, Georg Olms, 2004, pp. 8–15, for a summary of the historical importance of the Gewandhaus. 60 Mendelssohn noted this problem in an oft-quoted letter (8 April 1840) to the Kreisdirektor von Falkenstein in Dresden. See F. Mendelssohn, Briefe aus den Jahren 1830 bis 1847, ed. P. and C. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Leipzig, Hermann Mendelssohn, 1899, p. 157. Ultimately, a dedicated orchestral class was established in the 1880s. 61 Prospectus, Breitkopf & Härtel, 1843, p. 3.

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formal analysis, instrumentation, score-reading and musical direction, and Italian language for singers. Additionally, there were lectures on aesthetics, acoustics and music old and new, although it is not clear how much of this was mandatory. In a monograph published in 1868, it is noted that all students, regardless of their principal instrument, were required to have lessons in figured bass, piano and singing.62 Mendelssohn’s initial vision was perhaps too idealistic; very soon, problems began to manifest themselves. As with Paris, one of the chief problems was retaining high-profile staff. At Leipzig, the original professorial staff included Robert Schumann, the violinist Ferdinand David, the organist Ferdinand Becker and Mendelssohn himself – an exceptional group by any standard. But within the year, Mendelssohn went to Berlin, returning only in 1845; by 1844 the Schumanns had also left. Joseph Joachim joined the faculty in 1849, but they lost him the same year when he took up a place as concertmaster in Weimar. The few truly distinguished staff members who remained for a long period of time included Moscheles, Ferdinand David and academic staff such as Franz Brendel and later on Arnold Schering (history) and Reger (composition). Then, as now, there existed a delicate balance between attracting high-profile, prestigious staff and keeping ‘rank-and-file’ staff who would actually take care of the majority of the teaching. Issues also arose with the ambitious curriculum. A letter of Mendelssohn to Moscheles of 30 April 1843 (i.e. within the first weeks of the conservatoire’s opening) sheds some light on how Mendelssohn’s attitude to music education shifted once the conservatoire had opened – in this letter at least, it is somewhat at odds with the ideals outlined in the prospectus: All the students want to compose and theorize, whereas I believe that thorough practical work, thorough playing and keeping tempo, thorough knowledge of all competent works, etc., is the main thing that one can and should teach. From these, all other learning takes place naturally, and the rest cannot be taught, but is God’s gift.63

It is worth contrasting this with the theoretical requirements detailed above. The change in emphasis suggests that Mendelssohn realised that the standard of his new cohort was not what he would have hoped for, that their needs were more basic than he had imagined – and that there was a limit to how much could actually be taught. Certainly by summer 1843, Schumann was complaining about the lack of talent in composition amongst the 40–50 students.64 Although 62 E. Kneschke, Das Conservatorium der Musik in Leipzig, Leipzig, Breitkopf & Härtel, 1868, p. 21. 63 Mendelssohn, Briefe, pp. 255–6. 64 Quoted in J. Daverio, Robert Schumann: Herald of a ‘New Poetic Age’, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 269–70.



Mendelssohn’s vision had been for a specialist school in the truest sense, the reality was that many of the students were amateurs – a state of affairs that persisted in many conservatoires until well into the twentieth century. At Stuttgart, there was even a dedicated department for ‘dilettantes’. David J. Golby’s 2004 study of instrumental teaching in nineteenth-century Britain demonstrates the similarity of the situation in Britain, with institutions such as the Royal Academy of Music initially being dominated largely by the needs of the amateur market.65 One aspect of Leipzig which is now standard in modern conservatoires was its international quality. In its fortieth year, there were 406 students, divided into 208 men and 198 women; out of these, 103 were from Saxony, 122 from elsewhere in Germany, and the remainder from abroad: 12 Austrians, 14 Swiss, 8 Dutch, 19 Swedes/Norwegians, 62 English, 11 Russians, 1 Spaniard, 53 Americans and an Australian.66 In 1874, one Marie-Julie Bettfreund came from as far as Buenos Aires; in 1875 Annie Bain came from the Bahamas. This, however, led to problems with language. The prospectus stipulated that students were expected to arrive with an adequate knowledge of German; however, fairly soon this requirement was relaxed – with predictably bad effect. Perhaps the most famous student who did not understand his lessons at Leipzig was Arthur Sullivan. Mendelssohn’s desired accessibility was never to be realised; there were only six scholarships for native Saxons, which were granted only for a single year, and the annual fees of 80 Thalers were prohibitively high except for students from comfortable backgrounds. There were other problems; Yvonne Wasserloos in her recent study suggests that the curriculum was over-full, with a student potentially spending sixty hours a week in the building.67 Classes could begin as early as 6 a.m., and the final class of the day might end fourteen hours later. Conversely, discipline slackened with time, to the point that by the turn of the century attendance was shocking, with the expected drop in standards. Wasserloos’s study suggests that there is no record of anyone failing an audition, and by the mid-1860s, it was a meaningless formality.68 The general trend was towards greater commercialisation; students were accepted to fill the institution’s coffers. By the turn of the century the prospectus was being printed in both German and English, to attract the enormous British market. Additionally, the 1900 prospectus was embellished with gorgeous illustrations of the new building in Grassisstrasse. The greater emphasis on advertising shown by this revamped prospectus points to another perennial issue in the training of performers; the tension 65 See D. J. Golby, Instrumental Teaching in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2004, p. 6. 66 K. W. Whistling, Statistik des Königlichen Conservatoriums der Musik zu Leipzig 1843–1883, Leipzig, Breitkopf & Härtel, 1883, preface, p. vii. 67 Wasserloos, Das Leipziger Konservatorium, p. 31. 68 Ibid., pp. 49–50.

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Fig. 5.1. Illustrations of the façade, the concert hall and the stairwell of the building reproduced in the prospectus, 1900.



Fig. 5.1. (cont.)

between attracting the typically small number of extremely gifted staff and students (and Leipzig certainly had its share), and maintaining sufficient numbers for the institution to remain financially viable. Altogether, as a conservatoire model Leipzig’s advantages and disadvantages remain largely unchanged; student access to first-class teaching and high-level resources is enhanced by an environment of competition, stimulus and future professional contacts. The directorate must manage high-profile staff, while offering a relevant curriculum. Notwithstanding these challenges, the conservatoire increasingly became the preferred venue for instrumental training; after the 1960s this route became the norm for professional musicians.

Other traditions: instrumental teaching in Russia Whoever is moved by music to the depths of his soul, and works on his instrument like one possessed, who loves music and his instrument with passion, will acquire virtuoso technique; he will be able to recreate the artistic image of the composition; he will be a performer. Pianist Heinrich Neuhaus, Director of the Moscow Conservatory, 1934–7

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Very few published sources in English bear witness to the great pedagogical traditions within the conservatoires at Moscow and St Petersburg. However, the plethora of talented Russian performers and composers has ensured a wide circulation of tales relating to individual student performers and composers, often (as in conservatoires generally) concerning friction between talented students – such as Scriabin and Prokofiev – and the establishment. A classic example is Rostropovich’s failure in his first year exams of the Moscow Conservatoire, because he had somehow ‘overlooked the fact that the Conservatoire course involved other disciplines such as harmony, music history and analysis, as well as the obligatory political curriculum’.69 An essential guide to the social and political background to the foundation of the conservatoires in St Petersburg (1862) and Moscow (1866) is contained in a wide-ranging article from 2004 by Lynn Sargeant.70 She charts the course of the Russian music profession that emerged through a conscious attempt by a voluntary association, the Russian Musical Society (1859–1918), to create the institutions and legal framework to support it. This was during a period in the late nineteenth century in which widely varying conceptions of the social and aesthetic purpose of music competed for dominance. Sargeant argues that although the process of musical professionalisation in Russia had much in common with that in Western Europe, the peculiarities of Russian social, political and cultural life strongly shaped the character of the Russian musical profession. Anton Rubinstein’s celebrated article written to promote the establishment of the first Russian conservatoire in St Petersburg argued that the absence of a musical profession in Russia was a consequence of the failure of musicians to persuade the State to ‘give music . . . the same privileges accorded to the other arts’, and to ‘give those involved in music the civic status of artist’. Rubinstein’s attack on Russia’s dilettantes was met by the Balakirev circle with taunts of ‘German pedantry’ and support for the supposed creativity and originality of Russian ‘amateur’ composers and musicians.71 Until the abolition of serfdom in 1861, ‘working musicians were largely serfs, former serfs, or foreigners. Highly skilled Russian performers and composers from aristocratic families also participated in musical life, of course, but by definition only as amateurs. In Russia’s estate-based social hierarchy, there was literally no way to accommodate the professional musician.’72 For years the legal position of graduates remained insecure and a respectable social status (with pension rights and state 69 E. Wilson, Mstislav Rostropovich: Cellist, Teacher, Legend, London, Faber, 2007, p. 31. 70 L. Sargeant, ‘A new class of people: the Conservatoire and musical professionalization in Russia, 1861– 1917’, Music & Letters, 85 (2004), 41–61. 71 Ibid., 41. 72 Ibid., 44.



service) came only at the beginning of the twentieth century. Although women students outnumbered men, their interest in music was routinely disparaged by cultural critics. ‘An ability to “play” the piano was all but mandatory for Russian women who hoped to find a likely husband.’73 Yet many women did in fact pursue professional (and semi-professional) careers. The complex position of Jewish musicians during a period of increased visibility is the final aspect of Sargeant’s magisterial guide through the difficult social landscape of late nineteenth-century Russia. A particularly valuable compendium of Russian ideas and teaching practice in the Soviet era is contained in The Art of Piano Playing by Heinrich Neuhaus (1888–1964), first published in the UK in 1973 in a translation by K. A. Leibovitch. Neuhaus was born in Elizavetgrad (later Kirovograd) into a family of musicians and studied with Godowsky in Berlin and Vienna. He began teaching at the Moscow Conservatoire in 1922 and ten years later helped create the celebrated Moscow Central Music School for specially gifted children. From 1934 to 1937 he was Director of the Moscow Conservatoire, a post he relinquished in order to devote himself entirely to teaching. His pupils included Lupu, Gilels and Richter. The Art of Piano Playing assumes throughout a high level of talent, motivation and aspiration. ‘The whole secret of talent and of genius is that in the case of a person so gifted, music lives a full life in his brain before he even touches a keyboard or draws a bow across the strings. That is why Mozart as a small child could “at once” play the piano and the violin.’74 Such an approach has been contextualised in recent observations by Jeltova and Grigorenko on Russian attitudes to giftedness: The Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 resulted in a regime that tried (or claimed) to minimize individual differences and establish equity in all areas of human enterprise . . . Russian society, however has always been interested in identifying and utilising outstanding abilities for the societal ‘common good’.75

Neuhaus reports that his teacher Godowsky’s comments were aimed exclusively at music, at achieving maximum logic, accurate hearing, clarity, plasticity, through a scrupulous observance and broad interpretation of the written score. He would immediately lose all interest in a pupil whose hearing was inaccurate, who memorised wrong notes or showed bad taste. His remarks on 73 ‘Muzykal’noe uchilishche v Moskve’, Russkie vedomosti, 3 February 1866, cited ibid., 52. 74 H. Neuhaus, Ob iskusstve fortepiannoy igrï (Moscow, 1958), trans. K. A. Leibovitch as The Art of Piano Playing, London, Barrie & Jenkins, 1973, p. 1. 75 I. Jeltova and E. L. Grigorenko, ‘Systematic approaches to giftedness: contributions of Russian psychology’, in R. J. Sternberg and J. E. Davidson (eds.), Conceptions of Giftedness, Cambridge University Press, 2005. The authors note the Russians’ unfavourable view of empirical research into individual differences because the implied testing would challenge the underlying ideological societal postulates.

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the method of playing the piano were usually a few bare words on ‘weighty playing’ or ‘complete freedom’. Neuhaus’s own declared teaching method was to use ‘every means to arouse [a student’s] professional ambition: to be equal to the best; developing his imagination by the use of apt metaphor, poetic similes, by analogy with natural phenomena or events in life, particularly spiritual, emotional life. It means supplementing and interpreting musical language; using every means to develop in him as love of other forms of art, particularly poetry, painting and architecture, and, most important of all – making him feel the ethical dignity of the artist, his obligations, his responsibilities and his rights.’76 Regarding talent as passion plus intellect, Neuhaus asserts that a pianist’s modest yet vast purpose is ‘to play our amazing, our magnificent piano literature in such a way as to make the hearer like it, to make him love life still more, make his feelings more intense, his longings more acute and give greater depth to his understanding’.77 Citing Rubinstein’s emphasis on musical characterisation, he approves his questioning of pupils as to the nature of pieces, whether lyrical, dramatic, sarcastic, solemn, joyful, sorrowful, etc., as being ‘the highest achievement of pedagogical thinking and practice’.78 A passionate advocate of class teaching, Neuhaus considers it a great failing of the conservatoire system that students’ overloaded schedules permit them only rarely to listen to each other in quasi laboratory conditions. An articulate successor in print to Neuhaus is Moscow alumnus Boris Berman, whose Notes from the Pianist’s Bench79 ventures way beyond the conventional to include a chapter entitled ‘Technique of the soul’. He summarises this as ‘recognizing emotions called for in a musical composition, identifying with these emotions, creating emotional continuity, recalling (or reliving) these emotions and moving from one to another in a timely manner to correspond with the changing moods of the composition; and presenting the emotional content in a tone that is appropriate to the style of the composition’, an attitude we have encountered in C. P. E. Bach and Manuel García. His chapter on teaching and learning is based on his perspective as a Moscow student in the 1950s and 1960s and then as a teacher for more than thirty years. Addressing students’ individual needs, Berman again recalls eighteenthcentury thought in having felt on occasion compelled to remark: ‘You are so proficient at the keyboard; how about practicing less and spending more time reading, visiting museums, or listening to music other than the piano repertoire?’ Finding a personal voice, acquiring musical taste and understanding,

76 Neuhaus, The Art, pp. 20–1. 77 Ibid., p. 22. 78 Ibid., p. 173. 79 Boris Berman, Notes from the Pianist’s Bench, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2000.



learning how to practise, engendering respect for the music, projecting authority and confidence are all important goals. This holistic approach to teaching also captivated the pupils of Mstislav Rostropovich. His avowed aim was to educate them to love music and to fire their imagination, within the environment of an open class. His demands were ferocious, his philosophies challenging. As his pupil Ivan Monighetti remarked, ‘It might seem a paradox, but he did not teach “cello-playing”. The cello was in the first instance, for him, a means of transmitting grandiose ideas, hypnotic images, profound spiritual states of being; it was an instrument through which one could influence masses of people.’80 The ability to commit complex music to memory was important to him, as was sight-reading as a test of intuition and spontaneity. For Rostropovich international competitions were an important way of enhancing the cello’s standing. The politics in Moscow that were an inherent part of competition culture are well caught in Elizabeth Wilson’s biography of the great cellist; a defining moment came in 1970 when the authorities tried to insist in advance on Russian winners in each category of the Tchaikovsky Competition in order to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Lenin. Rostropovich had the courage (and clout) to brush this aside.

Alternative paths Apart from the training paths noted so far, we may note a number of individual proponents of innovative educational philosophies which have gained great popularity. For example, a commitment to instrumental skills, musical literacy and knowledge of Western art music is central to the highly structured choral method developed by Kodály. Following Rousseau, Galin, Paris and Chevé in nineteenth-century France developed a system for sight-singing that dispensed with notation in favour of imagery. The Swiss Émile Jaques-Dalcroze developed his Eurythmics to inspire students to feel an enhanced involvement in music through movement. Carl Orff ’s Schulwerk developed Dalcroze’s ideas to create ‘a synthesis of performance through instruments and voice, aural training, movement and improvisation. His approach is based on direct and immediate involvement with music from the first encounter, and it is music for everyone, in classes, with contributions at whatever level an individual can offer. The prime aim is to develop improvisation through the gradual extension of performing skills and the development of musical imagination.’81

80 Wilson, Rostropovich, p. 304.

81 Cited in Swanwick and Spencer, ‘Education’.

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The Suzuki method was conceived by Shin’ichi Suzuki, a violinist who wished to bring some beauty to the lives of Japanese children in the wake of the Second World War. He pioneered the idea that any pre-school child could begin to play a scaled-down violin if the learning steps were small enough; his aim was to raise children with ‘noble hearts’, rather than individual prodigies. Group preparation of performance pieces (rather than studies) in a sympathetic environment is complemented by parentally supervised practice. In its original form, the Suzuki method discourages competitive attitudes, advocating collaboration and mutual encouragement among the players.

Musical performance at the universities The history of the teaching of musical performance within universities is bound up with the Classical dichotomous view of music as musica speculativa (theory, as a part of mathematics) versus musica practica (the performance of music, generally linked with religious ceremonies).82 Through Boethius’s De institutione musica, the key text for musical study for centuries, this view became entrenched. Furthermore Boethius declared: Now, it should be known that he is not called a musician who performs only with his hands, but he is truly a musician who knows naturally how to discuss music and to elucidate its meaning with pure reasons . . . for every art and every discipline considers reason inherently more honourable than skill which is practised by the hand and labour of an artisan. For it is much better to know what someone does than to do what one learns from another.83

Thanks to its inclusion in the seven liberal arts, musica enjoyed a high status within the university curriculum. The trivium and quadrivium formed the basis for the baccalaureate in Arts, which in turn was required for further study in the higher subjects of medicine, law and, most importantly, theology. Nan Cooke Carpenter, author of a number of studies regarding music in European universities, states: ‘everyone who went to the universities for higher learning studied the liberal arts, and everyone who got beyond the trivium studied music along with the other subjects of the quadrivium.’84 Although this notion of music does not involve performance, life in any of the above-mentioned educational institutions would have been unthinkable without practical music-making (cantilena or cantus). The Church and the 82 See N. C. Carpenter, Music in the Medieval and Renaissance Universities, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1958, pp. 3ff. for summary of the role of music within Greek education. 83 Quoted in I. Fenlon (ed.), Early Music History, vol. 18: Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Music, Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 69. 84 N. C. Carpenter, ‘Music in the Medieval universities’, Journal of Research in Music Education, 3/2 (Autumn, 1955), 136.



universities were closely bound up with one another; chapel staff taught at the university; the choristers won scholarships to continue their studies; the choir school often functioned under university auspices; in fact, ‘Notre Dame’s choir school actually served as a preparatory school for the university, constantly sending students to the Sorbonne for higher studies, many of these choristers on scholarships’.85 Therefore there would have been plenty of opportunity to study with reputable professional teachers outside the curriculum, provided the student was motivated. Elsewhere in Europe, the situation was similar.86 Musical training in Paris, for example, was highly regarded. In Prague and Vienna, early universities modelled on Paris, music lessons were specified within the curriculum. In England, there is documented evidence of the existence of B.Mus. and D.Mus. degrees from the late fifteenth century onwards.87 In 1464, the first firmly authenticated Bachelor of Music degree was awarded at Cambridge to one Henry Abyngdon, Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal to Edward IV.88 External candidates (usually well-established professional musicians) supplicated for these degrees on the basis of many years’ study of music external to the university, later also submitting a composition which was performed upon conferment of the degree. Thus both Thomas Morley and John Dowland gained a B.Mus. from Oxford on 8 July 1588. With time, increasing numbers of candidates supplicated for the degree, which in turn led to the standardisation of the requirements. Thus ‘The Laudian Statutes of 1636 codified the formula whereby candidates where required to have spent seven years in the study or practice of music for the B.Mus. and a further five years for the D.Mus., and to submit a composition (‘Canticum’) of five parts for the B.Mus., and of six or eight parts for the D.Mus., to be performed publicly in the School of Music.’89 The degree conferred the right (and often also the requirement) to teach. In 1626, William Heather endowed a Professorship in Music at Oxford. This provided for a lecturer in the science of music and also a choragus who would lead practical music-making on a weekly basis. Cambridge appointed its first Professor of Music in 1684, one Nicholas Staggins who was Charles II’s bandmaster.90 Until the nineteenth century, these posts were not always regularly filled, or when filled, not always with distinguished musicians. Similarly, it is

85 Ibid., 138. 86 For example, the universities of Bologna and Padua. For a summary of music education at the universities elsewhere in Europe, see ibid., 137–41. 87 S. Wollenberg, ‘Oxford’, Oxford Music Online, www.oxfordmusiconline.com. 88 J. Milsom, ‘Henry Abyngdon’, Oxford Music Online, www.oxfordmusiconline.com. 89 Wollenberg, ‘Oxford’. 90 For a history of the establishment of this post, see C. F. A. Williams, A Short Historical Account of the Degrees in Music at Oxford and Cambridge, London, Novello, [1893], p. 39.

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hard to gauge how well attended the weekly music practices held by the choragus were. According to Williams, ‘the musical practices soon dropped’.91 In fact, the most important sites for secular music-making (and by association, training) remain the numerous university music societies. It was the activities of the music societies in Oxford which led to the building of the first ‘purposebuilt public concert room in Europe’,92 the Holywell Music Room (1748). Arguably the turning point was in the nineteenth century. After the relative decline in educational standards in the eighteenth century, there now came a period when active, dedicated musicians (composers, conductors and/or organists) were appointed professors. At the same time, the focus of the formal degrees now shifted onto music history and composition, and later analysis. From 1918 it became a requirement for a music student to reside at Oxford. Various other reforms took place, ensuring that candidates would be competent composers and have a wide knowledge of musical history and style.93 Performers who thrived in this environment were chiefly organists, for example Samuel Wesley (B.Mus. and D.Mus. 1839). This emphasis on theory and history is understandable in the light of the creation of the new conservatoires which existed to provide practical training. The Faculty of Music in Oxford was created in 1944. At Cambridge, the Faculty of Music was opened in 1947, offering the Music Tripos. The current BA Honours (Music) at Oxford can incorporate some optional performance training, however the main emphasis is on theoretical elements of music. Performance is listed within the aims and outcomes, following the mention of historical, analytical and critical skills. At the time of writing the Oxford undergraduate syllabus suggests that: A clear division between intellectual and practical skills in the domain of music may be misleading, since many so-called practical skills have a pronounced intellectual dimension, as for instance interpretative and compositional skills. These by definition are forms of non-verbal discourse, but rich in intellectual content.

The Tripos is not dissimilar. At their best, university music departments and societies have played an important role in the revival of much early repertoire (for example the Handel oratorios at Cambridge in the 1920s and 1930s), and also the promotion of much contemporary music. The societies range from virtually professional pan-university organisations to college-based events. Many successful musicians have cut their teeth in this environment, and 91 Williams, Degrees, p. 36. 92 Wollenberg, ‘Oxford’. For a comprehensive history of the Cambridge music societies, see F. Knight, Cambridge Music: From the Middle Ages to Modern Times, Oleander Press, 1980. 93 For a discussion of these reforms, see Williams, Degrees, pp. 41–2.



equally importantly, made contacts which are then helpful in their professional careers. The British soprano Susan Gritton, for example, read botany at St Hilda’s, Oxford; during her time at the university, her musical interests were not formally supported, but flourished thanks to the enormous number of concert opportunities for amateur, and then, professional groups.

Inquiries and reports: changes in conservatoire training in Britain from the 1960s to the 1990s At the time the Higher Education Funding Council of England commissioned Sir John Tooley’s Review of Music Conservatoires (1998), the subject had been debated for over three decades. In 1965 a report Making Musicians for the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation recommended a reduction in conservatoire numbers and expanded teaching to bring about a necessary increase in quality, advocating a merger of three London institutions. Its proposals would have entailed considerable extra public expenditure at a time when the government was going through one of its recurrent financial crises; furthermore there was at that time no appetite for institutional mergers nor for a reduction in student numbers. Following a perceived deterioration in the training of professional musicians, the second Gulbenkian report Training Musicians (1978) recommended for conservatoires a concentration on training performers and instrumental teachers, extending courses to four years.94 Its recommendations ranged across the training of school-age musicians (especially the early identification of talent), the benefits of specialist music schools and the future of the music colleges. Some of the proposals, notably the provision of career advice within the conservatoire, have since been acted upon, for example at the Royal College of Music; many have not. In 1990 the Gowrie Report returned to the themes of merger and student numbers, recommending the creation of a new London conservatoire, incorporating the Royal College and Royal Academy of Music, with reduced numbers and increased funding per student. With no new building in prospect, its effect was limited to a joint opera school over the next decade. Tooley’s report some eight years later was supportive and sympathetic of the conservatoires’ achievements, noting that with the current focus on professional aims/objectives and their envied status, it is difficult to recall how strongly, only 30 years ago, the conservatoires could 94 In passing, Training Musicians noted the inferior funding arrangements of the London orchestras, noting that these were ‘dwarfed by the subsidy received by, for instance, the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam or the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’. See Training Musicians, London, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1978, p. 19.

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have been blamed for the shortage of orchestral players, and criticised for lacking clear objectives, for failing to differentiate professional from amateur needs, for producing too many ill-prepared people for the available jobs, and for accepting too many students through an open doors policy who ‘by accident or design entered as potential school teachers’. (p. 14)

He was able to report important changes in the standing of UK conservatoires, nourished by a willingness to embrace change that was illustrated by the replacement of diploma courses with four-year degree programmes (as recommended in 1978) and the development of postgraduate provision. All this had taken place during a period in which there had been ‘much to celebrate’ about British music in terms of its international profile, the pioneering extensions of musical institutions into the community, the place of music in the national curriculum (albeit compulsory only to age fourteen) and the recent wave of new concert halls. Tooley’s remit was principally to advise on patterns of employment of conservatoire graduates, implications for the desirable pattern of future training in the light of changes in the music profession and the relationship with university music departments. He noted changes in the profession relating to a new interest in portfolio careers within a climate of rising instrumental standards and a greater degree of individual versatility. Music’s social role had become more important. He noted the conservatoires’ strategic position as trainers for the music profession, combined with a parallel cultural responsibility to preserve and enhance music as an art form, while functioning as public institutions. The federated approach in the UK conservatoire sector recommended by Tooley has proved more challenging than he might have envisaged. But another of his concerns expressed in the immediate post-Thatcher era has proved enduring, as conservatoires continue to defend themselves against charges of elitism, whilst addressing issues of widening participation: Whilst entry standards to the conservatoires across the board are said to be higher than in living memory, concerns are expressed about the impact of changes in local authority instrumental services, which are a consequence of the introduction of local management of schools. Arrangements for providing instrumental lessons are altering in different ways around the country. In some cases, the local authority services have disappeared and in others they have been replaced by trusts or co-operatives. Concerns are that the opportunity to enjoy instrumental lessons may be reduced in certain geographic areas and the introduction of charges may have an impact on access. (p. 18)

Despite the continuing issues of access, conservatoires are responding rapidly to the demands of the profession, and examine their curricula regularly. As the field of musical study has broadened, the boundaries between the ‘knowing’



and the ‘doing’ of music have begun to blur. While older institutions tend to retain the traditional theory-rooted model of musical study, many newer institutions are offering training that embraces both practical and theoretical knowledge of music. New universities are seeking to incorporate higher standards of performance, and since 1998 conservatoires are challenging received notions of research through a growing body of performance-based scholarship. While some performance-based scholarship still presents challenges in terms of dissemination and, for the purposes of research assessment exercises within the UK, evaluation, there is no doubt that such work is transforming the face of performance training. One important recent development is the Bologna Declaration of 1999. This agreement was implemented in order to ensure validity of qualifications across Europe by ensuring comparability between educational institutions.95 For musical training, mobility is of great importance; the possibility of moving relatively freely between institutions within a ‘European Higher Education Area’ is an attractive one for musicians, for whom networking and mobility are central to training. As of 2009, no fewer than forty-six countries have acceded to the Bologna process.96

Case study: the Royal College of Music, London Since after the Second World War, the content of conservatoire training became more demanding and such training has become more or less mandatory for aspiring professionals. More recently, conservatoire training increasingly reflects the range of activities in which many musicians engage, including freelance playing in a number of different organisations (solo, chamber and/or orchestral playing), teaching, composition and arranging, studio-based work and animateuring, to name but some possibilities. In order to meet this need, conservatoires’ curricula are diversifying beyond the traditional model of individual teaching of common practice repertoire supplemented by a small amount of traditional theory and harmony. At the Royal College of Music,97 undergraduate options include Alexander Technique, music therapy, a wide

95 For a short discussion of the Bologna Agreement, see R. Smilde, Musicians as Lifelong Learners: Discovery through Biography, Delft, Eburon, 2009 and http://ec.europa.eu/education/higher-education/doc1290_en. htm. 96 Also relevant here is the 1997 study Europe’s Caprices: A Study of Violin Curricula in European Musical Institutions of Higher Learning undertaken by the Association Européenne des Conservatoires, Académies de Musique et Musikhochschulen. This study compares violin curricula across numerous European institutions, looking at factors such as weekly lesson provision, audition and examination requirements, and chamber/orchestral activities. 97 D. Wright (‘The South Kensington music schools and the development of the British conservatoire in the late nineteenth century’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 130/2 (2005), 236–82) outlines the background to the establishment of the Royal College of Music.

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range of studio-based options such as CD production, pop-song writing and electro-acoustic composition, outreach and teaching. Performance-based research is flourishing within the conservatoires, and at its best, it contributes to the training of performers by analysing their needs. One example at the Royal College of Music is the Centre for Performance Science which conducts research into key areas of performers’ experience such as practice techniques, performance anxiety, memorisation and widely known but rarely acknowledged professional issues such as alcohol and drug abuse. Other projects seek objectively to explore areas which have long been regarded as the realm of philosophers, for example how listeners evaluate performances of music.98 The core business, however, lies in the preparation of musicians for professional life. Central to this is liaison with professional performing bodies, recalling the model of the Leipzig conservatoire. The RCM maintains such partnerships with a number of professional orchestras including the orchestra of the English National Opera, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. These partnerships take a distinct form: selected students are paired with professional performers, who may provide some lessons but chiefly the students are allowed to attend and participate in rehearsals. These students may also get opportunities to stand in for regular players, thus recreating the ancient apprenticeship model. Places on such schemes are highly competitive; for example, the recent ‘Pathways’ scheme (with the BBC Symphony Orchestra) for second-year postgraduates is open to a single player on each orchestral instrument. Provision for historically informed performance involves professional ensembles in association, individual instrumental group coaching, the awakening of interest in modern instrument players through taster sessions and concert opportunities in both internal and external venues. For contemporary music, a resident ensemble works with student composers to give them training in writing idiomatically for various instruments, and also works with student instrumentalists. The RCM International Opera School offers similar pre-professional training with a broad overlap between study and professional work. Over two years, a student can expect to have at least one major role in the six operas which are put on with professional directors and conductors. These productions are attended by agents and the national press. The remainder of the course consists of intensive acting and language training provided by professionals shared with leading opera houses, singing lessons and coaching.

98 For details of projects and publications, see the website of the Centre for Performance History, www. legacyweb.rcm.ac.uk/cps/Home.



To ease the transition into running a career as a freelance musician, the RCM’s Woodhouse Centre provides career advice and performance opportunities. The Centre maintains contacts with various concert venues, but the students are given training in handling their own contracts and liaising with the clients. Employment in instrumental teaching is also offered. Outreach activities, which now feature in the portfolio of virtually all musical institutions, are also run from the centre, ranging from workshops with young children to compositional projects with people with Alzheimer’s disease and their carers. The educational activity taking place at the Royal College of Music seeks to respond to the changing needs of musicians. There is no doubt that these responses are necessary; Rineke Smilde’s recent study ‘Musicians as lifelong learners: Discovery through biography’ outlines many of the new skills that are required of musicians, setting the typically diverse range of professional activities a musician may undertake against the ancient and enduring model of master–apprentice learning supplemented by hours of practice, which lies at the heart of great musical training. This fundamental notion is captured in the words of Yonty Solomon, who taught piano at the RCM from 1977 until his death in 2008: As a teacher you have to have real imagination, you have to think over new ideas all the time. You have to have respect for the student and vice versa, that is really very important. . . . Teaching is a giving. You have got to give unstintingly. If they take it completely that is wonderful.99

99 Quoted in Smilde, Musicians, pp. 107–8.

. 6 .

Music and musical performance: histories in disjunction? DAVID WRIGHT

If you love music, hear it; go to operas, concerts and pay fiddlers to play to you; but I insist upon your neither piping nor fiddling yourself. It puts a gentleman in a very frivolous, contemptible light . . . Few things would mortify me more, than to see you bearing a part in a concert, with a fiddle under your chin, or a pipe in your mouth.1

The Earl of Chesterfield’s precept signals the disjuncture between the concepts of music and musical performance as perceived by a British aristocrat in the mid-eighteenth century: listening to music is something a nobleman might do and enjoy without compromise to his station in life, but to participate in its performance is to invite social stigma. And Adam Smith could observe that to work as a professional performer was a ‘sort of public prostitution’, and the ‘exorbitant rewards’ paid to the most admired players and opera singers both reflected the rarity and beauty of their talents, and compensated them for the social ‘discredit of employing them in this manner’. But Smith’s prediction that any lessening in society’s prejudice against performers would lead to a corresponding diminution of their earning potential was to prove very wide of the mark; it stands now as an indication of just how much the routine disparagement of performers and an accompanying ambivalence towards music’s cultural standing was to change.2 For not only was nineteenth-century Britain to prove one of the most lucrative earning grounds for superstar performers, but as a nation it also became serious about encouraging and training its own native performing talent, so as to be the better able to satisfy its appetite for music of all kinds. In 1881, Frederick Crowest, the critic and writer on music, for all that he resented the dominance of the foreign performer (‘nothing to recommend them but their long hair, their foreign accent, and an untidy appearance’) nevertheless recognised that until Britain had a

1 B. Dobrée (ed.), The Letters of Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1932, vol. 4, Letter 1633. 2 A. Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776), bk. I, ch. 10, pt. 1, pp. 123–4. The page references are to the ‘Modern Library’ edition, ed. E. Cannan, New York, Random House, 2000.




satisfactory system of musical education, ‘we must neither envy the foreign element in our places of honour, nor grudge [them] the large sums of money’. Crowest’s description of foreign performers echoes that of the Rev. H. R. Haweis, ‘players and singers from abroad whose chief merits seem to consist in long hair and a very imperfect acquaintance with the English language’, which suggests that the complaint enjoyed a common formulation.3 Lest the disdain of Chesterfield and Adam Smith be thought a peculiarly British affliction, laying the foundations for that epithetical slur, ‘the land without music’,4 the contrast between the funerals of Mozart and Beethoven indicates that a profound attitudinal shift had also taken place in Germanspeaking countries between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A mere thirty-six years separates Mozart’s interment into an unmarked grave, witnessed only by a priest and a sexton, from the extraordinary send-off to which Beethoven was treated. The procession of thousands (estimated at between 10,000 and 30,000) that accompanied Beethoven’s coffin to the church, taking some one-and-a-half hours to cover the 500 yards, has its epic representation in Franz Stober’s painting, Beethoven’s Funeral Procession.5 It was an occasion that could truly be said to have set the seal on composition’s new place in the cultural firmament, now perceived and valued in its own right as possessing creative and intellectual substance. ‘Sacralisation’, as the historian Tim Blanning uses the term, captures this sense of a different attitude (both more knowing and respectful) being accorded to music as an autonomous and self-sufficient aesthetic experience.6 The pictorial genre of what can only be called ‘worshipful listening’ powerfully represents this aesthetic in action, an ideal whose example was influentially propagated in the conventions of audience behaviour that John Ella established for his London chamber music society, the Musical Union.7 But we should remember that there was a hierarchy of veneration in this process: what was being ‘worshipped’ was the score, 3 F. Crowest, Phases of Musical England, London, Remington, 1881, pp. 300–1; H. R. Haweis, Music and Morals, London, Strahan, 1871, p. 73; the Royal College of Music with its modern curriculum was established in 1883, after Crowest had made his comment on British music education. 4 O. A. H. Schmitz, Das Land ohne Musik. Englische Gesellschaftsprobleme, Munich, G. Müller, 1914. 5 ‘Four funerals and a wedding: the sacralisation of music in the late eighteenth century’, a paper given in memory of Cyril Ehrlich by Tim Blanning to the Institute of Historical Research ‘Music in Britain’ Seminar in March 2005; T. Blanning, The Triumph of Music: The Rise of Composers, Musicians and their Art, London, Allen Lane, 2008. 6 T. Blanning, The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648–1815, London, Allen Lane, 2007, pp. 521–3; T. Blanning, ‘The commercialization and sacralization of European culture in the nineteenth century’, in T. Blanning (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern Europe, Oxford University Press, 1996, pp. 120–47; and T. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe 1660–1789, Oxford University Press, 2002, especially pp. 5–14 and 78–99. L. W. Levine discusses the process of cultural sacralisation in Highbrow/ Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1988. 7 C. Bashford, The Pursuit of High Culture: John Ella and Chamber Music in Victorian London, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2007, especially pp. 140–1 and 232–3.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


regardless of how exquisite a degree of adoration the audience seems to be showing to the officiants – the performers themselves – at this musical rite.8 The social and cultural constructions of the new market of eager and culturally aspirant bourgeois consumers firmly established compositions in the high-art tradition as music’s central focus.9 And significantly for the way that music’s history was to be constructed, it was the written text – the notated representation of the musical sound – rather than its performance which came to be understood as the embodiment (something more than just the means of its transmission) of the musical work, particularly in the case of music accorded canonic or exemplary status. It is hardly surprising that the musical score should have assumed such prime importance in an age when print was the means of widespread communication, and at a time when music could be made permanently accessible only in terms of its written text, and not its sounding state. Thus the score was the only way in which music could be made merchantable and turned into a potentially profitable commodity, a form of commercial opportunity that obviously increased with the spread of instrumental ownership and the burgeoning of musical activity in the nineteenth century. Developments such as lithography and stereotyping (the method used by the astutely venturous publisher Novello to produce its volume sales of octavo vocal scores) lowered the cost of music production, something that then enabled printed materials to be purchased in large quantities across a very broad social range. This point is tellingly illustrated by the diminishing unit cost of Handel’s Messiah. In 1837 an edition of Messiah was one guinea, but by 1854 it had dropped to four shillings for an octavo edition, and by the early 1860s this, and other, oratorios were available at one shilling.10 As the market further expanded in response to increasing consumer demand, so commercial retailing became more widespread, ensuring the steady supply and distribution of music, even to small communities. Dave Russell’s example drawn from northern British urban centres is striking: Bradford, with a population of nearly 300,000, had fortysix music dealers; Halifax, with a population of approximately 100,000, had eighteen; Batley, with its population of some 30,000, had four; and even Sowerby Bridge, with a population of only 7,500, had two shops which sold 8 Pictorial representation of idealised attitudes of devotional or worshipful listening, include Albert Graefle’s ‘Ludwig van Beethoven und die Intimen, dem Spiel desselben lauschend’, Moritz von Shwind’s ‘Die Symphonie’ and ‘A Schubert Evening at Spaun’s’, ‘Liszt conducting the premiere of his oratorio St Elisabeth in Budapest, August 1865’ (Illustrated London News). 9 On the Viennese situation see T. DeNora, Beethoven and the Construction of Genius: Musical Politics in Vienna, 1792–1803, Berkeley, University Press of California, 1995. 10 M. Miller, ‘The early Novello octavo editions’, in O. Neighbour (ed.), Music and Bibliography: Essays in Honour of Alec Hyatt King, London, Clive Bingley, 1980, pp. 160–9; see D. Russell, Popular Music in England, 1840–1914, 2nd edn, Manchester University Press, 1997, p. 173.



music.11 Not until the development of the new science of recording in the twentieth century was musical performance to become widely available in a durable form, its natural evanescence captured and preserved by sound technology. Recording technology means that the condition of music in our own day is fundamentally different from that which Adam Smith so pithily characterised as being necessarily inseparable from the actions of the performers creating it, because it left behind no tangible or vendible commodity, and perished ‘in the very instant of its production’.12 Musical notation endowed compositions with a durable and transmissible format, which meant that in the process of canon formation undertaken by Austro-German scholars (discussed later in the chapter) works and their creators became the primary focus of musicology. This can be seen in the influential tabulation of the field of musicology drawn up by Guido Adler.13 This tabular survey makes but one mention of performance, and that only as a quantifiable measure within the category of ancillary disciplines (‘Biographical studies of musicians, statistics relating to musical associations, institutions and performances’).14 The treatment of composition as a synecdoche for ‘music’ offered musicology a pragmatic means to establish an order on this notoriously complex art form, with the result that its history was constructed into the familiar, classical grand narrative with its constituent periods of musical endeavour. Thus the privileging of the musical work as text, above the musical work as sound, was something of a ‘common sense’ solution to the ephemeral and therefore problematic condition of performance, which continued to defy embodiment as a historical phenomenon until the invention of recording. Until this technology, the closest that performance came to its historical representation, again in printed format, was through a succession of performance treatises. It is indicative of the historical situation that for much of the twentieth century, the performance domain should have been treated in a positivist manner, establishing verifiable performance practices from the ‘how to’ manuals of François Couperin, C. P. E. Bach, Quantz, Leopold Mozart and others, rather than by treating musical performance in terms of social interaction and cultural

11 Russell, Popular Music, p. 179. 12 Smith, The Wealth of Nations, bk. II, ch. 3, pt. 2, p. 361; see also the Peacock Committee’s A Report on Orchestral Resources in Great Britain (The Arts Council of Great Britain, 1970), p. 48, and A. Peacock and R. Weir, The Composer in the Market Place, London, Faber, 1975, pp. 14–18. 13 G. Adler, ‘Umfang, Methode und Ziel der Musikwissenschaft’, Vierteljahrsschrift für Musikwissenschaft, vol. 1 (1885), 16–17. 14 B. Bujic, Music in European Thought 1851–1912, Cambridge University Press, 1988, pp. 348–55; and K. C. Karnes, Music, Criticism and the Challenge of History: Shaping Modern Musical Thought in Late Nineteenth– Century Vienna, Oxford University Press, 2008, especially pp. 4–11 and 38–44. For an influential exegesis of the philosophical issues and the development of the work-concept, see L. Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music, rev. edn, Oxford University Press, 2007.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


practice. Thus a whole dimension of music history was left frustratingly incomplete. And as the nineteenth century progressed, so the intellectual and cultural environment demanded histories of music that were essentially accounts of great compositions complemented by the attendant fashioning of the lives of their composers. But as far as broader consideration of music went, the context and significance of performers was rarely discussed (except for the personas, social exploits and exploitative economics of megastar virtuosi); indicative is the fact that not until the rise of the ‘authentic’ performance movement in the later twentieth century was sustained analytical consideration given to performance practice issues. What is especially striking about the British musical context discussed in this chapter is the dichotomy between performance and composition brought about by the way that traditional music history has been written. Seen from today’s perspective it does indeed appear odd that there should need to be two sorts of histories dealing with the same musical culture, one about composers and one about performers and their audiences; and furthermore that these histories should be so different in many respects – narratives separated by a common art, as it were. Changing the academic environment, so that works and their creators should not automatically be the primary focus of musical enquiry, required a new historiography and the intellectual caesura of postmodernism.

Historiographies Oscar Schmitz’s 1914 dismissal of Britain as the ‘land without music’ has long been ubiquitous as the authoritative de facto judgement.15 But Schmitz was a journalist, a writer on society and on esoteric subjects, not a musician, and this book is a sort of travelogue of his impressions of British society. Schmitz used the phrase ‘land without music’ as a metaphor for his diagnosis of the central flaw of the British condition, which he expressed somewhat metaphysically as its capacity for appreciating a thing’s external qualities rather than its ‘true inwardness’.16 Schmitz felt this preference for surface rather than substance explained why the British were better at consuming music rather than composing it, their recognition of the feats of soloists leading them to treat musical virtuosi rather as the champions of a particular sport.17 Perhaps because of its German provenance, his verdict, ‘the English are the only cultured race without a music of their own (music hall ditties excepted)’,18 was used as further justification by British critics for their routine disparagement of the national 15 Schmitz, Das Land ohne Musik, trans. H. Herzl as The Land without Music, London, Jerrolds, [1926]. The following references are to this translation. 16 Ibid., p. 17. 17 Ibid., p. 83. 18 Ibid., p. 26.



musical culture, and the epithet stuck. Schmitz’s continuation, ‘I say music of their own, for perhaps more foreign music is performed in England than in any other country’,19 was overlooked, not that this sentiment was intended to convey any sort of approval: to Schmitz, the cosmopolitan nature of British musical consumption was yet more alarming evidence of that lack of discernment in British audiences which further underlined the poverty of their inward life.20 Still, however unsystematic and impressionistic the basis of his judgements, Schmitz was indeed correct in picking up on the breadth of British musical taste; and the curiosity and openness that fuelled this receptivity in turn provided the underlying motivation for the writing (and the subsequent public take-up) of Grove’s Dictionary, as Grove makes clear in his Preface to the first edition. The fact that Schmitz’s phrase gained such currency was not just because it offered journalists such a good tag, but because it also played very much to the priorities of established music history. As will be discussed later in the chapter, commentators such as G. A. Macfarren and H. R. Harweis had already done much to establish the British neurosis that its musical life was significantly inadequate because it lacked sufficient home-grown compositions to match the substantive artistic reputation of Austro-German works. This circumstance made it all too easy to discount the burgeoning of all kinds of performance traditions in Britain, as well as the British enthusiasm for playing, singing and listening to an extraordinarily wide range of music. Only very belatedly has all this activity begun to receive its proper recognition, as recent studies into the social history of British music have generated a very different type of contextual investigation. Perhaps most indicative of this situation was the fact that E. D. Mackerness, the author of one of the first serious social histories of British music, was a Lecturer in English Literature (his book was published in the series ‘Studies in Social History’, edited by the social historian Harold Perkin); that Cyril Ehrlich’s hugely influential study of the music profession in Britain was the work of a social and economic historian; and that Ruth Finnegan’s pioneering investigation into the life of amateur musicians and the range of often hidden musical activities and usually unremarked upon performers within a single English town in the 1980s, was written by a social anthropologist.21 These

19 Ibid. 20 For a recent discussion of Schmitz’s book in the context of the English musical renaissance, see J. Schaarwächter, ‘Chasing a myth and a legend: “The British Musical Renaissance” in a “Land without Music” ’, Musical Times (Autumn, 2008), 53–60. 21 E. D. Mackerness, A Social History of English Music, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964; C. Ehrlich, The Music Profession in Britain since the Eighteenth Century: A Social History, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1985; R. Finnegan, The Hidden Musicians: Music-Making in an English Town, 2nd edn, Middletown, CT, Wesleyan University Press, 2007.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


writers brought a new, and more systematic focus on music’s social and economic context, and on the ways that cultural, educational and market factors have influenced and shaped its performance and reception across society. In turn, they influenced other studies, with the result that our understanding of British musical life has been transformed.22 Such accounts of what British society consumed and the ways in which it did so, show the burgeoning of performance in nineteenth-century Britain, both amateur and professional. This happened as the effects of economic prosperity, increasing amounts of leisure time and higher social expectations kicked in, creating new patterns of musical consumption and enjoyment, not only amongst the bourgeoisie, but also amongst large sections of the growing urban working population. Musicmaking became an intensive activity, vigorously and skilfully taken up right across British society, with a striking proliferation of amateur music-making across a gamut of informal local activities, as well as more formal performances in which the professional and amateur spheres often met.23 The pressures of sustaining all this activity were often considerable, and in some communities it required strong motivation and physical effort from audiences and performers alike. The informal reports of musical events found in private letters and diaries are often more valuable than ‘official’ printed accounts, because they can have that whiff of immediacy and candour that conveys a real sense of the occasion.24 As technological developments in music printing lowered the price of sheet music, so new industrial processes in the manufacture of musical instruments reduced their cost and opened them up to domestic ownership as never

22 Inter alia, see R. Nettel, Music in the Five Towns 1840–1914, Oxford University Press, 1944; Russell, Popular Music; R. Pearsall, Edwardian Popular Music, Rutherford, NJ, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1975; C. Ehrlich, The Piano: A History, rev. edn, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990; L. Foreman, Music in England 1885–1920 as Recounted in Hazell’s Annual, London, Thames Publishing, 1994; M. Musgrave, The Musical Life of the Crystal Palace, Cambridge University Press, 1995; A. Blake, The Land without Music: Music, Culture and Society in Twentieth-Century Britain, Manchester University Press, 1997; G. Williams, Valleys of Song: Music and Society in Wales 1840–1914, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1998; C. Bashford and L. Langley (eds.), Music and British Culture 1785–1914: Essays in Honour of Cyril Ehrlich, Oxford University Press, 2000; P. Gillett, Musical Women in England, 1870–1914, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2000; T. Herbert (ed.), The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History, Oxford University Press, 2000; D. Scott, The Singing Bourgeois, 2nd edn, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2001; J. Richards, Imperialism and Music: Britain 1876– 1953, Manchester University Press, 2001; J. Lowerson, Amateur Operatics: A Social and Cultural History, Manchester University Press, 2005; M. Handford, Sounds Unlikely: Music in Birmingham, rev. edn, Studley, Brewin, 2006; R. Cowgill and P. Holman (eds.), Music in the British Provinces, 1690–1914, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2007; J. Doctor, N. Kenyon and D. Wright (eds.), The Proms: A New History, London, Thames & Hudson, 2007. From a more sociological perspective, see P. J. Martin, Sounds and Society: Themes in the Sociology of Music, Manchester University Press, 1995. 23 P. Gillett, ‘Ambivalent friendships: music-lovers, amateurs, and professional musicians in the late nineteenth century’, in Bashford and Langley (eds.), Music and British Culture, pp. 321–40. 24 For an examination of the context underlying the accounts of a particular segment of the London audience, see J. L. Hall-Witt, ‘Representing the audience in the Age of Reform: critics and the elite at the Italian Opera in London’, in Bashford and Langley (eds.), Music and British Culture, pp. 122–44.



before. The soaring market for pianos is usually cited in this context,25 but it was as equally significant to the manufacturing of brass and woodwind instruments, with one result being the rise of the factory brass band, often endowed by the factory or mill owner who saw the benefit of such investment in his workforce as a form of rational recreation and an alternative to drink.26 In commenting on the distribution of professional musicians across the country, Dave Russell makes the important point that ‘Industrial centres were not less inherently ‘musical’ than commercial ones . . . Many smaller towns also had extensive networks of part-time teachers, often manual workers. Simply, the larger centres were blessed with a higher proportion of middle-class and lower middle-class families with the level of disposable income that could sustain a significant professional musical community.’27 Though the piano and the brass band are often represented as symbolising music-making at contrasting extremes of the social spectrum, as we shall see, there was considerably more overlap in terms of repertoire than such representation of social division might otherwise imply. In his iconoclastic history of the English working class, a landmark of ‘history from below’, E. P. Thompson’s graphic phrase, ‘the enormous condescension of posterity’ characterised his view that the aspirations of individuals ‘were valid in terms of their own experience’.28 In John Burrow’s words, ‘To the emerging historical sensibility, cultures and the collective identities they helped to constitute, were “made” by their participants, mainly anonymously, in sustaining a particular collective way of life.’29 The approaches and methodologies generated by these fresh historical perspectives – a counterbalance to the ‘affairs of nations’ focus of history’s grand narratives – can similarly be used to help performance history avoid a Procrustean musicological framework. They suggest wider ways of treating the ‘what did they perform’ and ‘why did they perform it’ questions of music programming. And instead of the habitual preoccupation with how far programmes conform to, or deviate from, the more abstract norms of a central musical canon – music history’s own grand narrative – the interpretation can be related to more contingent, local circumstances or wider distribution patterns (such as opera company tours or concert

25 See especially Ehrlich, The Piano. 26 T. Herbert, ‘Nineteenth-century bands: making a movement’, in Herbert (ed.), The British Brass Band, pp. 10–67. 27 D. Russell, Looking North: Northern England and the National Imagination, Manchester University Press, 2004, pp. 210–11. 28 E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, London, Penguin, 1963; citation from the 1980 edn, p. 12. 29 J. Burrow, A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century, London, Allen Lane, 2007, p. 504.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


society circuits).30 The focus of investigation might then be on what communities chose to listen to (and how this choice related to their circumstances) when it was left up to them, and how they reacted to the music that visiting performers chose to play to (or at) them – did the musical experiences brought by outside artists change local musical perspectives and so influence future programming choices? A recent model for this type of approach that uses a wide range of evidence, including the results of audience plebiscites, is Leanne Langley’s investigation into Berlioz reception in England and the impact that Berlioz’s music made upon the orchestral culture and aesthetic perceptions of the time.31 Interpreting the data in this way can explain differences in programming tastes between metropolitan and provincial centres, and between different regional and local communities. For example, The Times review of Gounod’s The Redemption in the 1902 Norwich Music Festival gives more space to castigating the music committee for its conservatism in programming it than to its performance: ‘the former popularity of which [The Redemption], though long worn out in the other musical centres of England ensures it an honoured place in the Norwich Festival. [Audiences will need to decrease] before the amateurs of the eastern counties will realize the terrible weakness and insipidity of the work so loudly proclaimed as a chef d’oeuvre exactly 20 years ago.’32 British musical life through the period discussed in this chapter was so lively precisely because people preferred to perform, and have performed to them, a great variety of music, as well as a huge quantity of it, across all the country. Thus the degree of variety itself becomes an important characteristic of the vigour of the British musical environment. But ‘variety’ (in this diversity sense) is no virtue in traditional music history. Instead, its ideal musical environment is one characterised by a convergence of taste, in which the canonical repertoire is uniformly prized in the context of a high art/low art tension. But if performance history is to relate successfully to its own social and cultural milieux, it cannot privilege one type of repertoire above another.

