A Leipzig fin-de-siècle: Perspectives upon Joseph Joachim’s Performing Practices in the ‘Romances’ of Clara Schumann, and Joseph Joachim with Jonathan Gooing (piano by Wilhelm Wieck)
It is tempting, as many have done, to see the cultural, compositional and performance outputs of the so-called ‘Leipzig School’ – those adherents and pupils of Felix Mendelssohn – as embodying a certain earnest and respectable dullness – a bookish remoteness out of step with the more flamboyant performing practices and compositional ideals of more consciously ‘progressive’ schools of thought. How much of this stems from the distorting lens of ‘modernism’ is evident when examining (and seeking to practice) performance style and technique of this period. The activities of Clara Schumann as teacher, Johannes Brahms as composer, and Joseph Joachim as (scholarly) performer are often associated with a degree of dry academicism, but such an impression is undermined by examination of their performing practices. This lecture recital will explore these in relation to a selection of shorter pieces which, due to their intimacy, imply a much more emotive (and even passionate) cast – one that is often undervalued