Lumping together or classifying apart: ephemera, repertoire and canon The programming discussed later covers a wide mix of music, some of which is no longer encountered, and composers whose names no longer resonate with

30 For an example of how such distribution patterns affected opera repertoire, see R. Beale, ‘Opera in Manchester, 1848–1899’, Manchester Sounds, 6 (2005–6), 71–97. 31 L. Langley, ‘Agency and change: Berlioz in Britain, 1870–1920’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 132/2 (2007), 306–48. 32 The Times, 25 October 1902.



us today, or only do so in a specialist context. Eclectic programmes can be difficult to interpret, while the logic behind single- or few-item programmes is usually clearer. One complication is that our current understanding of what constitutes inventive programming is very different from that of a century or so past. Partly this is a consequence of the revolution in programme building initiated by William Glock, who in his Prom seasons (1960–73) often patterned concerts on the basis of sharply contrasting works, an example that was widely followed.33 Our modern-day expectations and judgements have therefore been shaped in a very different cultural context. When we look at a historical programme, what we are usually left with is just a list of pieces and performers – the carcass of the event, metaphorically speaking – from which its original conception and motivating energy has long since departed. But by putting the event back in its context, we may begin to reconstitute it; and it can be a salutary part of this process to remember that each of these archived programmes once had meaning for their performers, promoters and audiences, and that these particular works were grouped together for a reason. The programmes discussed later are drawn from different contexts. Their local circumstances (in matters of taste, social situation, economics, musical resources) will be more readily observable in some rather than others. But what is interesting is the wide enthusiasm shown for tackling the demands of major, canonical, works – some in transcription. The motivations for this will differ in each case. But what seems clear is that the history of musical performance in Britain at this time has much in common with its intellectual history. This takes inspiring form in Jonathan Rose’s historical survey of the often autodidactic reading patterns of the British working classes. Very relevant to the issue of canon and performance history is a question Rose poses, ‘If the dominant class defines high culture, how do we explain the passionate pursuit of knowledge by proletarian autodidacts, not to mention the pervasive philistinism of the British aristocracy?’34 Despite their common currency, and usefulness as more generic labels, ‘canon’ and ‘repertoire’ are not altogether straightforward terms when it comes to applying them at the micro-level of performance history. At issue are the relativities of different performance contexts, and by too readily resorting to the terminology of canon and repertoire, it is easy to misconstrue these. A work might be ‘canonic’ to one community of performers and their 33 I discuss Glock’s approach to programme building in ‘Reinventing the Proms’, in Doctor, Kenyon and Wright (eds.), The Proms: A New History, pp. 168–209, and in ‘Concerts for coteries, or music for all? Glock’s Proms reconsidered’, Musical Times (Autumn 2008), 3–34. 34 J. Rose, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2001, p. 4.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


audience, and not to another; it may be rejected by one as of little interest or musical worth, but be valued elsewhere (perhaps in a different region) for vividly expressing emotions that feel connected to particular circumstance. Though time may show a work’s general take-up was insufficient to give it more than a passing local impact, even so, following E. P. Thompson, the performance experience was still valid for those who valued it. It is because they need to be carefully nuanced, that canon and repertoire are more serviceable deployed empirically within discussion as subsidiary points of reference, rather than being constantly foregrounded. In an attempt to ground these terms more usefully within the performance context, this discussion draws on the classification proposed by Dorothy de Val and Cyril Ehrlich in their helpfully pragmatic treatment of these issues.35 They observed the contrast between the large amount of piano repertoire of all types, and the relatively small proportion of it that continued to be played across the generations. They labelled as ‘ephemera’ music that was swiftly discarded, and drew distinction between the different kinds of repertoire and the exemplary status of the canon. In the present context, Ephemera typifies music such as ballads, music-hall songs, drawing-room music, or domestic or band transcriptions of music in vogue (whether concert hall, opera or operetta). It is often music that captures the social context or spirit of the moment, whether in the form of the commodity music of entertainment, other ‘useful’ music for the everyday, or music that represents the earnest reaction to some national mood, secular or spiritual. Songs in this category offer the social historian valuable insights and a sense of context as a record of otherwise transient feelings and emotions.36 Performers and publishers each relied on ephemera for daily income; the equivalent of a cash crop, it kept performers in everyday employment and provided publishers with the turnover they needed to balance their longer-term investment in the slower but steadier income from their repertoire and canonic music lists. Before the recent challenges of postmodern thinking, ‘canonic’, in music as in literature, was a term reserved for classic works by great composers. Such works were generally agreed to possess an exemplariness that made them touchstones of the art-music tradition. They were esteemed not only for their individual musical qualities, but also for possessing an expressive substance that transcended their own society and historical time, and which gave them a sense of immutability. A permanent physical presence was also witness 35 D. de Val and C. Ehrlich, ‘Repertory and Canon’, in D. Rowland (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Piano, Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 117–34. 36 For two treatments of some of this repertoire see Scott, The Singing Bourgeois, and Richards, Imperialism and Music.



to canonic status, and this came through the constant production of new performance editions, appearances in anthologies (particularly relevant to keyboard music), and by the collected or ‘monumental’ composer editions that were intended for library shelves. In their outline of the role that music played in the process of German cultural formation, Celia Applegate and Pamela Potter comment that these musical monuments ‘served as a sonic counterpart to the many statues . . . that patriotic burghers erected in town squares and city parks during the monument frenzy in Germany dating from the 1860s’.37 As well as their commercial potential, practical or performance editions offered important spin-offs for performers and publishers alike. If prepared by a superstar virtuoso, a publisher’s music list gained status through the association. For the virtuoso concerned, it was the only possible means to set down in a permanent form his personal interpretations of the great masters; in other words, these editions were the nineteenth-century print equivalent of making a recording. Therefore, they were liberally marked up with personal approaches in matters of tempos, fingering, phrasing and textual amendments in an attempt to convey the essence of how they played these works. This gave these editions a market appeal to the many who may have heard the virtuoso play but from whom lessons were out of the question. The intention behind such editions has often been misunderstood, and derided in this Urtext age as wilful interference with the composer’s text, so missing their point as being about the preservation and transmission of an interpretation. Busoni’s celebrated performance edition of Bach’s Wohltemperierte Klavier illustrates this point.38 He begins it with a polemical Introduction that justifies the custom of ‘modernising’ Bach (by occasionally retouching the musical text or by transcription), because of Bach’s ‘Outsoaring his time by generations, his thoughts and feelings reached proportions for whose expression the means then at command were inadequate’. Busoni then gives extensive commentary on performing these pieces, indicating his preferences for pedalling, touch, tempo, phrasing and atmosphere.39 Repertoire covers a broader grouping that is more helpfully divided into ‘core’ repertoire (‘what has stayed’) and ‘current’ repertoire (‘what is played’).40 37 C. Applegate and P. Potter, ‘Germans as the “People of Music”: genealogy of an identity’, in C. Applegate and P. Potter (eds.), Music and German National Identity, University of Chicago Press, 2002, pp. 1–35; the quotation is on p. 14. 38 F. Busoni (ed.), The Well-Tempered Clavichord by Johann Sebastian Bach: Revised, Annotated, and Provided with Parallel Examples and Suggestions for the Study of Modern Pianoforte-Technique, New York, Schirmer, [1894]. 39 The commentary for the E flat minor Prelude and Fugue (No. 8 of Book One) is especially personal and fulsome. 40 Excellent résumés of changing repertoires in two taste-creating institutions are: C. Ehrlich, First Philharmonic, Appendix 1 (‘The Evolution of the Repertoire’), pp. 243–7; N. Kenyon, ‘Planning the Proms yesterday, today, tomorrow’, in Doctor, Kenyon and Wright (eds.) The Proms: A New History,

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


Though there is often overlap between ‘canonic’ and ‘core repertoire’ works, the two are not synonymous: there are, for example, many perennial favourites in the core repertoire that would not be considered canonic. Decisions about the current repertoire of what is played are often conditioned by the performer’s own experience of what they have encountered (today very much broadened by the expanded repertoire on CD and with opportunities for more inclusive programming), or what they have been taught. Joseph Kerman puts it directly: ‘Repertoires are determined by performers.’41 Thus the ‘what is played’ repertoire will change across generations, when fashions and tastes change, as is evident in some of the programmes cited later. But do performers determine the repertoire they play? Or is the current repertoire (the ‘what is played’) at any given moment, also as much about the mediating force of the consumers’ wallet on performers’ pockets? For Victorian and Edwardian performers, lucrative rewards came from the crossover repertoires in which different musical interests found common ground. One striking example of audience overlap was the operetta, particularly the Savoy operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, which provided a source of solace to some aristocratic patrons who took their culture rather more lightly, as well as to the bourgeoisie they affected to despise; several G&S operas were to become established favourites of operatic societies across the country.42 And by the end of the nineteenth century, music-hall variety programmes brought a wide range of society under one roof, and provided an important income source for orchestral instrumentalists as well as variety artistes.43 Ross McKibbin’s description of musical taste captures this milieu of overlapping repertoires: ‘The great majority of the English were attached to two forms of music – middlebrow and popular – and for many, their attachment to one or the other was not exclusive.’ Though McKibbin was relating this to the context of the post-First World War situation, it was just as applicable at any time in the previous half-century, a point that Dave Russell makes: ‘the repertoire of the period was very often not class-specific. There was a vast

table I: ‘Symphonies at the Proms 1895–2005’, pp. 266–7. For an insight into Hallé’s choice of repertoire, see R. Beale, Charles Hallé: A Musical Life, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2007, Appendix 4 (‘Most frequently performed works in Hallé’s Manchester concerts 1857–1895’), pp. 252–3. 41 J. Kerman, ‘A few canonic variations’, Critical Inquiry, 10/1 (1983), 112 42 See Lowerson, Amateur Operatics. 43 F. Anstey, (‘London Music Hall’, Harpers Monthly Magazine, 91 (1891)), cited by D. Hoher in, ‘The composition of music hall audiences 1850–1900’, in P. Bailey (ed.), Music Hall: The Business of Pleasure, Milton Keynes, Open University Press, 1986, pp. 73–92; see also D. [Hoher] Kift, The Victorian Music Hall: Culture, Class and Conflict, Cambridge University Press, 1996, and P. Bailey, Popular Culture and Performance in the Victorian City, Cambridge University Press, 1998; for some examples of the significance of the halls as employers of orchestral musicians, see P. A. Scholes, The Mirror of Music: A Century of Musical Life, 2 vols., London, Novello and Oxford University Press, 1947, vol. 1, p. 509.



middle ground that became common property.’44 From the evidence of the repertoires that were being performed, the later nineteenth century was indeed the formative period of the ‘middlebrow’ market. And the importance of what McKibbin calls this ‘established middlebrow canon of very eclectic origins’ was that this canon ‘was what most people understood by classical music’.45 A good example of ‘middlebrow’ taste continuing in a traditional mixed format was Alan Keith’s long-running radio programme, Your Hundred Best Tunes (1959–2007), which he presented up to his death in 2003 at the age of ninety-four. At one time hugely popular, the programme was a modern-day equivalent of a Victorian concert format that was truly middlebrow in its mélange of orchestral, choral and operatic excerpts and ballads, originally chosen by Keith and then by polls of listeners. This cultural middle ground formed the financial basis of such series as the Queen’s Hall Newman–Wood Promenade concerts, which began in 1895.46 The preponderance of enthusiasm for ‘middlebrow’ repertoires ensured that the question of musical taste continued to be in active contention, with the champions of the musically ineffable vigorously contesting the ground with those they considered mere vulgarians; Henry Wood’s comment on Robert Newman’s ambition, ‘He wanted the public to come to love great music’, is illustrative.47 The new London audiences created for concerts through astute programming had important consequences for musicians, with an increase in the number of London’s ‘established’ orchestras (though the players remained freelance). A rebellion by members of the Queen’s Hall orchestra in protest against Wood’s banning of deputies led to the founding of the London Symphony Orchestra as a players’ co-operative; there was also the New Symphony Orchestra (later the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra) which Beecham conducted for a short time before he established his own, eponymous, orchestra in 1909.48

44 R. McKibbin, Classes and Cultures: England 1918–1951, Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 386; Russell, Popular music, p. 9. 45 McKibbin, Classes and Cultures, p. 416. 46 For an account of the interaction of economic, social and musical factors involved in this venture, see L. Langley, ‘Building an orchestra, creating an audience: Robert Newman and the Queen’s Hall Promenade Concerts, 1895–1926’, in Doctor, Kenyon and Wright (eds.), The Proms, pp. 32–73. 47 H. Wood, My Life of Music, London, Victor Gollancz, 1938, p. 68. For an interesting and strongly supportive discussion of the benefits of the Proms to musical life, see the review, ‘The Promenade Concerts’, The Times, 14 August 1909. 48 For valuable explanations of the quadrille-like manoeuvres of London’s musical life of the time in addition to Langley, above, see Lucas, Thomas Beecham, Ehrlich, The Music Profession, and McVeigh and Ehrlich, ‘The modernisation of London concert life’. On the founding and early life of the LSO see R. Morrison, Orchestra: The LSO: A Century of Triumph and Turbulence, London, Faber, 2004.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


The British context To illustrate these themes in greater detail the remainder of this chapter explores three performance areas from the latter part of the ‘long’ nineteenth century, that unfashionable period of British music usually written off by most histories as something of a musical desert. Each of these performance cultures – the choral society, the brass band and the domain of municipal music – was vital in its own terms and significant for their respective supporting communities. These cultures reflect the process of music’s democratisation across all strands of society, something that occurred as part of a complex interplay of major economic and social change.49 As E. D. Mackerness commented, ‘The social history of English music in the nineteenth century is largely a history of the manner in which a vastly increased demand for music of all kinds was met.’50 However, the question of who was actually playing, and what they performed was, until fairly recently, only rarely considered. Consequently, the role of successful (i.e. high-selling and frequently performed) but less-than-great works (however well written) in building audiences and creating demand has been under-recognised.51 In the period after 1850, as instrument purchase grew enormously, we see the takeoff of the piano and domestic music markets, as well as the band and choral society markets, all of which are reflected in the number of publications registered for copyright at Stationers Hall. In 1850, this stood at 1,142; in 1880 at 4,432; in 1900 at 7,114 and in 1914 at 11,436 – statistical testimony to the huge market demand for music to be played, sung and enjoyed, totals which are almost certainly significant underestimates of the number of items actually published.52 But instead of the British musical history of this period being characterised in terms of performance and by the successful range of works composed or transcribed for brass and wind bands,53 the choral societies, church choirs and for domestic music-making, musicology’s constant ambition was to (re)construct British music history on the great composer lines. Had an account of British musical activity in its own terms been

49 We gain a vivid sense of the intensity of musical activity in Britain through publications such as Hazell’s Annual; Lewis Foreman reproduces their annual digest in his Music in England 1885–1920. 50 Mackerness, A Social History of English Music, p. 153. 51 I discuss some of the economic implications as related to composers’ earnings in ‘Situating Stainer’, Musical Times, 149 (2008), 95–103. 52 D. W. Krummel, ‘Music Publishing’, in N. Temperley (ed.), The Athlone History of Music in Britain, vol. 5: The Romantic Age, 1800–1914, London, The Athlone Press, 1981, 46–59, Table 1. 53 Russell (Popular Music, p. 205) cites contemporary estimates of between 30,000 and 40,000 wind bands in 1889!



written, it would have opened up an entirely different perspective on, and understanding of, music’s place in nineteenth-century Britain. From it we should have seen Britain not as a ‘land without music’, but as a land of vigorous musical energy. Moreover, Britain, through its exporting of musicians, instruments, compositions and the graded music exam system, strongly influenced musical practice all across its Empire.54 The general lack of social respectability, let alone standing, accorded to musicians was changed by bourgeois society’s demand for music and for music instruction. By the final years of the nineteenth century there had been a remarkable turn about in the proliferation and quality of London concert life performed to increasingly discerning audiences.55 Perhaps this is most clearly evident in terms of the greater demands of technical skill, blended ensemble and musical sophistication made on performers by the popular modern repertoire of composers such as Berlioz and Wagner. And music’s enhancement of pleasure activities had made it the essential accompaniment to a wide range of sophisticated pastimes and amusements designed to fill the increase of leisure time. Theatres, music halls and variety palaces, not to mention hotels, restaurants and tearooms, all provided daily employment for substantial numbers of musicians as the supply of music had become ubiquitous, and musical life was quick to adapt to the needs of the newly fashionable activity of shopping in London’s West End. And although something like Henry Irving’s 300-guinea commission in 1891 to the young Edward German for incidental music to the play Henry VIII was clearly an exceptional sum, it indicates how integral music was to Irving’s production.56 All the more reason, then, for composers to focus their energies to satisfy evident consumer demand with functional music for immediate use. Each of the well-established markets of choral societies, church and theatre gave the composer a real chance

54 S. Banfield (‘Towards a history of music in the British Empire: three export studies’, in K. DarianSmith, P. Grimshaw and S. Macintyre (eds.), Britishness Abroad: Transnational Movements and Imperial Cultures, Melbourne University Publishing, 2007, pp. 63–89) illustrates the case in relation to organ building, Stanford’s émigré pupils and music examinations. See also, Richards, Music and Imperialism, and D. Bythell, ‘The Brass Band in the Antipodes: the transplantation of British popular culture’, in Herbert (ed.), The British Brass Band, pp. 217–44. 55 S. McVeigh and C. Ehrlich, ‘The Modernisation of London concert life around 1900’, in M. Talbot (ed.), The Business of Music, Liverpool University Press, 2002, pp. 96–120. 56 Ibid.; C. Ehrlich, ‘The first hundred years’, in J. MacRae (ed.), Wigmore Hall 1901–2001: A Celebration, London, Wigmore Hall Trust, 2001, pp. 31–65, and E. Rappaport, Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London’s West End, Princeton University Press, 2000. L. and S. Foreman (London: A Musical Gazetteer, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2005) bring together a considerable amount of relevant material. Sir Henry Irving’s extensive and committed use of music in his theatre is set out in J. Richards, Sir Henry Irving: A Victorian Actor and his World, Hambledon, NY, and London, 2005, especially pp. 241–58; indicative of the enormous popularity of this music for the domestic market are the royalties German received for his piano arrangement of the Three dances: £273 in 1894 (on 21,864 copies sold) and £235 in 1895 (18,192 sold, 1,150 to New York), BL Add. MS 69523, p. 896.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


of making a financial return on his labour, as opposed to the much more speculative prospects offered by the less-developed British market for ‘high art’ concert music. Arthur Sullivan’s success in the Savoy operas illustrates the British composer’s dilemma extremely well. The ideological issues were clearly pinpointed in an obituary in the Cornhill Magazine by J. A. Fuller Maitland, a music establishment figure and influential critic, whose denigrating verdict of Sullivan was that, ‘such natural gifts – gifts greater, perhaps than fell to any English musician since the time of Purcell – were so very seldom employed in any work worthy of them’.57 Before the impact of broadcasting, musical values and practices were much more sharply varied along regional and even local lines, as communities continued to express strongly held preferences in their programmes and music-making. But across the country we see a core of strongly established works that were featured at different levels of performance attainment; often such classics tended to define the capability of the ensemble concerned. Thus Stainer’s The Crucifixion (1887) with its musical narrative and integrated congregational hymns was composed to meet the market needs of an amateur church choir and its sustaining community of worshippers. Its appeal lay in the way that it invested uncomplicated emotionalism and occasional moments of musical drama within an essentially straightforward musical idiom. And Stainer’s music was calculated to offer a rewarding experience and to fulfil the taste expectations of performers and audience alike. In its first decade, 88,623 vocal scores had been sold (generating Stainer some £785 in royalties), as had 362,000 copies of the libretto consisting of text and hymns.58 On a different musical level, the emotional directness of Handel’s Messiah helped to account for its perennial appeal to audiences of many different types, but its difficulties posed problems to groups of less proficient performers. This helps explain the many different local formats in which the Messiah was encountered. These ranged from the musically aspiring but limited local choruses who could manage a chorus and an aria or two, to the fully-fledged orchestral performances envisaged as a crowd-puller (and the financial rescue) of larger and more proficient societies.59 As we have seen, the appeal of good music, and the desire to enjoy it, was the potent force behind adaptation of classical and operatic repertoires for the brass band, in arrangements that brought such music to communities for whom 57 J. A. Fuller Maitland, ‘Sir Arthur Sullivan’, Cornhill Magazine, new series, 10 (1901), 300–9. 58 BL Add. MS 69522, p. 958. 59 We get a vivid sense of the multivalent social currents bound up in performances of Handel’s Messiah at an early stage of its establishment as part of the British canon in R. Cowgill, ‘Disputing choruses in 1760s Halifax: Joah Bates, William Herschel, and the Messiah Club’, in Cowgill and Holman (eds.), Music in the British Provinces, pp. 87–113.



there was little likelihood of encountering the whole thing in the concert hall or theatre.

The choral society culture The programme of the Philharmonic Society’s concert last night [17 May 1906] was an unusually interesting one; for we not only had the G major pianoforte concerto of Beethoven from Herr Buhlig . . . but we were able to hear for the first time in London the Bradford Festival Choral Society, and to hear them, too, in such splendid works as Bach’s big double motet, ‘Sing ye to the Lord’ and the [Beethoven’s] Choral Symphony. They sang with splendid and untiring energy, as Yorkshire choruses alone know how to do; (even on the famous sustained A in the Choral Symphony the sopranos never wavered for a moment), and they did what so few choruses are trained to do – maintained an even volume of sound, and even timbre for long passages at a time without changing the colour, and this was especially noticeable in the long-sustained pianos and mezzofortes in the double motet; and they never flinched, even in the last ten pages of the Choral Symphony, so that the performance, as far as the choir is concerned, was first rate. In the orchestral numbers of the symphony the band seemed to drag now and then and become rather listless.60

This review is revealing. It tells us that Yorkshire choruses have a national reputation (something which explains the expense and effort of importing the Bradford Chorus to give Londoners a lesson in the choral singing of a symphony that had never previously enjoyed good performances at the hands of the venerable Philharmonic Society); and that their impact was such that the quality of the Philharmonic Society’s orchestra suffered in comparison. To put this into context, no less a critic than Berlioz had described the Philharmonic Society’s 1847 performance as ‘murder’, and the Musical Times review of the Society’s performance on 28 June 1890 confirmed the audience’s expectation: ‘Many present retired before the vocal Finale. We can hardly blame them . . . since the setting of Schiller’s Ode must always be more or less painful hearing.’ Presumably the decision to import the Bradford Chorus was an attempt to restore the Philharmonic’s reputation, at least as far as this work was concerned.61 It is clear that the Bradford Chorus took the singing of such demanding and complicated works as the Beethoven and the Bach very much in their stride; but as the Daily Chronicle

60 The Times, 18 May 1906. 61 Ehrlich, First Philharmonic, p. 76, and Musical Times, 31 (August 1890), 474.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


pointed out, the choral difficulties of the Bach motet (Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (BWV225)) meant that it had previously received very few performances in London, so making its appearance ‘a great treat for the large audience’.62 Another interesting aspect of this outing down to London (there and back in one day) was that it gave rise to immense local pride. The Chorus travelled by special train ‘probably the largest train that ever ran out of Bradford’, the 232 passengers being served breakfast and supper by forty attendants, ‘a special effort of railway catering’.63 The Bradford Chorus (constituted in 1856) was neither the only northern chorus to have been especially invited to London, nor alone in singing that challenging Bach motet: the Huddersfield Choral Society (constituted 1836) records two performances before 1914. The second performance was part of the showcasing of British musical prowess that had been staged for the 1911 International Music Congress held in London, and Huddersfield’s performance of the motet attracted considerable praise. Described as ‘sung with great virility and deep expression’ by the Musical Times, Guido Adler commented, ‘I was astonished at the performance of the Huddersfield Choral Society, but even more so when . . . informed . . . that England possessed several choral societies quite as good’.64 Huddersfield had also once performed Bach’s B minor Mass in London with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Queen’s Hall, for a fee of £125 and a tea for all!65 But Huddersfield programmed Bach rarely (only the Mass and the motet before 1914), because its home audience found Bach’s music tough going: the 1906 B minor Mass began with a full hall which gradually emptied during the performance.66 No choir could financially sustain that sort of negative reaction, regardless of the musical satisfaction it afforded members. (The Bradford Chorus gave the St Matthew Passion only once, and that as a public rehearsal with piano, and there were single performances of Cantatas 34 and 106.) The Beethoven statistics make for an interesting comparison between the two societies: by 1914 Huddersfield had performed The Mount of Olives (the only Beethoven work in their repertoire) eight times; but between 1856 and 1906, Bradford participated in five Choral Symphony performances, performed the Mass in C four times, and gave single performances of the Choral Fantasia, The Mount of Olives and the Mass in D. There is dissimilarity too in the societies’ patterning of Messiah performances. In the Bradford Chorus’s first fifty years, Messiah was performed forty-one times, 62 Quoted in G. F. Sewell, A History of the Bradford Festival Choral Society: From its Formation in 1856 to its Jubilee in 1906, Bradford, author, 1907, p. 224. 63 Ibid. 64 Anon., ‘The international musical congress’, Musical Times, 52 (July 1911), 442 and 453. 65 R. A. Edwards, And the Glory: A History in Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Huddersfield Choral Society, Leeds, W. S. Maney, n.d., p. 83. 66 Ibid.



and with the annual performances bringing in some £60 profit on average it was considered a means of financing their season. However, in 1887 this became a loss of over £24, and so it was decided to discontinue them.67 This reversal underlines the contrast with the Messiah concert given to support the 1873/4 Bradford Subscription concert season: that occasion had attracted an audience of 3,551 and made a profit of £138.68 Meanwhile in Huddersfield, Messiah had been performed sixteen times between 1836 and 1866, and thereafter was given at least once annually (and presumably profitably). Adding another perspective, performances of Elijah and Messiah at the Birmingham Festival between 1855 and 1891 are interesting. In 1876, Messiah had an audience of 2,385 producing receipts of £3,061, with Elijah an audience of 2,334 and receipts of £3,271. But Messiah audiences declined during the period, with only 1,411 (£1,946) in 1888; that year Elijah figures were 1,895 (£3,032).69 Messiah reception was perhaps rather more variable than is often assumed, and in some contexts the sheer habit of its continued performance may have devalued it, perhaps causing many to regard it more as a staple of core repertoire than as a canonical work. The Bradford Society’s origins have been traced to their first complete performance of Elijah in 1849, with a chorus of over 200. Their first London visit (with 220 members) was in 1858, when they joined the Handel Festival Chorus (of some 2,000 singers) at the Crystal Palace, gave a command performance at Buckingham Palace and a concert at St James’s Hall (‘In many respects these musical ladies and gentlemen afford a lesson by which our own choral and part singers might profit’).70 For its first fifteen years, programmes consisted largely of part-songs, glees and madrigals alternating with the well-known oratorios of Handel, Mendelssohn and Haydn. Major change came when the choir was engaged as the chorus for the Bradford Subscription Concerts, founded in 1865. This gave them more regular opportunities to sing the big choral works, beginning with St Paul under Hallé in 1866, and the fees they were paid for doing so enabled them to promote major concerts on their own account (though the custom of part-song concerts was maintained, with some thirty given between 1857 and 1906). In its early days the Society operated a two-tier subscription system, with singers of superior ability paying only one

67 Sewell, A History, p. 174. 68 D. Russell, ‘Provincial concerts in England, 1865–1914: a case-study of Bradford’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 114/1 (1989), 43–55. 69 Figures given in C. Dale, ‘The Provincial Musical Festival in Nineteenth-century England’, in Cowgill and Holman (eds.), Music in the British Provinces, 325–47, table 16.1. See also A. Pieper, Music and the Making of Middle-Class Culture: A Comparative History of Nineteenth-Century Leipzig and Birmingham, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. 70 The Times, 28 June and 5 July 1858.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


shilling per annum, while ordinary members paid four shillings. But in 1888, with falling audience numbers and the increased costs of more ambitious concerts, the subscription to all members went up to ten and sixpence. Costs cannot have been helped by their practice of marketing concerts on the basis of reserved seats for subscribers and the public, but giving away some 1,200 free tickets, distributed by chorus members, ‘thus providing a first-class free concert for a large number of persons’, though as a service to the community it would have been likely to improve both standing and future recruitment. The Society also made an improvement to church music in the area, both nonconformist and Anglican, increasing the number of choruses church choirs were able to perform.71 The membership grew from 212 in 1860 to 345 in 1902. The Huddersfield Choral Society, rather like the Bradford Chorus, had its beginnings as part of what the historian Peter Clark called the ‘associational world’, governed by rules of behaviour, with meetings staged across the neighbourhood.72 In 1902 its membership stood at 345, newly resuscitated by its doughty conductor, Henry Coward, the autodidact director of several northern choral societies, who took his Sheffield Choral Union on a famous tour of the Dominions in 1911.73 Handel and Mendelssohn dominated the core repertoire at both Bradford and Huddersfield. Huddersfield performed twelve Handel works: Samson (15 performances between 1836 and 1914), Judas Maccabaeus (14) and Israel in Egypt (13) were the most frequent after Messiah. At Bradford, ten Handel works are listed, Judas Maccabaeus (10), Israel in Egypt with Acis and Galatea (4). Huddersfield performed eight Mendelssohn works, led by Elijah (17) followed by St Paul (15) and Hymn of Praise (12). Bradford performed twelve of Mendelssohn’s works, performing them less frequently, though the order of popularity is as for Huddersfield, Elijah (13), St Paul (9) and Hymn of Praise (8). Haydn’s Creation was performed an astonishing twenty-seven times at Huddersfield, but only six at Bradford.

71 Sewell, A History, pp. 93, 174–5, 240–1, 243. 72 P. Clark, British Clubs and Societies, 1580–1800: The Origins of an Associational World, Oxford University Press, 2000; Musical Times, 43 (April, 1902), 239–41. Several chapters in Cowgill and Holman (eds.), Music in the British Provinces, give a strong context in which to place choral singing activities in the North, notably: S. Drage, ‘The larks of Dean: amateur musicians in northern England’, pp. 195–221; S. E. Taylor, ‘Finding themselves: musical revolutions in nineteenth-century Staffordshire’, pp. 223–35; P. Horton, ‘Outside the cathedral: Samuel Sebastian Wesley, local music-making, and the provincial organist in mid nineteenth-century England’, pp. 255–68; C. Dale, ‘The provincial music festival in nineteenth-century England: a case study of Bridlington’, pp. 325–47. For a wider perspective, see S. Gunn, The Public Culture of the Victorian Middle Class: Ritual and Authority in the English Industrial City 1840–1914, Manchester University Press, 2000, especially ch. 6. An earlier, but still valuable study of musical life in the Staffordshire Potteries, is Nettel, Music in the Five Towns. 73 J. Richards, Imperialism and Music, Manchester University Press, 2001, pp. 450–68.



Perhaps unexpectedly from today’s perspective, Mozart’s Requiem received only one performance (at Bradford) in this period. There was common ground, too, in several of the British works performed: Elgar’s Gerontius (twice each), Parry’s Blest Pair of Sirens (twice each), Sterndale Bennett (Woman of Samaria, May Queen) and works by Sullivan, Prout, ColeridgeTaylor (several performances of Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast) and the Bradford musician William Jackson. They overlapped in some modern European repertoire. For example, Brahms’s Requiem and Berlioz’s Faust (eight performances at Bradford and six at Huddersfield, attest to Faust’s popularity). Rossini’s Stabat Mater was performed by both societies, but Dvořák’s setting was given only at Bradford, though both programmed his Spectre’s Bride. Wagner’s popularity is evident in selections of Lohengrin and Tannhauser, and Bradford also performed The Flying Dutchman twice. Overall, Bradford’s repertoire is the more enterprising and musically ambitious, something probably explained by its involvement in the Subscription Concert series, with Sir Charles Hallé and F. H. Cowen. For example, Bradford gave four performances each of Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri and Verdi’s Requiem; two each of Saint-Saëns’s Samson and Delilah and Gade’s Psyche; and once each of Franck’s The Beatitudes, Gounod’s The Redemption and Messe Solennelle, Weber’s Der Freischütz and Horatio Parker’s Hora Novissima. What we see is that both these choirs, once clear of their financial comfort zone of Handel and Mendelssohn, were not reluctant to tackle a wide range of challenging European and British works – hardly the sign of a land without performance. We gain a perspective into the wider operational context of late nineteenthcentury choral culture from a choral management handbook by Leonard Venables whose several editions attest to its popularity.74 Venables was educated at the Tonic Sol-fa College, gaining a good reputation as conductor (from 1869) of the South London Choral Association.75 His survey of choral societies and conductors (with seemingly some 128 returns to his questionnaire) is helpful in conveying something of the general situation with regard to programming and finances. On programming he says: ‘At the present time (1886) there is a great race between societies all over the kingdom to be the first in their several districts to perform the works written for the great musical festivals. Nothing will satisfy the ambition of conductor, committee, or members but to attempt Gounod’s latest oratorio, Dvorak’s last cantata, &c.’76 He quotes the views of some leading (but anonymous) conductors: ‘I have

74 L. C. Venables, Choral and Orchestral Societies: A Book of Hints on their Organisation, and Business and Musical Management, 3rd edn, London, J. Curwen & Sons, [1900]. 75 J. D. Brown and S. S. Stratton, British Musical Biography: A Dictionary of Musical Artists, Authors and Composers, born in Britain and its Colonies, Birmingham, S. S. Stratton, 1897, p. 423. 76 Venables, Choral and Orchestral Societies, p. 65.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


performed recently [Gounod’s] The Redemption, [Mackenzie’s] Rose of Sharon, [Gounod’s] Mors et Vita and [F. H. Cowen’s] Sleeping Beauty. I do not think these works are so interesting to chorus singers as works in the older style; but it is quite certain I could not keep my singers if I did only works of Handel, &c. They are very eager to try novelties, and they put up with their unvocal difficulties’;77 and, ‘In Yorkshire they [modern works] are quite as much appreciated by the chorus, but not sung as much on account of difficulty and on account of audience.’78 Venables advised that concerts should not exceed two hours, and he illustrates typical programme-building patterns using three mixed programmes given by Henry Leslie’s eponymous London choir. As a favourite pattern he cites the miscellaneous concert, with sacred music in the first half, followed by secular in the second. Each half mixed vocal solos and duets with choral or part-songs, and the second also included a pot-pourri of South American Airs, arranged for piano duet. The second concert he lists had a mixed first half of sacred choral works by S. S. Wesley, Gounod and Mendelssohn, with a madrigal by R. L. de Pearsall, and songs and part-songs by Henry Leslie and Louis Engel; the second half was a miscellany of operatic arias by Rossini, Bizet and Mozart, part-songs by Mendelssohn, Leslie and A. R. Gaul, a madrigal by Morley and a glee by R. J. S. Stephens. Each half included a piano interlude played by Charles Hallé, of Bach in the first and Chopin in the second. The third programme cited was an all secular concert, a mélange of madrigals, part-songs, glees, an ‘old song’ (‘Sally in our alley’), a humorous part-song and a sentimental Irish melody.79 Venables’s survey included the question, ‘Do your concerts pay well?’, and the answers were: Very well (2); Yes (22); Fairly well (12); Just pays expenses (16); No (76). Answers to ‘What class of concerts pays best?’ were: Miscellaneous – Ballad, Part-songs, &c (64); Oratorio – chiefly Messiah and Elijah (26); Cantata for Part I and Miscellaneous, Part II (17). Unfortunately, there is no indication from where these responses originated, so it is not possible to identify regional patterns in these answers. Also asked was the question, ‘Do you depend on the public, members of society, or subscribers, honorary members, &c., for your audience?’, and replies showed that most could not depend on any one source, but had to work for all three. Venables concludes that the support from the general public seems ‘extremely limited’.80 Yet as we have seen from the free tickets that were issued by the Bradford Chorus, when the public were offered music at no or little cost, there was an enthusiastic uptake, as also with the Chatham and Rochester Choral 77 Ibid., p. 67. 78 Ibid., p. 68. 79 Ibid., ch. 10, ‘Arrangement of miscellaneous programmes’, pp. 75–81. 80 Ibid., ch. 9, ‘Concert profits and losses’, pp. 70–4.



Society, who ‘have a full rehearsal with band on the evening before each concert. They engage second rate soloists, and charge 1 shilling admission to all parts of the hall. This boon is greatly appreciated by hundreds who cannot pay the prices charged for the final concert and does not injure it [attendance] in the least.’81 Venables includes a chapter to guide a conductor on the works he is most likely to direct, namely Messiah, Judas Maccabeus and Samson, The Creation, Elijah and three smaller sacred works: Mozart’s so-called Twelfth Mass, Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise.82 The constant programming of Messiah and Elijah, with its implication of a sclerotic conservatism, can distort the impression of British musical life. But, as we have seen, performances of these oratorios were often the means of societies paying for more adventurous programmes that the box office was unable to cover. Finances had become an acute issue in London, where the growth in serious amateur participation had generated a significant increase in the numbers of new choral and orchestral societies. The inevitable consequence of this expansion of music-making was oversupply, the paradoxical situation in which the provision of more adventurous concerts soon outstripped the capacity of a similarly minded audience to sustain it. Thus in the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Choral Society’s performances of the main choral works of British composers (Coleridge-Taylor, Cowan, Elgar, Mackenzie, Parry, Stanford and Sullivan), the Bach and Beethoven Masses, as well as other works such as Parker’s Hora Novissima, Benoit’s Lucifer, Henschel’s Stabat Mater, Schubert’s Song of Miriam and Wagner’s Parsifal resulted in an average loss per concert of some £250; the Society could only redress the balance with Messiah and Elijah performances. The programmes of North London’s Alexandra Palace Choral Society, which some considered the capital’s best chorus, are a judicious mix of the popular and the uncommercial: Bach’s B minor Mass, Elgar’s Apostles, Handel’s Israel in Egypt and Acis and Galatea, Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha and Dvořák’s Stabat Mater. The idea of performing Solomon (given once in Bradford and twice in Huddersfield) had to be dropped, reflecting, ‘the tyrannous popularity of some two or three of Handel’s works and the consequent impossibility of arranging for adequate performances of others’.83 Huddersfield and Bradford’s example demonstrates that a dominant provincial society with strong membership support had more leeway for innovative programming than had a

81 Ibid., p. 71. 82 Ibid., ch. 24, ‘The standard oratorios’, pp. 177–206. For an overview of the repertoire that choral societies were performing in the 1886–7 season, see P. Scholes, ‘The Trend of Taste’, in Scholes, The Mirror of Music, vol. 1, pp. 144–5. 83 W. J. Galloway, Musical England, London, Christophers, 1910, p. 119.

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metropolitan one facing a more competitive environment. Dave Russell makes the point that ‘while Manchester might enjoy 15–20 public concerts a month during the winter season in the 1890s when such activity was at its zenith, London offered about 50 a week’.84

Brass-band culture The usual caricature of class taste in Britain has the British cultural elite looking down on the bourgeois consumer, with the bourgeoisie in turn looking down upon the working class, deriding what they saw as their pretensions to culture. For Haweis, ‘Music is not to our lower orders a deep-rooted need, a means of expressing the pent-up and often oppressive emotions of the heart, but merely a noisy appendage to low pastimes.’85 But it is clear from even a brief look at some of the brass-band repertoires being performed that this depiction of a descending musical taste, predicated on social class, has become a gross distortion. Instead, we see considerable crossover between performance spheres. Concert-hall repertoire and operatic extracts were regularly played by brass bands, alongside selections of religious and the lighter secular repertoires. As Herbert has pointed out, frequent sources of transcription material were piano arrangements of orchestral classics and operatic excerpts, especially of Italian repertoire, originally aimed at the middle-class domestic market. He also gives examples of the speed at which such band arrangements were made available: selections from Verdi’s Il trovatore were published by Boosey & Sons within a month of its premiere, while James Smyth’s arrangement of the overture to La forza del destino was being circulated within a few months of the opera’s first performance in St Petersburg in 1862.86 It was therefore through the medium of the brass band that many developed and satisfied the taste for classical music in their own locality. This enthusiasm for the classical repertoire contradicted the then fashionable prejudice that it was beyond the capacity of the lower social orders to value and respond to such music or the arts more generally; what it underlined was that the issue was more about people having opportunities to engage with that culture in the first place. Among many possible examples, the self-governing Besses o’ th’ Barn and the private Cyfarthfa bands are two bands that offer very interesting and

84 D. Russell, Looking North, p. 212. 85 Haweis, Music and Morals, 15th edn (1888), p. 547, quoted in Russell, Popular Music, p. 8. 86 Herbert, ‘Nineteenth-century bands: making a movement’, in Herbert (ed.), The British Brass Band, pp. 10–67; p. 56.



contrasting perspectives.87 The name ‘Besses o’ th’ Barn’ derives from an old industrial town between Manchester and Bury in Lancashire. The band’s history has been traced to 1818 and a wind band based at Clegg’s Cotton Mill, known as Clegg’s Reed Band. It converted to an all-brass ensemble in 1853 and in the 1880s it established itself in what is still its bandroom behind the Red King pub on Moss Lane, Whitfield.88 The change from reed to an allbrass ensemble is significant and reflects the greater availability of cheap and robust piston-valve instruments, which were easier to play than keyed instruments.89 Ownership of these instruments was facilitated by the hire-purchase schemes that appeared in the middle of the nineteenth century, and by incentives offered by instrumental manufacturers for players to exchange their current instruments for newer models.90 The Besses typified the way that brass bands were rooted in their community. They drew their players locally, trained them up within the band, and their repertoire included functional social music that reflected community taste, such as hymns, carols and local song repertoires. Such a miscellany was common for bands across the country: an interesting example of an evening’s music for a harvest home celebration performed by the Ockenden Band in West Hoathly was listed complete by the Sussex Agricultural Express in its edition of 11 September 1869.91 Herbert has made the important point that the independently maintained bands offered their membership a very different social structure and skills environment from that which they could expect to experience in the workplace, not least because it was one in which individual executant ability could earn considerable respect.92 The Besses had the good fortune to have Alexander Owen (1851–1920) as their trainer and arranger from 1884. As fierce a disciplinarian as any orchestral conductor (supposedly locking his bands in the bandroom during rehearsals), his last rehearsal with the Besses was a four-hour session spent on his arrangement of Tristan und Isolde just days before his death.93 Lasting some thirty minutes and fully testing a band’s technique and endurance, this transcription was one of several Owen made of Wagner’s music, and it is a masterpiece of the 87 For an extensive discussion on the establishment of bands in relation to social context, repertoires and the significance of developments in instrumental technology, see Herbert, ‘Nineteenth-century bands’. 88 D. H. Van Ess, ‘Band music’, in N. Temperley (ed.), The Romantic Age 1800–1914, p. 138; the band’s history at the official website, www.besses.co.uk. 89 For a detailed discussion of the organology involved, see A. Myers, ‘Instruments and instrumentation of British brass bands’, in Herbert (ed.), The British Brass Band, pp. 154–86. 90 Herbert, ‘Nineteenth-century bands’, in Herbert (ed.), The British Brass Band, p. 44. 91 Quoted by V. and S. Gammon, ‘The musical revolution of the mid nineteenth century: from “repeat and twiddle” to “precision and snap” ’, in Herbert (ed.), The British Brass Band, p. 140. 92 T. Herbert, ‘The practice and context of a private Victorian brass band’, in B. Zon (ed.), NineteenthCentury British Music Studies, vol. 1, Aldershot, Ashgate, 1999, pp. 105–18. 93 D. Russell, ‘Alexander Owen’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


arranger’s art. It capitalises on the band’s ability to sustain a beautifully refined blend of sound and integrated ensemble as well as brilliance and fire. Owen also arranged selections from The Flying Dutchman and the Ride of the Valkyries as well as from Mendelssohn (Elijah and the Overture Ruy Blas), Berlioz (The Damnation of Faust), Beethoven and Sullivan (The Beauties of Sullivan). Especially celebrated was Owen’s Reminiscences of Rossini (1882), which included the William Tell overture, a calling card for the Besses, who won fourteen first prizes from the nineteen band championship contests entered between 1884 and 1886. The Besses’ repertoire thus unselfconsciously bridged the cultures of opera and instrumental music that divided much of nineteenth-century musical thinking.94 Their performances made the Besses an international phenomenon. After winning the 1903 National Championship competition at Crystal Palace, the Besses did a UK tour and were then invited to play for King Edward VII at Windsor. This in turn led to a tour of France in 1905 in celebration of the Entente Cordiale, and in Paris a crowd, reputedly 50,000 strong and including the President, attended their concert in the Tuileries Gardens.95 Emboldened by this, the Band undertook two world tours between 1906 and 1911, and their enthusiastic reception was perhaps at its height in Melbourne where four days of concerts were reported to have attracted total audiences of over 100,000. Curiously the Besses’ 1911 tour occurred in the same year as Sir Henry Coward’s previously mentioned Sheffield Musical Union choir’s tour of the Dominions; the fact that two such northern organisations were both willing and able to undertake such extended trips tells us much about their musical confidence as performers and their attractiveness to audiences. The Cyfarthfa Brass Band was a private band, ‘a surrogate orchestra’ formed as ‘part of the construction of an oasis of culture’ in 1838 by Robert Thompson Crawshay of Cyfarthfa Castle in Merthyr Tydfil to provide music for the family and its social occasions.96 Herbert has categorised the Band’s repertoire into three broad types, light diversions, art-music transcriptions and miscellaneous pieces, including original compositions like Joseph Parry’s Tydfil Overture.97 An 94 C. Dahlhaus, Musik des 19. Jahrhunderts, trans. J. B. Robinson as Nineteenth-Century Music, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1989, pp. 8–15. For a helpful outline of brass band repertoire see R. Newsome, Brass Roots: A Hundred Years of Brass Bands and their Music (1836–1936), Aldershot, Ashgate, 1998. Recordings of some of Owen’s Wagner arrangements are available on ‘Wagner’, Grimethorpe Colliery Band/Elgar Howarth (CD, 1995, Doyen, Doy CD 033) and a selection of works by other composers is on Around the world with the Besses, Besses o’ th’ Barn Band/Roy Newsome and Alec Evans (CD, 1979 and 1980, Chandos, Chan 6571/2). 95 The history section of the Band’s website (www.besses.co.uk) includes photographs of this occasion and other events. 96 Herbert, ‘The practice and context of a private Victorian Band’, in B. Zon (ed.), Nineteenth-Century Music Studies, vol. 1, p. 115. 97 Ibid.; a selection of the Band’s repertoire played on nineteenth-century instruments was recorded as The origin of the species: virtuoso brass music, The Wallace Collection/Simon Wright (Nimbus NI 5470, 1996).



article published in Charles Dickens’s Household Words conveys something of the band’s musical impact on its community: ‘The correspondent of a leading London newspaper, while visiting Merthyr, was exceedingly puzzled by hearing boys in the Cyfarthfa iron works whistling airs rarely heard except in the fashionable ball-room, opera-house or drawing-room.’98 As is clear from the example of the Besses, the best of the bands yielded to no other type of ensemble when it came to performance virtuosity and musical feeling, and the Cyfarthfa band again illustrates that point.99 Herbert points out that ‘the technical demands made of the Cyfarthfa players [in their band books] comfortably outstrip anything found in the brass orchestral writing contemporaneous with it. It is not just that there are occasional passages which test the players; it is that there is apparently an underlying assumption upon the part of the arrangers of this music that the players could play almost anything which was placed before them, provided it was within a given range.’100 The transcriptions from which the Cyfarthfa played make clear the remarkable virtuosity such bands could achieve, and their frequency of rehearsal as an established ensemble meant that they would have produced a greater quality of blend and unanimity of performance than audiences would have been likely to have heard from the ad hoc or pick-up orchestras that characterised much of London’s concert life until the end of the nineteenth century.101 It is clear, too, that brass band arrangers broke the mould of orchestral brass writing; oblivious of the conventions of brass writing that classical composers observed in scoring their works, these brass-band arrangers were intent on getting the best out of their own forces in the most idiomatic ways they could conceive of, so making the brass band an iconoclastic performance medium in its own terms. The distinct cultural identity of the brass-band movement was one of its empowering strengths. And although its repertoire often intersected with bourgeois music traditions, the movement was set apart in terms of its training, the manner and context of performance and its social frameworks. Today, given the ubiquity of broadcasting and recording as primary agents of cultural formation, the means by which taste is shaped and repertoires are established, it is inconceivable that a large section of the British population should maintain its own distinctive, self-determined and largely self-contained cultural sphere. But, in effect, that was how the brass-band world operated in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its self-sufficiency and continuing development 98 May 1860, quoted by Herbert in his liner note to The origin of the species. 99 As captured by the Wallace Collection on NI 5470; in the liner note Herbert outlines the formation, repertory and musical significance of the band. 100 T. Herbert and J. Wallace, ‘Aspects of performance practices: the brass band and its influence on other brass-playing styles’, in Herbert (ed.), The British Brass Band, p. 284. 101 See Ehrlich, First Philharmonic.

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depended crucially upon two pillars of internal communication: specialist publications and the practice of band competitions or contesting. New arrangements and repertoire were widely circulated through the many specialist publications such as the Brass Band Journal published by the instrument maker Boosey, and those by the Liverpool firm, Wright & Round (these were journals of repertoire rather than verbal texts). In the 1880s The Wright & Round Journal cost between 19s. and £1 9s. 6d. a year.102 Also there was a selfhelp literature, such as Right & Round’s Amateur Band Teacher’s Guide and Bandsman’s Adviser with systematic tips (some seemingly garnered from the Brass Band News) on technical issues and matters of ensemble.103 Contesting was significant as a major stimulus to developing performance standards. Most famously held at Crystal Palace, Manchester Belle Vue Gardens and Glasgow, the championship rules and the repertoire lists of successful bands are eloquent testimonies to the seriousness of the musical endeavour that this movement represented.104

Municipal music The fact that so much municipal money went to fund various kinds of performances is strong indication of its social importance. In a 1910 survey of municipal provision, William Galloway argued that it was a means of betterment as well as enjoyment, ‘the continuous activity that is made possible by municipal support is a valuable agent in the spread of musical development’.105 London’s municipal music was organised by the Parks and Open Spaces Committee of the London County Council, which spent some £12,500 on band performances. Its thirteen-week season began mid-May and concerts lasted for three hours. The Committee’s music adviser, Carl Ambruster, offered this guidance to bandmasters: ‘It would be utterly absurd to force down high class programmes where the public do not want them. To a certain extent we are bound to suit the public taste: we don’t want to be told that the whole programme is above their heads. But on the other hand it is our duty to try to raise the public taste.’ The Council’s one hundred plus instrumentalists were divided into an orchestral body and two military bands, and it also hired in some ninety bands on an occasional basis. Galloway details six orchestral programmes, which 102 Herbert, ‘Nineteenth-Century Bands’, in Herbert (ed.), The British Brass Band, p. 47. 103 Herbert and Wallace, ‘Aspects of performance practices’, in Herbert (ed.), The British Brass Band, pp. 294–5. 104 Contest rules and the results and repertoire of successful bands in the Open and National Championships, 1853–1997 are in Herbert (ed.), The British Brass Band, Appendix 3 and 5; a report of the 1860 contest that gives a sense of its striking impact is given in The Times, 11 and 12 July, 1860. 105 Galloway, Musical England, p. 46.



contained the Fourth Symphonies by Beethoven and Schumann, and Tchaikovsky’s Sixth. Overtures included Brahms’s Academic Festival, Mendelssohn’s Athalie, Smetana’s Bartered Bride, Weber’s Euryanthe and Sullivan’s In Memoriam, and selections came from Gounod’s Irene, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, Sullivan’s Ivanhoe. Galloway also reproduces six wind-band programmes, and while implying variable standards, he praises these as excellent programmes. They featured popular overtures such as Beethoven’s Coriolanus and Fidelio, Mozart’s Titus, Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mackenzie’s Cricket on the Hearth, Nicolai’s Merry Wives of Windsor, Rossini’s William Tell, Schubert’s Rosamunde, Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, Weber’s Oberon and selections from operas by Auber, Benedict, Leoncavallo, Meyerbeer, Nicolai, Puccini, Rossini, Johann Strauss, Verdi, Wagner and Wallace. Another contributor to London’s free music was the National Sunday League, which sponsored 511 concerts and 121 band performances in various parks in 1908–9, causing Galloway to remark that ‘it is possible to hear a band on Sunday in almost every park and open space in the metropolitan area’. The League also sponsored orchestral concerts and concert performances of operas in London’s ‘less fashionable’ suburbs, events which performed to ‘crowded audiences’, with a ticket cost of between 3d. and 2s.106 There were several other such Sunday societies with similar aims, including the South Place Sunday Concerts (later the South Place Ethical Concerts) and the Sunday Concert Society.107 But London was not alone in funding music from the rates. In 1903, Leeds City Council established a series of orchestral concerts, ‘the first to be given on definitely educational lines by any municipality in the kingdom’.108 Programmes focused on British and French music, and had low admission, from between 2d. and 18d. for single concerts to 7/6d. and 12/6d. for multi concert tickets with reserved seats. However in 1908/9, attendance fell to some 1,300, and a £200 loss was incurred, which prompted an increase in ticket prices which may well have safeguarded the costs but deterred the poorest. Sheffield supported some 200 free, open-air summertime band concerts in its parks, and also winter concerts with popular programmes funded through a rate of not more than one-eighth of a penny in the pound (£700) and grants from the Tramways Committee (£500), pricing tickets at 1d. (3d. for a reserved seat).109 In 1908 Manchester ratepayers contributed nearly £3,000 for more than 500 band concerts, which brought in audiences estimated at 2,600,000! 106 Ibid., p. 131. 107 F. Hawkins, The Story of Two Thousand Concerts, London, South Place Ethical Society [1969]; ‘The Sunday Concert Society’, The Times, 20 December 1909. 108 Galloway, Musical England, p. 53. 109 Ibid., p. 56.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


Galloway commented on a sample programme that it was ‘characteristically English in its mingling of bad music with good’.110 Liverpool’s support of organ recitals in St George’s Hall was considered a particularly successful means of civic musical provision because of the instrument’s ability to popularise considerable amounts of music through transcriptions and arrangements (economical, too, given that one man, using the mechanical efficiency and sound spectrum of the organ was an effective substitute for an entire municipal orchestra!). The series was established by the famous city organist W. T. Best, who until his retirement in the 1890s gave two, hour-long recitals most Saturdays, programming classical music in the afternoon (at 6d. a ticket) and popular in the evening (at 1d.). Seemingly he did not repeat a work in the year, and the series was continuing to draw a total audience of some 54,000.111 In contrast was the spa town of Harrogate, whose wealth was based on the many affluent and grand visitors who came to take the waters. In the season there were three daily concerts in the grand Kursaal (opened in 1903 and renamed the Royal Hall because of anti-German sentiment), which was designed by Frank Matcham and where the internal ‘circulatory ambulatory’ enabled exercise, perhaps mitigated by the musical entertainment, to be taken in all weathers. There was popular dance music in the morning, a ‘higher level’ of music in the afternoon, and concerts in the evening. In 1909, this provision cost £14,000 offset by income of £11,500 with the Corporation contributing the rest.112 Performers in 1909 included Paderewski, the Beecham Orchestra (giving an early performance of Elgar’s First Symphony),113 the company of La Scala, Milan with Cavalleria rusticana and (Gounod’s) Faust, John McCormack, Clara Butt and Henry Wood.114 Civic music in the seaside resorts of Eastbourne, Bournemouth and Brighton reflects their own very different circumstances. In each, music was a powerful attraction in drawing visitors, and represented a commercial investment. In Eastbourne, the corporation was spending £3,000 on a municipal band which played up to three times every day, according to the season. Bournemouth maintained two reed bands (to play mixed programmes in the pleasure gardens and to support visiting entertainers) and a municipal orchestra, which was run by Dan Godfrey. In 1895, the orchestra had some 50 players and provided 30 ‘classical’ concerts (cheapest ticket 6d.) and 30 ‘symphony’ concerts (cheapest at 1s.) – the difference in ticket price was because the ‘classical’ concerts were 110 Ibid., p. 57. 111 Ibid., p. 64. 112 Ibid., pp. 57–8. 113 Although not necessarily quite as Elgar had composed it; see J. Lucas, Thomas Beecham: An Obsession with Music, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2008, pp. 50–1. 114 A list of the glittering array of artists performing in a variety of musical and theatrical genres, and which demonstrated the process over time of changes in taste and resources has been drawn up by Michael Neesam and Michael Hine, and can be accessed at www.royalhall.org/performance.html.



unrehearsed. In its first 500 concerts 891 works were performed, 114 (44 premieres) of them by British composers; in the 1908/9 season the 226 works included 38 symphonies (with Beethoven symphonies 1–8), and 41 British works (including Elgar’s First Symphony). The success of Brighton’s municipal orchestra over three months in 1907 (at a cost of £1,300), led to its being established on a year-round basis, working with the Brighton Philharmonic Choir in a 1909 festival with performances of Elijah, The Dream of Gerontius, Coleridge-Taylor’s Bon-Bon Suite, selections from Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, Elgar’s First Symphony and In the South, Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, Stanford’s Irish Rhapsody, and A. C. Mackenzie’s Britannia Overture.115 Galloway’s survey of the municipal funding of performance shows how closely this civic provision blended existing cultural realities with aspirational ones too.

‘owing to the great spread of concerts, musical publications, private practice and interest in the subject’116 To the authors of the British Musical Biography the democratisation of music was something to be celebrated and a vital (in the true sense) element in this process was the participation in ambitious performances generated by the Competitive Festival movement. Festivals often included concerts by the combined competitors, as in concerts at the 1909 Blackpool Festival which included Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Brahms’s Requiem,117 and the resulting intensity of national music-making was the cause of considerable pride: It is possible that in no other nation is there, at the present time, greater musical activity, creative or executive, than is to be witnessed in our own . . . The greater masters . . . have been treated with brevity in order to afford space for mention of many worthy, if obscure workers in the cause of Art, hitherto passed over by writers of biography. The very large number (probably over 40,000) of persons engaged in the musical profession at the present time will explain the apparent preponderance of notices devoted to living musicians.118

Brown and Stratton’s UK-wide estimate of 40,000 musicians in 1897 indicates that there had been an immense growth in musical employment since 1851.

115 116 117 118

‘Municipal music’, The Times, 16 January 1909. G. Grove (ed.), A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, London, Macmillan, 1879, editor’s preface. W. J. Galloway, ‘The competitive movement’, in Galloway, Musical England, pp. 167–206. Brown and Stratton, British Musical Biography, Preface.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


Cyril Ehrlich points out that the proportionate increase of those declaring musical employment in census returns was greater than the growth of the population as a whole.119 In 1841 there were nearly 7,000 musicians in a population of some 26.8m in England and Wales; the 1851 census showed a 2.2 per cent increase in this population to 27.4m, but the number of musicians returned had increased by nearly 70 per cent to over 11,000.120 By 1891, this population had expanded to 37.9m, while the census returns for musical employment had more than trebled to 38,600.121 The scholarship education that was such a feature of the Royal College of Music’s provision (some scholarships also came with maintenance), had been the crucial factor in ‘unearthing a surprising amount of hidden talent in the British Isles’;122 consequently ‘The complexion of the lists of players in our concert orchestras, once international, has become practically national’.123 The quality of the result could catch Germans by surprise, and Stanford instanced Englebert Humperdinck’s reaction to the quality of the playing of Sullivan’s all-British Leeds Festival Orchestra – the reputation of the British music world had led him to expect that many of the players would have been foreigners.124 What really had undermined any sustained defence of nineteenth-century Britain as a land with music, was that, among influential commentators, the British failure to produce compositions able to stand comparison with those of the Austro-German canon was considered to be cause for national embarrassment. ‘The English are not a Musical People’ was the discouraging title of a G. A. Macfarren article in the Cornhill Magazine.125 The popular moralist, the Rev. H. R. Haweis, wrote that ‘The English are not a Musical People’, because he felt that the real enthusiasm was for ballads: ‘Our national music vibrates between “When other lips” and “Champagne Charley” . . . this will be so until music is felt here, as it is felt in Germany, to be a kind of necessity.’126 And the composer Charles Stanford was later to write of George Grove, ‘Curiously enough Grove, with all his winning charm and broad mind, never in his heart believed in the creative work of his own country. He was steeped in Beethoven and Schubert, and in latter days guardedly admitted Brahms and fractions of 119 Ehrlich, The Music Profession, p. 51. 120 The musical occupations listed in the 1851 census were very broadly drawn, such as: ‘Musician (not Teacher)’; ‘Musicmaster, mistress’; ‘Vocalist’; ‘Musical instrument maker, dealer’ (Census 1851. – Report: Table 53 Occupations of the People . . . pp. cxxi–cxxvii). There is a breakdown of the 1851 data in H. B. Thomson, The Choice of a Profession: A Concise Account and Comparative Review of the English Professions, London, Chapman & Hall, 1857, pp. 7–8. 121 Figures taken from Ehrlich, Music Profession, table 1, and N. McCord, British History 1815–1906, Oxford University Press, 1991, tables 3 and 7. 122 C. V. Stanford, Pages from an Unwritten Diary, London, Arnold, 1914, p. 217. 123 Ibid., p. 220. 124 Ibid. 125 G. A. Macfarren, ‘The English are not a musical people’, Cornhill Magazine, 18 (1868), 344–57. 126 Haweis, Music and Morals, pp. 491–3.



Wagner into his fold. . . . A half century of barren mediocrity had accustomed him to look abroad for anything and everything.’127 Music had been an important agent in shaping concepts of German cultural nationhood across the nineteenth century, something that accounts for the following passage (made available to British readers in an 1870 translation), in which Ferdinand Hiller makes explicit the political perspective contemporary writers were attaching to German music: And Haydn, and Weber, and Schubert, and Mendelssohn! What a propaganda they have made for the fatherland! That they speak a universal language does not prevent their uttering in it the best we speak as Germans – I can wish for the nation nothing better than it should resemble a Beethoven symphony – full of poetry and power; indivisible yet many-sided; rich in thought and symmetrical in form; exalted and mighty!128

The achievements of Germanic composers enabled the endeavours of nineteenth-century Austro-German music scholars to be focused on the work of canon formation. This they did through their compilation of monumental or complete editions and the writing of biographical accounts. The results were such pioneering ventures as Chrysander’s Handel edition (1858– 94) and biography (1858–67), the Bach-Gesellschaft (1851–99) and Philipp Spitta’s Bach biography (1873–80), the Mozart edition (1877–1905), Köchel’s Mozart catalogue (1862) and Otto Jahn’s Mozart biography (1856, revised in 1867 and 1889–91), as well as editions of Beethoven (1862–5), Schubert (1884–97) and Schütz (1885–1927). These, then, were the exemplary models of national attainment that some British writers sought desperately to emulate in relation to British composers. Edward Rimbault had produced an adapted translation of Forkel’s Bach biography for the English market in 1869,129 and George Grove had written a preface to the translation by Pauline Townsend of Jahn’s The Life of Mozart.130 These are but two examples of an extensive literature of German composers available in English, whether in translation, or as studies written by British authors, such as Hubert Parry’s,

127 Stanford, Pages from an Unwritten Diary, pp. 223–4. 128 F. Hiller, ‘Quasi Fantasia’, in E. Graeme (ed.), Beethoven: A Memoir, London, Griffin, 1870, quoted in M. Hughes and R. Stradling, The English Musical Renaissance 1840–1940: Constructing a National Music, 2nd edn, Manchester University Press, 2001, p. 25. Such politicisation of music was part of a wider cultural project in which composers themselves were often the least involved, as is explained in Applegate and Potter, ‘Germans as the “People of Music”: genealogy of an identity’, in Applegate and Potter (eds.), Music and German National Identity, pp. 1–35. 129 E. Rimbault, Johann Sebastian Bach: His Life and Writings. Adapted from the German of Hilgenfeldt and Forkel with Additions from Original Sources, London, Metzler, 1869. 130 O. Jahn, The Life of Mozart . . . Translated from the German by P. D. Townsend, London, Novello, Ewer & Co, 1882.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


Johann Sebastian Bach.131 From that anxiety was constructed the ideology of the English Musical Renaissance, an attempt to demonstrate that British composers had suddenly turned all around by beginning to write ‘great’ works rather than merely ‘useful’ or functional ones, and thus were able to take their place on the international stage along with the great composers of other nations. The performance situation in Britain was also very different from Germany’s. Metropolitan concert life was essentially ad hoc, running on the basis of pick-up bands (there was no ‘permanent’ concert orchestra in central London until the 1890s),132 and despite the claims of the Royal Academy,133 there was to be no systematic or course-based conservatoire provision until the Royal College of Music’s founding in 1883.134 Clearly, then, the weight of British musical strengths lay differently from those of the ubiquitous Germanic model, hence Mackerness’s injunction to look at the different ways in which the astonishing British demand for music of all kinds was actually being met. If we interpret the astonishingly wide range of music that was being performed in concerts of different types and conditions as being evidence of musical curiosity in a very positive sense, then we come closer to understanding that the take-up and genuine appreciation of good music was an essential characteristic of nineteenth-century British musical culture. It links into the quiddity of that significant manifestation of Victorian scholarship, George Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Grove was an astonishing taxonomy of musical knowledge, albeit one in which, as its eponymous editor expressed it, as ‘an English Dictionary it has been thought right to treat English music and musicians with especial care’.135 Considerable prominence was given to the medieval round ‘Sumer is icumen in’ as demonstrating that British composers were in advance of the ‘learned, crabbed style’ of their Flemish and Italian contemporaries. Nevertheless, as Leanne Langley has pointed out in her comprehensive analysis of its structure and organisation, the Dictionary was remarkably unpartisan in its treatment of subjects; rather, the evidence of the whole was testimony to ‘the nation’s unique capacity to understand, incorporate and 131 C. H. H. Parry, Johann Sebastian Bach: The Story of the Development of a Great Personality, New York and London, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1909. 132 The implications of this situation are treated by M. Musgrave, ‘Changing values in nineteenth-century performance: the work of Michael Costa and August Manns’, in Bashford and Langley (eds.), Music and British Culture, pp. 169–91. 133 The RAM’s provision and practices were given short shrift in the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, First Report of the Committee Appointed to Inquire into and Report on the State of Musical Education at Home and Abroad, London, 1866, pp. 1–2. 134 D. Wright, ‘The South Kensington music schools and the development of the British conservatoire in the late nineteenth century’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 130/2 (2005), 236–82; for details of the RCM’s ‘General Regulations’ of 1883 and 1889 see Appendix 1, pp. 279–80. Only from its 1900/1 Prospectus does the RAM begin to spell out the constituent elements of study in any detail. 135 Grove (ed.), A Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1879–89), vol. 1, Preface.



champion good music, whatever its origin, style or date’.136 Perhaps, then, it is in this capacity for performing and responding to good music that we may most clearly discern the nature of the nineteenth-century British musical character, something that Grove was at such pains to emphasise in his Preface.

Technology and the dominance of the performer Technology has wrought profound change to our musical circumstances. The modern, digitally conditioned, musical experience is diametrically opposed to that of our score-based, nineteenth-century counterparts. It is predominantly as sound – through the medium of captured performance – rather than as notated representation that music is sold for our use now. Recorded music has proliferated in an extraordinary way to encompass the whole spectrum of tastes and idioms, something now also reflected by the increasing numbers of performers who routinely cross between different types of artistic contexts. Detailed comparisons of recordings of a particular work have become the commonplace of music journalism. But our ability to compare performances by hearing them side by side would have astounded our predecessors. Many had only one opportunity to hear a work in its full orchestral guise, and accordingly, serious listeners prepared carefully for the experience. They would have done this by studying the concert programme notes (often with notated examples) sometimes available in advance, or by playing the works through in a piano or piano duet reduction.137 We feel the genuine emotion of George Grove’s words written to Richter in 1897 after a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique, that he would ‘have given anything to be able to hear it once again’,138 a facility today taken for granted in its multiplicity of recordings. The performer’s new dominance in the musical order of things is also a consequence of our more ambivalent attitude to contemporary classical composition. In the nineteenth century new works benefited the box office; today, the situation is reversed, sometimes excepting well-trailed, high-profile commissions. This ambivalence became especially striking in the 1960s, when many 136 L. Langley, ‘Roots of a tradition: the first Dictionary of Music and Musicians’, in M. Musgrave (ed.), George Grove, Music and Victorian Culture, Basingstoke and New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, pp. 168–215. 137 See, for instance, the reminiscences of the painter Henry Halliday as well as other examples cited by P. Gillett, ‘Ambivalent friendships: music-lovers, amateurs, and professional musicians in the late nineteenth century’, in Bashford and Langley (eds.), Music and British Culture, pp. 321–40; on the educational and cultural significance of programme notes and their transmission, see C. Bashford, ‘Not just “G.”: towards a history of the programme note’, in Musgrave (ed.), George Grove, Music and Victorian Culture, pp. 115–42, and ‘Educating England: networks of programme provision in the nineteenth century’, in Cowgill and Holman (eds.), Music in the British Provinces, pp. 349–76. 138 Bashford, ‘Not just “G.”’, p. 131.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


chose to take refuge from the antagonistic idioms of the avant-garde within the less rebarbative adventures of the historical performance world. Thus encouraged, historically informed performance (which grew out of the iconoclastic ‘authenticity’ movement) has gone on to change, often in radical respects, attitudes towards performing much of the canonic repertoire, as well as affecting the way it sounds. Today’s even not-so-old listener is likely to have experienced music from the classical mainstream clothed in several very different sound worlds. And this is now true not just of earlier music, but of Romantic repertoire such as symphonies by Berlioz, Schumann, Brahms and Bruckner. The incentive for record companies to support costly, historically informed rerecordings of the canon lies in their sales potential to consumers as replacement or additional versions. To maximise this opportunity, the marketing process gives primary emphasis to the performers in conceiving and arriving at these revisionist interpretations. Marketing music in this way has given a sharper edge to branding the performer and the performance, and so ‘Norrington’s’ Beethoven, say, is clearly proclaimed on the basis of a discernibly individual performance style. Journalists and broadcasters then seize on this, further elaborating the distinctions as they hear them between the respective performance practices of such as Roger Norrington, John Eliot Gardiner and Philippe Herreweghe. This focus has foregrounded the performer in the consumer’s listening experience and purchasing decisions. Often it has made a particular performance brand the deciding factor when selecting one representation of a work over other perfectly satisfactory rivals in an already overcrowded catalogue – and listeners with a completionist approach buy multiple performance versions of the same work. In the run-up to the final concert of the 2008 Proms season, the New York Times carried the story that Sir Roger Norrington, conductor of the ‘Last Night’ was going to insist that Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 should be played ‘without vibrato’ – a decision that sent ‘rockets of outrage into the blogosphere and newspaper columns’. The brouhaha this decision whipped up was further evidence of the potential of a musical performance to generate a considerable amount of public interest. And that interest was aroused regardless of whether or not the musical public knew the case pro et contra vibrato, or saw the threat to vibrato as an attempt ‘to denigrate and undermine British and English cultural icons’.139 It attests to the fact that careful building of the profiles of performers and their performance identity has given successful recording artists unprecedented influence in shaping our musical culture. And because of the ways musicians are commodified in today’s 139 http://nytimes.com/2008/08/13/arts/music/13vibr.html, accessed 13 August 2008.



visually centred media – with youth, brilliance and visual appeal enjoying a market premium – never before have so many younger generation musicians achieved such prominence. This development has encouraged different sorts of repertoire decisions; it has also emphasised underlying cultural tensions between the iconography now used to market young performers and the iconic basis of the traditional canon. But it has also become possible for a well-known performer to use their accumulated market presence to turn the tables on a commercial record label. When John Eliot Gardiner decided in 2005 to launch his own label, Soli Deo Gloria to market his complete Bach Cantata cycle, his action severed the traditional, artist-dependant relationship that recording companies so assiduously cultivate. Gardiner’s cycle was conceived to link both the new Millennium celebrations and the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death in 2000. It originated in a carefully launched year of live performances of the cantatas on their appointed feast days. However, at the end of the year, Deutsche Grammophon, Gardiner’s record label, withdrew its undertaking to record the project. Yet despite cantata cycles from others such as Masaaki Suzuki and Ton Koopman, Gardiner still managed to secure the financial backing to set his SDG project firmly underway on an independent, not-for-profit basis, and to expand it to cover further performance projects. Technology has not only moved the spotlight firmly onto the performer, it has also displaced the social tradition of live musical experience. This it has done by shifting consumption from the collective arena of the public sphere, and removing it to the individually selected and self-constructed meanings of the private domain.140 The digital age has seen these developments carried to new levels of quality and convenience, and at a time when postmodern relativism has replaced old-style canonic certainties. There is now an absence of conventions about patterns of musical consumption, leaving the ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘why’ decisions entirely up to the individual. These recast cultural circumstances are at odds with the cohesive values that are required to sustain ideas of canonicity. In this, as in other respects, the digital age marks another dividing point in music’s social history.

140 See M. Katz, ‘Listening in cyberspace’, in M. Katz, Capturing Sound: How Technology has Changed Music, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2004, pp. 158–87.






. 7 .


The notion of ‘performance’ was central to the practice and ideology of ancient Greek and Roman societies: a politician’s speech or a lawyer’s closing, a choral exhibition or a sport competition were all interactive events whose fundamental components were the spectacle and its audience, both of which had an active role in the way they functioned.1 This was particularly true for musical activities, whose civic and educational value was outstanding, especially in Classical Greece. Indeed, the ancient Greek culture of mousikē embraced the entire field of poetic performance to which the Muses gave their name, including song, poetry and bodily movement, all integrated within an event, which served to define culture, ethnicity and gender, and was a core element of religious and social rituals.2 The settings for such artistic performances ranged from entertainment in the private home to larger urban or pan-Hellenic festivals (i.e. ‘involving all Greeks’, not just a single polis), where competitive events took place in public. In these contexts the entire community, whether limited to a specific social elite or extended to the whole Hellenic society, was involved and found a common identity. These performances were thus not only a valuable means of reinforcing local individualities, but also a dynamic opportunity for exchange and interaction among different parts of the Greek world. It was through these occasions that regional identities consolidated their ‘Hellenic’ sense of affiliation.

The culture of mousikē in Archaic and Classical Greece In the Archaic (eighth to sixth century BC) and Classical ages (fifth to fourth century BC), composers – called melopoioi, that is, ‘makers of melos’, a composition defined by words, tune and rhythm3 – and performers were often the same 1 S. Goldhill and R. Osborne (eds.), Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy, Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 1–29. 2 P. Murray and P. J. Wilson (eds.), Music and the Muses: The Culture of Mousike in the Classical Athenian City, Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 1–8. 3 Plato, Republic, 398d.




people; originally Alcaeus’ poetry, for instance, was probably sung by its own author within the same aristocratic symposia to which it constantly refers – see the pictorial representation of Alcaeus and Sappho holding a barbitos (a deep-voiced lyre) in an Attic red-figured vase.4 Biographical tradition claims that Sophocles sang to himself in his tragedy Thamyris, which dramatised the singing competition between this mythical bard and the Muses, and he was consequently portrayed playing the kithara, the professional stringed instrument, in contemporary iconography. This practice seems to date from the Mycenaean age (seventeenth to twelth century BC), when minstrels such as those described in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey sang their songs to the four-stringed phorminx (a round-based lyre), improvising the melody at the same time as the text, which was unique to every performance. Such performances were able to arouse deep emotions in both the player and the audience, as Plato’s portrayal of a rhapsode in Classical time still clearly shows: ‘For I [i.e. Ion, the rhapsode protagonist of Plato’s dialogue named after him] must frankly confess that at the tale of pity, my eyes are filled with tears, and when I speak of horrors, my hair stands on end and my heart throbs . . . I look down upon spectators from the stage, and behold the various emotions of pity, wonder, sternness, stamped upon their countenances when I am speaking.’5 The lists or ‘canons’ (kanones), according to which composers were distinguished with reference to the particular ‘genre’ in which they excelled (melic poetry, tragedy, comedy etc.) may be dated back to the Hellenistic period (third to first century BC). Scholars working in the ancient libraries that flourished at that time (the most famous of which was in Alexandria) organised the poetic material of their past, producing the first ‘critical editions’ of such material. Alexandrian scholars referred to the ancient melopoioi as composers of ‘lyric’ poetry (lyrikē poiēsis), that is, poetry sung to the lyre, the traditional Greek stringed instrument, or, more generally, to any musical instrument. This term, which appears for the first time in the grammarian Dionysius Trax (second century BC), gradually became commonplace, probably in order to stress the musicality of such poetry just at the time when it was actually vanishing. The lyre was becoming unnecessary for its composition and performance (at least in the most learned contexts). Ancient lyric poetry may well have been performed by solo singers or by male, female or mixed choruses, in private as well as in public contexts: hence the traditional distinction (recurrent in modern ‘manualistic’ approaches to ancient Greek poetry) between choral and monodic lyric.6 Of course most lyric composers were versatile enough to practise both categories, even if they became more famous for a particular genre. 4 Munich Inv. 2416, c. 470 BC. 5 Plato, Ion, 535 c–d. 6 For a discussion on this ‘artificial’ classification, see M. Davies, ‘Monody, choral lyric, and the tyranny of the hand-book’, Classical Quarterly, 38 (1988), 52–64.

The Ancient World


Monodic poetry (i.e. sung by a single performer) was performed in contexts limited to a select audience, the most important of which was the symposium (literally ‘drinking together’), a civic ritual attested since the Archaic age as a privilege of the aristocratic male elite (hetaireia, literally ‘association, brotherhood’).7 It took place after the evening meal, when respectable wives left and adult male citizens remained together privately in the men’s quarters of the house, under the leadership of a symposiarch who established all the drinking rules and entertainment for the occasion. Each guest set an ivy or myrtle crown on his head and used myrrh scent, as in a sort of initiation rite. The party started when the gathering struck up the paean, a religious choral song originally devoted to Apollo, and offered libations to the gods, transforming the ritual of sharing the table in a religious collective rite with Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. The guests then sang convivial songs called skolia (literally ‘winding, obscure’), a term reflecting the fact that each symposiast participated in turn on receipt of the myrrinē (a myrtle-branch which was passed around, snaking its way among them). On these occasions there were poetry competitions between participants, sometimes alternating song by song, sometimes ‘capping’ the verses previously struck up by another guest; elegies were sung to the accompaniment of the aulos (a reed-blown pipe, almost always played in pairs), lyric songs to the lyre. The symposium was the institutional context for the enjoyment and preservation of a consistent part of the Archaic and Classical melic poetry, purposely composed to be sung there (or, if composed for a different occasion, reperformed and adapted to the context, as in the case of excerpts from theatrical songs).8 From the mid-sixth century BC onwards, iconographical evidence shows that an important part of the entertainment in these parties was played by the musical exhibitions of aulētrides (literally, ‘female aulosplayers’), psaltriai (literally, ‘harp-girls’) and orchēstrides (literally, ‘female dancers’), women of low social position, basically accomplished courtesans called hetairai (literally, ‘female companions’, perhaps ironically as they served as ‘companions’ to men).9 They were hired by the host of the symposium for their artistic performances as well as for their erotic entertainment: hence the equation of aulētrides with prostitutes, which became a stereotype of literature, especially in comedy and anecdotal writings.

7 The symposium on which we have the most information is the Athenian type. For a general overview on different types of symposia see D. Musti, Il simposio nel suo sviluppo storico, Rome, Laterza, 2001. 8 For the inclusion of the theatrical repertoire in the fifth-century symposia see, for example, Aristophanes, Knights, v. 529. 9 L. Kurke, ‘Inventing the hetaira: sex, politics, and discursive conflict in archaic Greece’, Classical Antiquity, 16 (1997), 106–50.



According to Plato (Laws, 654b, mid-fourth century BC), the choral dancing and singing in honour of the gods – that is, the choreia – provide the most important and effective means for educating and bringing order to society. In fact, choral songs, which belong to the earliest and most widespread practices of the entire Greek world, were performed on many different occasions. Some of these were particular celebrations, such as marriages, funerals or sporting victories; others were regular events such as the numerous religious festivities which took place during the year’s calendar (e.g. the Panathenaea and the City Dionysia in Athens, the former in honour of the city’s patron divinity, Athena Polias, the latter devoted to Dionysus; or the Gymnopaediae and the Carnea in Sparta, both dedicated to Apollo). These festivals, which occurred in every part of the Greek world in order to celebrate local cults, naturally differed in the detail of their ritual, since it was believed appropriate that different gods were honoured in their own, distinctive way: hence there were specific choral forms for each god (or goddess).10 A distinction among musical ‘types and forms’ (eidē kai schēmata), according to the functions and the contexts in which they were originally performed, may already be found in Plato, Laws, 700a–b; here the author recalls how the musical genres of his past were properly distinguished, as it was not permitted to use one type of melody for the purposes of another (probably in order to differentiate types of worship).11 They might consist of prayers to the gods (hymnoi), funeral lamentations (thrēnoi), paeans and dithyrambs, that is, choral songs originally devoted to Apollo and to Dionysus. By the late sixth century BC, however, we hear of dithyrambs only as institutionalised festival events, resembling a refined art form more than a ritual composition, sung by a chorus of up to fifty men or boys dancing in circular formation (enkyklios choros) with the accompaniment of the aulos. As may be inferred from extant sources, cultic hymns such as the paeans were characterised by regularity of rhythm, syllabic (i.e. not melismatic) style and moderate usage of modulation, which was kept to a minimum. Typical features of funeral lamentations, on the other hand, were antiphony (between one or more solo voices and a chorus, where a soloist usually had the function of chorus-leader) and ritual refrains. Further types of choral compositions were the partheneia, or ‘maiden-songs’, well attested especially in Sparta, Ephesus and Delos (where the Delians maintained, throughout the whole year, a professional chorus of Delian women, Deliades, to perform at a multitude of religious events); processional (prosodia) 10 C. Calame, ‘Feste, riti e forme poetiche’, in S. Settis (ed.), I Greci. Storia, arte, cultura e società, vol. 2. I, Turin, Einaudi, 1996, pp. 471–96. 11 B. Kowalzig, ‘Changing choral worlds: song-dance and society in Athens and beyond’, in Murray and Wilson (eds.), Music and the Muses, pp. 44–6.

The Ancient World


and marriage-songs (hymenaioi and epithalamia), these latter based on the exchange between two mixed choral groups; and laudatory (enkōmia) and victory odes (epinikia) commissioned by rulers or nobles for both public and private festivities, through which the donor’s high standing was affirmed within the community. On some particular occasions these poems were also performed by solo singers.12 It was common practice also to send and receive foreign choroi between different poleis: in this way each city could assert its own identity as well as strengthen its relationships with others.13 Choral activity usually involved a group of people, ranging from three to sixty. They perceived themselves (and acted) as a ‘collective’ group (as, for instance, the choirs of parthenoi or gynaikes, i.e. ‘unmarried’ or ‘married women’). The chorēgos, or chorus-leader, gave ‘the signal (exarchein) of dancing and singing’ (Suda s.v. chorēgos).14 In this formally constructed genre of poetry, one stanza, the strophe, was immediately followed by another, the antistrophe, which had exactly the same rhythm and metre and was sung to the same melody. This stable framework of repetitions, marked out by strophe, antistrophe and sometimes a third element called the epode, was most probably intended to aid the dance, and it could also be applied to soloistic songs (which, on some occasions, were perhaps accompanied by a silent choir of dancers, who surrounded the solo performer).15 Since all Greek choruses were arranged according to the different phases of human life (children; girls/boys; adult women/adult men – both in segregated and mixed groups), it seems that one of the functions of these ritual gatherings was that of accompanying the transition from one age to the other, as well as that of defining the social role, age-group, gender and political status of their participants. During the main religious festivals of the Greek world, however, music’s purpose was not only directly to celebrate the gods but also to reinforce social and civic identity. Musical exhibitions of virtuosi, who captivated their audiences through their individual talent, had already been in existence since the late sixth century BC, though within a religious and ‘ritual’ context.16 In this period, during the most important pan-Hellenic games (such as the ones held 12 For evidence of soloistic paeans, see Strabo, Geography, 9.3.10; for monodic performance of at least one of the epinikia of Simonides, see Aristophanes, Clouds, vv. 1355–6. 13 I. C. Rutherford, ‘χορὸς εἰς τῆσδε πόλεως (Xen. Mem. 3.3.12): song-dance and state-pilgrimage at Athens’, in Murray and Wilson (eds.), Music and the Muses, pp. 67–90. 14 C. Calame, Les chœurs de jeunes filles en Grèce archaïque, Rome, Edizioni dell’Ateneo, 1977. 15 See Odyssey, 8.261ff., where the famous blind Phaeacian bard Demodocus improvises a soloistic song in the presence of Odysseus, surrounded by a silent dancing chorus. For this hypothesis applied to the performance of some fragments of the poet Stesichorus (sixth century BC), see M. L. West, ‘Stesichorus’, Classical Quarterly, 21 (1971), 302–14, and more recently A. D. Barker, Euterpe. Ricerche sulla musica greca e romana, ed. F. Perusino and E. Rocconi, Pisa, ETS, 2002, p. 46. 16 For the Greeks, religious worship took many forms. The gods were honoured also by human achievement: hence the great importance of competitions of any kind within religious festivities.



in Olympia, Nemea, Delphi and Isthmia), and in the context of athletics, one could also find musical contests (mousikoi agōnes) in singing to the aulos (aulōidia) and to the kithara (kitharōidia), as well as in solo aulos or kithara playing. According to the competitive nature of Greek performance culture, prizes were offered to the best singer and instrumentalist, who thus gained fame and popularity from their victories: hence these occasions attracted performers from many parts of Greece. The musical items performed by these professional musicians were called nomoi, traditional solo pieces (sung or purely instrumental, grouped into the four major classes quoted above),17 which were generally thought of as conforming to their own fixed patterns: in Greek, nomos means also ‘custom’ or ‘law’. They were originally given different names according to their origin or their main features: we know, for instance, about a Boeotian as well as an Aeolian nomos (presumably originating in those specific geographical regions); a Terpandreios and a Kēpiōn (named after the poets Terpander and Cepion, a pupil of Terpander); a Trochaios and an Orthios (which derived their names from certain peculiar Greek rhythms); and so on.18 Some of these nomoi became notorious; for example, the so-called Pythikos nomos was a purely instrumental description of Apollo’s fight with the serpent named Python (who occupied the site of Delphi before him), introduced and developed as the main musical form in which the aulētai challenged during the Pythian games, held in one of the most important Apollinean sanctuaries (i.e. Delphi). In the final section of this nomos (called syringes, literally ‘whistles’), the players imitated the death of the serpent as it expired with its final ‘whistlings’, by exploiting the high harmonics achieved via the ‘speaker’ hole of the aulos. The musical forms which became the most fashionable between the fifth and fourth centuries BC, however, were the kitharodic nomoi, accompanied by the singers on their kitharas. These solo songs, together with the monodies of actors on stage in dramas, resulted in the ideal developing ground for the avant-garde musical style typical of that period (the so-called ‘New Music’), originating in the spectacular contemporary choral dithyrambs cultivated by prominent composers such as Kinesias and Melanippides.19 The most distinctive musical innovations of such a style were the abandonment of antistrophic composition, which allowed phenomena such as the spreading of a syllable over several notes, and the movement of melody through a wider range of sounds, that is, modulations. This was made possible first by organological 17 i.e. kitharodic, aulodic, kitharistic and auletic. 18 A. D. Barker, Greek Musical Writings: I. The Musician and his Art, Cambridge Readings in the Literature of Music, Cambridge University Press, 1984, pp. 249–55. 19 E. Csapo, ‘The politics of the New Music’, in Murray and Wilson (eds.), Music and the Muses, pp. 207–48.

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innovations in the construction of the aulos, which became equipped with a mechanism (i.e. metal collars) through which the pipe-players were able to close and open the numerous finger-holes during performance, and later by increasing the stringing of the kithara in order to emulate the ‘panharmonic’ possibilities of the aulos. Greek theatrical drama was part of a religious festival devoted to Dionysus, organised by the city of Athens with the purpose of stressing its civic ideology and its cultural self-assertion among the other Greek poleis. The main elements of the programme were competitive performances of dithyrambs and plays, which always involved music. Plutarch, between the first and second century AD, describes the experience of watching tragedy as ‘a wonderful aural (akroama) and visual experience’ (Plutarch, On the Renown of the Athenians, 5).20 Indeed, choral odes of ancient tragedies and comedies were sung and danced to the accompaniment of the aulos in the orchēstra,21 a circular or trapezoidal platform of packed earth surrounded by a semicircular seating scheme properly called theatron22 (which became a permanent building only in the late fourth century BC). This spatial arrangement influenced the performer–audience relationship, since the playing area and the auditorium were one, with no structure or illumination separating the players from the public; consequently, the audience was an active partner in the theatrical performance, free to comment and to intervene, as well as to be commented upon (especially in comedy, where the characters often addressed the public, collectively or individually).23 Within the varieties of drama, three main types of choral dances emerged, each with its own character: the emmeleia for tragedy (which displayed a grave and solemn quality), the kordax for comedy (which had a lascivious character), and the sikinnis for satyr play (whose chorus was made up of satyrs, Greek mythological deities, half human and half beast, who danced in a violent way). According to the ancient sources, Greek theatrical dancing was highly mimetic, even though we know that it followed the framework of repetitions (strophe, antistrophe and epode) typical of any ancient choral genre. Choral songs (called stasima) were interspersed with actors’ episodes which, though usually spoken, displayed a strong rhythmical beat based on the iambic metre: ᴗ ―. Parts of their roles, however, could also be delivered as a kind of 20 The consciousness of this phenomenon in later centuries was such that ancient theatre, especially ancient tragedy, inspired the Western world’s first operas, which began as attempts to restore Greek drama to the stage. 21 From orcheomai, literally ‘space in which the chorus dance’. On the aulos in theatrical contexts see P. Wilson, ‘The musicians among the actors’, in P. Easterling and E. Hall (eds.), Greek and Roman Actors: Aspects of an Ancient Profession, Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 39–68. 22 From theaomai, lit. ‘place for seeing’. The meaning of the word theatron, which corresponds to the Latin cavea, was later on extended to denote the entire building. 23 P. D. Arnott, Public and Performance in the Greek Theatre, London, Kindle Edition, 1989.



recitative called parakatalogē (that is, katalogē (i.e. recitation) ‘beside’ or ‘along with’ (para) musical accompaniment), the irregularity of which was thought to produce a ‘tragic’ effect (see Pseudo-Aristotle, Problems, 19.6), or were more often sung.24 Tragic actors (or their parodic counterparts in comedy), for instance, performed solo cries at moments of high tension or sang in concert with the chorus the so-called amoebean songs (from ameibō, ‘to exchange’). The formal lament, in which the voices of the actors and chorus were interwoven in extended threnody typical of tragedies, was called kommos (from koptō, ‘to beat’ – i.e. the head and breast in lamentation). The famous Aristotelian katharsis, described by the philosopher as the purging of the emotions of pity and fear that are aroused in the viewer of a tragedy,25 was probably enhanced by the musical performance of the most emotional scenes. According to a widespread practice in ancient musical performances, it was common for the playwright in the early theatre (who also composed the music for his plays) to hold the office of actor as well as that of choreographer and trainer of the chorus;26 after having attempted to act in some of his tragedies (see above), Sophocles was the first to separate the functions of actor and poet due to his weak voice (mikrophōnia). Ancient literary sources often remarked that the vocal talents of an actor, who wore a mask during performance, should undoubtedly exhibit euphōnia (‘good voice production and delivery’), megalophōnia (‘loudness of voice’, necessary in an open-air theatre) and lamprotēs (‘clearness, distinctness’). These qualities were certainly enhanced by daily exercises; we know, for instance, that a comic actor named Hermon, contemporary with Aristophanes, usually did a prolonged vocal workout before performing.27 But they were reinforced also by some simple acoustical devices typical of Greek theatre design, such as the almost complete lack of reverberation, due to the absence of a roof, and the profusion of reflected sounds, such as those characteristic of the orchēstra.28 In the second half of the fifth century BC, dramatic music became more complex. This was due to the use of more elaborate rhythms and melodies, probably as a result of the influence of mimetic and ‘expressionist’ music, typical of dithyrambic and kitharodic composers, on innovative playwrights such as Euripides. Such a revolutionary style led to the emergence of professional actors, since it was ‘easier 24 On actors in the Classical world see especially Easterling and Hall (eds.), Greek and Roman Actors, and A. Duncan, Performance and Identity in the Classical world, Cambridge University Press, 2006. 25 Aristotle, Poetics, 1449b. 26 Aeschylus, for instance, regularly took on the leading roles in his own productions. 27 Pollux, Onomasticon, 4.88. 28 This increased the distance limit of satisfactory listening from 42 metres – the distance limit for speech transmission, in quiet conditions – to 60 metres (M. Barron, Auditorium Acoustics and Architectural Design, London, E. & F. N. Spon, 1993, p. 228). Theoretical pieces of evidence (as the pseudo-Aristotelian Problems, 11.25, or the Natural History of the Roman writer Pliny the Elder, 11.270) show the consciousness of the phenomenon of the orchēstra reflection.

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for one person to execute many modulations than for many’ (Pseudo-Aristotle, Problems, 19.15). The first evidence of this growing phenomenon was the institution of a prize in 449 BC for the best actor in the City Dionysia, the most important Athenian festival devoted to dramatic performances. These professionals gradually became real virtuoso performers, who went on tour as distinguished protagonists; for instance, the professional actor Theodoros, the most famous tragic actor of the fourth century, specialised in female roles of Sophoclean and Euripidean dramas (which had become repertoire plays in the late Classical period). It was the actors themselves who contributed to the vast and rapid spread of the theatre outside Attica, transforming it into an international genre, though there is evidence attesting to the spread of interest in drama since the fifth century BC:29 we know, for instance, that Aeschylus and Euripides took some of their productions to Sicily and Macedonia. As a consequence, the function of the chorus (previously integral to the performance structure) also changed considerably. In the early fourth century Aristophanes (in comedy) and Agathon (in tragedy) no longer composed special choral songs for each play, and began the practice of inserting musical compositions (called embolima, i.e. ‘interludes’) between the episodes, which could be transferred from play to play. This sort of chorus can be traced to the time of ‘New Comedy’, a label given to plays of the early Hellenistic period, for which Menander is the dramatist best known to us. In these plays the chorus, more often a band of revellers or drunks, has nothing to do with the plot of the drama and enters the scene only between the episodes or acts, singing and dancing, to allow the audience (and the actors) to take a breather.30 Other contexts of musical performance which are only occasionally cited in ancient sources (but widely spread over the entire Greek world) are those related to so-called ‘folk music’. This included songs and instrumental music which accompanied everyday activities with their rhythmical and repetitive character. We know that the aulos, for instance, was used on the warships known as ‘triremes’ to keep the rowers’ strokes in time; for a parody of this practice on the comic stage see the rowing scene in Aristophanes’ Frogs, where Dionysus rows Charon’s boat across the Styx to the accompaniment of a chorus of frogs, attempting inexpertly to keep time with their song.31 The aulos could also accompany warriors in battle

29 On this topic see especially O. Taplin, Comic Angels and Other Approaches to Greek Drama through Vasepainting, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1993, and O. Taplin, Pots and Plays: Interactions between Tragedy and Greek Vase-painting of the Fourth Century B.C., Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007. 30 P. D. Arnott and J. M. Walton, Menander and the Making of Comedy, Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 1996. 31 The frogs acquire the role of keleustēs (i.e. ‘boatswain’), while elements of the text point out the accompaniment of the aulos to this scene. See E. Rocconi, ‘Il canto delle rane in Aristofane Rane 209–267’, Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica, 85 (2007), 137–42.



or various athletic events such as the long jump, discus or javelin throwing, boxing and wrestling.32 Furthermore, ancient sources speak about several work songs: a reapers’ song called Lityersēs (after the mythical Phrygian hero), melodies sung by hired labourers who went to work in the field, or by bath attendants as well as by women winnowing (see Athenaeus, Banquet of the Learned, 619a). This oral tradition of popular music, including extemporised love songs, singing matches and mourning laments, whose traces can sometimes be found in comedy,33 is rarely corroborated, not least because of the anonymity of its composers. However, it found a literary transposition in the Hellenistic period, when the gap between the popular and the elite cultures became more consistent, thanks to some learned poets who, in some cases, even elevated such a folk tradition to a ‘literary genre’.

Musical performances in late Greek antiquity In the post-Classical history of musical performance, the theatre became the most popular kind of entertainment; even the smallest city had its own theatre, which came to be considered an essential public building, even away from the major centres of mainland Greece. New productions retained their competitive character, being performed within the frame of the Dionysia, celebrated everywhere in the expanded Greek world after Alexander’s conquests. It also became part of other religious festivals, such as the Mouseia held at the city of Thespiai or the Soteria at Delphi. Additionally of great importance was the phenomenon of the revival of the old classics: contests of old tragedies and comedies are known to have formed a regular part in the programmes of the Athenian Dionysia (starting from 386 BC) as well as of many other festivals.34 This expansion rendered necessary the development of various and distinct theatrical professions, which were no longer amateur activities, simply conceived as a way of contributing to the city life. This growing phenomenon of the virtuoso and the increasing ascendancy of soloists led to the constitution and spread of guilds (synodoi or koina) of theatrical performers called ‘Artists of Dionysus’ (Dionysiakoi technitai), active across and beyond Greece from the third century 35 BC. These touring companies operated specifically as autonomous political 32 M. L. West, Ancient Greek Music, Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 28–30. 33 See, for example, the lyric agon between an old woman and a girl to grasp the attention of the beloved man, or the lover’s complaint sung at his mistress’s door (called paraklausithyron) in Aristophanes’ Ecclesiazousai (vv. 893–923 and 952–75). 34 G. M. Sifakis, Studies in the History of Hellenistic Drama, London, Athlone Press, 1967. 35 A. W. Pickard-Cambridge, The Dramatic Festivals of Athens, rev. J. Gould and D. M. Lewis, Oxford University Press, 1968; I. E. Stefanis, ιονυσιακοì Τεχνı˜ται. υμβολὲς στὴν ρωσοπογραφία τοῦ εάτρου καì τῆϛ Mουσικῆϛ τῶν Ἀρχαίων Ἑλλήνων, Heraklion, University Publications of Crete, 1988; B. Le Guen, Les Associations de technites dionysiaques à l’époque hellénistique, Paris, de Boccard, 2001.

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entities (each with its own administrative system, its own decrees and magistrates elected in public assemblies) and became incredibly powerful in late Greek antiquity, even sending their own ambassadors to every part of the Greek world. Such organisations, knowledge of which is based overwhelmingly on epigraphic evidence, spawned specialised performers as well as production teams to individuals, cities or the various organising bodies and festivals widespread in every corner of the Greek world. In fact they offered not only musicians, poets and actors, but also costume makers (imatiomisthai) and trainers (didaskaloi) for any theatrical exhibition of the period. On some occasions they could even act as co-organiser, one example being the Mouseia at Thespiai, or the Dionysia at Thebes.36 The ‘stars’ of these guilds were the tragōidoi and kōmōidoi, travelling professional singers who could enjoy huge earnings and fame, honoured by statues and civic rights in the cities where they performed. Often their performances resembled concerts or recitals rather than theatrical productions, since (as far as we know) they seem to have included excerpts from famous dramas of the past instead of the performance of the complete ancient texts.37 In these performances (called epideixeis or akroaseis) not only the order of the original excerpts was rearranged but, in some cases, their delivery was also changed: passages originally conceived for spoken delivery, for instance, even messenger speeches, complains Lucian in On the dance, 27, were set to music in the new performance and sung to the instrumental accompaniment of the aulos or the kithara. On the other hand, sections that were originally choral could be transformed in astrophic exhibitions (that is, avoiding the structure of repetitions typical of choral music) and hence transferred to soloists. Our knowledge of these musical practices relies mostly on relatively recent papyrological discoveries (spanning from the third century BC to the third century AD), which show a variegated panorama of theatrical exhibitions in the Hellenistic and Roman times. Such evidence closely reflects a ‘performative’ rather than a ‘literary’ tradition: traces of the performative use of these documents are the presence of musical notation (probably not included in the texts of the great Alexandrian editors),38 stage directions (including references

36 S. Aneziri (‘The organisation of music contests in the Hellenistic period and artists’ participation: an attempt at classification’, in P. Wilson (ed.), The Greek Theatre and Festivals, Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 71) argues that the competitions at the Mouseia and the Dionysia were conducted jointly by both the cities and the artists of the Isthmian and Nemean Koinon. 37 B. Gentili, Lo spettacolo nel mondo classico (teatro ellenistico e teatro romano arcaico), Rome, Laterza, 1977. 38 For a different hypothesis see T. Fleming, ‘The survival of Greek dramatic music from the fifth century to the Roman period’, in B. Gentili and F. Perusino (eds.), La colometria antica dei testi poetici greci, Pisa, Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, 1999, pp. 17–29; and T. Fleming and E. C. Kopff, ‘Colometry of Greek lyric verses in tragic texts’, Studi Italiani di Filologia Classica, 3/10 (1992), 758–70 (fully discussed in L. Prauscello, Singing Alexandria: Music between Practice and Textual Transmission, Mnemosyne Supplements, 274, Leiden, Brill, 2006).



to sounds or noises) and actors’ sigla (for tragedy and comedy, the letters A, B and  having numeric value and indicating the actors according to the hierarchy within the company: protagonist, deuteragonist and tritagonist).39 Among these documents, the tragic musical anthologies appear as particularly popular: sometimes the dramatic texts are selected according to the content, as in P.Oslo inv. 1413 (tragic passages on Pyrrhus and Neoptolemus) and in P.Oxy. 44. 3161 (lamentations of mythical mothers); at other times they are selected according to author, the most popular of whom was Euripides. A passage in Aristotle’s Poetics (1450a), in which the author complains that stringing together a set of speeches (rheseis) expressive of a character will not produce the essential tragic effect so well as a play which has a plot, seems to confirm that in the fourth century BC tragic anthologies were widely promulgated. Indeed, in one of the most ancient surviving musical papyri we have (Leiden papyrus inv. 510), dated around the third century BC, we find an anthological selection of two lyrical excerpts from an Euripidean drama of the late fifth century, the Iphigenia in Aulis.40 The two excerpts are rearranged in their order: the first is part of an amoebean song between Iphigenia and the chorus, coming from the last part of the tragedy (vv. 1500–9),41 and the second is an originally choral section coming from its second stasimon (vv. 784–94). In both cases the original performance is readapted to the conditions of the new musical production: a lyric duet between soloists (or between actor and secondary chorus) for the first excerpt, and a solo performance for the second fragment (even if the hypothesis of a solo performance also for the first passage cannot be completely ruled out).42 One can only speculate on the authenticity of the Euripidean music, since it is more than possible that the original text was set to new music by contemporary musicians. According to these documents, another theatrical genre which was also quite popular at that time is the mime, a term used by modern scholars to cover a very wide range of performances. In its more common meaning, the mime is a narrative entertainment – probably originating in Magna Graecia – which was performed by actors who, without masks, usually portrayed lower-class characters from daily and ordinary life. They would speak in dialogue but also sing 39 As well as an extensive use of the writing material, i.e. the papyrus, on both sides, see T. Gammacurta, Papyrologica scaenica, Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso, 2006. 40 E. Pöhlmann and M. L. West (eds.), Documents of Ancient Greek Music: The Extant Melodies and Fragments, Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 18–21. 41 As Prauscello (Singing Alexandria, p. 179) opportunely points out of the long astrophic section in Iphigenia in Aulis (vv. 1475–1531), the papyrus has selected just those parts which represent not only the most pathetic point of the whole section, but also the only one in which there is a lyric exchange between the chorus and the protagonist. 42 See Prauscello, Singing Alexandria, p. 178.

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and dance, and papyri suggest that their text was considered more open to rewriting and additions than any other theatrical genre. Musical accompaniment is not usually recorded on these papyri, but is roughly indicated by special signs which simply indicate percussion beats (like krous- for krousis, i.e. ‘beat’) or the presence of a wind instrument on stage (symbolised by a simple horizontal stroke; – ); for some examples see P.Oxy. III. 413, which refers the best-known mime-text of antiquity, the so-called ‘Charition-mime’ (a story reminiscent of the Euripidean Iphigeneia in Tauris).43 Some poets (such as Sophron in the fifth or Herondas in the third century BC) gave this genre a literary form; but the mime seems to have been particularly widespread as a ‘popular’ performance, both in the Graeco-Roman Aegypt and in Rome, where it gradually took over the Atellan farce (an Italic form of improvised drama) as a tailpiece or finale (exodium) after tragic performances (see next section). One of the most important cultural phenomena of late Greek antiquity, however, was the development and the rise of pantomime, which would become the most popular and disseminated theatrical performance of the Roman Imperial period (according to the sources, it was ‘officially’ invented in 22 BC, when Pylades of Cilicia and Bathyllus of Alexandria introduced it in Rome, see next section). This musical performance offered the public something similar to modern ballet interpretation of serious drama: a single actor/dancer (called orchēstēs), wearing a graceful silk costume and a closedmouth mask, mimed a story playing ‘all’ (pantos) the parts himself, supported by a chorus of singers and a small orchestra. The musical accompaniment included wind instruments (basically aulos and panpipes, a set of reed tubes bound together with wax) as well as percussion, such as kymbala (small brass cymbals), sistra (Egyptian musical instruments consisting of a handle and a U-shaped metal frame) and the kroupezion (from krouō, ‘to strike’), a sandal with an iron sole, used to mark time for the dance. The pantomime’s origin can be traced back to the mimetic dance of tragic actors, since the pantomimic and tragic mythical themes were basically the same (although historical dramas also played their part in such repertoire): an epigraphy describes the pantomime dancer as an ‘actor of tragic rhythmical movement’.44 For a parody of tragic dancing in comedy see the finale of Aristophanes’ Wasps (vv. 1474–515), where the main character, Philocleon, challenges the younger tragedians to a competition in which, he says, he will 43 M. Andreassi, Mimi greci in Egitto: «Charition» e «Moicheutria», Bari, Palomar, 2001; Gammacurta, Papyrologica, pp. 7–32. 44 Delphi III 1. 551, on which see M. Robert, ‘Pantomimen im Griechischen Orient’, Hermes, 65 (1930), 106–22.



dance the old dances of Thespis, the traditional founder of Athenian tragedy. It has been argued that here the dance figures were probably mimed, so that the characters on stage simply struck certain postures, showing these stylised movements more or less in isolation from each other.45 But the pantomimic performances certainly had precedents in other contexts: in Xenophon’s Symposium (a dialogue written around 360 BC as if it were a record of actual after-dinner conversation), we find a description of the exhibition of an aulos player, a girl acrobat and a boy playing the kithara and dancing at the same time, all provided by a Syracusan impresario contracted by the host: among their performances, a suggestive tableau of the mythical love of Dionysus and Ariadne, accompanied by music, is included (9.2–7). Furthermore, scholars have identified as a kind of pantomime the competitive performance of Aristagoras dancing the role of a Gallus in an Alexandrian epigram of the mid-third century BC.46 Besides these increased typologies of theatrical performances set up by the Hellenistic entertainment industry (which put music in the hands of experts and virtuosi), the ‘high’ literary production of that time was greatly influenced by the gradual introduction of ‘book culture’. In fact, most poetry of the Alexandrian period was not written for musical performance, but for recitation – at the court of a patron or at public poetry festivals – or for private reading. The conventional use of ancient lyric verses (i.e. verses originally sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument) in repeated stichic patterns (i.e. verses of the same pattern, such as Homer’s hexameters or the trimeters of tragedy, repeated in every line of the text) provides evidence of a very sophisticated poetry, a prerogative of the learned and refined culture developed within the circle of erudite poets of the Alexandria Museum, very well acquainted with the models of the past (see above). In such a culture, these poets had a much more circumscribed role, as their business was only writing words, not music.47 Traces of contemporary performative occasions, however, can be found in this poetry, which often placed living performance tradition within a literary

45 L. E. Rossi, ‘Mimica e danza sulla scena comica greca (a proposito del finale delle Vespe e di altri passi aristofanei)’, Rivista di cultura classica e medievale, 20 (1978), 1149–70; W. T. MacCary, ‘Philokleon ithyphallos: Dance, costume and character in the Wasps’, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 109 (1979), 137–47. 46 O. Weinreich, Epigrammstudien, I: Epigramm und Pantomimus nebst einem Kapitel über einige nichtepigrammatische Texte und Denkmäler zur Geschichte des Pantomimus, Heidelberg, Winter, 1948; E. J. Jory, ‘The masks on the propylon of the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias’, in Easterling and Hall (eds.), Greek and Roman Actors, pp. 238–53. 47 R. Hunter, Theocritus and the Archaeology of Greek Poetry, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 1–13.

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frame. A good example of such a practice may be found in the Idylls of the poet Theocritus (third century BC), the creator of pastoral poetry, describing a great variety of musical situations, including private and public contexts, and portraying many traditional musical genres, still easily recognisable despite being divorced from their original musical performance.48 First of all we find the bucolic agon (boukoliasmos), a literary genre based on the extemporised performance of two opponents, who alternately improvised couplets or ‘stanzas’. Each theme, introduced by one of them, was closely capped or varied by the other; the music, a significant element of the original competitions (probably based on the repetition of stereotyped melodic motifs used as an aid to improvisation during the performance), is missing. The best Theocritean example of boukoliasmos is the contest between the goatherd Comatas and the shepherd Lacon in Idyll 5 (‘The Goatherd and the Shepherd’). This idyll is written in recitative verses (that is, dactylic hexameters), but the musical symbolism, as well as the numerous references to the instrument typical of the pastoral world (i.e. the syrinx or panpipes), constantly reminds the reader of the original performance of such a genre, reinforcing the illusion of realism (a dominant aesthetic concept in the early Hellenistic age) pursued by Theocritus. Other genres recurrent in such poetry were, for instance, the love songs, such as the celebrated one performed by the Cyclops Polyphemus for the nymph Galatea in Idyll 11 (‘The Cyclops’), or by the labourer Boukaios of Idyll 10 (‘The Reapers’). Such a genre could also take the form of a serenade or paraklausithyron (literally, ‘lover’s complaint sung at his mistress’s door’), as in Idyll 3 (‘The Serenade’). We also find examples of work songs, such as the reaper’s song named Lityersēs (see above) displayed in Idyll 10.41ff.; mourning laments, such as the dirge of Thyrsis on the death of Daphnis, the mythical Sicilian shepherd who, according to some sources, invented pastoral poetry (see Idyll 1, titled ‘Thyrsis’), or the lamentation for Adonis (ialemos) performed by a female singer during the Alexandrian Adonia Festival in Idyll 15 (‘Women at the Adonia’); and, finally, what we would more generally label ‘folk music’, such as two evidently famous little songs quoted in Idyll 4 (‘The Herdsmen’) and 14 (‘The Love of Cynisca’), one in honour of the city of Croton, the other one belonging to the Thessalian tradition. These erudite compositions display quite a complex combination of ‘illusive realism and allusive erudition’ (to employ a recent scholarly definition),49 assuming the form of typical ‘high’

48 R. Pretagostini, ‘Tracce di poesia orale nei carmi di Teocrito’, Aevum Antiquum, 5 (1992), 67–78. 49 W. G. Arnott, ‘The preoccupations of Theocritus: structure, illusive realism, allusive learning’, in M. A. Harder, R. F. Regtuit and G. C. Walker (eds.), Theocritus, Hellenistica Groningana, Proceedings of the Groningen Workshops on Hellenistic Poetry, Groningen, Egbert Forsten, 1996, pp. 57–70.



literary products of the new Hellenistic world, on which, nevertheless, musical performance certainly left some traces.

The Roman age In ancient Rome, the interaction among different arts assumed more spectacular features than in Greece. Roman musical performances, especially those of the Imperial period (27 BC–AD 476), were remarkable shows in which the combination of dance, words and music aimed to ‘amuse’ audiences (often with a conspicuous propagandistic agenda) in spite of the transmission of ethical and religious values. The Greek practice, typical of the late Classical and Hellenistic period, of turning musical performances into a show was developed in Roman spectacles, commemorating the victory of a general (e.g. the pompa triumphalis, a religious and civic parade, accompanied by trumpeters, for the entry of the vir triumphalis into the city) or a funeral (e.g. the pompa funebris, in honour of a person of high rank, usually accompanied by several musical instruments), not to mention the various theatrical representations frequent at that time. Roman musical performances were naturally influenced by neighbouring civilisations, most notably by the Greeks (especially after the conquest of one of their major colonies in Italy, i.e. Tarentum, in the third century BC) and the Etruscans, whose influence on the development of the privileged context for such performances, the ludi (see below), is clearly stated by ancient sources.50 Nevertheless, the scarcity of information about the musical and theatrical activity in Etruria and in Greek-speaking cities of southern Italy makes it impossible to measure exactly their impact on Roman spectacles.51 The ludi (literally, ‘games’) were religious festivities in honour of a god, a deceased personage or a commemorative historical event (for instance, triumphs in war) – to which in the Imperial age were added celebrations in honour of the emperors – organised not only in Rome, but in all the Roman world. In these contexts public entertainment of different types could take place, such as chariot races, gladiatorial combats, the hunting of exotic wild animals (venationes) and naval battles (naumachiae). Despite their religious character, these occasions soon became the best means by which the political government (especially the Imperial power) could consolidate its control on the masses and manipulate public opinion: hence their essentially secular

50 Tertullian On the Spectacles 5; Isidore of Seville Etymologiae 18; Livy Ab urbe condita, 7.2.4–7. 51 D. Briquel, ‘Ludi/Lydi: jeux romains et origines étrusques’, Ktema, 11 (1986), 161–7.

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character and their development as a large-scale entertainment industry, in which music always played a great part (though it was never performed as an independent art).52 The most ancient festivities in Rome were the ludi Romani held annually since 366 BC in honour of Jupiter, said to have been already established by Tarquinius Priscus as far back as the fifth century on the occasion of his conquest of the Latin city of Apiolae (Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1.35.9). The games consisted of an opening solemn procession, the pompa circensis (where dancers and musicians paraded), and a horse and chariot race in the circus (ludi circenses). Such a site was a large open-air venue in the shape of a rectangle, with a strip (called spina, decorated by sculptures and columns) running most of the length down to the middle of the space, creating a roughly rectangular-oval circuit for the races. In 264 BC gladiatorial games were added (ludi gladiatorii, from gladius, i.e. ‘sword’), initially taking place in the forum, and later in amphitheatres, round or oval in shape, whose large central performance arena was surrounded by tiered seating.53 During the fights, musicians (often displayed on contemporary mosaics, like those from the seaside villa at Dar Buc Ammera, near Zliten, in Libya) played accompaniments, altering their tempo to match that of the combat. Typical instruments for such performances were long straight trumpets (tubae), large curved horns (cornua) and the water organ (hydraulis), invented in the third century BC in Alexandria but widely employed in theatres, amphitheatres and circuses only by the mid-first century AD.54 The musicians were sometimes dressed as animals, with names such as ‘tibia-playing bear’ (ursus tibicen) and ‘horn-blowing chicken’ (pullus cornicen), as some Pompeian mosaics attest. Musical and theatrical performances (ludi scaenici) were probably included among the Roman games as early as 364 BC, when historical sources (Livy, Ab urbe condita, 7.2.4–7) attest that some imported Etrurian performers (ludiones) danced without song (sine carmine ullo), that is, to nothing but the sound of a reed-pipe called tibia, the most significant of the Roman instruments, similar to the Greek aulos. The promotion of such an event is described by Livy as an attempt to cure a pestilence that had not responded to ordinary remedies (that is, an attempt to restore the pax deorum, as a religious act). Later on, according to the same source, these dances were imitated by Roman youth,

52 For a general overview of this topic see N. Savarese (ed.), Teatri romani: gli spettacoli nell’antica Roma, Bologna, Il mulino, 1996. 53 The amphitheatres, like the theatres, were originally made of wood: the first permanent building in Rome dates from around 30 BC. 54 Vitruvius, On Architecture, 10.8; Athenaeus, Banquet of the Learned, 174a–185a.



who added an improvised dialogue similar to the Fescennine verses (an interchange of extemporaneous raillery, originally sung in villages at harvesthome), giving place to a more developed, yet still plotless, dramatic and musical performance called satura (literally, ‘mixture’, ‘medley’), the nature of which little is known. It was only in 240 BC, however, that the first ‘drama’ based on Greek models (i.e. a fabula with a plot and artistically constructed incidents) was staged by Livius Andronicus, a Greek playwright, on the occasion of an official visit in Rome by Hieron II, tyrant of Syracuse. From such a date, more serious and artistic forms of drama (i.e. tragedies and comedies) were staged during the ludi scaenici, replacing traditional ‘local’ performances such as the Atellan farce; this latter, an improvised short play of Oscan origin (from Atella, an Oscan town in Campania), relied on stock situations and stock characters in masks, such as Maccus (the foolish character), Pappus (the stingy old man) or Bucco (the fat and boastful character), imported into Rome since the early fourth century BC. Atellan farces were performed at the public games after tragedies, as a tailpiece or finale (exodium, literally, ‘after-piece’). Roman tragedies and comedies of the Republican age relied extensively on Greek typologies, although Roman dramas seem to have explored and expanded the musical potential of their Greek models. Accordingly, four different types of drama were developed. The fabula palliata (from pallium, the Greek cloak) and the fabula togata (from toga, the Roman dress) were respectively comedies in Greek or in Roman dress. The so-called cothurnata (from cothurnus, i.e. ‘buskin’, a boot which Athenian tragic actors wore on stage) and the praetexta (which refers to the white toga of Roman senators) were the tragedies specifically in Greek and in Roman costume, the former based on the same mythological characters of their Greek prototypes, the latter dealing with upper-class citizens, famous historical figures, or mythological characters from the distinctively Roman culture. At that time all the plays were performed on temporary wooden stages, since permanent theatres were not erected in Rome until 55 BC. Furthermore, other attractions competed with drama for audience attention at public games: we know, for instance, that the first two productions of the comedy, Terence’s Mother in Law (Hecyra), were failures because the public left, first to see a rope dancer and later to watch gladiators. The typology of drama most familiar to us is the palliata, since the only surviving Roman comedies, written by Plautus and Terence (third to second centuries BC), belong to this genre. These plays were basically Latin translations or adaptations of Greek ‘New Comedy’, where actors wore Greek chitons and pallium and acted in Greek locations, although some contemporary elements

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were occasionally inserted. Quite often the dramatists mixed elements of two or more sources employing the so-called method of contaminatio (literally, ‘contamination’). The most important innovation in these new dramas, however, was the remarkable increase in musical performance: the frequent transformation of originally spoken sections in cantica (i.e. ‘songs’), performed by soloists taking the place of the chorus, completely disappeared in the context of Roman comedy. In the palliata the cantica were numerous (see the expression numera innumera, literally ‘countless metres’, to indicate the metrical variety of Plautinian verses)55 and spaced out by spoken sections called diverbia, all acted by male actors (usually slaves or freemen)56 continuously, without any interludes between scenes – the convention to divide these plays into acts was established in the Renaissance editions of Plautus. These musical sections, which could be solo arias or duets, were accompanied by different varieties of tibia and composed by a musician (not the playwright himself) who was part of the professional theatrical companies, called greges or catervae, which provided all the means for the theatrical set.57 The leader of the troupe (dominus gregis) was asked to produce the plays by the magistrates responsible for organising such public games (the curule aediles), bought the script directly from the author and arranged for music, props and costumes. According to valuable evidence from the production records of Terence’s comedies, for instance, we know that one Flaccus Claudi (i.e. slave or ex-slave of Claudius, one of Terence’s patrons) was the composer, as well as the player, of the music of his dramas. Even if we are little informed about Republican Roman tragedy, the titles and the extant fragments of early Latin cothurnatae suggest a strong interest in musical virtuosity in tragic contexts. Some of the titles of Livius Andronichus (Andromeda), Ennius (Andromacha, Hecuba, Iphigenia) and Accius (Alcestis, Hecuba and Bacchae), to quote some of the most important dramatists between the third and first centuries BC, imply a Roman attraction to Euripidean plays with remarkable solo singing. Again, the practice of adapting Greek tragedy for the Roman stage passed on the conversion of spoken passages to lyrical performance: see the example of Ennius’ Medea, where the main character sings some of

55 C. Questa, Numeri innumeri. Ricerche sui cantica e la tradizione manoscritta di Plauto, Rome, Edizioni dell’Ateneo, 1985. 56 In Rome the actors who performed in dramas were rigorously excluded from membership in the res publica. 57 E. J. Jory, ‘Association of actors in Rome’, Hermes, 98 (1970), 224–53; P. G. Brown, ‘Actors and actormanagers at Rome in the time of Plautus and Terence’, in Easterling and Hall (eds.), Greek and Roman Actors, pp. 225–37.



the scene with her children (fr. 282 Vahlen), spoken as iambic trimeters in the Euripidean original drama. The likelihood of a musical performance in Imperial Latin tragedy, however, is more controversial. Despite the preservation of Seneca’s plays, which strongly influenced tragic drama in the Renaissance, modern scholars believe that his tragedies were written for recitation only or, if staged, were performed in private productions.58 Strong evidence in favour of such a hypothesis is the modification of the Roman theatre design: the space of the orchēstra, originally devoted to choral dancing, was reduced, becoming semicircular, and normally occupied by the senators; from this has been inferred the disappearance of the tragic chorus (still present, however, in Senecan tragedies). In the Imperial period, there was a great increase in musical performance opportunities, occasioned by the theatrical explosion under the Roman Empire (as attests the construction, from the late first century BC, of numerous permanent theatres in all areas of the Empire). Traditional tragedies and comedies, however, were flanked or supplanted by more popular forms of theatrical entertainment: a mythical narrative could be danced to choral music as a pantomime (tragoedia saltata), sung by a tragic singer (tragoedia cantata), or chanted to the professional stringed instrument imported from Greece, that is, the cithara (citharoedia).59 The Emperor Nero (called citharoedus by Tacitus)60 is said to have experimented with all these possibilities, acting and singing tragic roles in private and public theatres, in both Greece and Rome. Even if, as we have already seen earlier, a form of mimetic dance existed in the Greek world from at least the middle of the third century BC, the pantomime or tragoedia saltata was officially introduced in Rome in 22 BC, thanks to Pylades of Cilicia, who is accredited with having inserted chorus and orchestra in dance performance, and Bathyllus of Alexandria. Evidence suggests that it gained an overwhelming popularity in Augustan Rome among all classes of society until the sixth century AD. Pantomimes took place on the public stage as well as privately, and they were appreciated especially for the virtuosic ability of their main performer, the saltator or planipes, that is, ‘who wore no shoes’ in order to have greater freedom of movement. Sometimes a second dancer was added along with a herald whose function was to

58 For the hypothesis that actual performance had taken place in Seneca’s lifetime, see G. W. M. Harrison, Seneca in Performance, London, Duckworth, 2000. 59 H. A. Kelly, ‘Tragedy and the performance of tragedy in late Roman antiquity’, Traditio, 35 (1979), 21–44; E. Hall ‘The singing actors of antiquity’, in Easterling and Hall (eds.), Greek and Roman Actors, pp. 3–38. 60 Annales, 14.15 and 16.4.

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broadcast the actions beforehand. The authors of the librettos, however, remained anonymous.61 In 173 BC, mimes (whose actors included both men and women)62 were admitted to the official programme of the Floralia, as a tailpiece following tragic performances at the annual festival celebrated in honour of the goddess Flora. They soon became the main theatrical entertainment of such festivity. This is evidence of the beginning of a process of formalisation of such a genre, whose performance had usually been occasional and largely improvisational, with a plot outline devised by the archimimus (the master or first player), who assigned dialogue sequences to the other players. Only titles survive from such literary mime: some were named after professions (for instance: The Augur, The Patchwork Tailor, The Fisherman) and others after festivities or social occasions (Saturnalia, The Wedding): hence the assumption that their topics could cover the whole spectrum of domestic situations; the adultery theme was one of the most common.63 The mimers spoke in dialogue, sang, danced and capered, conveying action through musical performance as well as physical gesture. The exhibitions of naked mimae and saltatrices (nudatio mimarum) were particularly appreciated by the Roman audience. The prominence of music in theatrical representations, however, did not overshadow its usage in other contexts, since music accompanied all the spectacular entertainment of the Roman public games, offering the players broader possibilities of employment. Besides these institutionalised occasions, moreover, there were several other performing artists (not only singers and musicians, but also acrobats and tightrope walkers) called circulatores (from circulor, ‘to form groups/circles round oneself’, because of the arrangement of their public), who made their displays in less formal circumstances as modern street artists. In one of his elegies, the Latin poet Propertius (late first century BC) describes one such typical performance: ‘an Egyptian piped, and Phyllis rattled her castanets with artless grace as we pelted her with roses, and a dwarf, the famous Magnus, was there to dance for us, bobbing his stubby arms to the hollow pipe’ (Elegies, 4.8.39–42). Since the second century AD, with the diffusion of Christian religion in the Roman Empire, the Christian Church consistently condemned all the spectacular performances of the Roman world. In Tertullian’s On the games (second century AD), it is explicitly stated that Christians should not take part as

61 M. E. Molloy, Libanius and the Dancers, Hildesheim and Zurich, Olms-Weidmann, 1996, especially pp. 40–79. 62 For female performers in antiquity (especially mimae) see R. Webb, ‘Female entertainers in late antiquity’, in Easterling and Hall (eds.), Greek and Roman Actors, pp. 282–303. 63 R. E. Fantham, ‘Mime. The missing link in Roman literary history’, Classical World, 82 (1988–9), 153–63.



spectators at such entertainment. In later centuries, in the eastern Byzantine world, the ban on images brought about by Iconoclasm would have implied even a double ban on musical theatre, transforming the ancient art of drama into amoral fiction and sacrilege.64 But even in the fourth century AD, though disapproving theatrical and musical performances because of their lack of moral ends, Saint Augustine admitted the emotional mass-reactions created by them in the audience (Confessions, 3. 2), stressing the fundamental and lasting importance of such performances in ancient Greek and Roman societies.

64 W. Puchner, ‘Acting in the Byzantine theatre: evidence and problems’, in Easterling and Hall (eds.), Greek and Roman Actors, pp. 304–24.

. 8 .

Performance before c. 1430: an overview JOHN HAINES

The first problem confronting anyone interested in medieval music performance is the sheer size of the Middle Ages. By far the longest period of Western European music history, it spans the fifth to the fifteenth centuries. It is difficult to generalise about a millennium of music-making. Major differences exist, for example, between a lament from Carolingian Gaul and a lute composition from fifteenth-century Italy.1 These two pieces differ dramatically in almost every respect, including their temporal, geographical, linguistic and social contexts. Another problem is the remoteness of the Middle Ages. From the Baroque period, for example, we have a wealth of performance treatises, printed music, musical instruments, and in some cases, letters and musical sketches from the hands of composers themselves. Very little to none of this sort of documentation survives for the medieval millennium. This is due not only to the fact that the majority of music was transmitted orally rather than through writing, but also because most of the music written down in the Middle Ages – on perishable surfaces such as wax tablets or parchment pieces – has not survived.2 To make matters worse, medieval music writers, trained as they were in the speculative tradition of Boethius, generally refrain from detailed performance descriptions or prescriptions. Nevertheless, some knowledge survives on medieval music performance, and research continues to improve current understanding of the many kinds of music made in the Middle Ages, on which the present chapter proposes a thumbnail sketch. The picture frequently evoked of medieval music performance is that of ‘centuries of monkish dullness’, as Henry Fielding once put it.3 Most histories of medieval music give priority to sacred Latin monophonic song, followed by polyphony and vernacular song, respectively.4 The resulting medieval musical 1 On lute composition see T. McGee, ‘Instruments and the Faenza Codex’, Early Music, 14 (1986), 480–90. 2 R. Rosenfeld, ‘Technologies for musical drafts, twelfth century and later’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 11 (2002), 45–63. 3 H. Fielding, Tom Jones, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 67. 4 See, for example, J. Yudkin, Music in Medieval Europe, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall, 1989, and D. Wilson, Music of the Middle Ages: Style and Structure, New York, Schirmer, 1990.




Latin chant


Vernacular song

Instrumental music

Fig. 8.1. Conventional view of medieval music repertoires panorama is one where Latin chant dominates, with vernacular song and polyphony a distant second, and instrumental music a barely audible afterthought (Fig. 8.1). Now, instrumental music plays such a small part in modern histories largely on account of the paucity of surviving notated pieces.5 At the other extreme, Latin chant owes its fame to the political dominance of the Church in the Middle Ages; Latin manuscripts for liturgical use abounded and many have survived. The dominance of Latin chant extends to much of the earliest extant polyphony, based on chant fragments and explicitly composed for the Divine Service. Music histories typically fixate on notated polyphony partly because it prefigures masterworks by such well-known composers as Palestrina and Brahms, a representative case being Guillaume de Machaut’s ballade 34 discussed in Chapter 11.6 The most serious consequence of these prejudices is that many histories omit discussing substantial musical repertoires transmitted exclusively by oral means.

5 Yudkin, Music in Medieval Europe, pp. 432–57; Wilson, Music of the Middle Ages, pp. 379–382 (entitled ‘An instrumental postscript’). 6 See, for example, J. Haines, ‘Friedrich Ludwig’s “Musicology of the Future”: a commentary and translation’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 12 (2003), 160.

Performance before c. 1430: an overview


If a division of medieval music into ‘the big three’ (chant, polyphony and vernacular song) does not do it justice, the problem is more one of perspective than anything else. Focusing on these written-out and often sophisticated works leaves out music of a more plain nature. In particular, a great deal of medieval song lies somewhere between singing a canticum and reading a prosa, as Boethius put it.7 Much of this music occurs in the unspectacular, quotidian contexts described below and to a certain extent in the next chapter by Jeremy Summerly. In order to survey the totality of music-making in the Middle Ages, it is imperative to include this modest variety often performed by members of the lower, illiterate class. Thus, from the sophisticated Parisian organum quadruplum down to the humble Anglo-Saxon lullaby, all musical performances have their role in medieval society.8 An alternative history of medieval music performance might well take its cue from Johannes de Grocheio who around 1300 categorised three main types of music according to their place and function in society: lay, learned and ecclesiastic.9 The related strategy proposed in this chapter, and one having the distinct advantage of including music omitted by both Grocheio and most modern music historians, is to divide musical performances into the two main functions they served in medieval life: work and edification (Fig. 8.2). As seen in Fig. 8.2, music for work makes up the majority of musical sound made in a medieval day. Under this category falls music for nurturing such as lullabies, official music such as ceremonial instrumental pieces and other miscellaneous functional songs such as those performed in battle. The second category of edification includes entertainment in the modern sense. Under this category falls music for worship (including rituals frowned upon by the Church), music for small gatherings such as banquets and music for large public festivities sometimes linked to the liturgy but usually distinct from it, such as the ring dances (choreae or caroles). The latter two categories receive a little less space in Fig. 8.2, since such events occur less frequently than worship events. Taken together, these six sub-categories account for most medieval music-making. Having considered all of medieval music performance rather than the music restricted to such exclusive environments as courts and monasteries, it is clear that we must rethink the three conventional repertoires of chant, polyphony and vernacular song (Fig. 8.3; cf. Fig. 8.2). Indeed, the great majority of medieval music is either monophonic or heterophonic, and most songs are in the vernacular rather than Latin. As Fig. 8.3 shows, learned polyphonic 7 Boethius, cited in J. Haines, ‘Lambertus’s Epiglotus’, Journal of Medieval Latin, 16 (2006), 142. 8 For an original discussion of music’s function in medieval society see A. Hughes, Style and Symbol: Medieval Music, 800–1453, Ottawa, Institute of Medieval Music, 1989, pp. 133–74. 9 C. Page, Discarding Images, Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 73–4.



Nurturing (W)

Official (W)

Miscellaneous (W)

Festivities (E)

Worship (E)

Gatherings (E)

Fig. 8.2. Revised view of medieval music repertoires (W = music for work, E = music for edification)

Latin chant


Vernacular song

Instrumental music

Fig. 8.3. Standard medieval repertoires revised

Performance before c. 1430: an overview


repertoires, such as those associated with the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris or the papal courts in Avignon, belong to a limited practice in global terms. We can also see that chant in the learned language of Latin is overshadowed by a host of more humble vernacular songs never committed to parchment. Even in the realm of worship, Latin chants are but one of a larger body of ritualistic songs, many in medieval vernacular languages rather than Latin. The marginalised categories of instrumental music and vernacular song (Fig. 8.1) make up the majority of music performed in any given medieval day (Fig. 8.3). The evidence for instrumental playing in the Middle Ages is impressive and attests to an elaborate musical tapestry, as Stefano Mengozzi details in Chapter 10. All of this music, not just the learned written-out pieces favoured by modern historiography, belongs to medieval musical performance.

Music for work The concept of work (Latin labor) was central to medieval thought and life. Though labor included all kinds of work, it originally meant agricultural work, whose rhythms shaped medieval time. Most work songs were sung by commoners and in vernacular languages rather than Latin. It is fitting that the laboratores or workers were also known as rustici, for rusticitas referred to the vernacular tongue.10 The evidence for medieval work music that we shall now survey contradicts the frequently floated image of a Middle Ages dominated by learned Latin song, the unfortunate fruit of ecclesiastic prejudices in both manuscript transmission and modern historiography mentioned above. In my first category of work songs, the activity of nurturing covers the wide span of human life, from birth to death.11 One of the earliest nurturing musical events is the neglected medieval lullaby. Thanks to its ubiquity and long-lasting musical influence, the lullaby, it must be said, is a major medieval musical genre, albeit one seldom mentioned. At the end of the fourth century, so a little before our period, John Chrysostom provides an exceptional witness. Illustrating how humans delight in song, John gives as his first example nursing infants put to sleep by singing nurses who cause their eyelids to close by ‘carrying them in their arms, walking to and fro and singing certain childish

10 J. Le Goff, Pour un autre Moyen Age: temps, travail et culture en occident, Paris, Gallimard, 1977, trans. A. Goldhammer as Time, Work, and Culture in the Middle Ages, University of Chicago Press, 1980, pp. 49 and 55–6; C. du Fresne du Cange, Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et infimae latinitatis, Paris, Libraire des sciences et des arts, 1938, vol. 7, 244, ‘Rustice’. 11 A helpful survey of work songs, although with no attention to medieval evidence, is K. Bücher’s Arbeit und Rhythmus, 3rd edn, Leipzig, B. G. Teubner, 1902.



songs to them’.12 At the core of this remark lies the mother’s rocking rhythm whence originates the lullaby. As Karl Bücher has pointed out, bodily motion governs much work song.13 We find a rare medieval passage on lullaby music in Albert the Great’s thirteenth-century edition of Aristotle’s work on animals (De animalibus). Albert advises that while women breastfeed a child, ‘the infant should be moved to the sound of music since infants in cradles are accustomed to be rocked to the lullabies of women’. ‘The motion of the cradles’, Albert goes on to say, ‘should be smooth and the singing gentle, because music causes the infant to receive nourishment with joy and smoothness of spirit.’14 Failing any medieval notated specimens, we can turn to contemporary lullabies for an idea of what this music sounded like. Lullabies are generally intensely intimate songs performed by women for infants and children, with effects like portamento and descending lines; the words are in the mother tongue and frequently include nonsense syllables.15 In his Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius likens the sweetness of rhetoric to ‘the vernacular music of our hearth, sometimes in light and at other times in heavier modes’.16 Boethius’ sixth-century ‘hearth songs’, lullabies or otherwise, were in the vernacular, as he states – likely Vulgar Latin, the precursor to Romance languages. Moving to nurturing music in the mainstream of human life, we must consider the healing rituals that played so great a role in the Middle Ages. It is here that we encounter the individual known as the enchanter (incantator) whom we shall meet again in connection with religious rituals. The enchanter, as Isidore of Seville succinctly put it, practised ‘the art of words’; these words were sung.17 Incantations for healing were by their very definition songs 12 Cited and translated in J. McKinnon, ‘The Early Christian period and the Latin Middle Ages’, in O. Strunk and L. Treitler (eds.), Source Readings in Music History, New York, Norton, 1998, p. 124; see also P. Dronke, The Medieval Lyric, Cambridge University Press, 1977, p. 15. The Greek original is given and discussed in A. Naegele, ‘Über Arbeitslieder bei Johannes Chrysostomos – Patristisch-literarisches zu K. Büchers “Arbeit und Rhythmus” ’, Berichte über die Verhandlungen der Königlich Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philologisch-historische Klasse, 57 (1905), 104–5. 13 Bücher, Arbeit und Rhythmus, pp. 295–377. On the lullaby, see Naegele’s appendix in his ‘Über Arbeitslieder’, 131–42. 14 H. Stadler, Albertus Magnus de Animalibus libri XXVI, Münster i. W, Aschendorff, 1916, vol. 1, p. 352: ‘Praecipunt moveri infantes cum cantu musico, sicut solent infantes in cunis moveri cum naeniis cantibus mulierum. Motus tamen cunarum debet esse lentus et cantus suavis quia musica facit cum gaudio et lenitate spiritus recipere nutrimentum’, trans. in K. Kitchell and I. Resnick, Albertus Magnus On Animals: A Medieval Summa Zoologica, Baltimore, MD, John Hopkins Press, 1999, vol. 1, p. 427. 15 J. Porter, in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols., London, Macmillan, 2001, vol. 15, pp. 291–2, art. ‘Lullaby’. 16 Boethius, Tractates, trans. H. F. Stewart, E. K. Rand and S. J. Tester as The Theological Tractates, The Consolation of Philosophy, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2003, p. 176: ‘Adsit igitur Rhetoricae suadela dulcedinis quae tum tantum recto calle procedit cum nostra instituta non deserit cumque hac musica laris nostri vernacula nunc leviores nunc graviores modos succinat.’ Tester’s translation on p. 177 differs from mine. 17 W. M. Lindsay (ed.), Isidori Hispalensis episcopi Etymologiarum sive Originum libri XX, Oxford University Press, 1988, vol. 1, 325, line 12: ‘Incantatores dicti sunt, qui artem verbis peragunt.’

Performance before c. 1430: an overview


(charms, carmina), and relied on vocal effects for their efficacy.18 Churchmen frequently condemned them, which only attests to their ubiquity in medieval culture. ‘To chant over herbs for evil deeds’, wrote Martin of Braga in the sixth century, ‘and to invoke the names of demons by incantation – what is this but devil worship?’19 The specimens that survive, unfortunately without music notation, usually name the illness and invoke members of the Trinity and Christian saints.20 Incantations sounded a lot like plainchant. In his History of the Franks, Gregory of Tours relates that the citizens of Saragossa were ‘singing psalms’ that sounded to the besiegers as if ‘they were practising some kind of enchantment’.21 In fact, many incantations were pieces of plainchant; churchmen allude to such chants as the Kyrie and Lord’s Prayer being used as incantations.22 And it is possible that some incantations were polyphonic, as Thomas of Chobham in the thirteenth century mentions medical incantations for ‘several voices’.23 With the end of the human life cycle we come to the second sub-category of work music, music for official occasions or ceremonies, the best attested of these being funerals. Funeral rites were elaborate affairs, with mourning either by a soloist or choir as a central activity. We are fortunate that a few laments with musical notation have survived for several important characters, including Visigothic King Chindasvinthus (d. 652) and Charlemagne (d. 814); these are some of the oldest neumed songs in Latin.24 Ex. 8.1 gives the opening of the lament for Charlemagne taken from a tenth-century Aquitanian manuscript.25 As F.J.E. Raby has put it, the text of this lament draws both on the popular dirge genre and on the learned Latin rhetoric of Carolingian learning, a fitting

18 E. Bozoky, Charmes et prières apotropäiques, Turnhout, Brepols, 2003, pp. 34–5; D. Skemer, Binding Words: Textual Amulets in the Middle Ages, University Park, Pennsylvania University Press, 2006, p. 9. 19 C. Barlow (ed.), Martini episcopi Bracarensis, Opera omnia, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1950, p. 198, lines 12–14: ‘Incantare herbas ad maleficia et invocare nomina daemonum incantando, quid est aliud nisi cultura diabolica?’ See J. McNeill and H. Gamer, Medieval Handbooks of Penance: A Translation of the Principal Libri Poenitentiales and Selections from Related Documents, New York, Columbia University Press, 1938, pp. 43, 198, 229 et passim. 20 Bozoky, Charmes et prières, pp. 36–44. 21 Gregory of Tours, Histoire des Francs, trans. O. M. Dalton as The History of the Franks, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1927, vol. 2, pp. 106–7; Patrologiae cursus completus . . . series latina, vol. 71, Paris, 1879, col. 263B: ‘aliquid agere maleficii’. 22 For example, McNeill and Gamer, Medieval Handbooks of Penance, pp. 43 and 294. 23 F. Broomfield (ed.), Thomae de Chobham summa confessorum, Louvain, Éditions Nauwelaerts, 1968, pp. 478–9: ‘Et sicut diverse herbe simul coniuncte aliquam habent virtutem in medicina que nulam per se haberent, ita plura elementa vel plures voces habent in rebus temporalibus aliquem effectum si simul coniuncte proferantur quem non haberent singulariter prolate.’ 24 G. Reaney, ‘The Middle Ages’, in D. Stevens (ed.), A History of Song, New York, Norton, 1961, pp. 15–16; H. Anglès, ‘Hispanic culture from the 6th to the 14th century’, Musical Quarterly, 26 (1940), 510–11. 25 E. De Coussemaker, Histoire de l’harmonie au Moyen Âge, Hildesheim, Georg Olms, 1966, pp. 87–97 and plates 1–2 for a facsimile of the notation and text used in Ex. 8.1.



Ex. 8.1. Opening of the lament for Charlemagne A solis ortu usque ad occidua littore maris planctus pulsat pectora. Ultra marina agmina tristitia tetigit ingens cum errore nimio. Heu, me dolens plango! (From the rising of the sun to its setting, a wail shakes the foundations of the sea-shore. Beyond the seas a vast army wandered with sadness and with much uncertainty. Alas, grieving I wail!)

blend for the Frankish warrior-emperor Charlemagne.26 Although the musical notes in Ex. 8.1 do not show exact pitch, they nevertheless reveal a simple syllabic melody emphasising the text with a paired-phrase structure; the form is AA0 BB0 C. Such a prestigious lament as this was in all likelihood rendered by a soloist rather than a chorus. In many cases, these singers were women. Surviving evidence attests to a persistent medieval tradition of professional ‘women lamenters hired to bewail a dead man’, as one twelfth-century writer puts it.27 Beyond the lament, other official occasions would have called for musical instruments, some of which are described in Chapter 10. We find an example of a vocal performance in Suger’s life of King Louis VI the Fat, during the triumphal entry into Rome of Emperor Henry V in February 1111. A formidable train led Henry that included singing clerics and ‘the horrible clamor of Germans singing’, Suger writes with unashamed racial prejudice.28 In my third and final category of music linked to labor comes a miscellany of songs associated with daily tasks. Late twelfth-century scholar John of Salisbury attests to the work song’s ubiquity in the Middle Ages when he mentions in passing ‘the labourer who averts or diminishes the tedium of his labours by old songs and sweet voices’.29 Yet, to my knowledge, not a single 26 F. J. E. Raby, A History of Secular Latin Poetry in the Middle Ages, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1957, vol. 1, p. 211. 27 J. Ziolkowski, ‘Women’s lament and the neuming of the Classics’, in J. Haines and R. Rosenfeld (eds.), Music and Medieval Manuscripts: Paleography and Performance, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2004, p. 145, n. 55. 28 Suger, Vie de Louis VI le Gros, ed. and trans. H. Waquet, Paris, Champion, 1929, p. 62: ‘Precinentium clericorum odis et Alemannorum cantancium terribili clamore cellos penetrante, celeberrima et sollempni devotione deducitur.’ 29 John of Salisbury, Policraticus: Of the Frivolities of Courtiers and the Footprints of Philosophers, trans. C. Nedermann, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 145.

Performance before c. 1430: an overview


miscellaneous work song has come down to us in writing. Performed mainly by the lower class, medieval work songs were for the most part in various vernaculars rather than Latin. Many daily tasks would have presented opportunities for singing to relieve the monotony of work, from threshing wheat to sewing clothes. In the same passage mentioned earlier, John Chrysostom also mentions women singing songs as they weave, either one at a time or all singing together.30 His important observation speaks to the integrality of song and work, as noted by Bücher. Later genres codified in parchment anthologies such as the chanson de toile originate in this menial music for manual labour. The Old French song ‘Bele Yolanz’ given in Ex. 8.2 presents a typical literary distance from popular work songs. It opens with a description of a young woman sitting and sewing a clothing item for her beloved. The one sung about then begins to sing: ‘God, how sweet is love’s name! Never did I think I would feel its pain!’ Ex. 8.2. Opening of ‘Bele Yolanz en ses chambres seoit’ (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, f. fr. 20050, fol. 64v)

30 McKinnon, ‘Early Christian Period’, p. 124; Dronke, Medieval Lyric, p. 15; Naegele, ‘Über Arbeitslieder’, 115. The word ςυμφώνως should be understood as referring to unison singing rather than the singing in parts misconstrued by Peter Dronke (Medieval Lyric, p. 15: ‘they all harmonise a melody together’). On the early Christian ideal of unison singing and the symphonia concept, see J. Quasten, Music and Worship in Pagan and Christian Antiquity, trans. B. Ramsey, Washington, DC, National Association of Pastoral Musicians, 1983, pp. 66–72. Ted Gioia, in his recent book Work Songs, Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 2006, pp. 81, cites this passage from Dronke’s book, stating in a note that ‘the quote from Chrysostom [is] drawn from his Patrologia Graeca’ [sic], evidently citing Dronke, Medieval Lyric, p. 277.



It is difficult to decide whether this refrain or the entire song – if either – is meant to echo an actual medieval sewing song since, as Michel Zink points out, such chansons de toile are already archaic by the time we find them in thirteenthcentury compilations.31 A manlier work song is that used in hunt or battle. The polyphonic caccia of the late fourteenth century presumably originates in a lost tradition of singing while hunting.32 Although no notated specimens of war songs survive, a few medieval writers refer to music associated with battle, both liturgical and not. Liudprand of Cremona in the tenth century contrasts the battle cries of the Hungarians and Saxons. Like Suger above and in typical medieval fashion, Liudprand wears his racism on his sleeve when he writes that, in the course of the battle, ‘there was heard the holy and plaintive cry “Kyrie eleison” from the Christian’s side, and from their side the devilish and dirty “Húi, húi”’.33 It is interesting to note in passing the use of liturgical chant here in a decidedly nonliturgical context, as we have seen elsewhere. In contrast to such choral war chants, we also find evidence for solo performances. A famous anecdote comes from Wace’s Roman de Rou (1160) that tells of the minstrel Taillefer who rode before the army on a horse, ‘singing of Charlemagne, Roland, Olivier and his men who died at Roncevalles’.34 The material, if not the actual melody, of such a song is clearly related to the epic genre described below.

Music for edification In the Middle Ages ædificatio meant ‘edification’ in the broadest sense. For the churchman, ædificatio embodied a total vision of pastoral care in which he tended to both the bodies and the souls of his flock.35 Within this edificatory context the arts could provide templates for right living. Performers sang or recited the lives of the saints, for example, for the edification of those listening.36 Labor and ædificatio often went together. As Johannes de Grocheio

31 M. Zink, Les chansons de toile, Paris, Champion, 1977, pp. 2–3. 32 On which Ted Gioia makes the following curious and unsubstantiated remark: ‘The jaunty rhythms of Italian hunting songs from the Trecento, known as caccie, may have found their way into liturgical music, as seen for instance in the lilting mass settings from the Old Hall manuscript, a major source of early English polyphonic compositions’ (Work Songs, p. 32). 33 Liudprand of Cremona, The Complete Works of Liudprand of Cremona, trans. P. Squatriti, Washington, DC, Catholic University of America Press, 2007, p. 89. 34 J. Haines, Eight Centuries of Troubadours and Trouvères: The Changing Identity of Medieval Music, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 58. 35 C. Burger, Ædificatio, fructus, utilitas: Johannes Gerson als Professor der Theologie und Kanzler der Universität Paris, Tübingen, J. C. B. Mohr (P. Siebeck), 1986, pp. 40–55. 36 R. Schulmeister, Ædificatio und Imitatio: Studien zur internationalen Poetik der Legende und Kunstlegende, Hamburg, Lüdke, 1971, pp. 18–42 and 68–78, especially p. 34.

Performance before c. 1430: an overview


somewhat practically put it, workers should listen to saints’ lives and epic songs in their leisure time in order to better bear their work.37 Generally speaking, music for edification has a greater preponderance of songs in Latin than in the vernacular. By far the largest extant medieval musical repertoire is Latin liturgical chant. It is so enormous that Johannes de Grocheio, when describing musical performance in Paris around 1300, spends over one-fourth of his treatise listing the different chants performed in the liturgy. Beginning with the invitatory and responsories of matins, Grocheio moves through the divine hours, then proceeds to the chants for mass, from the introit to the communion.38 Performance contexts for these chants varied widely from public masses in large urban cathedrals to the divine hours in small monastic communities.39 It is important to remember at this point that, in the Middle Ages as now, the Church has been mostly responsible for keeping record of its music. This bias should make us wary since it has resulted among other things in the modern tendency to view the medieval liturgy as an all-Latin event, relatively uniform across Europe. But the complete historical record suggests a different picture. The practice of musical troping appears to have been widespread, even though Grocheio, for example, only briefly mentions troped pieces (farsae).40 The first recorded tropes in the vernacular are the Old French songs performed in alternation with the epistle reading at Mass during the Feast of Saint Stephen (26 December). Evidence for this activity begins only in the twelfth century; yet liturgical singing in the vernacular likely occurred much earlier.41 And just as Latin and vernacular at times mixed during worship services, a religious spirit could infuse vernacular song, as seen in the significant corpus of Old French Marian songs committed to parchment in the thirteenth century.42 One aspect of liturgical performance often overlooked is the presence of rituals routinely condemned by church officials, which speaks to their popularity. Such rituals mixed easily with the Christian code, for the Middle Ages did not know the sharp distinction between secular and religious originating in modern times; indeed, the expression ‘liturgy’ is not a medieval one, and rarely

37 C. Page, ‘Johannes de Grocheio on secular music: a corrected text and a new translation’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 2 (1993), 22. 38 E. Rohloff, Der Musiktraktat des Johannes de Grocheo nach den Quellen neu herausgegeben mit Übersetzung ins Deutsche und Revisionsbericht, Leipzig, Reinecke, 1943, pp. 58–67. 39 A good survey is J. Harper, The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy from the Tenth to the Eighteenth Century, Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 16–42. 40 Rohloff, Musiktraktat, p. 67. 41 The best introduction is J. Stevens, Words and Music in the Middle Ages: Song, Narrative, Dance and Drama, 1050–1350, Cambridge University Press, 1986, pp. 249ff. 42 D. O’Sullivan, Marian Devotion in Thirteenth-Century French Lyric, University of Toronto Press, 2005.



occurs before the nineteenth century.43 Early on, Christianity assimilated many ancient rituals as part and parcel of the Christian liturgy, beginning with Christmas and Easter, the ancient feasts of the sun’s birthday (dies natalis solis invicti) and the spring rites venerating gods like Bacchus, respectively. The tenacity of pre-Christian religious rituals throughout the Middle Ages regularly grated church officials because of the unabated enthusiasm with which people practised them. Many of these rituals, involving both singing and instrumental music, took place during the commemoration days of the different saints, so all throughout the year. The practices that particularly irked church officials, and consequently those for which evidence survives in the form of condemnations, involved either dancing or women singing – or, worse yet, both.44 Especially well attested are all-night celebrations on the graves of the more recently departed. These laetitiae or ‘joyfuls’ included instrumental music and songs performed at the banquet following the wake.45 Beyond this there existed outright demonic activities or occult practices involving incantations alluded to earlier in connection with medicine. Churchmen routinely condemn incantations’ use of liturgical chants such as the Psalms or the Lord’s prayer.46 It thus appears that these demonic incantations, like the medical ones discussed earlier, sounded somewhat like liturgical chant. So pervasive was the practice of incantations throughout the Middle Ages that it became the subject of a scholastic debate in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, culminating in the important testimony of Nicole Oresme discussed in Chapter 11.47 Several churchmen connect incantations with New Year celebrations, a high point in the medieval tradition of singing and dancing at feasts discussed in the previous paragraph.48 A late-medieval attestation of the ancient Kalends feast is the infamous Feast of Fools. It was widely celebrated in France, but also elsewhere, contrary to what is sometimes assumed: around 1236 Lincoln bishop Robert Grosseteste complains bitterly about the abuses of the feast in

43 B. Haggh, ‘Foundations or institutions? On bringing the Middle Ages into the history of Medieval music’, Acta musicologica, 68 (1996), 94. 44 MacNeill and Gamer, Medieval Handbooks of Penance, pp. 41, 229, 273 et passim; R. MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1997, pp. 46–8 and 102–9. 45 MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism, p. 105; Quasten, Music and Worship, pp. 149–77; MacNeill and Gamer, Medieval Handbooks of Penance, p. 319 (where Regino of Prüm attests to the songs’ joyful character) and p. 333. 46 For example, Broomfield (ed.), Thomae de Chobham, p. 477. 47 See B. Delaurenti, La puissance des mots: ‘Virtus verborum’: Débats doctrinaux sur le pouvoir des incantations au Moyen Âge, Paris, Cerf, 2007. 48 For example, Broomfield (ed.), Thomae de Chobham, p. 471, and MacNeill and Gamer, Handbooks, p. 277, n. 10, and p. 334.

Performance before c. 1430: an overview


Ex. 8.3. Prose of the Ass from the Feast of Fools

his cathedral.49 Music and rites for the Feast of Fools survive for the cathedrals of Beauvais and Sens in the early thirteenth century. The ceremony opened with a donkey processing into the church to the strains of the so-called Prose of the Ass (Ex. 8.3). The text is set to a straightforward, syllabic tune befitting a processional song. As I have explained elsewhere, the Latin text resonates with pagan themes, from the opening’s Oriental reference to the closing injunction for the ass (here a distinctly non-Christian symbol), ‘burdened . . . with ancient things’ (i.e. pagan rites), to sing loudly in the church.50 Fittingly, the final injunction quits the Latin tongue and switches to the vernacular, the language of the people in a ritual that is unquestionably theirs. All of the music surveyed so far, whether para-, semi- or just plain liturgical, falls under the category of medieval performances ultimately for edification. Medieval edification embraced the modern notion of entertainment. A frequently cited context in medieval literature for musical entertainment is the banquet. Arguably the most famous passage comes from the Occitan romance Flamenca.51 The author describes a cacophony of instruments such as the harp and the vielle, and names pieces such as the lais of Tintagel and Chevrefeuille, whose record survives only in this account. Banquet performers were probably of a high calibre. Cassiodorus in the sixth century transmits a letter from Emperor Theodoric to Boethius asking for advice on behalf of Frankish King Clovis. Clovis wanted a skilled string player for his banquets, one who could ‘perform a feat like that of Orpheus, when his sweet sound tames the savage hearts of the barbarians’.52 Mealtime music likely included 49 H. R. Luard (ed.), Roberti Grosseteste episcope quondam Lincolniensis epistolae, Rolls Series 25, Wiesbaden, 1965, pp. 118–19. In his useful introduction to the Feast of Fools, E. K. Chambers (The Mediæval Stage, Oxford University Press, 1903, vol. 1, pp. 279–81 and 289–291) does not mention the feast’s dissemination outside France. 50 J. Haines, Satire in the Songs of Renart le nouvel, Geneva, Droz, 2010, ch. 6. 51 C. Page, Voices and Instruments of the Middle Ages: Instrumental Practice and Songs in France, 1100–1300, London, Dent, 1987, pp. 154–5 and 172. 52 Cited in The Variae of Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, trans. S. J. B. Barnish, Liverpool University Press, 1992, pp. 38 and 42–3.



Ex. 8.4. Banquet song from Renart le nouvel* * This is refrain 29 in the edition portion of my Satire in the Songs (manuscript V’s reading).

lighter pieces such as the banquet songs parodied at different points in Renart le nouvel. Near the end of this romance occurs a spectacular entertainment scene featuring some forty notated refrains sung by different animals.53 One such is the short ditty performed by the lioness Orgueilleuse, a parody of the prevailing trouvère courtly song (Ex. 8.4). One of the most ancient and important genres of edifying music is the solo epic tradition. Already in antiquity, Roman historian Tacitus attests to epic performances, the ancient songs of the German tribes that preserve their history, as he puts it. By the sixth century, several witnesses mention these same barbarian epics performed by a solo singer accompanying himself on a stringed instrument, a lyre or cythara.54 When in the ninth century Charlemagne copied down the Frankish epics he so enjoyed hearing at mealtimes, he was recording a performance tradition that was at least seven centuries old; unfortunately, none of these notated specimens have survived.55 The earliest epic songs in Romance languages date from the eleventh century.56 Yet not a single medieval epic, either Germanic or Romance, has come down to us with music notation. Near the end of the medieval period, Johannes de Grocheio equivocates the performance of epic song with that of saints’ lives in the passage cited earlier in this chapter. Failing musical evidence for epic song, scholars have looked to the surviving saints’ lives with music notation, the earliest being the tenth-century Clermont-Ferrand Passion.57 The performance traditions of both genres were apparently similar. Epic songs were probably performed in small, private settings such as at mealtime in the case of Charlemagne.58 Perhaps this was the music for which Emperor Theodoric a few centuries earlier intended the string player cited above, since in that same letter to Boethius he emphasises the importance of the human voice along with that of the lyre.59 53 Haines, Satire in the Songs of Renart le nouvel, ch. 2. 54 G. Kurth, Histoire poétique des Mérovingiens, Paris, Pickard, 1893, pp. 31–4; on the Anglo-Saxon tradition, see Stevens, Words and Music, pp. 204–12. 55 Kurth, Histoire poétique, p. 55. 56 On the surviving evidence see Stevens, Words and Music, pp. 222–6. 57 Ibid., pp. 235–49. 58 H. W. Garrod (ed.), Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne: The Latin Text, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1925, p. 26, para. 24, 2, lines 1–3: ‘Inter cenandum aut aliquod acroama aut lectorem audiebat. Legebantur ei historiae et antiquorum res gestae.’ 59 Barnish, The Variae of Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus, pp. 40–1.

Performance before c. 1430: an overview


As Christopher Page has emphasised, private courtly settings were also the theatre for another edification genre, this one well attested by both literary and notated evidence: the love song. One of Page’s poignant examples is the account of a southern French minstrel who spends an evening at the court of the Count Dalfi d’Alvernhe in Montferrand. Following a lavish after-dinner performance featuring many entertainers, the count dismisses everyone but a minstrel and himself for an intimate performance.60 Outside such refined circles we find other contexts for the performance of medieval love songs. All throughout the Middle Ages, churchmen allude to them as diabolical love songs (carmina diabolica or carmina amatoria). The fiery sixth-century preacher Cesarius of Arles repeatedly attacks popular love songs, at one point letting slip that they are in the vernacular (rusticanae cantica amatoria) – this over four centuries before the first troubadours.61 One churchman in the eighth century goes so far as to thank God for his sexual inexperience that prevents him from being tempted by the sensuality and ‘discordant hissing of these songs’!62 Love songs were regularly performed during the festivities mentioned above, as abundant ecclesiastical condemnations make clear. One such from the early thirteenth century denounces the dancing and obscene movements that accompany ‘love songs or ditties’ (amatoria carmina vel cantilenae).63 The lively festivities we have already encountered several times also included other kinds of musical performances, notably the ring dances or chorus songs (choreae) led by women and young girls.64 The popularity and long life of these dances and their attendant music can be gauged by the frequency with which churchmen condemn them. At times the practice even threatened to contaminate the clergy. For example, Ivo of Chartres in the twelfth century cites Saint Augustine’s warning that clergy should neither marry nor ‘mix in company where indecent love songs are performed and where the obscene gestures of bodies in ring dances take place’.65 As Margit Sahlin has made clear, the late medieval carole is but the continuation of the ancient and early medieval ring 60 C. Page, The Owl and the Nightingale: Musical Life and Ideas in France, 1100–1300, London, Dent, 1989, pp. 46–53. 61 Cesarius of Arles, Sermons au peuple, trans. M.-J. Delage, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1971, vol. 1, pp. 136–7 and 324. 62 R. Weber (ed.), Ambrosii Autperti Opera, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medaevalis XXVIIB, Turnholt, Typographi Brepols, 1979, vol. 3, pp. 954–5 (‘diversis carminum sibilis’). 63 L. Gougaud, ‘La danse dans les églises’, Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique, 15 (1914), 12. 64 M. Sahlin, Étude sur la carole médiévale: l’origine du mot et ses rapports avec l’Église, Uppsala, Almqvist & Wiksells, 1940, pp. 137–92, Gougaud, ‘La danse dans les églises’, and Stevens, Words and Music, pp. 161–2. 65 J.-P. Migne, Patrologia Latina, Paris, 1889, vol. 161, col. 490: ‘neque his coetibus admisceantur ubi amatoria cantantur, et turpia carmina, aut obsceni motus corporum choreis et saltationibus efferuntur’; the passage is taken from Ivo of Chartres’s Decretum. As Sahlin notes (Étude sur la carole, 36), the terms chorea and carole can mean either a dance or a song.



dance performance practice.66 With a surge of ecclesiastical condemnations of the ring dance in the thirteenth century, we find once again the youthful pleasures of dancing and choral singing that constituted such a vital part of performance life throughout the Middle Ages, one that luckily produced great anxiety in the minds of middle-aged churchmen.67 Finally in the arena of edification, we should briefly inspect music for the stage. Here too, condemnations by churchmen preserve important information on a mostly lost performance practice. The early Christian poet Prudentius offers up in the early fifth century an especially colourful description of theatre music. He rails against ‘the lascivious bodies of effeminate actors who whirl about in summersaults’, going on to complain about the ‘vain melodies of a young female lyre player’.68 Aside from an occasional historical crumb such as this, the record for most medieval stage music unfortunately remains blank until around 1200. The extant late medieval notated examples of secular plays (such as Adam de la Halle’s Jeu de Robin et Marion) and liturgical dramas (such as the Play of Daniel) emerge as the visible witness and endpoint of a thriving tradition of dramatic performance all throughout the Middle Ages.

Conclusion As I have suggested throughout this chapter, the evidence for musical performance in the Middle Ages is often partial at best, and non-existent in some cases. Yet there can be no doubt that music pervaded a great many areas of medieval life. To sum up this chapter, in the realm of labor, humans were surrounded with music, literally from the cradle to the grave. Beginning with the ubiquitous lullaby, and on through the multitude of pieces that attended healing ceremonies, war and most menial labour, music accompanied medieval men and women all the way to their death. And, they hoped, beyond. Most people in pre-modern societies entertained a profound conviction about inaudible music that I have refrained from discussing in this chapter. This was not only the infamous music of the spheres beloved by learned music writers, of course, but also the music they and others expected to find in the afterlife. As Grocheio puts it near the end of his treatise, the Church with all its music is but the ‘earthly and militant sign of the heavenly and triumphant one where angels and archangels sing without ceasing “Holy, holy” ’, recalling the frequently glossed 66 See Sahlin, Étude sur la carole médiévale, p. 137, n. 4, and Y. Rokseth, ‘Danses cléricales du XIIIe siècle’, Mélanges 1945, vol. 3, Études historiques, Publications de la Faculté des Lettres de l’Université de Strasbourg 106, Paris, 1947, 93, n. 1, and the sources cited there. 67 Page, Voices and Instruments, pp. 77–84; Page, The Owl and the Nightingale, pp. 14 and 110–33. 68 Prudentius, Cathemerinon liber (Livre d’heures), ed. Maurice Lavarenne, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1943, vol. 1, 53: ‘turpia semivirorum membra theatrali . . . vertigine ferri . . . lyricae modulamina vana puellae’

Performance before c. 1430: an overview


biblical vision from the twenty-first chapter of the Apocalypse of Saint John.69 But here we may be testing the limits of a modern history of musical performance. To sum up, in the realm of ædificatio, medieval men and women worked towards the goal of right living with a variety of musical helps. As I have stressed, edifying performances included not only the Latin chant repertoire officially sanctioned by the Church, but other genres: Latin and vernacular tropes of all kinds, performances surrounding feast days and the laetitiae ceremonials, as well as incantations. Other entertainment included music performances at banquets and ring dances, the epic song tradition, love songs in both private and public situations, and performances for the stage. Thus the total panorama of medieval music extended well beyond courts, cloisters and cathedrals, making its way into every humble home and working field. Music belonged not just to the privileged learned few who knew how to write it down but to the quotidian experience of every medieval woman and man. The exact sounds of all the medieval music covered here probably did not always conform to the Western art tradition, nor can most of these sounds be uncovered or reproduced with historical certainty.70 But, at the very least, all of these many music performances merit our acknowledgement and, ultimately, our keen historical interest.

69 Rohloff, Musiktraktat, p. 66: ‘Ecclesia enim haec terrestris et militans signum est et imago illius caelestis et triumphantis, in qua sunt angeli et archangeli sine fine dicentes Sanctus, sanctus et caetera.’ 70 Haines, ‘Lambertus’s Epiglotus’, 160–1; see, however, T. McGee, The Sound of Medieval Song, Oxford University Press, 1998.

. 9 .

Vocal performance before c. 1430 JEREMY SUMMERLY

Introduction Do not force the high notes. Sing sweetly, elegantly, and with fluidity – neither harshly nor nasally. Be rhythmically flexible where appropriate. Tune chords from the lowest voice upwards. Avoid singing wrong notes, respect natural word stress, and make the text clearly audible. Ensure that the members of an ensemble can see each other, and encourage them to follow the hand gestures of their musical director. The interpretation of medieval Latin treatises is fraught with difficulty, but above is a distillation of some of the clearer instructions contained within surviving sources relating to the vocal performance of the music of the European Middle Ages. The term ‘Middle’ Ages is a loaded one: in popular parlance it can imply a low ebb in European civilisation between the sophistication of Classical Antiquity and the enlightenment of the modern era. Indeed the first two-thirds of the Middle Ages used to be labelled the Dark Ages – nowadays more positively designated Late Antiquity. It was only with the emergence of the Gothic style and the creation of universities that Europe was deemed (in nineteenth-century terms) to have rehoisted itself out of the cultural primeval soup: ‘in the time when the wisdom of the ancient times was dead and had passed away, and our own days of light had not yet come, there lay a great black gulf in human history, a gulf of ignorance, of superstition, of cruelty, and of wickedness’.1 Yet these erstwhile Dark Ages witnessed – alongside many other great achievements – the composition and codification of a great body of monophonic sacred music (plainchant) and the cultivation of the earliest polyphony (organum).

Plainchant Plainchant is the backbone of medieval music. Like cantillation (its Jewish precursor), plainchant is a singularly vocal medium, which exists to lend

1 H. Pyle, Otto of the Silver Hand, London, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1888, p. 1.


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gravitas and audibility to the texts that it decorates. A useful by-product is that it is easier and more fulfilling for a group of people to sing a melody together than it is to speak the same text in well-organised unison – indeed group singing is the most efficient way to project a text in a large space without the use of amplification. Mastery of the contours of plainchant and an understanding of how words are enunciated in this single-line form are a sine qua non for the understanding of all medieval music, whether monophonic or polyphonic, sacred or secular. A first-hand appreciation of the (subtle) word-painting and (even more subtle) mood-painting associated with plainchant is something that no performer of medieval music should be without – there is no substitute for feeling the curvature of plainchant ‘on the voice’. Until the mid-twelfth century, Cistercian monks lived a relatively silent existence (singing aside). But when rehearsing plainchant, an exception was made if a member of the order needed to ask a question relating to the length of a note or to the accentuation that should be accorded to a syllable of the text.2 Apart from the fact that modern singers could learn much from this minimalist rehearsal protocol, this is useful to know. The organisation of a fluid melody and attention to appropriate word stress were evidently the most important features of correct performance practice – these were the two areas in which a novice needed most guidance. The young learnt to read by committing the words of the Book of Psalms (in Latin) to memory: syllable by syllable, word by word, phrase by phrase, verse by verse; all 150 psalms in numerical order. Only later would the meaning of the words be fully understood.3 If we are to sing this material convincingly today, it stands to reason that the words should be spoken aloud before attempting a musical rendition, not least because reading aloud was more common in the Middle Ages than it is now.4 By the later Middle Ages a senior Benedictine monk would have committed the psalms and their three thousand associated antiphons to memory (along with hundreds of other chants from the Mass and Office).5 These dedicated performers sang this

2 J. Coleman, Ancient and Medieval Memories: Studies in the Reconstruction of the Past, Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 175. 3 A. M. Busse Berger, Medieval Music and the Art of Memory, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2005, p. 48. 4 There is disagreement as to the purpose and incidence of silent reading in medieval Europe. In E. J. Kenney and W. V. Clausen (eds.), The Cambridge History of Classical Literature, vol. 2: Latin Literature, Cambridge University Press, 1982, p. 12, Kenney states that a book, whether of poetry or prose, acted ‘something like a [musical] score for public or private performance’ and that silent reading was unusual, whereas A. K. Gavrilov in ‘Techniques of reading in Classical Antiquity’, Classical Quarterly, 47 (1997), 56–73, believes that silent reading, which promoted ‘concentration, speed, and absorption of material’ (p. 69), mirrors current usage. For a discussion of the ‘two ways of reading’ (lectio and meditatio) see M. Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture, 2nd edn, Cambridge University Press, 2008, pp. 212–17. 5 D. Hiley, Western Plainchant: A Handbook, Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 329.



repertoire for upwards of six hours per day and are estimated to have stored around eighty hours of texted music in their heads.6 It is little wonder that renditions of plainchant by singers who do not live in enclosed orders frequently sound stilted and synthetic.

Theory On the way to learning how to sing plainchant with propriety, the young would have been taught music theory. The musical gamut gradually expanded until it comprised a conjunct series of twenty notes rising, in modern parlance, from Bass low G to Alto top e00 .7 This series of notes (notae) was drawn on a grid (a ladder or scala). The grid gave rise to the earliest form of graph (the stave) and this visual representation of music proved an invaluable tool in learning pieces from scratch, in transmitting music from one place to another, and in memorising ever more complicated musical structures. By the eleventh century the gamut encompassed a sequence of overlapping six-note scales termed hexachords – for the previous two centuries the musical molecule had been the four-note tetrachord. Each hexachord comprised the intervals Tone–Tone–Semitone–Tone–Tone. The three possibilities were CDEFGA, FGABbCD, and GABnCDE, which were known as the natural, soft and hard hexachords respectively. By shifting (mutating) from one hexachord to another during a wide-ranging melody, only this fixed six-note intervallic sequence needed to be applied. The musical director could thereby programme singers to mutate from one hexachord to the next according to the rules of melody and counterpoint. This is analogous to changing positions on a string instrument in that c0 might be played on the violin with the third, second or first finger depending on the note’s melodic context. Or to put it another way, c0 can be played on each of the cello’s four strings. In medieval terminology, c0 could be construed as the lowest note of a natural hexachord, the second-highest note of a soft hexachord, or as a medial note within a hard hexachord. This was the system of ‘real’ music (musica vera or musica recta) and today’s performer who attempts to tamper with ‘accidentals’ in the rendition of medieval music without an understanding of this elegant six-note system is thinking, unhelpfully, outside the box.8 But that is not to say that the box should remain closed – a system of musica ficta (false music) was developed in order to expand the number of usable notes within

6 K. Levy, Gregorian Chant and the Carolingians, Princeton University Press, 1998, p. 176. 7 J. Herlinger, ‘Medieval canonics’, in T. Christensen (ed.), The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 175. 8 For a detailed discussion of many aspects of early music theory and their impact on performance see M. Bent, Counterpoint, Composition, and Musica Ficta, New York and London, Routledge, 2002.

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the gamut.9 The application of hexachords associated with musica ficta can substantially alter the character of a piece of music, and there is nothing pure about a performance that does not engage with this colourful expansion of the medieval musical palette.

Context Medieval religious ritual centred on silent prayer and meditation, and it seems unlikely that a brash, deliberately projected vocal delivery would have been the default. That said, the liturgical day, week and year revolved around lightness and darkness, high and low, ferial and festal; singing that did not reflect the perennially changing liturgical colours would have been as inappropriate as an immutably well-mannered vocal style. Apparently the thirteenth-century Canons at Lyon in France had a competitive habit of raising the roof during Mass on feast days when they were described as attempting to ‘shake the stars’ in order to ‘rouse the holy angels on high’.10 The performance practice of vernacular song is similarly shrouded in metaphor, but it is scarcely to be believed that when the Norman minstrel Taillefer opened the Battle of Hastings in 1066 with a song, he did so with vocal reticence. The battle led to the domination of AngloSaxon culture by those who spoke a language whose word for ‘yes’ was ‘oïl’, and Taillefer (whose nickname, Incisor-ferri, meant ‘the hewer of iron’) had taunted the English by juggling his sword in front of them while singing – an irritating opening gambit if ever there was one – and subsequently taking first blood.11 Any English vocal response on Henlac Hill, whether spoken or sung, would be puzzling to our ears since not only was the language of Harold’s army significantly different from today’s English, but it would have sounded doubly perplexing because it pre-dated the Great Vowel Shift of the late-medieval period.12 The story of Taillefer’s musical bravery may not recount actual events but we, like our ancestors, want it to be true. By the time that John Milton wrote his History of Britain in 1670, the legend had ballooned to such an extent that the entire Norman army is reported to have sung the Song of Roland as a prelude to this historic conflict. If Taillefer and/or his fellow warriors can be presumed 9 Ibid., pp. 105–14, for a succinct description of the process. 10 J. Dyer, ‘A thirteenth-century choirmaster: the Scientia Artis Musicae of Elias Salomon’, Musical Quarterly, 66 (1980), 102. 11 F. Barlow (ed.), The Carmen de Hastingae Proelio of Guy, Bishop of Amiens, Oxford Medieval Texts, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. xxiii–xxiv. 12 The term ‘Great Vowel Shift’ (GVS) was coined by Otto Jespersen in 1909 and his theory has subsequently been refined; see W. Labov, Principles of Linguistic Change, vol. 1: Internal Factors, Oxford, Blackwell, 1994, pp. 145–54. In the South of England the word ‘mate’ would (approximately) have been pronounced ‘mart’ before the GVS; similarly ‘meet’ had been pronounced ‘mate’, ‘might’ pronounced ‘meet’, ‘moot’ pronounced ‘moat’, and ‘mouse’ pronounced ‘moose’.



to have sung with life-affirming commitment and forthright vocal delivery to match, Blondel’s trouvère tones must have been more hushed and conspiratorial when, in 1192, he apocryphally located Richard Coeur de Lion, who was languishing in a German prison within Dürnstein Castle.13 The point of both legends is that music was a medium through which patriotism and loyalty were well expressed. Music was in the blood: it accompanied hostility and peacemaking, celebration and mourning, living and dying, and it emanated from the throat of the common man as he went about his daily grind every bit as much as it sprang from the lips of Christ’s servant in holy orders, the secular entertainer, or the warrior. The Church seemingly despised minstrelsy;14 but was this just because of the non-religious subject matter of the songs, or was it bound up with an unseemly performance style as well? And if it was, should we attempt to recreate something ‘unseemly’ when performing particular medieval secular monophonic songs today? The church authorities were offended by the degrading corporeal movements made by certain performers of secular song, and we could surmise that these rampant physical gestures were accompanied by comparable degradation of vocal quality. But perhaps not all of these secular entertainers were low life; indeed Thomas of Chobham, an early thirteenth-century Sub-Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, believed that when certain minstrels provided relaxation therapy through their music, or when their songs were instructive, then these musicians could be tolerated (possunt sustineri). The distinction seems to have been between joculator and histrio. The histrio was a reveller, a tavern musician who sang suggestive songs and whose act was sometimes enhanced by the histrionics of lewd dancers. But the joculator sang songs of historical record and celebrated the lives of good people, thereby providing solace (solatia) to those who would listen and reflect.15 Inherent in this contrast of moral tone is one of musical tone quality as well – a raucous vulgar tone suits raucous vulgar music. But what is raucous? Would, for instance, the vocal production of today’s dramatic soprano appear to be a cultivated form of musical expression to the medieval musical ear? The answer seems obvious – no, it would not.

Monophony Even though it is impossible to be sure of the exact effect that single-line music had on the medieval ear, melody evidently provoked a range of responses 13 D. Boyle, Blondel’s Song: The Capture, Imprisonment and Ransom of Richard the Lionheart, London, Penguin, 2006, pp. 166–79. 14 C. Page, The Owl and the Nightingale: Musical Life and Ideas in France 1100–1300, London, Dent, 1989, p. 8. 15 F. Broomfield (ed.), Thomae de Chobham Summa confessorum, Analecta Mediaevalia Namurcensia, Louvain, Éditions Nauwelaerts, 1968, p. 292.

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depending on the mode of the moment. That, in itself, was nothing new. Plato had described how Ancient Greek modes affected character.16 Aristotle had written about the enthusiastic, relaxed, feeble and sad qualities of specific modes.17 And in the early twelfth century, Johannes Cotto18 described the characteristics of the eight medieval church modes. Cotto defined Mode I as ceremonious, Mode II as profound, III austere and IV to VIII ingratiating, well bred, tearful, spectacular and staid respectively. What is interesting is that Cotto records the difference of opinion between two listeners when Cotto himself sang a passage of sacred chant – one listener praised it while another disliked it.19 It is comforting to read that matters of taste were an issue where plainchant was concerned. This surely empowers the latter-day performer of medieval monophony to grapple with performance choices head on. If it is not certain that contemporaneous listeners would have shared the same response to a given piece of medieval music, then modern performers have little to lose by trying to give as persuasive and informed performance as possible, even though, by definition, that will be a performance conceived on our own terms. Medieval liturgical drama presents a particularly interesting focus when considering performance solutions for medieval music. Reports of the death of European drama upon the closure of the Ancient Roman theatres are an exaggeration – medieval minstrelsy (in its various forms) maintained and developed many aspects of performance art before the reinvention of the play. The emergence of liturgical drama was a significant step along that path. The greatest of the medieval liturgical dramas is The Play of Daniel, which was assembled around the year 1170 at Beauvais Cathedral.20 The colourful – and disturbing yet rejuvenating – story is set in the fourth decade of the Babylonian Exile. The Play of Daniel therefore takes place in what is modern-day Iraq and, pertinently for today’s players and audiences, deals with religious intolerance, ritual murder and political injustice. What makes this play so realistic and dramatically arresting are its stage directions. Not only do they specify the movements and gestures of the characters, but they also direct their emotions. So, when King Balthasar is instructed to act as if astounded (stupefactus) and King Darius is required to sing tearfully (lacrimabiliter), the use of such modern conventions in this Belvacian masterpiece assumes 16 The Republic, 398e–399c. 17 Politics, 1340b1–5. 18 The author of the treatise De musica (c. 1100) is variously referred to as John of Afflighem (Johannes Affligemensis), John Cotton, or simply John. Johannes Cotto is preferred in S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edn, 29 vols., London, Macmillan, 2001, vol. 13, pp. 137–8. 19 C. Palisca (ed.), Hucbald, Guido, and John on Music: Three Medieval Treatises, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1978, p. 133. 20 R. K. Emmerson, ‘Divine judgement and local ideology in the Beauvais Ludus Danielis’, in D. H. Ogden (ed.), The Play of Daniel: Critical Essays, Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series, Kalamazoo, MI, Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 1996, p. 45.



considerable significance when considering the development of theatre in the broadest sense. The lack of explicit tempo and dynamic markings in medieval musical manuscripts should not blind us to the fact that the single-line music of the Middle Ages requires performers to exhibit a wide range of expression, as dictated by the subject matter, its context, the meaning of the words and the character of the melodic line. And, although marks of expression are nonexistent in the sources of the period, when it comes to seeking a performance directive for each piece (or section of a piece), the absence of proof is not proof of absence. In short, senza espressione is not an option.

Polyphony The history and genesis of the earliest European vocal polyphony are lost in the mists of time. Heterophony, as inherited from antiquity, could conceivably have led to some form of polyphonic expansion. And monophony (with or without a drone) performed in reverberant acoustics inevitably leads to a polyphonic combination of sounds from which a fascination for harmonic titillation might have developed. On a different level, it is possible to accept the conscious theorisation of the existence of polyphony as a logical imperative: trivially, two adult males who sing a melody in unison create a frequency ratio of 1:1 between their pitches; less trivially, a prepubescent boy and an adult male who sing ‘in unison’ do so in the octave ratio of 2:1; it is then admissible to theorize that the simple ratios 3:2 (the Perfect fifth) and 4:3 (the Perfect fourth) form a musically coherent extension of unison and octave ‘polyphony’. Interestingly, the added (organal) voice in the genre of simple (parallel) organum was originally sung at a consonant interval below the pre-existent melody; it was only later that the pre-existent tune was heard beneath the fabricated one. The implications for the performance of the earliest polyphony are unclear. In the time of Guido d’Arezzo, did the higher (principal) voice, the vox principalis, assume a dynamic and timbral hegemony over the derivative lower (organal) voice, the vox organalis? And by the same token, did the reverse hold true in the early twelfth-century monasteries of Aquitaine, by which time the principal voice had by convention become the lower of the two? In other words, should the ‘tune’ be sung more loudly and in a more forthright manner than the ‘added part’? Or should the sound quality of the two voices be perfectly matched and the concept of melody and accompaniment be abandoned? And anyway, are such considerations of any real significance in, say, the deeply resonant and highly reverberant acoustics of a large stone building? In short, are we superimposing anachronistic performance imperatives onto a musical form whose function was straightforwardly to sprinkle angel-dust over

Vocal performance before c. 1430


and under plainchant on special occasions? The answer to the last question is most certainly yes. As polyphony became more complicated and esoteric, it does, however, seem reasonable to probe the specific manner of its performance. The twelfthcentury emergence of a voice that was required to hold (tenere) long notes beneath an elaborate two-, three-, or four-voice texture raises questions. If the held Tenor lines of the organa pura of the Notre-Dame School are to be sustained without a break in the sound, then performance by at least two people might be presupposed. But perhaps a momentary break in tone (whether in a large acoustical space or not) was deemed acceptable in Paris during the late 1100s, and maybe the concept of ‘staggering the breathing’ is a peculiarly post-medieval one. The most intimate (yet still artistically fulfilling) ensemble performances frequently take little account of the aural effect upon those who are not themselves performing. Indeed, our concept of a medieval audience should perhaps be a more inward-facing one than our idea of what constitutes an audience today. But one outspoken commentator does give an especially vivid account of the effect of twelfth-century music on the listener. John of Salisbury studied in Paris with Peter Abélard, became Secretary to Thomas Becket, and finished his days as Bishop of Chartres. John was convinced of the power of music to ‘captivate with its beauty . . . when heard in its more delicately uttered strains’.21 But John was critical of twelfth-century musical innovations such as expanded vocal ranges, dense harmonies, voice exchange, protracted melodic arches and ornamental scalic figures. Yet this Englishman was clearly enraptured by the French music of his age; its sensuousness literally drove him to distraction: The very service of the Church is defiled, in that before the face of the Lord, in the very sanctuary of sanctuaries, they, showing off as it were, strive with the effeminate dalliance of wanton tones and musical phrasing to astound, enervate, and dwarf simple souls. When one hears the excessively caressing melodies of voices beginning, chiming in, carrying the air, dying away, rising again, and dominating, he may well believe that it is the song of the sirens and not the sound of men’s voices; he may marvel at the flexibility of tone which neither the nightingale, the parrot, or any bird with greater range than these can rival.22

Whether John was intending to be complimentary or not, that is surely the kind of write-up that a modern vocal consort would die for. 21 J. B. Pike (ed.), Frivolities of Courtiers and Footprints of Philosophers, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1938; repr., New York, Octagon Books, 1972, p. 31. 22 Ibid., p. 32.



Reception The way that John of Salisbury describes vocal tone colour in French performance implies a timbre that we would think of now as being dominated by a light high Tenor sound, or even falsetto. In recent decades the English Choral Tradition has frequently provided a model for what seems a desirable fit for medieval polyphony. When Christopher Page’s group Gothic Voices was still in its relative infancy, Page advocated the use of ‘a singer with a strong, straight tone who is able to go directly to the centre of the note . . . without any thickening from vibrato’.23 Notwithstanding a certain circularity of argument (Page liked the way that his singers approached medieval polyphony, therefore medieval voices might have resembled the voices that he was using), the 1980s concerts and recordings by Gothic Voices were astounding and groundbreaking. Most notably, the performances were predominantly given by unaccompanied voices. No longer were Notre-Dame Tenor lines supported by instruments, and no longer were the Tenor (and Contratenor) parts of the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries deemed instrumental merely because they were untexted. A capella renditions of medieval music are no longer unusual, but this is underpinned by the (un)comfortable feeling that the performance of this repertoire merely mirrors contemporary taste in the performance of any repertoire.24 Irrespective of the fact that nobody reading this has ever (fortunately) experienced a visit to Léonin’s dentist or to Pérotin’s bathroom, today’s performers of medieval music increasingly feel that they should acquire an understanding of the culture that surrounded the music that they sing. Most pertinently, today’s vocalists need to be assured of the fact that the medieval music that they choose to perform is of good quality; performing music just because it is very old is hardly reason enough. Aesthetic judgements can seem random when the musical language is distant. So the fact that Pérotin was dubbed Pérotin the Great (Perotinus Magnus) is comforting: we like the music of Pérotin and so did the man now known as Anonymous IV.25 True, the Englishman who described Pérotin in such reverential tones was writing some years after the event, but he lived in the same century as Pérotin, and he knew the Notre-Dame repertoire intimately and clearly revered it. But there is always the lingering doubt that a harmony or sonority that sounds 23 C. Page, ‘The performance of Ars Antiqua motets’, Early Music, 16 (1988), 162. 24 D. Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music: Scholarship, Ideology, Performance, Cambridge University Press, 2002. 25 Anonymous IV is so called because his De mensuris et discantu appeared as the fourth anonymous treatise in E. De Coussemaker (ed.), Scriptorum de musica medii aevi nova series, vol. 1, Paris, Durand, 1864, pp. 327– 64. Page prefers the toponymic label ‘English Anonymous’.

Vocal performance before c. 1430


particularly beautiful and arresting today may not have been enjoyed for those same reasons in the thirteenth century. Anonymous IV also remarked that in the West of England (Westcuntre), major and minor thirds were regarded as the most consonant intervals (optimae concordantiae).26 In thirteenth-century Paris, intervallic taste was different from that in England: the Gallic ear favoured perfect consonances over imperfect consonances. This difference in regional taste within medieval northern Europe brings into play yet another factor that might affect the way in which medieval music could plausibly be interpreted today.

Notation For a modern performance of medieval music to be convincing, there must be an authoritative notated version from which to work. By the time that mensural notation was invented in the mid-thirteenth century (shortly after the invention of the mechanical clock), modern transcriptions of polyphony are, broadly speaking, likely to agree in matters of rhythm. But there is much debate as to the way in which earlier notations should be deciphered. If there is no agreement about whether a passage should be transcribed as measured or unmeasured, then subtle debates about tempo and articulation become submerged under the choppy waters of frustrated ignorance. In Ex. 9.1 the rhythm of the two-voice organum Viderunt omnes from the Magnus Liber is transcribed in compound time; many modern performers still erect this rhythmic scaffolding around the organum purum sections of the Notre-Dame repertoire.27 In Ex. 9.2 the transcription does not assign a regular metre to the music and, moreover, it removes the opening dramatic major

Ex. 9.1. The opening of Léonin’s Viderunt omnes transcribed in measured rhythm (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, Pluteus 29.1, fol. 99)

26 Ibid., p. 358. 27 Mark Everist amusingly labels this jaunty trochaic rhythm cantus dictus Sagittarii, a reference to the 124 bpm tempo of ‘Barwick Green’, the signature tune of the long-running BBC radio serial The Archers; see E. Roesner (ed.), Le Magnus liber organi de Notre-Dame de Paris, 7 vols., Monaco, Éditions de L’Oiseau-Lyre, 1993–2009, vol. 2, M. Everist (ed.), Les organa à deux voix pour l’office du manuscrit de Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, Plut. 29.2, 2003, p. lxxviii, n. 113.



Ex. 9.2. The opening of Léonin’s Viderunt omnes transcribed as free rhythm (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, Pluteus 29.1, fol. 99)

seventh which has, for many years, been a trademark of this Christmastide work. Anonymous IV himself was critical of the notation of the Magnus Liber, which he regarded as unspecific in the matter of rhythm; however, he had the benefit of hindsight since, by the time that he wrote his musical treatise, a notational system had been developed that was much clearer in this regard.28 Today’s performers – however interested they may be in the complexities of pre-Franconian notation – are left wondering how to proceed. The performance choices are manifold and the effects on the listener markedly different, depending on which solution is inferred. Yet surely it is better to have sung and run the risk of criticism than never to have sung at all. Choice can stultify or enliven. The scholarly debate continues to rage, but if the result is to dampen the performer’s ardour and to censor performance then the musicologists’ arguments are merely full of sound and fury, signifying very little. Whether the two-voice Viderunt omnes was written by Léonin or not (and surely the identity of the composer makes no difference to the greatness of the work), and whether the piece is delivered in gently undulating consonant waves or in brashly dissonant regular metre, this music is no Victorian child: it would be wrong for it to be seen but not heard.

Tuning The aural effect of medieval consonance and dissonance is a thorny issue. Where tuning is concerned, today’s singer is inevitably heavily influenced by equal temperament (twelfth-comma mean-tone temperament) because of the ubiquity of the piano (or some other equally tempered keyboard instrument) as the common reference tool within Western musical education. Ensemble singers have always been interested – to a greater or lesser degree – in tuning systems. And since it is not possible to sing in harmony without consideration (consciously or not) of temperament, some temperamental solution(s) must be

28 J. Yudkin (ed.), The Music Treatise of Anonymous IV: A New Translation, Musicological Studies and Documents, 41, Rome, American Institute of Musicology, 1985, pp. 43–5.

Vocal performance before c. 1430


adopted. The visceral joy that performers can experience when, for instance, placing major or minor thirds in their just ratios of 5:4 and 6:5 respectively is tempered by the reality of the medieval system based, as it was, on the system of Pythagorean tuning. In the tuning system whose invention is ascribed to Pythagoras of Samos, restated by Boethius in the sixth century,29 and advocated by composers and theorists of the later Middle Ages, the major third (81:64) is wider even than its equally tempered namesake and the minor third (32:27) even narrower.30 Intervallic character within the Pythagorean system is deemed consonant in the case of perfect fourths and fifths, unstable in the case of thirds, tense in the case of major seconds, major sixths, and minor sevenths, and dissonant in the case of the remaining intervals (minor seconds, augmented fourths, diminished fifths, minor sixths, and major sevenths). For every performance of Notre-Dame polyphony that makes a comparison between the vaults, arches and buttresses of the Gothic architectural style and the musical architecture of organum purum and discant, there will be another that makes its case that much more convincingly by taking care to tune perfect fourths and perfect fifths accurately, and by tuning major thirds almost 8 cents wider than in equal temperament (over 21 cents wider than their justly tuned relations).31

Modern performance The late-medieval period saw the replacement of score notation by choirbook format and the shortening of written note values. It is fascinating to speculate as to the nature of the (presumably symbiotic) relationship between the changed appearance of the music and shifting performance ideals. Singing from one’s own self-contained line as opposed to singing from a line within a score – especially where the vertical alignment is less than perfect – promotes a new sensation in the mind of the performer. The individuality of one’s own voice-part is magnified when the character and range of a whole section of a piece can be analysed at a glance. Aural sensitivities to the nature and function of other voice-parts are simultaneously heightened. Compare this to the medium of the string quartet whose members would rarely choose to perform from a full score, even in a piece whose sections are short enough to make page turns easily negotiable. Whether the appearance of shorter note values had any effect on tempo is unclear, but interaction with the musical manuscripts of the

29 In De institutione musica; see C. M. Bower (ed.), Fundamentals of Music: Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1989. 30 J. Herlinger, ‘Medieval canonics’, p. 177, Table 6.3. 31 R. Rasch, ‘Tuning and temperament’, in Christensen (ed.), The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, p. 196.



period is more than simply desirable. A convincing performance is one executed with authority and confidence: authority is easily assumed when primary sources have been used for the preparation and/or execution of the performance; and confidence runs the risk of being misplaced if original materials have not been consulted. The musical and theoretical sources of the period are the mirrors of the medieval soul; they are the tools with which a performer’s interpretation may be sculpted. Ultimately, musical instinct will underpin the rendition of any piece from any period of music; but it is relatively easy to defend the linchpins and idiosyncrasies of one’s own performance if ‘higher’ authority can be cited. Adopt a suitable tempo, articulate appropriately, balance voices sensitively, adapt vocal timbres to suit the piece and your acoustics, apply dynamics effectively, tune chords carefully, pay attention to matters of ensemble, match the text convincingly to the melodic line, and give thought to the pronunciation of the words. Those are my own tenets for the performance of medieval music; indeed they are startlingly similar to the tenets that I might hold when I approach the performance of vocal music from any period. A literal performance of medieval music is impossible and, arguably, undesirable: any portrayal of medieval music must depend on functional equivalence. Since the second half of the nineteenth century, when an active movement to rediscover medieval music emerged, performers have adopted a wide spectrum of practices based on a mixture of pragmatism and detailed research. For that reason the performance of medieval music is unlikely to remain the same from one generation to the next. However, performance strategies are likely to remain similar, even if the tactics differ substantially. In the words of Horace,32 which were quoted in the thirteenth-century treatise Summa musicae: ‘the one who combines the useful with the delightful wins the applause’.33

32 ‘omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci’ is line 343 of the Epistula ad Pisones (‘Ars Poetica’); see N. Rudd (ed.), Horace Epistles Book II and Epistle to the Pisones, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 70. 33 C. Page (ed.), The Summa Musice: A Thirteenth-Century Manual for Singers, Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 54.

. 10 .

Instrumental performance before c. 1430 STEFANO MENGOZZI

Introduction From the outset it is important to restate the inevitable disclaimer: our knowledge of medieval instruments and medieval instrumental performance practice is severely limited by the nature of the historical evidence at our disposal. Virtually no stringed instrument survives from before 1500, and even if several specimens had survived they could only represent a fraction of the vast array of instrument types that were produced in medieval Europe. Secondly, the problem of correctly matching the medieval representations and descriptions of musical instruments in visual and literary sources with their contemporaneous designations can be quite thorny in itself – witness the case of the gittern/ citole/mandora/cittern discussed below – since those representations are very often frustratingly ambiguous on key details of manufacturing and performance practice (one case for all: the problem of bridge shapes in bowed instruments before c.1470). Given this scenario, the study of the history of medieval instruments relies more on arguments based on inference, common sense and musical judgement, than on the evidence of the primary sources. If the goal of accurately reconstructing the musical instruments used centuries ago faces insurmountable difficulties, the related task of pinpointing the specific contexts, circumstances and conventions of instrumental performance poses even thornier problems. The issue is not just that the world of medieval instrumental music belonged to a cultural domain – orality – that by definition left very few written traces. What complicates the historian’s task is also the localised nature of the documentary evidence, which in no way can do justice to the myriad of performing traditions and conventions that for centuries developed and interacted on the European scene and in counterpoint with non-European musical cultures (most prominently, Islam). The upshot of this state of affairs is that much of the pre-1500 repertoire that has come down to us – with the possible exception of some forms of sacred music – may well have been performed in a variety of equally, or more or less acceptable ways. Such a conclusion is not an endorsement of an ‘anything-goes’




attitude; to the contrary, the task of distinguishing between actual performance practice(s) and many possible performing fictions remains paramount. Much of medieval instrumental practice is lost forever, yet much is being and will be discovered through an ever more carefully contextualised evaluation of the documentary sources, and through the exercise of musical judgement. Perhaps more than in any other musicological field, on this terrain the scholar and the performer have a common purpose. As the debates on authenticity in early music and on the ‘a cappella heresy’ have abundantly confirmed, any scholarly argument about medieval performance practice is bound to rely also, for better or for worse, on modern ears.1

The sources: iconography, literary works, and musical treatises The vast body of visual artefacts from the Middle Ages is a rich source of information on the design and features of musical instruments and their use in actual musical practice.2 Unfortunately most of these images – and certainly those pre-dating the end of the thirteenth century – were meant to be more plausible than realistic representations of musical scenes and are of little organological value, and even when they appear to be realistic, they remain tantalisingly vague on key details of construction and performance practice. This is the case, for instance, with the numerous illuminations featuring musical instruments found in the extant manuscripts of the Cantigas de Sancta Maria, a collection of more than 400 songs in praise of the Virgin Mary that were compiled under King Alfonso X of Spain between 1270 and 1290.3 These instruments may have been common not only in Spain, but throughout the Mediterranean basin as well. Some of them, however, may never have existed; nor is it certain whether the instruments portrayed were actually used to perform the cantigas copied into the same source, or fulfil a merely decorative function. Musical iconography from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries tends to be more valuable to music scholars because it appears to strive for a higher degree of accuracy and realism. The illuminations of the Squarcialupi codex, for instance, contain portraits of Florentine musicians in the act of playing instruments that

1 For two recent assessments of those scholarly debates, see J. Butt, Playing with History: The Historical Approach to Musical Performance, Cambridge University Press, 2002; and D. Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music: Scholarship, Ideology, Performance, Cambridge University Press, 2002. 2 Medieval books of hours and psalters are especially rich sources of musical images, as shown by the numerous reproductions in the studies by Remnant and Winternitz cited below. 3 Some of the illuminations may date to the fourteenth century; for a reproduction of some of them, see J. Ribera, Music in Ancient Arabia and Spain: being La música de las Cantigas, trans. and abridged E. Hague and M. Leffingwell, Oxford University Press, 1929.

Instrumental performance before c. 1430


have been used to design modern copies of those same instruments, such as the organetto. Numerous trecento illustrations of musical instruments from paintings, illuminations, and literary sources, were published by H. M. Brown.4 While there are no medieval musical treatises dedicated specifically to the instruments, a great number of literary sources make more or less extended references to them. One of the most frequently debated sources is the De musica by Johannes de Grocheio (written c. 1300), which offers valuable information on instrumental music in contemporary Paris as part of his much discussed survey of the musical forms and genres of secular music.5 His claim that a good fiddle player is able to perform in all styles and musical forms (bonus artifex in viella omnem cantum et cantilenam et omnem formam musicalem generaliter introducit) has attracted much scholarly attention. Lawrence Gushee, echoed by Christopher Page, has suggested that Grocheio’s omnem formam only included the monophonic genres such as trouvère songs and chansons de geste, and dances (estampies and ductia).6 At any rate, the performing versatility that so impressed Grocheio may be an index not only of the great variety of musical genres and forms in the Paris of his time, but also of the growing interest in instrumental music (particularly string playing) by the educated class and the clergy beginning in the midthirteenth century. Part of this trend was also an increasingly more positive attitude about secular entertainment by academics and clergymen. The closing section of the massive Tractatus de musica by the Dominican monk Jerome of Moravia, also written in Paris in the early 1270s, offers rare information on the tuning of the fiddle and the rebec, a sure sign of the presence of those and other string instruments in monastic environments. About a century later, Konrad of Megenberg witnessed the rise of the professional wind bands in his Yconomica, written c. 1350.7 In his Tractatus de canticis (c. 1424–6), French Theologian Jean Gerson discusses at some length the instruments cited in Psalm 150.8 Many other sources, from Isidor of Seville’s Etymologiae to Bartholomaeus Anglicus’s De proprietatibus rerum, either 4 See H. M. Brown, ‘Catalogus. A corpus of trecento pictures with musical subject matter, part I’, Imago musicae I–III (1985–7) and V (1988); Mary Remnant’s English Bowed Instruments from Anglo-Saxon to Tudor Times, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1986, features more than 150 illustrations of bowed instruments, mostly from the British Isles. 5 On this topic see in particular C. Page, Voices and Instruments of the Middle Ages: Instrumental Practice and Song in France 1100–1300, London, Dent, 1987, pp. 50–3 and 67–9; C. Page, The Owl and the Nightingale: Musical Life and Ideas in France 1100–1300, London, Dent, 1989; Berkeley, University of California Press, 1990, pp. 69–75; C. Page, ‘Johannes de Grocheio on secular music: a corrected text and a new translation’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 2 (1993), 17–41. 6 Page, Voices and Instruments, p. 68. 7 Page has discussed Jerome and Konrad respectively in Voices and Instruments, pp. 57–76 and 126–33, and in his ‘German musicians and their instruments: a 14th-century account by Konrad of Megenberg’, Early Music, 10 (1982), 192–200. 8 C. Page, ‘Early 15th-century instruments in Jean de Gerson’s “Tractatus de Cantici”’, Early Music, 6 (1978), 339–49.



mention or discuss the instruments in some detail. Especially intriguing are those texts mentioning the materials for making strings.9

Contexts of performance The court The most accomplished performers of medieval instrumental music were the minstrels, variously referred to in contemporaneous sources as joculator, histrio, jongleur, menestrere, or menestrel.10 These musical ‘craftsmen’ were part of a broad family of professional or semi-professional entertainers – dancers, storytellers, mimes, acrobats, etc. – who routinely performed, solo or in ensembles, for courtly and (at a later time) city audiences. The romanticised figure of the itinerant bard, though historically true, was only one aspect of medieval minstrels; it appears to have become increasingly less common in the late Middle Ages, along with a steady rise in the professionalisation, specialisation and social status of instrumental performers. Throughout the central Middle Ages (ninth–thirteenth centuries) the minstrels were primarily associated with a court. They played fiddles, harps, gitterns, lutes, wind instruments such as shawms and recorders, and percussion; they would frequently accompany themselves while singing a variety of vocal genres, from love songs to chansons de geste. The vast repertoire of troubadoric songs circulated in southern France, Spain and northern Italy by means of jongleurs, who only rarely were also the poets/composers (troubadours). Women were rarely, if ever, remunerated as minstrels, although they may have frequently contributed to musical life at court from different capacities. The actual services expected from courtly minstrels could vary greatly, depending on the interests and needs of their patrons. Payment records show that some courts dispensed with them altogether, while others hired them in sizeable number (this information per se says little about musical performances at any given court, which may often have been provided by other members of the staff). Not infrequently, a minstrel might act as an agent for his or her patron, and even engage in delicate political missions. In spite of their generally low social status, the minstrels were de facto courtly 9 Page, Voices and Instruments, pp. 210–42. 10 For an overview of the history of minstrelsy in the Middle Ages, see L. Gushee and R. Rastall, Oxford Music Online, ‘Minstrel’ (accessed 12 November 2009); and R. Strohm, The Rise of European Music, 1380– 1500, Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp. 300–17 and 357–67. For a more detailed presentation of French courtly minstrels, see the opening three chapters of Page, The Owl and the Nightingale. On minstrels at the Burgundian court, see C. Wright, Music at the Court of Burgundy, 1364–1419: A Documentary History, Ottawa, Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1979, pp. 23–54; on the civic minstrels of the late Middle Ages, see in particular the contributions by Keith Polk and Timothy McGee cited below.

Instrumental performance before c. 1430


figures who were expected to provide good company to their aristocratic hosts. Thus, by necessity they had to be well versed in the courtly arts of conversation and decorum, lest they lose the favour of their feudal patrons (hence their frequent condemnation by the clergy as flatterers).

The city Beginning in the fourteenth century the term minstrel came to indicate the figure of the professional instrumentalist employed by a court or a city. That period saw a steep rise in the number of wind bands across Europe, both privately and publicly supported: Keith Polk has calculated that at least 150 aristocratic households (including numerous bishops) and civic governments from German-speaking areas began to sponsor such bands in the period c. 1350–1450.11 The members of city bands enjoyed the benefits and the status of city officials or clerks. As Polk has pointed out, the aura of power and magnificence that such ensembles conferred on their public and private patrons, in the ruthless and highly volatile political climate of the times, was no doubt a key factor behind this development.12 Predictably, sound reflected hierarchy: the trumpets were typically reserved for the highest aristocratic stations, whereas shawm ensembles were considered appropriate for the lower ranks. The musical duties of city bands ranged from the most basic ‘announcement’ calls of the waits (in German: Türmer, who might be also employed on the battlefield) to the more elaborate public performances of professional wind musicians (called Stadtpfeifer or piffari). The rise of civic music ensembles led to the creation of schools that taught future minstrels not only the rudiments of performance (counterpoint, ornamentation, improvisation etc.), but also basic maths, reading and writing. These establishments were modelled on the artisan schools that towards the end of the Middle Ages began to offer basic education (in the vernacular) for the burgeoning middle class, in parallel to the traditional Latin curriculum taught at cathedral schools. The fourteenth century also saw the emergence of the ‘minstrel schools’, large gatherings of professional musicians from all over Europe typically held in German, French and Burgundian cities during Lent (traditionally a time of low musical activity).13

11 For example: Hamburg had a wind ensemble by 1350, Leipzig by 1440; the Holy Roman Emperor began its sponsorship in 1352 and the King of Poland in 1422; the number of players in these ensembles varied. See K. Polk, ‘The trombone, the slide trumpet and the ensemble tradition of the early Renaissance’, Early Music, 17 (1989), 390–1. 12 Ibid., 400. 13 On minstrel schools, see M. Gomez, ‘Minstrel schools in the Late Middle Ages’, Early Music, 18 (1990), 213–16.



Some aspects of the rich late-medieval musical landscape have continued until the modern era in various forms. String instruments were normally kept in barbershops, and there was playing and singing in streets and squares, particularly during peak times such as annual fairs or religious feasts. In southern Germany and Austria music was made in the very popular bathhouses. The tradition of young men serenading outside the apartments of young women (hoffieren) was also well established in those areas. The performances typically relied on bowed and string instruments.14 The tabor and pipe combination shown in Fig. 10.1 (the instrument on the right is a gittern), was a very common way of providing dance music in urban outdoor settings. The tabor pipe was a duct flute with three or four holes and a generally narrow bore to allow overblowing; the tabor (in its many different shapes and sizes) was the most common percussion instrument in the Middle Ages.15

Fig. 10.1. Country scene with players of tabor and pipe, and gittern (Lyon Municipal Library)

14 On this topic see D. A. Smith, A History of the Lute from Antiquity to the Renaissance, n.p., Lute Society of America, 2002, p. 33. 15 On medieval percussion instruments, see J. Blades, Percussion Instruments and their History, London, Faber, 1984, pp. 188–224, and J. Montagu, Timpani and Percussion, New Haven and London, Yale

Instrumental performance before c. 1430


Instruments for religious occasions The water organ of Classical Antiquity (hydraulis) was still being used in Europe until the eleventh century and was no doubt common in churches and monasteries until that time. The later generation of pneumatic instruments was easier to carry and to operate, although the old hydraulis could guarantee a more continuous flow of air through the pipes.16 The new types of positive and portative organs also required a second person to operate one or two pairs of bellows to maintain air pressure. It is possible to overestimate the availability of the organ in European churches and monasteries of the late Middle Ages; no doubt many religious institutions could not afford them, and relied instead on the occasional use of wind and string instruments, particularly during processions and liturgical dramas.17 Although there is a fair amount of evidence pointing to the presence of the instruments in religious contexts, important questions remain open on their precise role and function in different contexts and in different geographic areas. Quite plausibly, chant sequences and other plainsong melodies such as the Te deum would have been performed with instrumental accompaniment on extra-liturgical occasions;18 yet the same melodies might generally have been played without the instruments (or at most with the organ) when performed during the Mass or the Office, with the possible exception of princely weddings or religious functions attended by foreign dignitaries, which would have featured trumpets and shawms. There is evidence that extra-liturgical occasions, such as sacred plays, might have featured the instruments even when performed inside a church.19

Domestic music-making Amateur music-making is for obvious reasons the least documented aspect of medieval performance practice; yet it was no doubt widespread among all social classes. Scattered bits of information about this practice may be often gleaned only indirectly from a variety of sources such as chronicles and personal inventories, which often include musical instruments. String instruments were again those preferred by the educated elites both south and north of the University Press, 2002, pp. 15–31. On the early history of the flute and the recorder, see A. Rowland-Jones, ‘Iconography in the history of the recorder up to 1430’, pt. 1, Early Music, 33 (2005), 557–74; pt. 2: Early Music, 34 (2006), 3–27. 16 M. Campbell et al., Musical Instruments: History, Technology, and Performance of Instruments of Western Music, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 394. On the medieval organ, see P. Williams, The Organ in Western Culture, 750–1250, Cambridge University Press, 1993. 17 Remnant, English Bowed Instruments, p. 106. 18 Ibid. 19 A. Tomasello, Music and Ritual at Papal Avignon, 1309–1403, Ann Arbor, MI, UMI Research Press, 1983, pp. 34–6.



Alps (noblemen, wealthy burghers and members of the clergy). The Florentine chronicler Filippo Villani, for instance, informs us that Francis Petrarch played the ‘lyre’ (by which he actually meant a lute, as it is clear from other documents), apparently accompanying himself and perhaps singing his own poetry.20 Better documented are the moments of music-making in the privacy of courtly chambers (as opposed to the halls, reserved for dancing and ceremonial music).21 Musically educated rulers such as Charles the Bold (d. 1477) not only entertained themselves in their leisure moments, but might also ask a court musician to perform for them. The highly respected and much sought-after position of chamber valet at the French and Burgundian courts was designed specifically to fulfil that function, though painters, sculptors and other artists were also hired as chamber valets. Skilled performers (usually harpers) such as Gautier l’Anglais to Baude Fresnel and Jean Tapissier served as chamber valets under Burgundian Duke Philip the Bold.22

Instrumental practices and repertoires Plucked instruments The impressive European history of the lute began with the Arab conquest of the Iberian peninsula and Sicily respectively in the eighth and ninth centuries.23 The establishment of the Moorish court in Cordoba attracted Arab musicians from the Middle East and northern Africa, including the legendary Ziryab (‘Blackbird’, c. 790–852), who is credited with having added a fifth string to the Middle Eastern lute that eventually made its way to southern Europe. In Cordoba Ziryab opened a music school for both singers and instrumentalists that was quite possibly the first (documented) one of its kind. The long presence of the Moors in Spain created an ideal condition for sustained musical exchanges between Arab and Christian traditions of poetry and music. Yet it was primarily through Sicily that the lute made its way to the rest of Europe, and only in the mid-thirteenth century. The extraordinary paintings of the Cappella Palatina of Palermo (c. 1140), completed under the Norman King Roger II, show a predominant number of lutes and gitterns, most of which were played by Muslim musicians, and many fewer wind, percussion and bowed instruments. But it was not until the late thirteenth

20 Smith, A History of the Lute, p. 27. 21 On public and private forms of music-making at court, see Strohm, The Rise of European Music, pp. 313–19. 22 Wright, Music at the Court of Burgundy, pp. 123–37. 23 This short summary of the early history of the lute in Western Europe is indebted to Smith, A History of the Lute, pp. 16–33.

Instrumental performance before c. 1430


century that the lute began to make inroads on the Continent thanks to the many Tuscan poets who sojourned in Sicily at that time in order to absorb the poetic tradition of the island – a pattern of transmission confirmed by the very high number of lutes depicted in fourteenth-century Tuscan paintings. There is no extant trecento music written specifically for the lute, nor do we possess any secure evidence that the instrument was used to play in polyphony; its usual function was no doubt to accompany narrative and lyrical poems. A small group of justiniane from Ottaviano Petrucci’s Frottole libro sesto (1505) may be by Venetian poet, statesman and musician Leonardo Giustinian (1383– 1446). They are frottola-like pieces, with a florid vocal line accompanied by two lower (and less active) parts, most likely intended for the lute. Italian humanist culture contributed to the popularity of the instrument, considered as a reincarnation of the old Greek lyre. Fourteenth-century French musicians appear to have favoured the harp and the gittern/citole, but the lute is mentioned in the statutes of the musicians’ guild in Paris as early as 1321. Payment records, corroborated by later remarks by Johannes Tinctoris and Sebastian Virdung, demonstrate that the lute was an extremely popular instrument in early fifteenth-century Germany.24 Two main types of plucked instruments circulated: the lute properly speaking, with a pear-body shape, no frets, and four strings (double or single), and the quintern (the German equivalent of gittern, probably of Andalusian origin), a smaller, pear-shaped instrument with a round back, a sickle-shaped pegbox and as many as five strings (single or double), but more commonly three or four.25 Both instruments used gut strings, although Tinctoris attributes to German musicians the invention of brass strings to double the gut strings an octave lower. The use of frets on the fingerboard, allowing better control of intonation, began to emerge around 1400, whereas the addition of a fifth string dates to c. 1430, in response to the growing practice of playing the lute polyphonically. With the addition of a sixth string around 1475, the lute had acquired a range that was suitable for the performance of an entire motet or chanson.26 The quintern and the lute may have been played as a duo until around 1430, after which the quintern gradually vanished from the scene. Accomplished string players, such as the legendary Pietrobono del Chitarrino of Ferrara, no doubt excelled on both instruments, but the gittern had a stronger association with amateur playing, particularly in the less respectable corners of society. This

24 See K. Polk, ‘Voices and instruments: soloists and ensembles in the 15th century’, Early Music, 18 (1990), 180. 25 K. Polk, German Instrumental Music of the Late Middle Ages: Players, Patrons and Performance Practice, Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 22–4. 26 Smith, A History of the Lute, pp. 52–3.



instrument, for instance, is mentioned in connection with music in taverns, with rowdy street music at night, and is a relatively frequent occurrence in crime records.27 There is also evidence of lute–organ duos in early fifteenthcentury Germany (most likely portable organs were involved); not coincidentally Conrad Paumann, the most prominent German organist of the fifteenth century, was also an accomplished lute player, indeed one of the first ones to play the instrument polyphonically, that is, plucking the strings with his fingers, rather than with the plectrum.28 Paumann is also credited with having introduced the German system of lute tablature. Such extraordinary cases of versatility in performance, however, gave way to specialisation later in the century.29 The widespread presence of the lute around the Mediterranean basin was paralleled by the harp in northern European courts throughout the Middle Ages. Anglo-Norman and Old French courtly literature often features remarkably detailed descriptions, and sometimes images of musical scenes, most commonly a courtly figure or hero performing a lengthy poetic song (lai) on that instrument: for instance, a thirteenth-century copy of the Tristan en prose has a picture of a harpist playing for King Mark of Cornwall.30 The instrument appears to have fallen gradually out of fashion at the inception of the Renaissance, but it remained a favourite at both the Burgundian and the Avignonese papal courts in the fifteenth century. Needless to say, it is not known how the instrument was used in performance. Even the famous ars subtilior rondeau ‘La harpe de mélodie’ by Jaquemin de Senleches, a virtuoso harper at the Avignonese papal court, may have been conceived for an a cappella performance, in spite of mentioning the harp in the text, and of being notated in the shape of a harp in one of its sources.31

Bowed instruments Iconographic and literary sources attest unequivocally that the fiddle, in its many types and forms, enjoyed great popularity for much of the Middle Ages, both inside and outside courtly circles. The thirteenth-century romance Gille de Chyn by Gaultier de Tournai reports that two players sang a love song accompanying themselves on the fiddle. Another thirteenth-century chanson de geste of the Lorraine cycle, Hervis de Metz, likewise mentions a joungleur singing to the accompaniment of his own fiddle.32 References to sons d’amours in these 27 L. Wright, ‘The medieval gittern and citole: a case of mistaken identity’, Galpin Society Journal, 30 (1977), 15 (the article is reprinted in T. McGee (ed.), Instruments and their Music in the Middle Ages, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2009, pp. 253–89). 28 Polk, ‘Voices and instruments’, 179. 29 Ibid., 186. 30 Page, Voices and Instruments, p. 99. 31 On the medieval harp and its role in the performance of polyphony, see H. M. Brown, ‘The trecento harp’, in S. Boorman (ed.), Studies in the Performance of Late Mediaeval Music, Cambridge University Press, 1983, pp. 35–73. 32 Page, Voices and Instruments, p. 31.

Instrumental performance before c. 1430


poems from northern France (i.e. ‘France’) point to the transmission of troubadoric songs outside Occitaine, that is to say, in areas where the poetic language was not easily understood. The practice of accompanying these melodies with a bowed instrument (and frequently with a harp also) may have been a way to draw the attention of the listener towards musical sound and away from the barely intelligible texts. However, not all vocal music would have had an instrumental accompaniment irrespective of style and genre: Page has suggested that songs in the non-strophic High Style of the troubadours may have been routinely performed without instrumental accompaniment, while songs in the Low Style and especially dances would have involved the use of the instruments (with or without the voice).33 The visual sources consistently maintain a distinction between waisted fiddles played a gamba with underhand bow, and non-waisted (i.e. oval or rectangular) fiddles played a braccio with overhand bow.34 The popularity of the manner of performance a gamba (i.e. with the instrument resting on or between the legs) declined rapidly in the early years of the fourteenth century for reasons that remain unclear. For much of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the fiddle was played exclusively a braccio across Western Europe with the exception of remote territories of the provinces of Aragon and Valencia, where the Moorish tradition of playing the rabāb in the a gamba position continued unabated (to judge from a number of paintings with musical scenes from that area). The rabāb was the same instrument variously described by a number of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century French authors as rubeba, rubebe or rebebe, later to become ‘rebec’ (a very similar instrument is still played today in Morocco). It had three or four strings (more rarely only one or two, or as many as five or six) tuned in fifths and mounted on an elongated body of various sizes with a curved back and generally two or three decorative roses on the upper end of the belly, made of wood (the lower end was characteristically made of parchment). According to Woodfield, the rabāb served as the model for the creation of the larger Valencian viol in the 1470s, which in turn appears to have been the immediate ancestor of the Renaissance viol.35 From mid-fifteenth-century Aragon also came the vihuela de mano, a sort of ‘plucked fiddle’ that became especially popular in Spain in the next century.36 Very common in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was also the organistrum (also called symphonie and vielle a roué in France and later hurdy-gurdy in England),

33 Ibid., pp. 12–28. 34 The short presentation of bowed instruments that follows is based for the most part on Remnant, English Bowed Instruments, and I. Woodfield, The Early History of the Viol, Cambridge University Press, 1984. 35 Woodfield, The Early History of the Viol, pp. 15–37, 61–79. 36 Ibid., pp. 38–60.



a sort of ‘fake’ bowed instrument in which the strings vibrate against a spinning wheel, rather than against a bow. The organistrum was a favourite of troubadours and trouvères and was later associated with blind musicians.37 In spite of the great number of extant images of bowed instruments the crucial issue of the shape of the bridge supporting the strings over the soundboard remains – and is likely bound to remain – frustratingly elusive. Our assessment of the role of the fiddle in medieval musical performance hinges on the answer to that question. If medieval fiddles were routinely built with flat bridges until around 1470, as scholars such as Peter Holman and Ian Woodfield have maintained, then only the outer strings could have been bowed individually until around that time; the inner strings could produce sound only as parts of open-fifths chords (drones).38 On the other hand, if arched bridges were in use then the strings could have been positioned at variable distances from the soundboard, thus bowed individually to perform complex melodic parts such as those of mensural polyphony. Scholars such as Brown and Remnant, among others, have pointed to iconographical evidence to demonstrate that arched bridges were indeed used long before 1470; Brown has argued, for instance, that the fiddle shown in Fig. 10.2 supports this hypothesis.39 At any rate, even accepting the early dating of arched bridges it would seem that many and perhaps most fiddles would have featured flat bridges, with relatively limited potential. On the other hand, the anonymous textless motet In seculum viellatoris (‘In seculum of the fiddle player’, see the opening bars in Ex. 10.1), from the late thirteenth century, may have been conceived for at least one fiddle, a performance that would require the bowing of individual strings.40 The issue of tuning directly relates to the ongoing studies of bridge shapes. In his Tractatus de musica, Jerome indicates three different tunings for the fiddle: d G g d0 d0 , d G g d0 g0 , and G G d c0 c0 ; Howard Mayer Brown has observed that the first two would have been appropriate for playing drones, and the last one for playing melodic lines.41 Jerome also writes that the two strings of the rebec were tuned to low G (gamma) and D, but it seems implausible that an instrument with short strings such as the rebec would have been tuned to such low pitches; Brown has observed that Jerome’s pitch indications are to be viewed as

37 S. and S. Palmer, The Hurdy-Gurdy, Newton Abbot, David & Charles, 1980, pp. 44–67. 38 Woodfield, The Early History of the Viol, p. 71, and the summary of this debate in D. Fallows, ‘Secular polyphony in the 15th century’, in H. M. Brown and S. Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music before 1600, London, Macmillan, 1989, pp. 206–7. 39 See Remnant, English Bowed Instruments, pp. 24–7, and Brown, ‘The trecento fiddle and its bridges’, Early Music, 17 (1989), 308–29. 40 For a short discussion of this piece, see Remnant, English Bowed Instruments, p. 104. 41 Brown, ‘Instruments’, in Brown and Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice, pp. 24–5.

Instrumental performance before c. 1430


Fig. 10.2. Giovanni del Biondo, Musical angels (Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery), showing two players of organetto and fiddle. relative, not absolute.42 One sentence from the Tractatus suggests that skilled fiddle players would have been able to improvise a contrapuntal line against a pre-existing melody, following the technique of ‘fifthing’ in use among singers.43 While instrumentalists routinely played vocal music from memory and in the best cases improvised over notated melodies according to the techniques of discantus used by singers, there is also evidence of poetic texts added to pieces 42 Brown, ‘The trecento fiddle’, pp. 323–5.

43 See also Page, Voices and Instruments, pp. 70–6.



Ex. 10.1. In seculum viellatoris (Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek, MS. Lit. 115, fol. 63v, n. 105), opening

that had originally been conceived for the instruments (such as dances). Christopher Page has observed that the troubadour Raimbaut de Vaqueiras created his canso Kalenda maya by adding a new text to a pre-existing estampida that would have been normally performed by two fiddles.44

Wind instruments German scholar Konrad of Megenberg documents important transitions in fourteenth-century musical life in his treatise Yconomica, written c. 1350 as a manual of how to run an aristocratic household. Konrad makes a distinction between the servi delectabiles, that is, servants who routinely entertain their master, and the professional minstrels (the ioculatores) who were increasingly populating the urban scene.45 Equally interesting to music historians is his assessment that the ‘old fiddle’ is considered old-fashioned at that time, and that wind instruments and percussions (presumably played in small consorts) are the latest fashion.46 Until Konrad’s generation, and since antiquity, the trumpet had been available only in the shape of a straight pipe about 150 cm long and ending with a flare. This instrument, variously known as buisine or (in Germany) posaune, had very limited musical capabilities, since it could generate only the first four sounds of the natural harmonic series (i.e. unison, octave, twelfth and 44 Ibid., p. 47. 45 Page, ‘German musicians’, pp. 195–6. 46 Ibid., pp. 196. Polk, German Instrumental Music, pp. 21 and 228, n. 26.

Instrumental performance before c. 1430


fifteenth). Thus, the buisine was used for the most part to produce military signals or celebratory fanfares. Nevertheless, during the fourteenth century it was increasingly adopted as the lowest member of the shawm ensemble for providing drones in the performance of dance music.47 The decisive factor leading to a full integration of the trumpet within the shawm band (alta capella) was the metallurgic innovations of the last quarter of the fourteenth century.48 At that time instrument makers developed new procedures allowing them to bend a metal pipe while preserving its cylindrical shape. This revolutionary technique led to new ‘S-shaped’ instruments around 1375 and to the now familiar twice-folded shape around 1400.49 Scholars have been much occupied with the question whether or not the new ‘S-shaped’ and folded instruments featured a slide mechanism as early as in the first half of the fifteenth century. The current general consensus is that a single-slide Renaissance trumpet (either ‘S-shaped’ or double-folded) became a stable member of the shawm ensemble in the first decades of the century. The player would move the entire trumpet up and down the slide, in which he blew air through the mouthpiece. The trompette des ménestrels regularly cited in Burgundian payment records from 1422 onwards was most likely such a slide instrument. In southern Germany, however, the preferred designation was posaune, thus the same term that used to indicate the straight natural trumpet. Later in the fifteenth century the posaune, known in Italy as trombone, was extended into the lower range and fitted with a double slide.50 On the other hand, it is currently assumed that the trompette de guerre, or war trumpet, did not need and thus did not normally feature the slide mechanism.51 It has been plausibly argued that a slide trumpet tuned in D or G played the contra-tenor part in alta capella ensembles;52 the shawm (in D) would have improvised over the tenor part played by the bombard or tenor shawm (tuned in G), which indeed early fifteenth-century Burgundian documents refer to as the teneur de ménestrels.53 Presumably such professional ensembles performed a wide-ranging repertoire that included motets and chansons in addition to dance music. According to Ross Duffin, instances of this repertoire are provided by 47 P. Downey, ‘The Renaissance slide trumpet: fact or fiction?’, Early Music, 12 (1984), 26. 48 For an overview of the organisational structure, the instrument types, and the musical activities of the fifteenth-century alta capella, see L. Welker, ‘Alta capella: zur Ensemblepraxis der Blasinstrumente im 15. Jahrhundert’, Basler Jahrhbuch für historische Musikpraxis, 7 (1983), 119–65; K. Polk, German Instrumental Music, pp. 45–86. Welker’s article, along with those by Wulf Arlt and Kenneth Zuckermann in the same volume (see the bibliography), deals extensively with the issue of instrumental improvisation in the Middle Ages. 49 Downey, ‘The Renaissance slide trumpet’, 26. 50 K. Polk, ‘The trombone’, 402–3. See also T. Herbert, The Trombone, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2006, pp. 45–60. 51 R. Duffin, ‘The trompette des ménestrels in the 15th-century alta capella’, Early Music, 17 (1989), 397. 52 Ibid., 399–400. 53 Ibid., 401.



the small number of untexted pieces preserved in Trent 87, including a basse dance melody that is related to a motet attributed to Dufay.54 The melodic ranges of the parts involved, transposed up a fifth, match very conveniently the ranges of the alta capella, as shown in Ex. 10.2. The shawm (called schalmey in German and cennamella or cialamella in Italian) became increasingly widespread in the fourteenth century across Europe, although it was certainly well known long before (it figures prominently among the musical vignettes that accompany the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a sign of its Middle-Eastern origin).55 It was a double-reed instrument in the shape of a conical pipe of c. 27–30 inches (69–76 cm) in length, ending with a flare (quite prominent in Fig. 10.3 below). Modern versions of the instrument, which may differ from their medieval counterparts in important respects, can still be encountered in rural areas throughout the European region. The keyless treble shawm, spanning about two octaves from its lowest note d00 , including most chromatic pitches) was by far the most commonly used: it could easily play rapid melismatic passages with a crisp and imposing sound that appears to have allowed variations in dynamics. It was thus particularly suited for outdoor performances. In the second half of the fourteenth century Ex. 10.2. T’Andernaken al op den Rijn (Trent, Castello del Buonconsiglio, MS. 87, fols. 198v–199r)

b 6 œ œœ & 4 œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œœ ˙


6 œ. V 4

œ œ œ. J

(c.f.) ? b 46 ˙ .


j œœ

œ œ œœœ






b j b œ . œ œ œ œ œj œ œ œ ˙ . J ˙

œ œ ˙

œ ˙





Ó. œ œœ œ J J

#3# 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 j j œj œ œjœ j œ œj œ ˙ . & œ œ œ . œ œ œ œ œ œ œ . œ œ œ œ œj j œ j œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œœ # # œ œ Œ œ œ j œ . œ V œ œ œ J œ œJ œ œ œ œ ˙ Œ œ ˙ ˙. ˙. ˙ ˙. œ œ ˙ ˙. ?b w.

54 Ibid., 399–400. 55 For the following information on the shawm I am indebted to Polk, German Instrumental Music, pp. 50– 4, and to T. McGee, The Ceremonial Musicians of Late-Medieval Florence, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2009, pp. 58–62.

Instrumental performance before c. 1430


Fig. 10.3 School of Giotto, Glorification of St Francis, detail showing a wind ensemble (two shawms and bagpipe), organistrum and psaltery (Church of St Francesco al Prato, Pistoia). the treble shawm was the highest member of professional trio ensembles that also included the tenor shawm (the bombard in g, featuring one key on its seventh hole) and the bagpipe, generally replaced by the slide trumpet around 1410 and by the trombone towards the end of the fifteenth century. Shawm players customarily doubled on the bagpipe and even on trumpets and soft instruments. Iconographical sources and paying records from civic archives indicate that shawm ensembles customarily provided dance music.56 In fourteenth-century Florence a player of cennamella was hired with the specific duty of sounding the alarm (sveglia) on particular occasions; an ensemble of three piffari (originally two shawms and one bagpipe, then three shawms) was founded in the 1380s as part of a general reorganisation of the city government and imitation of northern courts (particularly France and Burgundy); among other duties, the new ensemble was expected to entertain government officials during daily meals at the civic Mensa.57 The performers came increasingly from other parts of Italy and from northern Europe (particularly Germany); thus the repertoire they performed must have been international

56 Emanuel Winternitz has sketched a social history of the bagpipe and hurdy-gurdy in his Musical Instruments and their Symbolism in Western Art, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1979, pp. 66–85. 57 McGee, The Ceremonial Musicians, pp. 124–45.



in character. All professional instrument players prior to c. 1500 played from memory and were skilled in the art of improvising over a tenor part.58 The saltarelli and istampitte preserved in London, British Library, Add. 29987, copied near Milan around 1400, are indicative of the dance music played by Italian wind bands of the time. The presence of northern musicians and northern repertoires in Italy increased dramatically in the early fifteenth century, with the return of the papacy in Rome and with the establishment of piffari ensembles throughout the peninsula.

Epilogue: early music and modern ears In the last three decades our knowledge of medieval instruments, their performing techniques, and the specific circumstances in which they were used has increased significantly, thanks to a carefully contextualised evaluation of the available iconographical and documentary sources. As a result of this sustained scholarly effort, the rather indiscriminate use of instruments in performances of medieval music dating to the 1960s and 1970s has given way to a more discriminating approach: current scholars strive to resolve the issue of instrumental participation in the performance of a given polyphonic piece by considering a variety of factors that include the profile of a melodic part, its suitability to carry text, the particular content and origin of the sources, etc. Yet, our attitudes towards the performance of medieval music are bound to change with the deepening of our knowledge of instruments, musical styles and performance practices, and with the impact of new interpretations of the repertoire proposed by performing ensembles.

58 Ibid., pp. 146–53.

. 11 .

Case study: Guillaume de Machaut, ballade 34, ‘Quant Theseus / Ne quier veoir’ JOHN HAINES

This chapter explores the issues laid out in Chapter 8 by inspecting a wellstudied piece, Guillaume de Machaut’s ballade 34, ‘Quant Theseus / Ne quier veoir’.1 The circumstances surrounding the creation of this ballade illustrate its remoteness from the bulk of music-making of the mid-fourteenth century. Still, something can and will be said about the performance of Machaut’s ballade, inasmuch as it contrasts with the majority of music performed in the Middle Ages. It seems apposite to start outside ballade 34 by looking at the countless pieces of menial music performed around the time and near the place Machaut put together his learned musical composition. As outlined in Chapter 8, we begin with music made at work, from humble work songs to official ceremonial pieces, and then move to music whose primary purpose is to edify, from liturgical chants to songs performed at banquets. The point of my selecting this well-known ballade is to show how a piece such as this misrepresents the average medieval music performance. By holding Machaut’s famous ballade under the light of the revised view of music history proposed in Chapter 8, we begin to see it as a paradox, an extraordinary written work far removed from the mainstream performance world of the mid-fourteenth century. But first, a quick sketch of our case piece. Machaut conceived his ballade as a literary work, placing it in the grand and original enterprise that was his quasiautobiographical Voir Dit, a story incorporating letters and musical exchanges between a lover (Machaut) and his much younger beloved Toute-Belle (Péronne).2 As related in the Voir Dit, ballade 34 originated in an epistolary exercise of one-upmanship. When Machaut’s colleague Thomas Paien sent to him his poem ‘Quant Theseus’, Machaut responded by composing a new poem using the same poetic scheme as well as the same refrain: ‘Je vois assez, puisque 1 I am grateful to Lawrence Earp for lending me his research notes on the Reina Codex for my edition of ballade 34 below, and to Mark Laver for producing the digital score. Throughout this chapter, I have opted for the conventional modern spelling of ‘ballade’ rather than the medieval French balade found in some recent scholarship. 2 For a summary, see Guillaume de Machaut, Le Livre dou Voir Dit (The Book of the True Poem), ed. D. LeechWilkinson and R. Palmer, New York, Garland, 1998, pp. xxvi–xxvii.




je vois ma dame’ (‘I see enough, since I see my lady’). According to Machaut’s own account in the Voir Dit, it was in October of 1363 that he decided to fuse these two poems into a single ballade. The following month, after putting together the four-part ballade and revising it several times, the sexagenarian Machaut sent it to his nineteen-year-old lover Péronne. As he relates in the Voir Dit, Machaut had made it for her. He could not resist congratulating himself on his outstanding ballade, declaring to Péronne, ‘I have made the tunes in four parts, and have heard them several times, and they please me very much.’3 More than a sentimental musical love-gift, then, ‘Quant Theseus / Ne quier veoir’ is a literary coup, as well as the only four-part ballade with two texts in Machaut’s repertoire. It is important to place this ambitious composition squarely in its original literary context, the equally ambitious Voir Dit into which Machaut placed it. Certain recent critics have gone so far as to see the central circumstance of the Voir Dit, Machaut’s relationship with Péronne, as ‘an imagined pretext for the author’s playful exploration of the shifting relations among poet, public, and patron’.4 At the very least, Machaut has embellished their relationship in his account; at worst, it is a complete fiction. Ballade 34, too, is a cross between a heartfelt expression and a parchment chimera, both a sentimental confessional and a sophisticated musical-poetic exercise, self-consciously clever and disarmingly tender all at once. As I shall argue in the conclusion of this chapter, this complexity, along with the work’s surprisingly modern-sounding tonality, has made ballade 34 a hit in modern music histories. If to seasoned readers ‘Quant Theseus / Ne quier veoir’ seems a rather hackneyed case study for medieval music performance, it was not always so, and it is instructive briefly to contemplate why. For a long time, scholars were unsure as to where Machaut even belonged in the history of music. Early historians such as Jean Lebeuf and Charles Coussemaker in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, respectively, ranked him with the trouvères, well below the favoured Adam de la Halle, and had comparatively little to say about the fourteenth-century canon from Reims.5 This all changed with Friedrich Ludwig’s major work on late medieval polyphony in the early part of the twentieth century, including his lifetime project, the complete edition of Machaut’s musical opera. Ludwig placed Machaut at the centre of medieval music history. As early as 1905, he stated that the composer ‘represents the 3 The account is given with quotations from the Voir Dit in D. Leech-Wilkinson, ‘Le Voir Dit and La Messe de Nostre Dame: aspects of genre and style in the late works of Machaut’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 2 (1993), 54–9. 4 Machaut, Livre dou Voir Dit, ed. Leech-Wilkinson and Palmer, p. xxi. 5 J. Haines, Eight Centuries of Troubadours and Trouvères, Cambridge University, Press, 2004, pp. 93 and 177–8.

Case study: Guillaume de Machaut, ballade 34


pinnacle of mid-fourteenth-century musical art, firmly establishing musical forms for all French polyphonic genres . . . in which he is emulated by a significant number of French composers during the second half of the century’.6 Henceforth, Machaut should no longer be ‘classed with the knightly trouvères’, as H. E. Woolridge put it a little later, for ‘his real place is not among these distinguished amateurs’.7 Machaut soon became the fourteenth century’s most ‘outstanding French musician’ and its ‘greatest French poet and composer’.8 Thanks to Ludwig, Machaut shifted from the shadows to centre stage, occupying entire chapters in the history of music, with his followers parenthetically tagging along. ‘Machaut and his Progeny’, declares the recent Oxford History of Western Music in a chapter heading, just as Ludwig envisioned it.9 From Ludwig on, too, Machaut’s secular works – including his forty-two ballades – rose to ‘the rank of classic master works’, in Ludwig’s words, and none more so than his ballades for four voices.10 Of the eight, ‘Quant Theseus / Ne quier veoir’ presented an irresistible temptation to historians, since, in addition to having an unusual form, it came with the intriguing tale of a poetic competition and an outrageous love story between the aged composer and a woman some four decades his junior, as I related above. Ludwig edited for the first time the double ballade by the man he called ‘the greatest musical genius of the French fourteenth-century’ in Guido Adler’s popular music history, first published in 1924 with the last edition published in 1977.11 From there ballade 34 was adopted in Claude Palisca’s companion anthology to Donald Grout’s best-selling History of Western Music. There it remained in circulation as the representative of Machaut’s secular music for a decade and a half (in the first and second editions, 1980 and 1988), only to be dethroned in 1996 by yet another four-voice secular piece by Machaut, his rondeau ‘Rose, liz’.12 It will be worthwhile to consider, at the end of this chapter, just why a quirky ballade by the erstwhile obscure trouvère rose in the twentieth century to become one

6 Haines, ‘Friedrich Ludwig’s “Musicology of the Future”: a commentary and translation’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 12 (2003), 163. 7 H. E. Woolridge, The Polyphonic Period, part 1, Method of Musical Art, 330–1400, The Oxford History of Music, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1929, vol. 1, p. 242. 8 G. Reese, Music in the Middle Ages, New York, Norton,1940, p. 347; R. Hoppin, Medieval Music, New York, Norton,1978, p. 396. An interesting compromise is Paul Henry Lang’s rather curt treatment of Machaut, the ‘new trouvère’, in Music in Western Civilization, New York, Norton, 1941, p. 153. 9 R. Taruskin, Oxford History of Western Music, Oxford University Press, 2005, vol. 1, p. 289. 10 F Ludwig, ‘Die geistliche nichtliturgische, weltliche einstimmige und die mehrstimmige Musik des Mittelalters bis zum Anfang des 15. Jahrhunderts’, in G. Adler (ed.), Handbuch der Musikgeschichte, 2nd edn, Berlin, H. Keller, 1930, p. 272. 11 Ludwig, ‘Die geistliche nichtliturgische . . . Musik’, pp. 267 and 270–2. 12 C. Palisca, Norton Anthology of Western Music, New York, Norton, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 78–81, 2nd edn, 1988, vol. 1, pp. 83–6, and 3rd edn, 1996, vol. 1, pp. 82–4. The ballade is also mentioned in Reese, Music in the Middle Ages, p. 347.



of the most significant masterworks by a medieval musical genius – leading one musicologist to simply call it ‘miraculous’.13

Machaut’s musical world Let us return to Johannes de Grocheio already mentioned several times in Chapter 8. Writing around a half-century before Machaut composed his ballade 34, Grocheio’s discussion of music performed in Paris around 1300 first categorises different types of secular music – epic songs, courtly songs and dance music, all still thriving in the nearby city of Reims some sixty years later. The fourteenth century witnessed the tail end of an active reception and codification of all these repertoires. Epic songs, for example, were still copied and their melodies still ringing in the air, if the reference to a song using the ‘melody of the Gui de Nanteuil’ epic (so Gui de Nantull) is any indication.14 The same applies to other types of vernacular song, in particular the anthologies or chansonniers of the trouvères. Machaut himself enjoyed trouvère music and cited the songs of Thibaut de Champagne and others in his motets.15 And still in the mid-fourteenth century churchmen were railing against the dance music to which Grocheio’s treatise was a witness, including the ductia and stantipes.16 As one injunction from around 1350 put it, city officials and other ministers should not allow, either in churches or in cemeteries, ‘ring dances (choreas), silly songs (cantilenas) . . . or any other such kind of wantonness or shamefulness’.17 Although removed from the learned, literary world of Machaut’s double ballade, all of the epic, courtly and dance music just mentioned was performed in and around Reims where the great composer forged his famous ballade. Grocheio comes closer to the learned universe of Machaut’s Voir Dit in his second category of musica composita.18 He includes the motet and the hocket, both genres to which Machaut bent his compositional skill. In his third and most sizeable category of church music, Grocheio lists all of the chants of Mass and Office. Anne Robertson has recently reminded us that most of Machaut’s sacred polyphony occurred in the context of predominantly monophonic chant. As canon at Reims for forty years, one of Machaut’s major 13 Leech-Wilkinson, ‘Le Voir Dit’, p. 57. 14 R. Bossuat, Manuel bibliographique de la littérature française du Moyen Âge, Paris, Librairie d’argences, 1951, pp. 49 and 54; F. Gennrich, Der musikalische Vortrag der altfranzösischen chansons de geste, Halle, Niemeyer, 1923, p. 10. 15 Haines, Eight Centuries, pp. 18–21 and 25; J. Boogaart, ‘Encompassing past and present: quotations and their function in Machaut’s motets’, Early Music History, 20 (2001), 1–86. 16 C. Page, Discarding Images: Reflections on Music and Culture in Medieval France, Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 73. 17 E. Martène, Thesaurus novus anecdotorum, Paris, 1717, repr. New York, 1968, vol. 4, p. 253. 18 Page, Discarding Images, p. 74.

Case study: Guillaume de Machaut, ballade 34


activities included taking part in singing the daily offices and various masses for the complex liturgical web of feasts and events, the most notable being the important coronation rites in that city’s cathedral.19 Nearly all this repertoire was monophonic Latin chant. We must be careful of overly relying on Grocheio for medieval music performance. He never intended to write an objective description of performances in the modern sense, but rather a new philosophy of music grounded in the recently rediscovered works of natural philosophy by Aristotle.20 Grocheio wanted to demonstrate that music could be divided according to its parts and members much in the same way that Aristotle and his thirteenth-century commentators had classified all animals. Consequently, Grocheio adjusted the musical reality of his day, leaving out music that did not fit his Aristotelian agenda.21 For example, he did not include in his musica composita (also regularis or canonica) the multi-voiced rondeau made famous by Adam de la Halle, perhaps since it was either too secular or trite for this canonical category.22 Of the several music genres Grocheio overlooks, a major one is the incantation. Now, it so happens that we have an extraordinary witness on the performance of incantations from right around the time Machaut is composing his double ballade in Reims. In a series of writings spanning the 1350s and 1360s, Paris-trained scholar Nicole Oresme discusses the music of incantations. Just as Grocheio a few decades earlier rejects the music of the spheres, Nicole Oresme denounces incantations as having no supernatural potency, expressing a rational scepticism on the ascendant in the fourteenth century.23 In so doing, he focuses on the effectiveness of their musical performance. And here is where Nicole Oresme provides us with unprecedented – and as usual for the Middle Ages, late – information on the medieval performance of incantations. He describes the audience for incantations as often being ‘miserable, imprudent and lacking discernment’; they are easily deceived because they are frequently young or at least adolescent.24 He describes the performers of incantations as ‘certain old women’ prone to nefarious magic. Singers may 19 A. W. Robertson, Guillaume de Machaut and Reims: Context and Meaning in his Musical Works, Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 37–51. 20 J. Haines and P. DeWitt, ‘Johannes de Grocheio and Aristotelian natural philosophy’, Early Music History, 27 (2008), 47–98. 21 Ibid., 92. 22 Page, Discarding Images, p. 74: ‘musica composita vel regularis vel canonica quam appellant musicam mensuratam’. 23 B. Delaurenti, La puissance des mots: Virtus verborum: débats doctrinaux sur le pouvoir des incantations au Moyen Âge, Paris, Cerf, 2007, pp. 405–78. Following Aristotle, Grocheio asks ‘Quis enim audivit complexionem sonare?’ See E. Rohloff, Der Musiktraktat des Johannes de Grocheo nach den Quellen neu herausgegeben mit Übersetzung ins Deutsche und Revisionsbericht, Leipzig, Reinecke, 1943, p. 46. 24 Delaurenti, La puissance des mots, pp. 412–13.



also belong to the male sex, as Oresme mentions the conjurator and nigromanticus.25 Oresme then proceeds to give a vivid description of the singer in the following remarkable passage:26 His face or countenance – in fact, his whole appearance – will afterwards remain for a long time notably changed in corporal leanness, in color, and aspect, so that one would scarcely believe that he is the same person as before. And he will appear for a long time as if half-dead, and he will have a certain blackness about the eyes in the manner of a menstruating woman. And not only will he be changed in body but also he will be completely disturbed mentally, so that he will look like an idiot or madman.

Oresme credits the potency of incantations to the particulars of their music performance. He compares the energetic performance of incantation singers to that of a priest preaching. Their voice has a wild aspect, mixing animal cries with other sounds of nature. The singer ‘forms various sounds internally (ad intra) and an unfitting and almost trumpet-like cry resounds’.27 In sum, singers of incantations ‘do not always use a meaningful sound but murmur some sounds that are difform with some strange unaccustomed difformity . . . dissimilar to the ordinary human voice’.28 Nicole’s precious description of the singing incantator rivals any other medieval witness on the ‘sound of medieval song’, to paraphrase the title of Timothy McGee’s important book.29 Thus Nicole Oresme, writing in Rouen during the 1360s, describes incantation performances that cannot have been much different from those in neighbouring Reims where Machaut lived and worked. Also overlooked by Grocheio are a number of musical genres discussed in Chapter 8, from work songs such as the lullaby to the edifying music of stage productions. Madeleine Pelner Cosman has discussed some relevant musical performances.30 As she points out, a host of performed music related to the average person’s medical needs in Machaut’s day. Medieval medical writers prescribed that meals be regulated with a view to a person’s health. Eating and related activities such as hunting were surrounded by music. Cosman gives the example of the erotic shivaree performed for good fortune at weddings.31 And, of course, musical performances occurred in connection with the diagnosis and

25 Ibid., pp. 413 and 419; the original Latin with an English translation is given in M. Clagett, Nicole Oresme and the Medieval Geometry of Qualities and Motions, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1968, pp. 350–1. 26 Clagett, Nicole Oresme, p. 350; Delaurenti, La puissance des mots, pp. 419–20. 27 Clagett, Nicole Oresme, pp. 368–9; Delaurenti, La puissance des mots, p. 467. 28 Clagett, Nicole Oresme, p. 369; Delaurenti, La puissance des mots, p. 469. 29 T. McGee, The Sound of Medieval Song, Oxford University Press, 1998. 30 M. P. Cosman, ‘Machaut’s medical musical world’, in M. P. Cosman and B. Chandler (eds.), Machaut’s World: Science and Art in the Fourteenth Century, New York Academy of Sciences, 1978, pp. 1–36. 31 Ibid., p. 3.

Case study: Guillaume de Machaut, ballade 34


treatment of diseases, including psychological ones.32 It is difficult to overstate at present the importance of astrology and astronomy (synonymous during this period) to the medieval planning of daily events. As Cosman points out, astrological movements and predictions typically did not conflict with the Christian view; they belonged to ‘God’s great scheme’.33 In this sense, as she puts it in her conclusion, the esoteric doctrine of the music of the spheres had a very practical application as the divine, astrological music with which all human music needed to synchronise. My paraphrase of Cosman’s title in the subheading for this section, ‘Machaut’s Musical World’, holds an irony. For all of the musics just mentioned did not so much belong to Machaut’s musical world as his music belonged to their world. Machaut’s ballade 34 and his other compositions that have come down to us in writing constitute a very small part of the entire musical panorama of his time, as I have implied in the above. As I shall now argue, such musical works as his ballade 34 are ‘compositions’ in the modern sense, the products of a rarefied literary culture to which the exceptionally welleducated nobleman Guillaume de Machaut belonged.

A literary composition Machaut was a privileged man in the fourteenth century.34 Educated at cathedral schools in his home town of Reims, France’s prestigious coronation city in the Middle Ages, he obtained early on an important and well-paying secretarial post in the employ of King John of Bohemia. After completing his baccalaureate at the University of Paris, a rare achievement at the time, he received a series of canonicates, giving him the necessary means and leisure to pursue his literary and musical aspirations. Throughout his career, Machaut remained well connected to nobility such as John the Duke of Berry to whom he dedicated his Fonteinne amoureuse. For a measure of Machaut’s wealth and self-esteem we need only look at his celebrated Messe de Nostre Dame, a Marian Mass he composed and paid to have sung regularly at Reims in memory of himself and his brother.35 By training and vocation, Machaut was a writer, an exceptional thing in the Middle Ages. He belonged to the even more exclusive club of late-medieval

32 See C. Page, ‘Music and medicine in the thirteenth century’, in P. Horden (ed.), Music as Medicine: The History of Music Therapy since Antiquity, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2000, pp. 109–19. 33 Cosman, ‘Machaut’s medical musical world’, p. 6. 34 On the following paragraph, see especially L. Earp, Guillaume de Machaut: A Guide to Research, New York, Garland, 1995, pp. 3–51; and Leech-Wilkinson and Palmer, Livre dou Voir Dit, pp. xi–xviii. 35 Robertson, Guillaume de Machaut, pp. 2–4 and 257–75.



authors who oversaw the compilation of their works.36 This he did over several decades, from around 1350 to his death in 1377, with ‘a small army of messengers and copyists’ assisting him.37 Into his edition of his complete works Machaut placed his Voir Dit (over 9,000 lines of verse, not counting the intercalated letters and musical pieces) after his literary works such as the Remede de Fortune and before the gatherings devoted to independent musical works. Nowhere is the author’s literary ego more manifest than in his Voir Dit, as Jacqueline Cerquiglini has emphasised. With its complex admixture of genres (letters, songs), Machaut’s ‘true story’ powerfully asserts his literary mastery and his unique identity as both a subtle master of writing and a courtly lover following archetypes such as Tristan.38 Writing at the height of his craft in the 1360s, Machaut ably seduces and manipulates his reader, specifying at times who may read the text, whether an audience can hear it and, if so, how it is to be performed. In one case, he tells Toute-Belle to learn a song ‘exactly as it has been composed without adding or taking anything away’, though conceding it can be performed on a variety of instruments – organ, bagpipe or other.39 We first encounter ballade 34 well into the second half of the Voir Dit, in a letter from Péronne to Machaut dated 5 October 1363. She informs him of a poem (balade) that he accidentally sent her, Thomas Paien’s poem ‘Quant Theseus’, which she promises to send back to him.40 Apparently, sometime prior, perhaps in September, Machaut’s acquaintance Thomas Paien – whose exact identity, incidentally, is not known (Ludwig believed him to be a professor of law at the Sorbonne) – had sent the poem in a letter to Machaut. Leaving the letter unopened, Machaut misfiled it and accidentally sent it to Péronne.41 Less than two weeks later, on 17 October, Machaut sends to her Paien’s poem along with his ‘response’, the poem ‘Ne quier voir’, which, he states, he had composed as soon as he had opened her letter – ‘on the spot’, in Robert Palmer’s translation. He promises to write music for it.42 This he does, in the thin space of a little over two weeks. On 3 November, he sends her the

36 J. Haines, ‘Manuscript sources and calligraphy’, in S. Trezise (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to French Music, Cambridge University Press, ch. 14 (forthcoming). 37 S. J. Williams, ‘An author’s role in fourteenth-century book production: Guillaume de Machaut’s “Livre ou je met toutes choses”’, Romania, 90 (1969), 446. 38 J. Cerquiglini, ‘Un engin si soutil’: Guillaume de Machaut et l’écriture au XIVe siècle, Geneva, Slatkine, 1985, pp. 32–49, 93–103 and 211–21; see also W. Calin, A Poet at the Fountain: Essays on the Narrative Verse of Guillaume de Machaut, Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 1974, pp. 167–202. 39 D. McGrady, Controlling Readers: Guillaume de Machaut and his Late Medieval Audience, University of Toronto Press, 2006, p. 68. 40 Machaut, Livre dou Voir Dit, p. 417 : ‘I found . . . a ballad someone had sent you. So I am sending this back because I believe you have never looked at it, for it is still sealed.’ 41 Machaut, Livre dou Voir Dit, pp. xxx n. 2, 737 and 740. See also Leech-Wilkinson, ‘Le Voir Dit: a reconstruction and a guide for musicians, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 2 (1993), 124–7. 42 Machaut, Livre dou Voir Dit, pp. 441 and 740.

Case study: Guillaume de Machaut, ballade 34


Paien poem and his response, set to music in four parts; he begs her to learn these, for ‘they please me quite well’.43 A few days later, on 5 November, Péronne comments on the two poems, adding that his is better than Paien’s, although she says nothing about the music.44 What is extraordinary about the foregoing is how much it tells us about the composition of a piece of medieval music. Considering that most music performed in the Middle Ages has disappeared, and that most of what has survived is anonymous and imprecisely dated, Machaut’s ballade 34 stands out as a truly outstanding case. Still, some mystery surrounds the question of exactly how Machaut composed his ballade 34. One of eight four-part ballades composed by Machaut, ‘Quant Theseus / Ne quier’ is the only one conceived and transmitted exclusively as a four-voice piece.45 As Kevin Moll has put it, three-part writing was the norm until the fifteenth century.46 Machaut’s ballade 34 also departs from the majority of his other ballades in that its tonal centre is C and not B flat.47 The standard method of composing polyphony was to begin by adding a voice to an existing one, often the tenor, and then adding further voices to this two-part kernel. It is possible that in this case Machaut started with the first cantus (cantus I in Ex. 11.1), as Theodore Karp has suggested.48 The tenor was not a foundational voice, but added as contrapuntal filigree, as with most of Machaut’s other polyphonic songs.49 One thing is clear, though: more so than with his other ballades, Machaut made a special effort to integrate all four voices into a single sonorous unit. Arguing from ballade 34’s affinities with the Messe de Nostre Dame, Daniel Leech-Wilkinson has concluded that Machaut worked on all four parts simultaneously, which would make sense of the composer’s statement that ‘I have made the tunes in four parts, and have heard them several times, and they please me very much’.50 How did Machaut actually hear his ballade performed? Unfortunately, he does not address this issue in the Voir Dit, merely relating that he had heard the piece several times. More than this Machaut does not say, and we are missing here a world of performance details, including subjective audience responses such as that of John of Salisbury discussed by Jeremy Summerly in Chapter 9. 43 Ibid., p. 457. Following this letter, Machaut relates the entire incident in the body of the dit where he also inserts the ballade itself (Machaut, Livre dou Voir Dit, pp. 451–5, lines 6464–541). 44 Machaut, Livre dou Voir Dit, p. 461. 45 Leech-Wilkinson, ‘Le Voir Dit and La Messe de Nostre Dame’, 43–73; E. E. Leach, ‘Machaut’s Balades with Four Voices’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 10 (2001), 48 and 57–65 46 K. Moll, ‘Texture and counterpoint in the four-voice Mass settings of Machaut and his contemporaries’, in E. E. Leach (ed.), Machaut’s Music: New Interpretations, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2003, p. 54. 47 P. Lefferts, ‘Machaut’s B-flat Balade Honte, paour (B25)’, in Leach (ed.), Machaut’s Music, pp. 163–4. 48 T. Karp, ‘Compositional process in Machaut’s ballades’, in C. Comberiati and M. Steel (eds.), Music from the Middle Ages through the Twentieth Century: Essays in Honor of Gwynn McPeek, New York, Gordon & Breach, 1988, pp. 75–6. 49 Leach, ‘Machaut’s Balades’, 60; see her analysis, 58–65. 50 Leech-Wilkinson, ‘Le Voir Dit’, 58.



Ex. 11.1. Machaut’s ballade 34, ‘Quant Theseus / Ne quier veoir’, edited from the Reina Codex (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, nouv. acqu. fr. 6771, fol. 54v–55r)

Whether Machaut himself participated in this performance or just listened to it for better objectivity is unclear. He does not specify, but performances such as these may well have used instruments. This was clearly the case for ballade 33, since Machaut relates that it was performed on a variety of instruments, as cited earlier, leaving the exact instrumentation open (‘organ, bagpipe or other’).

Case study: Guillaume de Machaut, ballade 34


Ex. 11.1. (cont.)

Regardless of how much he performed ballade 34 or heard it performed, Machaut intended its final version as a written artefact: one of the many notated pieces populating his complete works anthology, a musical text among many others.



Ex. 11.1. (cont.)

Ballade 34 is found in seven manuscripts, mostly dating from the 1370s.51 The two latest manuscripts, the Chantilly and Reina codices, present

51 These are manuscripts A, B, Vg, G, E, Ch and PR; for descriptions and dates of these books, see Earp, Guillaume de Machaut, pp. 84–93 and 123–5.

Case study: Guillaume de Machaut, ballade 34


significantly different readings from the common recension. Chantilly was produced in the 1390s and Reina a few decades later. The Reina version of ballade 34, though similar to that of the Chantilly Codex, is unique; it is presented in Ex. 11.1. I have chosen to edit the quirky and previously unedited Reina reading because it illustrates that, already in the fifteenth century, Machaut’s music was being re-shaped differently from his original conception. The section of the Reina Codex containing ballade 34 was compiled in northern Italy around 1410 by a scribe knowledgeable in French notation; it has mostly French works from the fourteenth century.52 The small Machaut corpus in this book, seven works in all, thus belongs to a fifteenth-century Italian reception of fourteenth-century French music.53 Clearly, these fifteenth-century readers included the rarefied double ballade for its outstanding qualities. But they, or at least the scribe who copied it, felt free to modify it. The changes are mostly small modifications of rhythm and pitch, but they occur throughout the piece.54 In bar 4, for example, the contratenor has a minim rest followed by three minims and two semibreves, as opposed to minim, semibreve, minim and two semibreves in the common recension that was edited by Ludwig and Schrade. An example of a more dramatic change is found later in the same voice, where the Reina reading has the contratenor a fifth higher than the common recension in bars 63–8. This is not necessarily a scribal error, since the contratenor still blends nicely with the other voices at this point. All in all, the Reina Codex presents a reading of ballade 34 that is distinct from the earliest one transmitted in other manuscripts. A half-century after Machaut composed it, ballade 34 was already

52 K. von Fischer, Handschriften mit mehrstimmiger Musik des 14., 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts, Répertoire International des Sources Musicales B IV 3 (Munich, 1972), pp. 485 and 512. 53 Earp, Guillaume de Machaut, pp. 124–5; N. Wilkins, A Fourteenth-Century Repertory (52 Ballades, Virelais, Rondeaux) from the Codex Reina, Paris, Bibl. Nat., Nouv. Acq. Fr., 6771, Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae 36, Rome, 1966, pp. II–III. 54 The version of the piece found in most manuscripts was first edited by Ludwig in the first edition of Adler’s Handbuch der Musikgeschichte, cited earlier, and also in the first volume of Ludwig’s edition of Machaut’s works, Musikalische Werke, vol. 1, Balladen, Rondeaux und Virelais, Leipzig, 1926, pp. 40–2. The same recension was edited by L. Schrade, The Works of Guillaume de Machaut, Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century 3, Paris, 1956, pp. 124–7, an edition reproduced in the Norton Anthology discussed above. This version of the piece differs from that of the Reina Codex in Ex. 11.1. The following notes indicate where the recensio major differs from the Reina version, using Schrade’s nomenclature in his typescript commentary to vols. 2 and 3 of Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century, Monaco, 1956, pp. 117–18, and correcting his occasional slip: Cantus I: b. 8, pam, 3 Mi; b. 23, pam, 3 Mi; b. 26, Sb, pasb; b. 45, Sb, 2 Mi; b. 70, Sb, 2 Mi; b. 72, Sb, pasb. Cantus II: b. 11, 3 Mi (e’, d’, c); b. 44, 4 Mi (g’, g’, f’, e’); b. 46–7, 3 Sb (last one dotted), Mi. Contratenor: b. 2, 4th and 5th note, Mi, Sb; b. 2, 7th note is d; b. 4, Mi, Sb, Mi, 2 Sb; b. 8, 2 Sb; b. 12, Mi, Sb, Mi; b. 21–2, 2 Sb, Br; b. 27, 2 Sb; b. 35, Mi, Sb, Mi; b. 52, Sb, 2 Mi (a, g, f); bb. 63–68, a fifth lower; bb. 65–8, dotted Sb, 2 Sb, Mi, 2 Sb, Br; b. 72, e. Tenor: b. 5 (after rest), dotted Sb, Sb, Mi; b. 35–6, Sb, Br, Sb. In addition to which, R has three errors: Co, b. 1, a missing rest after the first note; Can II, b. 3, an extra minim rest; Can II, b. 46, an extra semibreve rest in between the two notes.



morphing into a substantially different piece from the one Machaut originally created. All of which brings us to the modern reception of ballade 34.55 In theory, the historically innovative character of the ballade is what made it so compelling to modern readers and audiences, and what ultimately granted it the status I described at the beginning of this chapter. Yet it seems to me that another factor has operated in this process, one more likely to win over to medieval music the average music history undergraduate like me some twenty years ago, when I first encountered ballade 34 as I followed the Palisca score while listening to the Studio of Frühen Musik’s compelling 1973 recording.56 That other factor is the ballade’s affinity with modern tonality, attesting to the way in which early music is made to ‘mirror contemporary taste’, as Summerly has put it in Chapter 9. Indeed, the piece can be heard as a song in the harmonic Classical or early Romantic style, in no less than the key of C major. This is largely thanks to the two lower voices that provide something of a bass line. In the following brief analysis, I will spare the reader the disingenuous use of quotation marks around modern harmonic terminology simply because that is how I and, I suspect, a few others first heard ballade 34. The piece exudes C major, with swathes of it basking in the tonic chord: at the beginning (the second cantus slipping in the third of the chord on the second beat) and end, of course, but also at the first full cadence at bar 5, at bars 15–24, from the A section’s closed cadence (bar 31) and for ten or so bars following that, at the half cadence at bar 49, most conspicuously at bar 58 ending the phrase ‘Je voy asses’, and finally leading up to the final cadence at bars 70–1. We hear the dominant chord emphasised right from the start (bars 2–4), and later as it alternates with the subdominant in the lead-up to most cadences (bars 6–9, 43–6, 55–6 and 61–6). The final cadence enriches the dominant’s position with a brief but crucial tonicisation, the FÖ producing a sweet dominant of the dominant at bars 65–6. Only the cadences on the mediant at the A section’s open cadence (bars 28–9) and on the supertonic at bar 54 depart from this pattern, but the listener barely flinches at such key changes that are entirely in keeping with Classical or early Romantic sounds – a medieval frisson, perhaps, but hardly a shiver. One can easily find other such moments in Machaut’s corpus, of course, beginning with his rondeau ‘Rose, liz’ mentioned earlier. These moments, I would argue, were precisely why early music historians gravitated to Machaut 55 I should point out that between the fifteenth century and the eighteenth century, there was apparently little interest in Machaut or his music. As Lawrence Earp observes (Guillaume de Machaut, p. 62), ‘by the sixteenth century, Machaut’s name was all but forgotten’. 56 The recording is cited in Earp, Guillaume de Machaut, p. 417.

Case study: Guillaume de Machaut, ballade 34


at a time when little to no medieval music was being performed. Its sound repulsed nineteenth-century scholarly ears. Initially Machaut barely ranked above Adam de la Halle – ‘the “Hunchback of Arras” ’ whose ‘fresh melodies are stuck in a crippled, misshaped harmony’, in the cruel words of August Ambros from 1864.57 Eventually, though, the resemblances of Machaut’s music to pieces composed in the common period harmonic language conquered these prejudices, helping the medieval composer ascend to the highest place in the canon of medieval art music. Music historians around 1900 shaped a narrative of progress leading to the establishment of common period tonality, ‘the third as the foundation of harmony’, as Hugo Riemann put it.58 As Daniel Leech-Wilkinson has pointed out in his valuable book on medieval music reception, their bias was shaped by their predilection for Romantic German art songs; the more medieval pieces sounded like these, the better.59 Early on Ludwig identified a trend in late-medieval polyphony away from contrasting individual voices and towards ‘melodic and accompanying voices’.60 Subsequent histories translated this idea into an historical movement towards a ‘cantilena style’, singularly embodied in Machaut’s ballades. As Gilbert Reaney wrote in 1960, the ballades and rondeaux presented a ‘solo cantus and accompanying tenor and contratenor’.61 When Ludwig first edited ballade 34, it was on three staves: the top two with the two cantus voices, and the lower staff with the tenor and contratenor together with the word ‘instrumental’ put in parentheses.62 The comparison was clear. Ballade 34 could be compared to a Lied, with the top two voices as a duet and the lower two as an accompaniment. Like all of us, Ludwig fashioned medieval music in the manner that most appealed to him, in his case as a duet with instrumental accompaniment, a German Romantic song. Ludwig would write in his commentary that Machaut’s alliegance (Huldigung) to his beloved Péronne came from deep in the composer’s heart (von Herzen), pouring out onto his musical creation as ‘the expression of a deep, inward emotion’ (der Ausdruck tiefen inneren Gefühls).63 What better illustration of late-Romantic sentimentality?

Conclusion Ludwig’s basic bias is important less for that on which he focused than for what he basically ignored: the whole gamut of popular medieval music which I have

57 Cited in Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music, p. 160. 58 Ibid., p. 30. 59 Ibid., pp. 31–2. 60 Haines, ‘Ludwig’s “Musicology of the Future” ’, 163. 61 G. Reaney, ‘Ars Nova in France’, in A. Hughes and G. Abraham (eds.), Ars Nova and the Renaissance, 1300–1540, Oxford University Press, 1960, pp. 24–5. 62 Ludwig, ‘Die geistliche nichtliturgische . . . Musik’, p. 270. 63 Ibid.



treated in this chapter and in Chapter 8. Incidentally, this topic interests me because of my personal predilection for popular song. All these personal biases notwithstanding, I hope that this chapter, like the remainder of this volume, will serve the cause of advancing the state of knowledge on the historical musical past. To sum up my argument in a single sentence, it is imperative to view Machaut’s learned polyphony in the broader context of the plethora of musical pieces performed in his time, mostly simple songs and tunes woven into the daily fabric of mundane activities for either work or edification. Ultimately, a complete historical panorama of medieval music should not so much exclude a venerated art piece such as Machaut’s double ballade as it should include all of the music performed in the Middle Ages. If I have singled out Friedrich Ludwig in this chapter as playing a seminal role in the success of ballade 34, it would be unfair to blame him for diligently making history as he understood it in the early twentieth century, and for creating what was urgently needed in his time. Indeed, the German master provided for the then marginalised domain of medieval music history an attractive and compelling masterwork narrative that would ultimately bestow upon this branch of learning a prestigious place in the university that it still holds today, albeit admittedly precariously. Were he still living and writing today, Ludwig would probably concur that the continuing advancement of modern understanding on medieval music performance matters, now as it did a hundred years ago. If the story of medieval music performance is to move beyond a mere mosaic of masterworks by mighty men, then it must embrace the many types of music – mediocre or simple, if such be the case – played and sung by countless and usually faceless performers.






( C . 1430–1600)

. 12 .

Performance in the Renaissance: an overview JON BANKS

Much more information about musical performance in the period 1430–1600 comes down to us than for any preceding era. We would obviously expect more to survive as we draw nearer to the present, but this alone is not an adequate explanation for the apparent quantum leap in the detail and diversity of the material that survives from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The crucial difference lies in important changes in the nature of what comes down to us and also in the way it was distributed and used. As well as the familiar resources of archives and accounts – which themselves become more abundant and informative than before – we find a far more copious and varied iconography, a greater diversity of literary sources that contain realistic accounts of musical performance, and treatises and books on musical instruction that were aimed at cultivated amateurs as well as the scholarly elite. Most significantly of all, these are preserved not just in the traditional manuscript form, but additionally in the new medium of print, which ensured that all of these sources were both more numerous and more widely distributed than ever before. If one single social change can be said to have shaped the development of musical performance in the Renaissance and to distinguish it from what went before, it is the increasing involvement of the amateur musician. The city states of Italy fostered the rise of a humanistically educated middle class with artistic aspirations and enough leisure time to pursue them. This in turn encouraged a new context of recreational performance, which, partly through the influence of books like Baldassare Castiglione’s II cortegiano, became an essential accomplishment in genteel society throughout Europe. More music was being performed by more people than had ever been the case previously, and with a different emphasis. The need for a professional to impress and entertain gives way to an aesthetic of elegance in which an amateur could succeed without necessarily being seen to try too hard. As Castiglione says of his ideal courtier, ‘I wish him to dissimulate the care and effort that are necessary for any competent performance; and he should let it seem as if he




himself cares nothing of his accomplishment, which because of its excellence, he makes others think very highly of.’1 One consequence of this is that much of the music of the sixteenth century seems smoother and technically simpler to perform than that of the fifteenth. It is hardly fair to accuse its composers and performers of ‘dumbing down’, though; on the contrary, the rise of recreational music reflects a new and highly original focus on music as an expressive art. For all its apparent beauties to modern ears, music before the Renaissance had been invariably discussed and understood in terms of its numerical and speculative qualities. In the old scholastic tradition, music was part of the quadrivium, where together with arithmetic, geometry and astronomy it formed one of the four pillars of the ‘scientific’ investigation of the world. Its gradual realignment with poetry and rhetoric during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is one of the most significant watersheds in European music history. It marks the birth of a modern conception of music that makes its medieval antithesis seem bizarre and alien to us today; and understanding the coexistence and interaction of these two approaches to music during the Renaissance is one of the keys to understanding the performance characteristics of the period. It is no surprise, then, that our sources tell us of a greater diversity of different musics than we knew of before. Diversity was of course not a Renaissance invention, but the wide involvement of amateurs, poets and others outside the elite of the clerical classes means that for the first time we have significantly different modes of performing coexisting as part of the mainstream. The choral polyphony of the chapels and cathedrals went on alongside improvised verse recitation, solo lute and keyboard music, professional wind bands and private consort music, each with their own unique styles and historical trajectories. These differing genres were not necessarily competitors or exclusive markers of social identities. Indeed, many of them enjoyed relatively equal status and we often find performers and composers crossing the boundaries from one to another. Jacob Obrecht was connected with the wind band in Bruges and wrote music for them; Josquin des Prez wrote pieces in the Italian improvised frottola style; and aristocratic patrons such as Ascanio Sforza seem to have supported Josquin’s music and the art of improvised recitation at the same time. The overview of musical performance here is pursued under a number of different headings, but the convenience of these divisions should not make them seem more absolute than they really are. The way in which the various

1 B. Castiglione, Il libro del cortegiano, Venice, Aldine, 1528, trans. and ed. G. Bull as The Book of the Courtier, London, Penguin, 1967, p. 120.

Performance in the Renaissance: an overview


genres outlined below relate to each other and yield insights into each other is profoundly symptomatic of the universalist Renaissance way of thinking about music, a way that characterises so much of the thought of the time and which largely disappeared with the advent of the modern world after 1600. A true ‘Renaissance man’ was not just familiar with the full range of the artistic and scientific disciplines of his time, but understood them all as interconnected revelations of the same fundamental truth.

The performance of sacred music The performance practices associated with church music maintain a curiously obstinate continuity throughout the Renaissance. For the Masses and motets that constitute so much of the surviving written repertoire, all the evidence points to unaccompanied a cappella singing as being the norm (though there are some famous exceptions), and the performing forces maintained by chapels and cathedrals throughout Europe for divine service were all choirs and were all male, with either falsettists or boys on the top line. The approximate dimensions of these polyphonic settings remained reasonably stable over the period and their interaction with plainsong and the rest of the liturgy remained the same. The status of the cyclic Mass as the primary vehicle for demonstrating compositional virtuosity and seriousness of purpose was the same for Palestrina in the 1590s as it was for Dufay over a century and a half earlier. The invention of music printing in Josquin’s time may have made the source distribution of Palestrina’s Masses different from those of Dufay, but the genre played a similarly crucial role in the careers of both composers. That this stability was not necessarily inevitable within a naturally conservative ecclesiastical context is obvious from the way that the Mass cycle was such a novelty at its inception with Dufay, and then became very old-fashioned very quickly with the advent of the seventeenth century. It is even more remarkable when the profundity of the changes in the world outside are considered. Man’s view of the world was challenged, not just once by the discovery of the New World in 1492 but again by the rapid displacement of the earth from the centre of creation after the publication of Copernicus’s De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543. The nature of the Church itself was challenged by Luther, while the dramatic rediscovery and translation of Classical texts throughout the period led to complete reappraisals of all the aspects of knowledge that had been filtered through the previous centuries. We do find reflections of all these things in the composition of Masses and motets, and also of course in other musical manifestations, but the context and manner of the way in which they were performed remained stubbornly consistent.



The main change in sacred performance practice seems to have concerned the increasing size of ensembles. Payrolls and other documents suggest that soloists or a relatively small group of singers were the norm in the early fifteenth century and this is confirmed by the few iconographical sources that show ecclesiastical musicians at work. On the other hand, the choir assembled by Galeazzo Maria Sforza in Milan in the early 1470s included twenty-six singers, who, in the era before print, benefited from manuscript repertoire books copied so that they were big enough to be read by everyone at a distance. It does not necessarily follow that a small book implies a small choir, though; repertoires were smaller than today’s and it is quite possible that memory may have played a greater role in the performance of notated music then than it does now.

The performance of secular song from notation The historical trajectory of the notated secular song traditions of the Renaissance is very different from that of the Mass and motet, even though nearly all composers throughout the period were active in both genres. The transition from the fifteenth to the sixteenth century is marked by a decisive change in the performance of secular polyphony, such that the old style, based on the medieval chanson tradition, all but disappears in the decade after 1500. Taking its place in the sixteenth century are a number of very different forms, all of which contrast strongly with the chanson and include the frottola, the madrigal, the lute song and the consort song. Not only does the almost total domination of the French language give way to Italian, English or whichever other language was native to the intended audience and performers, but the music differs profoundly, and the transition from one to the other is a direct reflection of wider changes in society and musical practice. The courtly French chanson was already a venerable old form at the beginning of the fifteenth century. The poetic conventions of ‘courtly love’, the rigorous verse forms of the rondeau and ballade and even the basic formal characteristics of their musical settings were all well established before even Dufay was born. There is of course still considerable uncertainty about exactly how this music actually sounded. In particular, the issue of whether all the polyphonic lines were taken by singers or whether some of them might instead have been taken by instrumentalists remains controversial. However, there is a greater consensus about the context in which these songs were performed. There can be little doubt that the fifteenth-century chanson was very much a courtly entertainment, delivered by a small group of elite professionals at the command of a refined chamber audience. It is a highly literate tradition, both in

Performance in the Renaissance: an overview


the sense that the notation yields complex polyphony with little room for spontaneous manoeuvre and also in the sense that it is a self-conscious repertoire; the songs abound in allusions to each other. To give just one example, Loyset Compère’s ‘Au travail suis’ explicitly quotes the words and music of six older chansons and there are many other less obvious examples that make the genre as a whole something of an intertextualist’s paradise. Virtually all of the major composers of the time produced chansons; it is a high art on a par with the sacred music of the time and of course many of its principal practitioners, from Dufay and Ockeghem through to Compère and Agricola, were simultaneously singers in the service of the chapel. There are a few composers who seem to have composed only chansons, such as Hayne van Ghizeghem (whose ‘De tous biens plaine’ became one of the most famous songs of its time), but they are exceptional, and do not really challenge the notion that the performing style was that of the professional singers who were employed in church. Chanson manuscripts survive in sufficient quantities to imply that they were an extremely important performance genre and therefore a regular feature of court life, though many questions about when and why they were sung remain unanswered. Written descriptions tend to be of special events, and we lack evidence for the everyday and commonplace activities of court musicians. There are enough reports of music being played during meals for us to assume that it was a common practice, but the descriptions tend to specify instrumental music rather than songs. Even so, when Philip the Fair’s chronicler tells us in 1501 that ‘At dinner Monsigneur summoned his singers and players of instruments, to give them a more pleasant entertainment’ it seems most probable that a polyphonic chanson was what the singers sang and that this kind of summons was an occupational hazard for them; as professionals, they were still servants and at the beck and call of their employers.2 Chanson performance also seems to have played a significant part at other courtly entertainments. For example, the Court of Love, founded at the Burgundian court on St Valentine’s day 1401 ‘to protect and honour the feminine sex through poetry and song’ may have been a typical performance opportunity for chanson singers.3 The instigators may have been the aristocrats and courtiers themselves, but it appears that they made use of professionals to compose and sing ‘all kinds of chansons, ballades, rondeaux, virelais and other love poems’.

2 A. de Lalaing, Voyage de Philippe le Beau en Espagne, en 1501, in Collection des voyages des souverains des PaysBas, ed. L. Gachard, Mémoires de l’Académie Royale de Belgique, i, Brussels, 1876–88, repr. 1969, vol. 7, p. 282. 3 See C. Wright, Music at the Court of Burgundy 1364–1419: A Documentary History, Henryville, PA, Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1979.



Most formal of all were the theatrical spectacles, such as the famous Banquet de Veau given by Philip the Good of Burgundy in 1454. In a gleeful account of the extravagances of the proceedings there, the Mémoires of Olivier de la Marche mention a number of chanson performances, naming several pieces of which one, ‘Je ne vis onques la pareille’, matches the title of a song variously attributed to Dufay or Binchois.4 At the banquet, this song was performed, according to La Marche, by a boy and a singing stag; quite what we can learn about how it sounded from this is a matter of interpretation, but for all its theatricality this is surely a polyphonic chanson in its natural surroundings, as are several other outlandish performances in the description. The first ever printed books of music – from Petrucci’s Odhecaton A of 1501 to the Canti C of 1504 – are also the last significant sources of chanson-related material. There is a particular irony here; the new technology that made possible the mass dissemination of music in the sixteenth century announced itself with a repertoire that already belonged to the past. The emergence of first the frottola and then the madrigal as the most characteristic secular song genres of the sixteenth century reflects an entirely different performance context. The new style of music is designed to be performed by its patrons, not summoned by liveried servants. Castiglione’s assertion that ‘I am not satisfied with our courtier unless he is also a musician and unless as well as understanding and being able to read music he can play several instruments’ indicates a new set of priorities for secular music-making.5 The frottola also appears to be the first notated genre in musical history where the female voice is not only admitted alongside the male without reservation, but encouraged and idealised too. Records of women’s involvement in amateur performance do not come down to us from the early sixteenth century, but one of the first records of a woman being employed to sing polyphony is in connection with the frottola; Giovanna Moreschi, who was married to the frottola composer Marchetto Cara, sang professionally in Ferrara in the early 1500s. Her employer was Isabella d’Este, who was certainly a more than competent musician in her own right and quite probably sang too; it seems that both genders may have been involved in frottola and subsequently madrigal performance from the very start. The other products of the new domestication of music-making are the various genres of accompanied polyphonic song. Lute songs appear among the earliest Petrucci prints and continued to be composed throughout the sixteenth century, with consort songs (where the solo voice is accompanied 4 Mémoires d’Olivier de La Marche, trans. G. G. and D. M. Stuart as The Memoires of Messire Olivier de la Marche, London, British Library, 1930. 5 Castiglione, Il libro del cortegiano, p. 94.

Performance in the Renaissance: an overview


by instruments, usually a viol consort) following shortly after. Musically, these are of course separate genres, each with their own distinctive charms; but in terms of the history of musical performance, they all share the same informal and recreational context as the madrigal, in marked contrast to the chanson repertoire of the previous century. Intriguingly, this is a performance context that we recognise easily in the many amateur madrigal societies and early music groups of today. Part of the appeal of such groups is not just the music itself, but also the ideal of informal performance among friends participating on equal terms of importance and musical interest. This is an ideal that may be said to transcend historical context, but it is the music of the sixteenth century that seems to come closer to attaining it than any other. This is not to say that professionals simply ceased to be involved in performing secular song after the demise of the chanson. From its beginnings, the frottola was incorporated into dramatic performances, one of the earliest references being the ‘musicha mantuana’ composed by Bartolomeo Tromboncino in 1502 for a Plautus production. As these spectacles became more extravagant, musicians found themselves cast in increasingly bizarre roles, such as the soloist at the Medici wedding in Florence of 1539, who sang a four-voiced madrigal on his own in a cave, ‘playing all the parts’ on a ‘violone disguised as a tortoiseshell’. This is by no means a unique instance, and the intermedi seem to have exploited the widest possible instrumental palette, perhaps as much for the sake of novelty and exotic appearance on stage as sound colour. The intricacies of this kind of staging and also its sheer logistical ebullience – one of the polychoral madrigals in the famous ‘La Pellegrina’ intermedi of 1589 required sixty singers and at least twenty-four instrumentalists – must have placed considerable demands on the performers. The very public nature of these performances were a professional affair far removed from the intimacy of the recreational madrigal. What survives of the written music for the intermedi seems to make no concessions to the rigours of staging in terms of musical complexity and indeed highly ornamented songs like Antonio Archilei’s ‘Dalle più alte sfere’, from the 1589 intermedi, are real virtuoso showpieces. Archilei wrote this piece for his wife, Vittoria, whose starring roles in these performances are among the earliest instances of a woman achieving a professional prima donna status. Madrigal performances outside the theatre became increasingly virtuosic too as the sixteenth century drew to a close, with composers like Marenzio writing what are essentially dramatic concert pieces rather than domestic pastimes. After the 1580s, the Dukes of Ferrara and Mantua maintained groups of singers – which included women as well as men – expressly to perform



polyphonic madrigals in their private chambers; apparently the Ferrara ensemble regularly entertained their employer for up to four hours a day.

Unwritten traditions Even in our own highly literate age, much music-making still proceeds quite happily without any reference to notation and leaves no written trace. In the Renaissance, when literacy was that much rarer, memory, improvisation and oral tradition must have played a still greater part. The informal, non-courtly contexts – fairs, village weddings, taverns – were the province of musicians whose lives and times are obscure to us now; many were itinerant outsiders who made the best part of their livings touring the circuit of festivals in Europe, as they had done in the Middle Ages. The picture becomes a little clearer in the sixteenth century, with the establishment of new genres of painting like the familiar village and tavern scenes of Peter Breughel the Elder. These may not constitute precise documentary evidence, but they are at least credible in their depictions of bagpipes and other ‘folk’ instruments; the apparent depiction of dance steps in some instances even invites us to hazard a guess at the specific tunes the pipers might have played. A parallel literary interest in ‘ordinary’ life yields new insights, such as the way that Feste, who plays the role of fool in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, includes playing the pipe and tabor among his many professional skills. Certain other Renaissance ‘unwritten traditions’ are courtly in origin and seem to have enjoyed equal status with written music. Perhaps the most significant of these is the Italian tradition of singers improvising verse recitations to their own instrumental accompaniment. This was a serious endeavour that strove after no less than the rediscovery of the miraculous powers attributed to music in Classical Antiquity. Orpheus had reputedly moved the stones to tears and the inadequacy of ‘modern’ music compared to this was keenly felt in an age that was rediscovering past glories in all the other arts. It is remarkable that the emphasis on rediscovery makes this one of the first manifestations of an early music movement in European history; and there seems to have been an appropriately experimental quality to much of what went on, with practitioners like Marsilio Ficino laying considerable stress on healing and divination. For many others, it was simply a literary pursuit where amateurs could succeed without submitting to the indignities of the professional discipline of notation; and the best of them enjoyed a very high status as star performers in Italian humanist circles. Details of these performers are hard to come by. Being amateurs, they do not on the whole appear on payrolls or other documents, at least as musicians; and

Performance in the Renaissance: an overview


being improvisers, they of course left no notated compositions. Nevertheless, we know that figures such as Serafino dell’Aquila (1466–1500) enjoyed reputations that equalled or excelled those of composers like Josquin. Theirs was the kind of music that we know to have been practised by Leonardo da Vinci, which explains why music is one of the few fields of artistic endeavour in which he left no written record. We are told that Leonardo’s preference for the lira da braccio (a bowed instrument that claimed descent from the classical lyre) was that of a man ‘who by nature had a high-flowing spirit, full of gracefulness, and who sang divinely, as an improviser, over its accompaniment’ and he reputedly had a special instrument made in the shape of a skull.6 This recalls the tortoiseshell violone of the Florentine intermedi and indeed the ‘unwritten tradition’ made an important contribution to theatrical productions, from Poliziano’s Orfeo of the late fifteenth century to the Florentine La pellegrina of 1589, where solo songs acted as a complementary foil to the contrapuntal complexities of the madrigals. We know little more about the actual music of these improvisers than they themselves did about the Orphic incantations they strove to revive. Petrucci’s fourth book of frottole (1505) includes various pieces with titles like ‘Modo di cantar sonetti’ or ‘Aer de versi latini’, which are intended as schematic vehicles for the performer’s own choice of texts. Though historically fascinating, the rather plain fragments of polyphony on the page can hardly be said to capture much of the charisma that must have charged a performance by Leonardo. There is also evidence that Serafino at least was not wholly above the artifices of notated music. He clearly knew Josquin, whom he once addressed as ‘Jusquino, suo compagno musico’, and one of his sonnets addressed to the Virgin has an acrostic such that the first syllable of each line yields the notes of the opening of the ‘Salve regina’ melody. In addition, the first syllable of each stanza can be read as spelling ‘la sol fa re mi’, a melody used as the basis of one of Josquin’s own Masses.7 The point here is that Netherlandish artifice and improvised spontaneity do not seem to have been mutually exclusive categories, at least by the end of the fifteenth century in Italy. Thus it is that some of Petrucci’s earliest publications include ten books of frottole, which seem to have been an attempt to render the improvised style in a medium accessible to readers of notation for a four-voiced ensemble; there must have been a substantial public for this type of music who

6 See E. Winternitz, Leonardo da Vinci as a Musician, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1982. 7 See E. E. Lowinsky, ‘Ascanio Sforza’s Life: a key to Josquin’s biography and an aid to the chronology of his works’, in E. E. Lowinsky (ed.), Josquin des Prez, Oxford University Press, 1976, pp. 58–9.



were ensemble readers, not solo improvisers. As with the French chanson, this represents a shift in performance context from fifteenth-century performers who were, if not actually professional, at least gifted and charismatic, to a more general recreational and domestic approach to music-making. The frottola is an important antecedent of the sixteenth-century madrigal in terms of performance context as well as musical style. The Italian improvised tradition was not restricted to singers and poets. One of the most celebrated musicians of his day was Pietrobono dal Chitarino (1417–97), who in the course of an international career was raised to the rank of nobility and depicted on portrait medals. The chitarino that he played was a plucked instrument like a small lute, probably related to the old medieval gittern. His performance on it is the subject of one of the most remarkable pieces of writing about music from the period, a Latin poem by Lippo Brandolini, which gives us exactly the kind of information that so many earlier accounts of improvised music leave so tantalisingly vague. We are asked to pay attention, for example, ‘as his left hand runs along the entire cithara, as his hand swiftly travels along the tuneful strings. You will marvel at how all his fingers fly simultaneously, how one hand is in so many places at once. Now it dashes to the very top of the instrument, now it runs to the very bottom.’ We also learn that ‘He packs together the notes and the crowded rhythms, and he draws them out, and he varies them and he fills them yet again with many notes. He runs along and travels the whole length of the strings, and immediately repeats the same thing in three or four different ways. He goes back and forth along the lyre, but always with a different arrangement, and thus using different rhythms he goes back and forth along the lyre.’8 Though this certainly leaves plenty of room for interpretation, the essence of Pietrobono’s style is unmistakable. The first passage tells us how he impresses with fast scalar motion over the entire compass of the instrument, while the second further implies the use of some kind of motivic development or melodic sequence (‘repeats the same thing in three or four different ways’). Though Pietrobono never wrote down a note (as far as we know), many pieces in the earliest lute tablatures, which would have been compiled towards the end of his life, contain music that follows this prescription exactly. Connecting this notation with Pietrobono’s improvisations is not so far-fetched, since they are specifically for the type of instrument that he played. Moreover, the pieces that conform most closely to Brandolini’s description are the lute duets in

8 Original text and translation in F. A. Gallo, Music in the Castle, University of Chicago Press, 1995, pp. 122–3.

Performance in the Renaissance: an overview


Petrucci’s Intabolatura de lauto libro primo (1507). We know that Pietrobono habitually performed with a single accompanist, usually referred to as a tenorista, someone who holds the tenor line; and tenor lines of popular chansons are exactly what we find accompanying the running passages in Petrucci’s lute duets. Rather as the frottola publications of the early sixteenth century strive to tame the virtuosity and charisma of the humanist improvisers for more general use, so the lute publications seem to be inviting players to bask in the reflected glory of one of the greatest musicians of the age. Another performing tradition where unwritten music played an important part was that of the alta cappella, the loud wind band of shawms and sackbut. In their association with ceremonial and dance music, such bands presented the public face of a court to the world, unlike the more intimate practices of such as Pietrobono. Even so, the basis of the improvised aspects of their repertoire probably consisted of the same kind of virtuosic decorations of slower-moving tenor lines. Indeed, the few examples of what appear to be notated dance music, for example the ‘Danza alta’ in the early sixteenth-century Spanish Palace Manuscripts, are not fundamentally unlike the tenor settings in the early lute books. The fact that ‘Danza alta’ is copied into what is otherwise a book of songs raises some interesting questions about why it came to be written down and how it was performed. It seems improbable that it was copied for the benefit of wind players, who knew how to improvise this music anyway, and it is equally possible that it was for literate musicians who were not experienced in alta-style improvisatory techniques (perhaps lutenists), to try and capture some of the glamour of what must have been a persuasive dance idiom. The fact that the ‘tune’ in this case is the basse danse ‘La Spagna’, which enjoyed a parallel career as a popular cantus firmus in composed polyphonic music, would seem to support this latter interpretation. Whether the purpose of the notation was literal transcription or emulation, though, the music of ‘Danza alta’ may still be considered to offer a credible representation of how a band might have realised a basse danse tenor. Ceremonial music was not the exclusive preserve of the polyphonic alta cappella, in spite of their prestige and musical brilliancy. Courts and cities typically maintained separate establishments of trumpets, drums and fifes for military and ceremonial purposes, whose activities were not confined to the strictly musical, in the modern sense of the word; loud instruments were routinely used for signalling in battle and also at sea. To the Renaissance belong the first voyages across the Atlantic (and indeed around the world) and there is evidence that ships routinely carried at least one trumpeter. They often carried other musicians too; when Sir Francis Drake set off around the world in 1577, he took four professionals with him, who probably played viols



amongst other things.9 The presence of such musicians on board ships seems to have been relatively common and owed as much to a captain’s need to assert proof of his status, in case of capture by an enemy, as to any predilection for entertainment. Fascinatingly, groups of such musicians seem to have additionally justified the space they took up on the tiny ships of their time by their diplomatic value. Signalling a friendly intent on a foreign shore in the absence of a common language was a necessary and delicate matter, and there is much to suggest that musical performance played a critical role in many initial contacts. The many records of return performances by the local musicians – from Africa to Indonesia – and the enthusiastic reactions of the sixteenthcentury mariners to them make absorbing reading.

Instrumental consort music The idea of the consort – a coordinated set of instruments of varying sizes corresponding to the different pitch ranges of voices – is one of the most characteristic of Renaissance musical innovations. Until the end of the fifteenth century, the emphasis was on improvisation and solo performance, as it had been throughout the Middle Ages; the only notated secular music that comes down to us is the French chanson, which, as we have seen, belonged to a particular group of chapel singers. On the other hand, if it is possible to talk of a golden age of instrumental consort music, then that age is the sixteenth century, where high-quality music for viol, recorder and various mixed consorts appears in remarkable quantities. As with the demise of the chanson and the rise of the madrigal, the change is not one of musical evolution and eclipse, but a reflection of social patterns of music-making that increasingly favour the recreational over the ceremonial. Ironically, the first inklings we have of a polyphonic repertoire specifically for instrumental consort are intimately connected with the old French chanson. The last decades of the fifteenth century saw the compilation of a considerable number of Italian sources that preserve a repertoire that is mostly made up of chanson music without any words. Leaving individual parts untexted is usual enough in the older French sources; of the three polyphonic parts that make up most chansons, only one usually carries the full text and it is generally accepted now that this is a scribal convention that in no way precludes all three lines from being sung. However, having no text in any part at all is a different matter, especially in a country like Italy, where French was a foreign language. Moreover, textless chanson sources in Italy are not 9 See I. Woodfield, English Musicians in the Age of Exploration, Stuyvesant, NY, Pendragon Press, 1995.

Performance in the Renaissance: an overview


isolated curiosities but a prolific and impressively consistent phenomenon, such that the omission of the words would seem to be by design rather than accident. It has been suggested that singers might provide texts from memory, since many of them were northerners for whom the French language would have been as familiar as the Italian. The role of memorisation in the performance of Renaissance music should not be underestimated, but in this case it raises more questions than it resolves. The number of missing texts that a singer would have to supply is vast, and since in most cases each was associated with a specific piece of music, it seems unlikely that they would have been memorised independently. At the same time, other texts that singers must surely have known by heart, such as the Ordinary of the Mass, are repeatedly provided in full in other sources. There is much to suggest, then, that the music of these ‘chansonniers’ was meant to be performed without words.10 This conclusion is supported by the way that some pieces are not only never found with text in any source, but also look as if they were composed without any reference to the line structures of forme fixe poetry, which are such recognisable determinants of the phrase structure in the majority of genuine chanson settings. Others take this one step further and seem to be showcases for some highly original devices of purely musical logic, which defy adaptation to any verbal text whatsoever. Many of these pieces appear again and again in the sources, once more giving the impression that they were carefully chosen to be part of a distinct repertoire. This music seems to represent a curiously transitional stage that connects the old professional French chanson tradition with the recreational consort music of the sixteenth century, while being quite distinct from either. It seems most likely that it was intended for performance on a consort of lutes, which took many different forms and sizes before the relative standardisation of the sixteenth century. Not only does the lute consort represent the only really practical solution to the exigencies of some extraordinary part-ranges, but the lute is also an instrument that is repeatedly mentioned as being played by the kind of people who would have had the literacy skills to perform chansons, in other words chapel singers. The list of renowned chanson composers who are recorded in connection with lute playing includes Robert Morton, Hayne van Ghizeghem, Johannes Martini and possibly Alexander Agricola. Some of the textless ‘chansons’ of the latter in particular bear a remarkable resemblance to some of the music in the earliest lute tablatures and requires a range and agility that is simply beyond any other fifteenth-century instrument. Indeed it is in 10 See J. Banks, The Instrumental Consort Repertory of the Late Fifteenth Century, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2006.



some of Agricola’s pieces that the prescription offered by Brandolini for Pietrobono’s lute style seems most closely realised. The phenomenon of the lute consort represents more than a whimsical switch from singing to playing on the part of the chapel musicians, though the example of Pietrobono and others like him may have offered them some motivation to do so. The lute was also one of the most favoured instruments of the Italian humanists and there is evidence that lute playing is the common ground where the two traditions began to merge together, and where the professional aspect starts to give way to the recreational. The case of the ‘chansonnier’ Florence 229, a manuscript compiled c. 1492, yields some possible insights into this process. Its repertoire of 268 pieces is mostly textless, but much is recognisable as chansons copied without their words. Its first owner was not a prince or a courtier, but a wealthy Florentine citizen called Alessandro Braccesi.11 Not only did he move in impeccable humanist circles, but some of his own verse came to be sung to the cithara (presumably the lute) by none other than the great Neoplatonist Marsilio Ficino. This was a man steeped in the improvising tradition, who had no chapel of singers to perform for him; so why did he own such a vast anthology of notated chansons? One answer is that he played from it himself in a very particular context, possibly alongside like-minded amateurs, or even with some support from the kinds of professional singer/lute players who abounded in Florence at the time. A clue to this context is supplied by the Classical Latin quotation from the opening of one of Horace’s satires that adorns the elaborate frontispiece of the manuscript. In the Loeb translation, it reads: ‘All singers have this vice: if asked to sing among friends, they are never so inclined, but if not asked they never stop.’ ‘Singing’ is the usual English translation of the Latin ‘cantare’ and its derivatives, but it is important to note that the word could equally denote ‘playing an instrument’ at this time, as is made clear by Petrucci’s use of the term specifically and unambiguously for lute playing in his books of tablature. Equally interesting, from the viewpoint of performance history, is the implied equal relationship between players and audience. The chanson singers at Philip the Good’s Banquet de Veau in 1454 were not exactly ‘among friends’; they were professionals performing in front of their masters. The erudite humour of the motto here, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of banter we might expect between amateur performers in front of a select peer group.

11 See H. M. Brown, A Florentine Chansonnier from the Time of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Monuments of Renaissance Music, vii, 2 vols., University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Performance in the Renaissance: an overview


This supposition is supported by the elegance of Florence 229, with its beautiful calligraphy and sumptuous illuminations. Such details would be wasted on professional performers, but would have an obvious appeal to collectors of books and scholars in general. An explicit connection between literary and musical pursuits is made by Angelo Decembrio, the first Italian professor of Greek, who recommended that a ‘cithara’, by which he probably meant a lute, should be kept in a library, as indeed one apparently was in the Este castle at Ferrara.12 Performance in the context of a private book collection makes sense of the beauties of Florence 229; there it would be visible as well as audible, and its multimedia appeal would have been very much part of the point. This kind of performance thus marries the context and practices of the Italian unwritten tradition with notated polyphony, a feat made possible by the peculiar nature of the fifteenth-century chanson. Divested of their words, French chansons presented a ready-made repertoire of approachable pieces for Italian lutenists. They are not too long, and they are relatively straightforward in their notation, while the problems posed to singers by their considerable vagaries of range are circumvented by the nature of the instrument. We know from many accounts that lutes played single lines in ensembles together at this time; and this repertoire would be an ideal introduction to polyphony for amateur players, whatever their technical abilities. The very first printed book of music, Petrucci’s Odhecaton A of 1501, was devoted to exactly the same kind of music, which demonstrates how important this performance genre must have seemed at the time. Despite its potential for mass production, the Odhecaton was hardly the Ford Model T of its time and was produced in limited quantities as a luxury item. Consequently, its impact on music generally was not as great as its huge retrospective significance might lead us to believe. It is significant that after the triumphant role of the chanson repertoire in heralding the age of printing, it more or less disappears after the Canti C of 1504. The refined library context was evolving into a less exclusive culture of domestic music-making, and it is in this later context that the subsequent forms of sixteenth-century instrumental consort music flourished. The development of new consort instruments like the viol ushered in a whole new repertoire and performing ideal that rendered the old part-hierarchies of the chanson redundant, along with the semi-formal pretensions of the library context. As the first printed book of music, the Odhecaton has been studied from numerous angles, both as a musical repertoire and as a major monument in the 12 Gallo, Music in the Castle, p. 74.



history of printing, publishing and editing. However, it remains enigmatic from the point of view of performance history. Some pertinent questions, such as how many copies were produced, who they were aimed at and who bought them are still only answerable in the broadest circumstantial terms. The question of how they were used is also fraught with uncertainties that do not lend themselves to easy resolutions. Petrucci’s format is not too small, with each page being a little over three-quarters of the size of an A4 sheet, but they still raise issues of practicality. Sharing a single copy would not be a problem for singers, for example, but a consort of viols on the other hand would have to sit at a considerable distance from it if they were to afford themselves the elbow room necessary for bowing. It is possible that these issues were circumvented by the ad hoc copying of individual parts onto scraps of paper that have not come down to us, or that parts were routinely memorised, such that the printed original only served as a master reference copy. These are matters that are critical to our understanding of the Odhecaton – and indeed much other music of the same era – but for which very little concrete evidence survives. The music of the later sixteenth century is very different from that of the Odhecaton. The old repertoire persists in a few isolated manuscripts and lute tablatures, but by the 1540s new music is being written using the equal imitative techniques so characteristic of Renaissance consort music, and information about how to perform it is often included in the written sources. Instructions like ‘per cantar e sonar’ or ‘apt for the voices or viols’ are often upheld as examples of a laissez-faire attitude to instrumentation, an idea that seems in line with the fascination with instrumental variety evinced by writings from Virdung’s Musica getutscht of 1511 to Praetorius’s Syntagma musicum of 1618. However, the fact that these instructions appear at all is indicative of a new context; this music is not just for a dedicated core of professionals but also for a much wider market of amateurs who need to be convinced that what they are buying will suit their own peculiar circumstances. At this time we also find music written for very specific ensembles, like the English ‘mixed consort’ of flute or recorder, violin, viol, lute, bandora and cittern. This was not a revolution, but a gradual change of context that starts with the impenetrable conventions of the Odhecaton and leads to the cosiness of publications like Dowland’s books of songs and airs, where the parts are printed at right angles to each other, to facilitate the reading of a single page by singers or players sitting facing each other across the four sides of a table. Besides amateur music-making, professional instrumental ensembles continued to thrive in the sixteenth century and indeed the records of the time bring their personalities and conditions into sharper focus than ever before.

Performance in the Renaissance: an overview


The role of players on ships has already been noted; and on dry land courts and civic institutions provided musicians with increasingly respectable secular careers. In England, for example, the lutenist Philip van Wilder became a member of the King’s Musick in the early 1520s and, despite being a foreigner, rose to be a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and was granted permission to own land in 1539. Equally remarkable are the many stories of families like the Bassanos, a successful dynasty of musicians and instrument makers in England of Venetian Jewish origin. Dance music was adapting to the new conditions too. The music for the fifteenth-century basse danse was a professional affair, as was discussed above, but with the advent of the sixteenth century came new dance styles, such as the pavan and galliard, and a new sort of music to go with them. The publications of Pierre Attaignant, starting with his book of pavans and galliards of 1529, reflect the new approach. All the parts are written out in full and are relatively easy to play, with an emphasis on homorhythm and regular phrasing, which is the exact opposite of the florid improvised and open-ended basse danse. Sixteenth-century dance music is no longer exclusively the province of professionals, which was one of the factors that led to a transformation of the old alta cappella. An impressive versatility had always been in the nature of the fifteenthcentury alta cappella. As well as improvising over basse danse tenors they were clearly familiar with notated music too. The wind ensemble in Ferrara owned a book of ‘canto figurato . . . a la pifarescha’ in the 1480s and though it now appears to be lost, it seems clear that they played chansons and other polyphony too, in situations ranging from the courtly to the civic.13 The new dance music may have become accessible to amateur ensembles, but the professional function of the alta cappella to impress and provide a soundtrack to formal occasions remained important and the status and currency of professional wind players remained high, in contrast to the fate of chanson singers. Sixteenth-century ensembles like the ones that performed Gabrieli’s polychoral pieces in Venice were a huge expansion of the earlier trio of shawms and sackbut, and also made use of new instruments like the cornett, but they inherited their function and status directly from the alta cappella.

New instrumental traditions Around the year 1500, a number of medieval instruments – such as the hurdygurdy, rebec, portative organ, citole, gittern, psaltery – seem either to go out of 13 For a review of the possible identification of this book with the manuscript Casanatense 2856, see J. Rifkin, ‘Munich, Milan, and a Marian motet: dating Josquin’s Ave Maria . . . virgo serena’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 56 (2003), 314–22.



fashion or become relegated to the shadowy margins of folk performance. On the other hand, writers like Virdung and Praetorius testify to a fascination with new instruments. Some of these, like the crumhorn, had a relatively short lifespan and may have owed much of their currency to the theatrical excesses of the intermedi, whereas others established precedents and designs that persist to the present day. An example of the latter is the chekker, a chamber keyboard instrument that first appears in the middle of the fifteenth century. The keyboard itself was not new at this point, but the idea of an intimate personal instrument, as opposed to the more public organ, marks an important transition. The technology and outward aspect of keyboard instruments changed through the Renaissance, from the chekker through to the clavichord and harpsichord, but its essential function remained constant. Subsequent eras have seen further developments, including the establishment of a virtuoso concert tradition for keyboard instruments, but the role of the keyboard in the realm of personal recreation has developed in an unbroken tradition from the chekker to the piano and electronic keyboards of the twenty-first century. A similar kind of continuity can be observed with the lute. This was not a new instrument in the Renaissance, but the very end of the fifteenth century saw a standardisation of the instrument, the invention of a new style of polyphonic playing (as opposed to its original retention of the Eastern plectrum style of the ud from which it derived) and the invention of tablature notation. After Petrucci’s Intabolatura de lauto libro primo of 1507, lute books proliferated, with much fairly elementary music being issued as well as virtuoso fantasias. With lute music, we are freed from many of the awkward performative uncertainties that dog our understanding of, for example, the Odhecaton. The tablature notation specifies not only the instrument but the tuning of its strings and fingering, and the books are so eminently legible and practical that modern performers regularly sight-read from them today. The lute shares the same kind of personal context as the keyboard and, like it, is played in the same circumstances now as it was then. Although there are of course many important differences, the essential nature of the lute as a portable personal instrument is still preserved in the modern guitar. Other instruments really do seem to have been new at the beginning of the sixteenth century. In many cases these are consort instruments which, unlike their medieval ancestors, were made not in a single size for use by a solo player, but in various sizes – treble, tenor, bass – so that a full consort of like instruments could be achieved. Some, like crumhorns and cornamuses, seem to have been passing novelties, while others, like the cornett, became important contributors to the soundscape of the day. The sackbut is another innovation of

Performance in the Renaissance: an overview


the fifteenth century, when for the first time the metalworking technology needed to make a working double slide mechanism became a practical reality; the instrument has since evolved into the present day trombone with perhaps fewer changes than any other. Perhaps the most significant new instrument was the viol. Its importance lies not only in its ubiquity throughout the sixteenth century and the quantity of high-quality music written for it, but also in its inception from the beginning as a consort instrument. It is possible to trace the shape and stringing of the viol in a number of medieval antecedents, but its radical novelty lies in its perfect embodiment of the Renaissance ‘consort principle’ and no instrument more fully expresses the new ideals of consort music.

The sixteenth-century avant-garde Gioseffo Zarlino (1517–90) is today considered to be something of a grand old man of Renaissance music theory, the solid and reliable foundation on which the contrapuntal splendour of the polyphonic style of the high Renaissance was built. However, as well as the discussions of intervals and counterpoint in his Istitutione harmoniche (1558), there is also, together with passages about temperament and ancient Greek scales, a description and illustration of a harpsichord with nineteen notes to the octave instead of the usual twelve. This is faintly disturbing from a modern perspective; exploring the possibilities of microtonal intervals is not what we associate with, for example, Palestrina or Tallis, or indeed anything before the avant-garde of the later twentieth century. Zarlino’s microtonal harpsichord can not be dismissed as a theoretical speculation either. The instrument he describes was actually built by a certain Domenico Pesarese, in 1548. Although it is now lost, Charles Burney reports seeing it in 1773, with special tuning instructions ‘in his [Zarlino’s] own handwriting’ written on the back of the foreboard.14 It was a real instrument, and it was not the only one of its kind. Jean Titelouze apparently played on one in Rouen too, while Vito de’ Trasuntini’s ‘Clavemusicum omnitonum’, a harpsichord with thirty-one pitches to the octave, belonged to Camillo Gonzaga and still survives in the Museo Civico, Bologna. Nicola Vicentino’s ‘arcicembalo’ and ‘arciorgano’, designed for the same thirty-one-note system, were built in the middle of the sixteenth century, and there is even some surviving music that uses specially adapted notation to render the microtones, by Vicentino (a single motet, ‘Musica prisca caput’) and Ascanio Majone. 14 C. Burney, The Present State of Music in France and Italy, London, Becket, 1773, pp. 262–3.



Moreover, microtonality was not just a concern of the written tradition; when Marsilio Ficino searched after the ancient Orphic powers of music in his invocations to the lira, he was using a ‘scientific’ system of correspondences between musical intervals and the material and spiritual worlds that presumably included the microtonal intervals of ancient Greek scales. The significance of this for our understanding of the history of sixteenthcentury musical performance is not its curiosity, but rather its ordinariness. In Renaissance terms, microtonal experimentation was neither a countercultural antithesis to the mainstream, nor a theoretical abstraction far removed from the practicalities of day-to-day music-making. Zarlino was one of the most respected writers on music of his day and Vicentino, though famously eccentric, was a pupil of Willaert and made a career out of playing and promoting his arcicembalo and arciorgano; and his one recorded dispute about tuning took place with a papal singer, not a theorist. For Zarlino, Vicentino and others like them, an interest in microtonal tuning was in fact an expression of that most characteristic Renaissance concern of all, the rediscovery and reassessment of ancient Classical texts, that was such a profound influence on the other arts. Their keyboards are in one sense no more than a rather more pronounced manifestation of the same concerns that led to the adoption of the first keyboard temperament systems that stem from the same era. The vast majority of the composers of sixteenth-century polyphony may not have written microtonal music but we can be reasonably sure that they were not only aware that such things were possible, but also recognised a place for them within the scope of their own conception of musical practice. It is in this contextual sense that some of the familiar performance practices alluded to above – the madrigal groups and viol consorts, for example – differ profoundly from their modern equivalents. Modern listening habits lead us to hear sixteenth-century polyphony as a classic repertoire, whose value lies in ideas of beauty and expression that, though valid, have been formed in part by the ideas of the intervening centuries. In its time, this was music of adventure and Classical rediscovery, which felt all of a piece with the dynamism of the age of Columbus and Copernicus. This difference between then and now goes some way towards explaining some of the curious judgements of the Renaissance on its own music, such as Tinctoris’s assertion in 1477 that ‘there is no composition written over forty years ago which is thought by the learned to be worthy of performance’ or the praise lavished on Adrian Willaert by his contemporaries, which seems so disproportionate to the appeal of his music in modern times.15

15 See Johannes Tinctoris, Liber de arte contrapuncti, trans. and ed. A. Seay as The Art of Counterpoint, Musicological Studies and Documents, v, Middleton, WI, American Institute of Musicology, 1961, p. 14.

Performance in the Renaissance: an overview


The characteristic Renaissance outlook on music, which understood microtonality as part of the mainstream and still appreciated the relevance of the idea of music as science, did not directly affect the sound of the music or impinge on the circumstances of its performance. Even so, it is crucial to our understanding of the vitality of an era that is sometimes perceived as ‘an angelically faceless golden age of polyphony’.16

16 J. Haar, ‘A sixteenth-century attempt at music criticism’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 36 (1983), 209.

. 13 .

Vocal performance in the Renaissance TIMOTHY J. McGEE

Developments in compositional styles and forms in the Renaissance brought about significant changes in vocal performance practices in both sacred and secular music, notably in vocal production, the combination of voices and instruments and the number of voices per part.

Vocal sounds There is some evidence that vocal practices in the centuries preceding the Renaissance included a much richer and more varied set of sounds than are normally attributed to the period, many of which were actually indicated in the forms of the early notation.1 The Medieval treatise Summa musice (c. 1200) describes the way in which a number of the neumes were performed: the has an indistinct pitch on the second note; the voice is to two-note clivis ; and a slide off the pitch when singing a plica and other liquescent notes quick vibrato is to be performed while ascending the interval of a third in the .2 The theorist Walter Odington (c. 1300) discusses execution of a quilisma the gargling sound of a note called gutturalis, and a sliding pitch called a sinuosa.3 Jerome of Moravia, writing in Paris c. 1280, includes both trills and vibratos involving the intervals of a half-step and full step, that are performed at slow, fast and accelerating speeds.4 In the early decades of the fourteenth century, the Italian theorist Marchettus of Padua discusses division of the 1 On the association of early notational forms with performance practice indications see T. J. McGee, The Sound of Medieval Song: Vocal Style and Ornamentation According to the Theorists, Oxford Monographs on Music Series, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1998. On singing in the Middle Ages see J. Dyer, ‘The voice in the Middle Ages’, in J. Potter (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Singing, Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 165–77, 254–8; and J. Potter, ‘Reconstructing lost voices’, in T. Knighton and D. Fallows (eds.), Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music, London and New York, Schirmer, 1992, repr. Oxford, 1998, pp. 311–16. 2 C. Page (ed.), The Summa Musice: A Thirteenth-Century Manual for Singers, Cambridge University Press, 1991, lines 523–54. Summarised and discussed in McGee, Sound of Medieval Song, pp. 44–5. 3 W. Odington, Summa de speculatione musice, ed. F. F. Hammond, CSM 14, Rome, American Institute of Musicology, 1970, p. 94, trans. J. A. Huff, MSD 31, Rome, American Institute of Musicology, 1973. Summarised and discussed in McGee, Sound of Medieval Song, p. 52. 4 S. M. Cserba (ed.), Hieronymus de Moravia, O.P.: Tractatus de musica, Freiburger Studien zur Musikwissenschaft, 2, Regensburg, F. Pustet, 1935, p. 184. Summarised and discussed in McGee, Sound of Medieval Song, pp. 61–7.


Vocal performance in the Renaissance


whole tone into five parts which allowed for very wide and very narrow semitones.5 These intervals were still being described by Bonaventura da Brescia as late as 1497.6 It is not clear how long any of these sounds remained a part of vocal practices nor, since they all are discussed with reference to the performance of chant, whether they were adopted as a part of polyphonic vocal practices. There is evidence, however, that at least some of the sounds may have continued on; the notation for the quilisma and plica survived the conversion to square notation, and several of the medieval sounds are quite similar to those described by Giulio Caccini in his publications of 1601 and 1614, discussed below.

Singing instructions Although information about singing practices is found only as incidental remarks in the writings of the earlier centuries, beginning in the Renaissance a number of treatises discuss techniques and styles in some detail. The earliest organised singing instructions are those of Conrad von Zabern, written in Germany in 1474.7 What interested Conrad in his presentation of six rules was the quality of choral performance of chant, and he sets the following objectives for singers: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Unison entrances and balanced voices; Accurate observance of rhythmic values; The chant should be pitched to fit comfortably within every singer’s range; The pitch and tempo should be adjusted to the occasion: the more solemn the feast, the slower the tempo; the more joyous the feast, the higher the pitch. 5. The integrity of the chant is to be preserved by not subdividing any of the notes or adding harmonies or ornaments. 6. Strive for a more cultivated (as opposed to rustic) vocal delivery. This includes the avoidance of added consonant sounds for the purpose of articulation; exclusion of nasal sounds; use of pure and accurate vowel sounds; accurately maintaining the pitch of long notes; absence of vibrato; 5 The Lucidarium of Marchetto of Padua, ed. J. Herlinger, University of Chicago Press, 1985, pp. 2, 8, 9–10. Discussion in McGee, Sound of Medieval Song, pp. 81–2. 6 Bonaventura da Brescia, Regula musice plane, facsimile edn Monuments of Music and Music Literature in Facsimile, 77, New York, 1975, trans. A. Seay, Rules of Plain Music, Colorado College Music Press Translations, 11, Colorado Springs, Colorado College Music Press, 1979. Discussion in McGee, Sound of Medieval Song, p. 83. 7 Conrad von Zabern, De modo bene cantandi choralem cantum, Mainz, 1474, ed. K.-W. Gümpel, Die Musiktraktate Conrads von Zabern, Wiesbaden, Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, 1956. See J. Dyer, ‘Singing with proper refinement from De modo bene cantandi (1474) by Conrad von Zabern’, Early Music, 6 (1978), 207–27; and C. MacClintock (ed.), Readings in the History of Music in Performance, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1979, pp. 12–16.





do not force the voice; do not bellow on the high notes or sing too faintly; do not make elaborate facial or body gestures. Many of these same points are stressed forty years later by another German theorist, Andreas Ornitoparcus.8 As helpful as these statements are in confirming that the values of the fifteenth century are similar to those held by choir directors today, it must be noted that Conrad and Andreas were speaking only about unison chant performance. They say nothing about solo singing, the secular repertoire, nor the performance of polyphony.9 For that kind of information we must consult several sixteenth-century writers from Germany, and Italy who address the subject.10 The solo singing instructions they convey agree with and amplify the advice from Conrad, which confirms the stability of those values over the entire period of the Renaissance as universal basic singing instruction. These later, more detailed instructions admonish the solo singer to be careful to keep the mouth open only as much as if in casual conversation; place the voice in the front of the mouth, avoiding nasal sounds and those from the back of the throat; support but do not force the voice; pay attention to steady vocal production in terms of pitch, volume, and intensity; use clear articulation in rapid passages; articulate and enunciate the text clearly; use a flexible delivery in order to express the sentiment of the text; support the text with facial and body gestures but be careful to avoid excess; and in ensemble performance, to strive for balance among the voices. The instructions provided by Girolamo Cardano (1501–76) are the most helpful and among the most detailed. Cardano was not a professional singer or teacher; he was a professor of medicine at the University of Pavia (near Milan), who is best known for treatises on astronomy, astrology, medicine and philosophy. But in 1574 he wrote a treatise on singing which indicates a very detailed knowledge of vocal performance. His statements, in addition to reinforcing the earlier treatises, also provide information about how one learned to sing a new composition, which was to sing the solfege syllables. But he emphasises that once singers have learned the notes, they should go directly to the words since 8 Andreas Ornitoparcus, Musice Active Micrologus, Cologne, 1513, trans. J. Dowland as Andreas Ornithoparcus his Micrologus or Introduction, London, 1609. See A Compendium of Musical Practice: Musice active micrologus, New York, Dover, 1973. 9 Ornitoparcus makes the following observations concerning the different national singing characteristics: ‘The English carol; the French sing; the Spaniards weep; Italians who dwell on the coasts caper with their voices and the others bark; but the Germans howl like wolves.’ In Andreas Ornithoparcus his Micrologus (1609), bk. 4, ch. 8. 10 H. Finck, Practica musica, Wittenberg, 1556, facsimile edn, Hildesheim, Olds, 1971, and Bologna, Forni, 1969; G. Maffei, Delle lettere . . . Libri due, Naples, 1562, in N. Bridgman, ‘Giovanni Camillo Maffei et sa lettre sur le chant’, Revue de musicologie, 38 (1956), 3–34; G. Cardano, De musica, Milan, 1574, in C. A. Miller (trans. and ed.), Hieronymus Cardanus, Writings on Music, Musicological Studies and Documents 32, Rome, American Institute of Musicology, 1973; L. Zacconi, Prattica di musica, 2 vols., Venice, 1592, facsimile edn, Bologna, Forni, 1967.

Vocal performance in the Renaissance


it is the text that will provide the inspiration for good expression. From context it would seem that many singers did not do this, and performed using only solfege syllables – a practice Cardano considers to be ridiculous. His specific goals, which are directed towards ensemble soloists, are: to learn how to produce notes accurately and quickly; keep a steady beat; read ahead in order to prepare for difficult technical passages; prepare the part before rehearsal; hold the pitch steady; produce a clear tone and avoid harshness; keep a steady vocal quality; train your ear to hear the other parts in order to sing well in tune with them; avoid food and drink that damages the voice, such as sour wine, most spices, and nuts. On a more advanced plane, he advises that once the part has been learned, the singer can ‘relinquish the beat’, meaning that small rhythmic liberties can be taken for the purpose of expression, and he gives advice for learning to extemporise in two, three and four parts.11 All of that advice accords with modern technique and values for both choral and solo singing, with the exception of vibrato: instead of a constant vibrato as found in modern vocal practice, the Renaissance writers exclude it from choral chant performance entirely, and instruct soloists to cultivate it as a soloist’s ornament, which is to be applied only in order to enhance particular notes (see below). The only other variance from Conrad’s rules has to do with expression: whereas Conrad advises suppressing individual expression in favour of a uniform choir sound, the instructions for solo singing advise its cultivation, again agreeing with current practice.

Church vs. chamber We know that in the late Renaissance there were two distinct vocal practices: loud for church and modulated for chamber. Sixteenth-century writers Nicola Vicentino, Gioseffo Zarlino and Lodovico Zacconi tell us that church singers had to rest their voices after singing loudly in order to be able to sing with a greater range of dynamics suitable for chamber performance.12 And although this information comes from rather late in the Renaissance, it is reasonable to think that the practice of singing loudly when performing polyphony in church probably dates back to the medieval origins of polyphonic performance, simply because of the problem of being heard in such a large space. There would have 11 Cardano, De musica, ch. 44. Cardano also tells us that the social standing of singers in Renaissance society was quite low. He agrees with the general perception that they were thought of as gluttons, hedonists, lacking in morals, and were disreputable purveyors of every kind of vice! 12 Zacconi, Prattica di musica, vol. 1, ch. 40; N. Vicentino, L’antica musica, 1576, trans. and annotated M. R. Maniates, ed. C. V. Palisca, Ancient Music Adapted to Modern Practice, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1996, vol. 4, ch. 29; G. Zarlino, Le istitutioni harmoniche, Venice 1558, facsimile edn, New York, Broude, 1965 and Bologna, Forni, 1999, vol. 3, ch. 45. See discussion in D. Fallows, ‘The performing ensembles in Josquin’s sacred music’, in Tijdschrift van de Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 35 (1985), 32–66.





been no difficulty for a unison chant choir to fill the space, given the number of voices singing, but polyphony sung by soloists or small ensembles would have required the singers to sing very loudly in order to be heard. At the time there would have been little other conflict between church performance practice and those required for chamber; with the exception of volume, the remainder of the singing advice stated above would have applied to both locations. Further, during the Middle Ages in most cases the performing personnel would not have been the same for the two locations. Whereas the sacred material would have been performed by clerics, the secular repertoire – most of which would have been monophonic – was sung either by professional minstrels or the lay citizens themselves, which is perhaps why the observation about the difference between church and chamber practices is not found in early documents. Over the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, however, the increasing popularity of polyphonic secular music, the increasing technical difficulty of that repertoire, the growth of secular motets, the use of sacred motets in chamber settings and the trend towards professional singers for both church and chamber would have been responsible for the problem. More and more the same musicians were performing both repertoires, which is why in the sixteenth century the theorists remark that performers had to let their voices relax before changing from one venue to the other.

Ornamentation In addition to vibrato, all solo musicians – instrumentalists as well as solo singers – were expected to add a multitude of other ornaments to enhance their performances. Information about ornamentation comes from a number of treatises and instruction manuals written in the sixteenth century, but also from a few written-out ornamentations from early in the fifteenth century.13 It is especially helpful that numerous didactic sources make it clear that the practice of embellishment was the same for both instrumentalists and singers, which allows us to use both repertoires in order to gain an insight into the practice. In modern terminology, ornaments can be separated into two categories: passaggi (divisions) and graces, although there was no such distinction at 13 S. di Ganassi, Opera intitulata Fontegara, Venice, 1535, trans. D. Swainson, ed. H. Peter, Berlin, Lienau, 1956; D. Ortiz, Tratado de glosas sobre clausulas . . . Rome, 1553, ed. Max Schneider, Kassel, Bärenreiter, 2003; A. Coclico, Compendium musices, Nuremberg, 1552, facsimile edn, M. Bukofzer, Kassel, Bärenreiter, 1954, trans. A. Seay as Musical Compendium, Translations, 5, Colorado Springs, Colorado College Music Press, 1973; G. Dalla Casa, Il vero modo di diminuir, 2 vols., Venice, 1584, facsimile edn, Bologna, Forni, 1970; G. Bassano, Ricercare, passaggi et cadentie, Venice, 1585; Bassano, Motetti, madrigali et canzoni francese, Venice, 1591; R. Rogniono, Passaggi per potersi essercitare nel diminuire, Venice, 1592; G. Luca Conforto, Breve et facile maniera d’essercitarsi, Rome, 1593, facsimile edn, Bologna, Forni, 2002; G. B. Bovicelli, Regole, passaggi di musica, madrigali e motetti passeggiati, Venice, 1594, facsimile edn, N. Bridgman, Kassel, Bärenreiter, 1957.

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the time. Passaggi are the notes placed between those written on the page, a term that could refer to a single additional note or a rather extensive run; and graces are the ornaments added to the written notes themselves, the types of ornaments that in the Baroque era would be called trill, mordent, turn, etc. Examples in the instruction manuals concentrate exclusively on the passaggi, while discussing the graces but not illustrating them. Although in later centuries the placement and specific form of graces was often indicated by stenographic signs, that kind of assistance was not provided in the Renaissance; they were chosen and added spontaneously, as were the passaggi. The kinds and placement of ornaments changed during the period, reflecting the changes in compositional style. Prior to c. 1470, ornaments were usually restricted to the highest voice.14 With the development of imitative writing where all voices shared the melodic material, ornamentation was added to all parts. An example of a four-part composition with ornamentation is provided by Girolomo Dalla Casa, which shows rapid passaggi in all voice parts, especially at cadence points.15 No graces are indicated in this or any other example, but the literature makes it clear that they, too, would have been added by each of the singers. Graces could be added by any and all parts without any concern of clashing, but this was not the case with passaggi. There would always have been a danger that cacophony would result from more than one performer adding passaggi simultaneously. From written instruction as well as surviving examples such as those in Dalla Casa, it is clear that there was a general understanding that the higher voices took precedence over the lower, meaning that in a situation where, for example, the tenor and soprano were entering a cadence together, the tenor would not ornament unless the soprano did not. Ornamentation was not restricted to secular music. That it was also applied to the sacred repertoire we have Zacconi’s statement from 1592 that motets are much easier to ornament than madrigals (see below), as well as some writtenout examples of ornamentations for Palestrina motets.16 The overwhelming number of treatises and manuals about ornamentation come from Italy, which is testimony that embellishments – especially elaborate passaggi – were more popular in that region than in the remainder of Europe. But there is ample evidence that ornamentation was a common practice

14 Extensive examples can be found in both the Faenza and Buxheimer manuscripts: Faenza, Biblioteca Comunale., MS 117, facsimile edn, Musicological Studies and Documents, 10, n.p., American Institute of Musicology, 1961, transcribed and ed. in D. Plamenac, Keyboard Music of the Late Middle Ages. CMM 52, Rome, American Institute of Musicology, 1972; Buxheimer Orgelbuch, Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, MS Cim 352b, facsimile edn, Kassel, Bärenreiter, 1955, transcribed B. Wallner, in Das Erbe deutscher Musik, Kassel, Bärenreiter, 1935–, vols. 37–9. 15 Dalla Casa, Il vero modo, vol. 2. 16 In R. Erig, with V. Gutmann, Italian Diminutions, Zurich, Amadeus, 1979.





everywhere, with local tastes and traditions resulting in regional style differences. Two French vocal treatises from the mid-seventeenth century, for example, spend most of their time discussing the subtle application of graces, but they also indicate that passaggi were commonly applied by French singers as well.17 The major French interest, however, was in graces, with a cautious avoidance of the more dramatic style developed in Italy (see below). Merin Mersenne’s comparison of the Italian and French practices in his Harmonie universelle of 1636, highlights the differences between the two most influential regional performance styles of the period: The Italians in their recitatives they observe many things of which ours are deprived, because they represent as much as they can of the passions and affections of the soul and spirit, as, for example, anger, furor, disdain, rage, frailties of the heart, and many other passions, with a violence so strange that one would almost say that they are touched by the same emotions they are representing in the song; whereas our French are content to tickle the ear, and have a perpetual sweetness in their songs, which deprives them of energy.18

Late Renaissance monodic style In the late sixteenth century, all vocal performance practices were seriously influenced by the developing monodic style, a new dramatic style of singing that developed in Italy. This style was closely involved with new ornamentation practices as well as new executions of the more traditional ornaments. The development of a highly expressive monodic style is usually credited to Giulio Caccini, although he never claimed to have originated it.19 There is no doubt that he had a great deal to do with it and that he was its most widely known and celebrated practitioner, but recent scholarship has demonstrated that there were influences from Rome and Naples in the performance practices of several other fine singers that contributed to its development.20 The details of the new 17 J. Millet, La belle méthode ou l’art de bien chanter, 1666, facsimile edn with introduction by A. Cohen, New York, Da Capo, 1973; B. de Bacilly, Remarques curieuses sur l’art de bien chanter, Paris 1668, facsimile edn, Geneva, Minkoff, 1971, trans. A. B. Caswell as A Commentary upon the Art of Proper Singing, Henryville, PA, Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1968. Millet’s treatise also includes an appendix of practical examples that include copious passaggi. 18 M. Mersenne, Harmonie universelle, contenant la théorie et la pratique de la musique, Paris, Cramoisy, 1636, intro. François Lesure, 3 vols., Paris, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1963, vol. 2, pp. 354–60, trans. in MacClintock, Readings, p. 173. 19 For a summary and discussion of what Caccini claims about his singing style, see J. W. Hill, Roman Monody, Cantata, and Opera from the Circles around Cardinal Montalto, 2 vols., Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1997, vol. 1, p. 58. 20 See J. W. Hill, ‘Oratory music in Florence, I: Recitar Cantando, 1583–1655’, Acta Musicologica, 51 (1979), 108–136; Hill, Roman Monody; T. Carter, ‘A Florentine wedding of 1608’, Acta musicologica, 55 (1983), 89–107; and T. Carter, ‘Giulio Caccini’s “Amirilli, mia bella”: some questions (and a few answers)’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 113 (1988), 13–31.

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expressive style are described by Vincenzo Giustiniani, who notes that as early as the 1570s the style of monodic singing in Rome was quite different from that applied to the multi-voiced compositions such as those by Palestrina and others.21 He then goes on to note that composers such as Giaches de Wert and Luzzasco Luzzaschi had adopted some of the dramatic monodic practices in the polyphonic music they wrote for the concerti delle donne, the ensembles of virtuoso female singers, at the courts of Mantua and Ferrara.22 Giustiniani describes the style as it was adapted to ensemble performance by the donne: They increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light, according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slow, breaking off with sometimes gentle sighs, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, and again with sweet running passages sung softly, to which sometimes one heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feeling of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages and other embellishments. They used many other particular devices which will be known to persons more experienced than I.23

By the end of the century these performance practices were adopted rather widely in Italy and applied to all secular polyphonic repertoire, especially the madrigal. They were also used in the performance of sacred music, although the application was much more conservative. It is undoubtedly these differences – especially the irregular tempo – that caused Zacconi’s remark about motets being easier to ornament than madrigals, meaning that compositions that are performed at a steady speed with modulated expression present an easier line for the addition of stock ornaments.24 As Mersenne and Giustiniani state in the above quotations, the new solo style was quite dramatic, with the delivery linked to the sentiment of the text as a whole as well as to certain significant words. A crucial part of the practice involved the execution of bursts of dramatic ornaments which are described by Caccini in his two collections of songs.25 They include, in addition to the usual 21 V. Giustiniani, Discorso sopra la musica, c. 1628, trans. C. MacClintock, Musicological Studies and Documents 9, Rome, American Institute of Musicology, 1962, p. 69. Giustiniani names the singers who were responsible for the new style: Giovanni Andrea, Giulio Cesare Brancaccio, and Alexandro Merlo. 22 On the ‘concerti delle donne’ see A. Newcomb, The Madrigal at Ferrara, 1579–1597, 2 vols., Princeton University Press, 1980. 23 Giustiniani, Discorso, p. 69. 24 Zacconi, Prattica di musica, fol. 64v. 25 G. Caccini, Le nuove musiche, Florence 1601 [1602], ed. H. W. Hitchcock, Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 9, Madison, A-R Editions, 1970; and G. Caccini, Nuove musiche e nuova maniera di scriverle, Florence, 1614, ed. H. W. Hitchcock, Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 28, Madison, WI, A-R Editions, 1978.





passaggi and graces: entering a third lower than the written pitch and then sliding up to it (intonatione della voce); sudden bursts of sound (esclamazioni); a dramatic use of crescendo and diminuendo on a single pitch (messa da voce); the accelerating articulated subdivision of a single pitch at a cadence (trillo);26 and the somewhat enigmatic ornament called sprezzatura that involved the rapid addition of a vocal ornament that he describes as follows in his Nuove musiche (1614): Sprezzatura is that charm given to a song by the rapid succession of several quavers or semiquavers on various tones, which, when done at the right time relieve the song of a certain restricted narrowness and dryness and make it pleasant, free, and airy, just as in common speech, eloquence and fluency make pleasant and sweet the matters being expressed. And with respect to this eloquence, I would liken to the rhetorical figures and shadings, the passaggi, trilli, and other similar ornaments, which can be introduced sparingly in every affect.27

Caccini’s linking of the sprezzatura ornament to rhetoric is very helpful in clarifying just how this as well as many of the other ornaments were executed. Caccini’s audience would have been well aware of rhetorical practices and would have understood the comparison. Oratory was a standard part of the study of rhetoric, which was an important part of education during the Renaissance.28 Numerous sixteenth-century treatises on rhetorical delivery emphasise the employment of many of these same dramatic devices: change of speed, vocal colour and volume, and the use of sudden exclamations, as important tools for the expression of text.29 Caccini obviously saw a close parallel between the two arts, and we can obtain a vivid picture of his vocal performance by imagining a dramatic orator who employs these kinds of variations to keep the listeners’ attention. Giulio Caccini was instrumental in spreading this new performance style to various locations within Italy and elsewhere in Europe. He was the star of the Medici court in Florence from the time of his arrival in 1565 until the early decades of the seventeenth century. By the year 1600 his second wife Margherita, daughters Francesca (known professionally as ‘La Cecchina’) and 26 This is not to be confused with a trill, which was called gruppo. The trillo is often referred to in modern performance as the ‘goat trill’, although Caccini and other writers make it clear that the performer was to avoid making this ornament sound like a goat. 27 See photo reproduction in Caccini, Nuove musiche, ed. Hitchcock, preface. 28 On the importance of the understanding of rhetoric for performance of the English lute song see R. Toft, Tune thy Musicke to thy Hart: The Art of Eloquent Singing in England 1597–1622, University of Toronto Press, 1993. 29 On rhetoric see J. J. Murphy, Rhetoric in the Middle Ages: A History of Rhetorical Theory from St. Augustine to the Renaissance, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 1974; and B. M. Wilson, ‘Ut oratoria musica in the writings of Renaissance theorists’, in T. J. Mathiesen and B. V. Rivera, Festa Musicologica: Essays in Honor of George J. Buelow, New York, Pendragon Press, 1995, pp. 341–68.

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Settimia and son Pompeo performed in his style and taught it at home and abroad. Singers from other cities in Italy were sent to study with Giulio; the heads of state from all over Europe were exposed to Caccini-style performances whenever they visited Florence; and Giulio was invited to a number of cities where he performed and taught the local singers. In 1605 he was invited to the court of Henry IV of France in Paris, where he, his wife and two daughters performed for an international audience over a period of six months.30

Ensembles Throughout the period, solo singing was perhaps the most traditional of all forms of musical presentation. In the early Renaissance there were several different ways in which this was done. A single unaccompanied solo voice would have been the most basic as well as the oldest of these traditions, and there is no doubt that it continued. A variation on this was the addition of improvised instrumental accompaniment, a tradition that was pan-European during the Middle Ages, but which died out in most areas during the fourteenth century, replaced by the emerging polyphonic tradition that involved composed rather than improvised settings of a text. In Italy, however, the improvised form of performance continued to be very popular until the early seventeenth century as a special form of presenting native Italian poetry. The instrument most often associated with the tradition was the lira da braccio, a favourite of the Italian humanists, an instrument that was thought of as the Classical lyre of Orpheus. The lira da braccio had seven strings – similar to the ancient kithara, two of which were plucked by the thumb of the left hand, and the other five were bowed. Fifteenth-century humanists such as Marsilio Ficino and Angelo Poliziano presented poetry in this fashion, as did Leonardo da Vinci and Lorenzo de’ Medici. The title role in Angelo Poliziano’s Orfeo31 (c. 1480) was sung to the lira da braccio by the poet Baccio Ugolini. This style of singing was closely allied with oratorical delivery and no doubt was one of the basic models for the dramatic monodic style of the sixteenth century as described above. The medieval model for performance of polyphonic song was almost exclusively by solo voices, a practice that evolved in several directions during the 30 The invitation came from the Queen of France, the former Maria de’ Medici, who was well acquainted with the Caccinis and their singing. See S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edn, 29 vols, London, Macmillan, 2001, vol. 4, pp. 769–75, art. ‘Caccini, Giulio’. On style see T. J. McGee, ‘How one learned to ornament in late sixteenth-century Italy’, Performance Practice Review, 13 (2008), 1–16. 31 The date of the performance of Poliziano’s work is not secure. See the discussion in N. Pirrotta and E. Povoledo, Li Due Orfei da Poliziano a Monteverdi, Turin, Edizioni RAI, 1969, p. 8, trans. K. Eales as Music and Theatre from Poliziano to Monteverdi, Cambridge University Press, 1982, p. 6, in which a date in the 1480s is proposed. A date a decade earlier is suggested in A. T. Benvenuti, L’Orfeo del Poliziano, con il testo critico dell’originale e delle successive forme teatrali, Padua, Antenore, 1986, pp. 89–103.





Renaissance. During most of the fifteenth century the polyphonic repertoire was normally performed by ensembles of only voices or only instruments, but by the year 1500 that practice had changed to admit a combination of the two. One practice, perhaps the earliest, was to accompany a solo voice with either a keyboard or lute-type instrument capable of playing all of the other lines. By the mid-sixteenth century we have clear evidence that the style of mixed performance had expanded to include any combination of voices along with a variety of single-line instruments. In 1535 the combination of instruments and voices was sufficiently common to be depicted in a woodcut in a performance instruction manual where two singers with three recorder players appear to be performing what probably is a five-part composition.32 The type of instruments combined with voices in this manner included all of the ‘soft’, or chamber instruments: bowed and plucked strings, and the flute/recorder types. Loud (outdoor) instruments, such as trumpets and shawms, were never used with solo voices.33

Secular polyphonic repertoire and its performance Over the period of the Renaissance the repertoire of polyphonic secular music evolved in terms of types, numbers of voice parts, formal design and relationship between text and vocal line. In 1430 the majority of the repertoire consisted of three-voice French chansons in the standard, multi-verse medieval poetic formats of rondeau, virelais and ballade, with repeats and refrains (popular in all areas), two- and three-voice Italian songs also in poetic forms (ballata, madrigale, caccia), and in England, two- and three-voice carols. In all cases the usual performance practice was solo voices. After 1450 the musical types typical of particular geographical areas were no longer as isolated. Musical sources in all areas often contained repertoire from a variety of places. This borrowing of repertoire led inevitably to a sharing of compositional techniques and a blurring of the characteristics of the national styles that had been so clearly demarked earlier. By the end of the century four voices had become more and more the norm in all areas, and the newer format of through-composition was often applied even when the text was in an older form. This was usually accomplished by setting only a single verse. The technique of imitation in all voice parts was applied more and more, replacing the older format of quasi-independent lines. The implications of these new developments in composition for performance practice was that the imitative style placed more emphasis on blend rather 32 Ganassi, Opera Intitulata Fontegara. 33 On the classification of loud and soft instruments see E. Bowles, ‘Haut et Bas: the grouping of musical instruments in the Middle Ages’, Musica Disciplina, 8 (1954), 115–40.

Vocal performance in the Renaissance


than contrast, and the absence of repeats allowed for a closer union between the melodic lines and the text, encouraging a kind of vocal expression that was more closely associated with the text. The musical form that best illustrates these new practices is the sixteenth-century madrigal where, beginning in midcentury, a conscious effort was made to develop musical gestures that illustrated specific words or phrases of the text: ascending and descending passages for the images of climbing a mountain or descending into the depths; dissonant harmonies to portray bitter emotions; and various musical clichés that painted particular words such as ‘high’, ‘low’, or ‘alone’. Although usually thought of and discussed as ‘madrigalisms’, many of these gestures were adopted in all geographical areas and can be found in many different musical forms, including sacred music.

Performance practice At the present time there seems to be more or less general agreement that the performance practices were different for sacred and secular music, and that the sacred practices encompassed a variety of treatments according to geographical traditions and the type of music being sung. It is generally agreed that secular polyphony was usually performed with one on a part – either all voices or a combination of instruments and voices.34 A variant of this practice would be performance with a single voice and the reduction of all other lines performed on keyboard or lute. Apparently this was done even for compositional types that would seem to be inherently vocal, such as madrigals or imitative chansons. There was also the growing repertoire of monodic songs – music intended for solo vocal performance with accompaniment by keyboard, lute or harp, as discussed above. The possible exceptions to this solo practice norm would be music for large theatrical presentations, where there would be more than one singer to a part. Beginning in the early sixteenth century large theatrical productions, which included performances of chansons, madrigals and so on, would often have several singers to a part and sometimes instrumental doubling as well.35

Sacred polyphonic repertoire The sacred polyphonic repertoire throughout the Renaissance period consisted of motets and settings of the Mass Proper and Ordinary as well as 34 C. Reynolds, ‘Sacred polyphony’, in H. M. Brown and S. Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music before 1600, London, Macmillan, 1989, p. 189. 35 See H. M. Brown, Sixteenth-Century Instrumentation: The Music for the Florentine Intermedii, Musicological Studies and Documents 30, Rome, American Institute of Musicology, 1973.





items for the daily Office. The most interesting of the developments was in the setting of the Mass Ordinary in the second half of the fifteenth century. Composers began musically to unite all five (sometimes six) parts of the Ordinary,36 using a number of devices such as cantus firmus, identical entrance passages, common motifs, and so on, all of which resulted in the creation of a large, integrated, multi-movement composition. Motets, that in the Middle Ages often had two or more separate texts, evolved to single texts. The compositional style changes in all of sacred polyphony parallel those described above for the secular repertoire: three-voice texture with a dominant treble changing by mid-fifteenth century to more equal voicing with the inclusion of some imitation; changing to four voices with pervasive imitation by the end of the century. Throughout the sixteenth century the sacred forms remained more or less constant, but new compositional practices involved writing for five or more voices as well as for two or more choirs, and eventually the introduction of instruments along with the voices.

Performance practice It must be remembered that throughout the Renaissance period, the most frequently performed sacred music continued to be monophonic chant, sung in unison by a choir. To this, on special occasions, was added the rich repertoire of polyphonic music described above, whose performance traditions are less clearly understood. One of the more contentious performance practice topics in the scholarly literature over the past few decades concerns the number of singers that would normally sing a sacred polyphonic composition. The issue revolves around the factual knowledge of how many singers were actually employed as members of the choirs at the various churches and court chapels. The older, and most obvious conclusion was to assume that all singers sang all of the music, similar to modern choral practices. Therefore, when it was established, for example, that in 1469 the Burgundian court chapel had six high voices, two contratenors, three tenors and three contrabasses,37 the assumption was that a fourpart Mass or motet was performed with all 14 singers, distributed 6–2–3–3 (SATB). In Rome the papal choir in 1544 consisted of 29 singers: 7 sopranos, 14 contraltos–tenors, and 8 basses, which led to the conclusion that in a performance of a four-part work the voices would be distributed 7–7–7–8.38 We know 36 Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and sometimes the Ite missa est. 37 D. Fallows, ‘Specific information on the ensembles for composed polyphony, 1400–74’, in S. Boorman (ed.), Studies in the Performance of Late Medieval Music, Cambridge University Press, 1983, pp. 110–11. 38 R. Sherr, ‘Performance practice in the Papal Chapel during the sixteenth century’, Early Music, 15 (1987), 458, repr. in R. Sherr, Music and Musicians in Renaissance Rome and Other Courts, Aldershot, Ashgate, 1999.

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that during the last half of the fifteenth century the Florence baptistry had five singers who performed three-voice polyphony (although we do no know how the voices were distributed), and in 1512 that number had increased to 12–14 voices with the voice distribution 2 basses, 3 tenors, 2 contratenors and 1 adult and 4 to 6 boys for the top part. Similarly, Treviso Cathedral in 1527 had 2 basses, 2 tenors, 3 contras and 2 adults plus 4 boys for the top part,39 and in 1568 the Kapelle in Munich consisted of 12 basses, 10 tenors, 9 altos and 20 boys.40 More recent research, however, has revealed that knowledge of how many singers were in the choirs did not necessarily indicate how many sang at one time. It appears that at least in some locations the members of the choir took turns singing, which resulted in just a few voices or perhaps only one on a part. Richard Sherr, for example, has demonstrated that the practice in the Papal Chapel during the sixteenth century (where the membership varied between 20 and 35 singers) included everything from four singers per part to soloists, but he concludes that ‘only rarely if ever did all of the singers perform together, and that the use of soloists was always an acceptable possibility’.41 Similar practices have been found to be true of England during the period 1470–1558, where the cathedral and chapel practices were fairly consistent. The usual practice was that there were two or three male voices employed for each of the lower parts in a three-, four- or five-part composition and three to six boys for the top line, although how many of them would have sung at any one time is not securely known. The Gyfford part-books from c. 1553 state that its four-part music is to be sung by ‘three men and a child’, that is, one to a part. And the Regulation of 1526 for Chichester Cathedral states: ‘[T]hat there be there in perpetuity four lay clerks having mutually blending voices and learned in music, of whom one at least is always [to be possessed] of a natural and audible bass voice: while the voices of the other three be sweet and melodious, so that by the joint application of their voice they may naturally and freely encompass 15 or 16 notes.’42 The size of the choir, therefore, tells us only how many people were available, but not how many performed at one time. At least in some cases the ‘choir’ was actually an assembly of soloists who took turns. And we must

39 D. Fallows, ‘The performing ensembles in Josquin’s sacred music’, Tijdschrift van de Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 35 (1985), 42–3. 40 C. Wearing, ‘Orlandus Lassus (1532–1594) and the Munich Kapelle’, Early Music, 10 (1982), 150. 41 Sherr, ‘Performance Practice’, 460–1. Seventeenth-century polyphonic practice in the Papal Chapel was by soloists; see J. Lionnet, ‘Performance practice in the Papal Chapel during the 17th century’, Early Music, 15 (1987), 3–15. 42 R. Bowers, ‘The vocal scoring, choral balance and performing pitch of Latin church polyphony in England, c. 1500–58’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 112 (1987), 47–54.





remember that all church services also included a large quantity of chant for which the entire choir would have sung in unison. To be sure, on some very special occasions music was presented by a large number of performers, as for example in Cambrai, during a visit by Emperor Charles V in 1540, when thirtyfour singers took part in a performance of the motet ‘Preter rerum’.43 But these would seem to have been exceptions, as would have been a performance that included loud instruments and organs with voices, as discussed below. The usual custom, however, was something entirely different and far more modest than has been previously thought. What we can conclude from this information is that some locations employed as few as one, two or three singers for each vocal range, while others, such as the Sistine Chapel and the Munich Kapelle, had much larger forces. But none of this tells us how many singers actually participated at one time. There is clear evidence that one on a part was an acceptable number (e.g. the Gyfford Part Books; Sistine Chapel). How frequently that was the practice is still not known, but the fact that as late as the eighteenth century, Bach’s B minor Mass was performed with one on a part,44 suggests that solo singing of sacred polyphonic music must have had a very long and geographically broad tradition.

Sacred music and instruments Although there was an organ present in most churches and chapels from the Middle Ages, there is very little evidence that the instrument ever performed with voices until very late in the sixteenth century. Organs sometimes played introductions (intonations) to set the pitch for the singers, and they were used to play alternatim verses, that is, every other verse of a psalm, alternating with either unaccompanied unison chant or unaccompanied polyphonic voices. But when the organ played, the singers usually were silent. On some extremely festive occasions loud ‘outdoor’ instruments were mixed with voices. In France in 1520, for example, shawms and sackbuts performed during a High Mass at the church of the Jacobins.45 This practice continued to grow in popularity during the century although it was not immediately acceptable to everyone. It was seen by some as an unwelcome encroachment of theatrical practices, as can be gleaned from Erasmus’s statement in 1518: ‘we have introduced a kind of artificial and theatrical music into churches . . . 43 C. Wright, ‘Performance practices at the Cathedral of Cambrai 1475–1550’, Musical Quarterly, 64 (1978), 296. 44 J. Rifkin, ‘letters’, in Musical Times, 123 (1982), 747–54; 124 (1983), 161–2. 45 Fallows, ‘Performing ensembles’, 34–5.

Vocal performance in the Renaissance


Everything resounds with trumpets, cornetts, shawms and sackbuts, and the human voices which must compete with them.’46 But by mid-century the practice was well established in a number of places; in Munich for example, wind instruments combined with voices regularly at Mass on Sundays, feast days and Vespers.47

Multiple choirs From the last half of the sixteenth century there is a growing repertoire for multiple choirs. This repertoire was popular in a number of locations such as London, Rome, Venice and Munich, where there was talent as well as sufficient funds to support larger numbers of singers.48 The usual practice was for the composer to write for contrasting ranges of voices, as for example, Choir I SAAT, Choir II ATTB, that is, mostly high voices in one ensemble, and mostly low in another. Even with only one voice to a part the contrast between the two ensembles would be heard. At other times additional contrast was obtained by assigning soloists to one choir and two or more voices to the other. Some of the most spectacular compositions in this format were written in Venice by Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli. Some of that repertoire calls for two, three or four choirs, and sometimes includes a set of instruments such as sackbuts, cornets and organ, either combined with voices or as a separate choir.49 For quite a while it was assumed that the divided choirs were physically separated and placed in the choir loft of St Mark’s. More recent scholarship has demonstrated that the musicians most often performed all together in a single group, placed on a pergolo, a hexagonal structure in the nave. This was especially true of the repertoire for two choirs without accompaniment, in which the distribution of voices would contrast one choir of soloists with the other, the ripieno choir, having two or three voices to a part.50 It is also true that in some of the most festive music very late in the century, the soloist choir was placed on the pergolo, while the ripieno choir was in the loft with instruments.51

46 Ibid. 47 Wearing, ‘Orlando Lassus’, 149, citing Massimo Troiano. 48 The earliest known compositions were those published in 1550 by Gardano, containing works for divided choir by Adriano Willaert and Jacquet of Mantua (Jacques Colebault). See L. Moretti, ‘Architectural spaces for music: Jacopo Sansovino and Adrian Willaert at St. Mark’s’, Early Music History, 23 (2004), 153. 49 A. Cavicchi (in ‘Appunti sulla prassi esecutiva della musica sacra nella seconda metà del XVI secolo con riferimento alla musica del Palestrina’, in F. Luisi (ed.), Atti del Convegno di Studi Palestriniani, 28 settembre–2 ottobre 1975, Palestrina, Fondazione G.P. da Palestrina,1977, p. 299) notes a Mass written in 1591 by Luzzaschi, Virchi, Fiorini and Alberti, that required three choirs, two organs, cornets and trombones. 50 See discussion in D. Bryant, ‘The cori Spezzati of St. Mark’s: myth and reality’, Early Music History, 1 (1981), 170–5; Moretti, ‘Architectural spaces’, and A. Atlas, Renaissance Music, New York, Norton, 1998, pp. 411–13. 51 D. Bryant, ‘The cori Spezzati of St. Mark’s: myth and reality’, Early Music History, 1 (1981), 170–5.





Conclusion A number of practices that were the foundation of Baroque performance, such as multiple choirs and concerted combinations of voices and instruments, were developed during the Renaissance. Of special note is the fact that it was the late sixteenth-century developments in terms of dramatic expression of the text, as well as the performance techniques developed along with the monodic style that led directly to opera and remained as the basis of the solo operatic performance tradition for the next several centuries.

. 14 .

Instrumental performance in the Renaissance KEITH POLK

Between 1430 and 1600 performance practice for instrumental musicians turned on its head. The watershed development for players (and of course for music in general) was the arrival of a compositional approach which was based on the notion of through imitation as the basic texture. This took place just before 1500, and after this the ground rules for performers changed fundamentally. The purpose here will be to trace the course of how these changes played out. With the key date of 1500 providing the frame of reference, this study will divide into two parts. The first considers the development of the instruments, ensembles and performance techniques of the fifteenth century. This span in essence may be viewed as a culmination of medieval traditions. The second takes up what followed in the sixteenth century, a period in which tradition and innovation time and again came into sharp conflict.

Instrumental practices c. 1430–1500 Instrumentalists in the fifteenth century performed almost entirely without written music. Because they worked without music, their practices have remained veiled – but other sources, iconographical, theoretical and archival, tell us a great deal. We know that in the fifteenth century the tradition of the distinction of two categories of instruments (haut and bas, or loud and soft) held sway.1 The soft instruments were those with gentler timbres, the most important being the fiddle, the lute, the harp and the portative organ. The loud instruments in this era included trumpets, shawms of various sizes, bagpipes and drums. The two groups will be considered separately, but it should be noted that while we have much more explicit information for practices in the soft category, loud and soft probably had much in common in relation to performance practices.

1 The landmark study remains E. A. Bowles, ‘Haut and Bas: the grouping of musical instruments in the Middle Ages’, Musica Disciplina, 8 (1954), 115–40.




The soft category – the instruments2 Each of the instruments in this category followed its own unique evolutionary path. The fiddle, a bowed stringed instrument rather like the modern violin (though somewhat larger) had been an overwhelming favourite among players in the late fourteenth century. While its primacy was giving way in the fifteenth century, it remained a common instrument in ensembles until well after 1500. The rebec, a smaller bowed instrument, also remained in use as a discant instrument in ensembles. The lute was the star ascendant from about 1430 onward, and players favoured pairs of lutes for chamber ensemble performances.3 By this time the instrument was considered as consisting of at least two sizes, the smaller for the discant, the larger capable of tenor or contratenor ranges. The smaller instrument was often the quintern, an instrument of slightly different construction, usually played with a plectrum until at least 1450, and essentially a monophonic instrument. The lute itself could be played with or without a plectrum, and was capable of performing more than one part in the musical textures. Several keyboard instruments were available. The portative organ (a small instrument, played with one hand while pumped with the other) retained some stature to about 1450 and declined thereafter, though it still remained in use. The larger organs were usually restricted to either solo performance or to performance with singers in sacred settings. A variety of keyboard stringed instruments were arriving on the scene in the fifteenth century, but their impact was relatively modest until after 1500. The harp enjoyed considerable renown among instruments in the soft category, but tended to remain somewhat to the side. Players of harp, at any rate, tended to be specialists, while in general players of soft instruments tended to be doublers. The harp nonetheless figured prominently in fifteenth-century ensemble performance practice.

2 The focus here is on performance practice, and discussion of individual instruments is of necessity concise. As a result some instruments (the psaltery for example) are not discussed. For fuller information on late-medieval instruments (including those omitted in this chapter) see the appropriate articles in R. W. Duffin (ed.), A Performer’s Guide to Medieval Music, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2000. The articles by Herbert Myers on wind instruments and that by Crawford Young on plucked instruments are of particular authority. For a general survey see H. M. Brown and K. Polk, ‘Instrumental music, c.1300–c.1520’, in B. J. Blackburn and R. Strohm (eds.), Music as Concept and Practice in the Late Middle Ages, The New Oxford History of Music, vol. 3, pt. 1, Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 97–161. 3 The term ‘chamber’ musicians began to be used for players in the soft category at about this time, as for example in a payment in Deventer in 1437 to two ‘Camer speellude’ of the Bishop of Utrecht. See K. Polk, ‘Minstrels and music in the Low Countries in the fifteenth century’, in B. Haggh et al. (eds.), Archival Research and Musicology, Brussels, Belgian Royal Archives, 1994, pp. 392–410.

Instrumental performance in the Renaissance


The recorder had made its appearance well before 1430, but became an increasing presence in the later fifteenth century. It was somewhat exceptional in two ways. First, recorders from very early were often played as a consort, without mixing with other instruments. Second, they were one exception among the soft instruments in that they were consistently picked up as a potential doubling instrument by players of loud instruments.4 Soft instruments as a group had characteristics which set them apart from those in the loud category. Most of these instruments could be played alone as solo instruments as well as in ensembles (instruments in the loud category were generally restricted to ensemble performances). Also, soft instruments could appear in a very wide variety of combinations. The loud instruments tended to be much more restricted in this regard (more on this presently). Changes did occur over time. In the early fifteenth century a combination of fiddle, portative organ and some kind of lute was a favourite, but by about 1450 the lute duo was the pre-eminent soft ensemble. Still, all of the instruments listed above continued in use throughout the century.

The soft category – the players A handful of the virtuoso players were so remarkable that they attracted detailed commentary from contemporary observers. A fine pair of chamber musicians, Jehan de Cordeval and Jehan Fernandez, arrived at the court of Burgundy in 1433. The two, both evidently blind, were from the Iberian peninsula, and had arrived in the retinue of the new duchess, Isabella of Portugal. As they arrived, each bore the title ‘player of the lute’ (‘joueur de luth’), in 1435 this was slightly emended to the plural ‘player of the lutes’. In 1436 the entries read as payments to ‘players of fiddle’; and thereafter the titles shifted back and forth, and in some years the scribe gave up on any specific designation and they were termed simply ‘joueurs de bas instruments’. The importance of the shifting terminology for performance practice is first that it verifies what has been suggested above concerning chamber players – they were expected to have the ability to double on a variety of instruments. In addition, the use of the ‘player of the lutes’ in 1435 would indicate that it was understood that ‘lutes’ were plural, that is, made in more than one size.5

4 While not completely accurate I shall use the term ‘consort’ if unmodified to refer to an ensemble consisting entirely of instruments of one general type, i.e. of recorders, or of viols. For example, see K. Polk, ‘The recorder in fifteenth-century consorts’, in D. Lasocki (ed.), Musicque de Joye, Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Renaissance Flute and Recorder Consort, Utrecht 2003, Utrecht, STIMU, 2005, pp. 17–29. 5 For documentation of Cordoval and Fernandez at the Burgundian Court see J. Marix, Histoire de la musique et des musiciens de la cour de Bourgogne sous le règne de Philippe le Bon, Strasbourg, Heitz, 1939, repr. Geneva, Minkoff, 1972, pp. 266–73.



The most celebrated reference to this pair comes in the lines from the Champion des dames of Martin le Franc, dating probably from the 1440s: Tu as les avugles ouy Jouer a la court de Bourgongue . . . J’ay veu Binchois avoir vergongne . . . Et Dufay despité et frongne Qu’il n’a melodye sy belle

On hearing the blind chamber duo, Binchois and Dufay were discomfited as they could not match such lovely melody.6 The reference is hardly specific, but as it is certain that two players were involved, we can assume the ‘melody’ was accompanied melody, that is, counterpoint in some fashion. Another striking reference to this pair is from a description of the famous banquet given by the Duke of Burgundy in 1454 at a gathering of the knights of the Golden Fleece. The two played on fiddles, while a young woman from the court of the duchess sang with them (unfortunately the piece performed was not named).7 Conrad Paumann (c. 1410–1473), also blind, was probably the most renowned German musician of his day. His first professional post was as organist in the St Sebaldus church in his native Nuremberg in 1446. In 1447 he was appointed to the civic chamber ensemble of lute and organ, also in Nuremberg. In 1450 he moved to serve the Duke of Bavaria in Munich, and remained in that service until the end of his life. He made one notable trip to Italy in 1470, where he was described as ‘miracoloso’. History remembers him primarily as an organist, but he was also a master lutenist, appearing both as a soloists and in lute ensembles in a variety of official visits to such German towns as Augsburg as a musical representative of the Duke of Bavaria. His abilities were noteworthy on a pair of accounts. First, Tinctoris singled out Paumann’s supreme ability to play more than one line on the lute – this in contrast to other contemporaries who specialised in monophonic performance. Second, he was also a fine composer. We only have one piece extant, but it reveals complete mastery.8 Analogous to Paumann in Germany, Pietrobono, lutenist at the court of Ferrara was ‘beyond all doubt one of the most important figures in all of fifteenth-century music, certainly in Italy’.9 Pietrobono, usually named as Pietrobono del Chitarino in the Ferrarese accounts, first appeared in the

6 Ibid., p. 107. 7 Ibid., p. 40. 8 K. Polk, German Instrumental Music of the Late Middle Ages: Players, Patrons and Performance Practice, Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 24–5. 9 L. Lockwood, Music in Renaissance Ferrara 1400–1505, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1984, p. 98. For what follows see Lockwood’s chapter on Pietrobono (pp. 95–108) and the listings of court musicians in his Appendix V (pp. 314–28).

Instrumental performance in the Renaissance


records in 1441 and with some interruptions he remained in the service of the d’Este court until his death in 1497. His specialty was playing elegant melody as a single line on the small quintern, usually accompanied by his ‘tenorist’, probably a player on a large lute. He was certainly a master of the larger instrument as well, for he was also renowned for his performances as a singer, for which he provided his own accompaniment. His career provides several insights into contemporary attitudes towards performance. Pietrobono was considered the most creative Italian musician of his tim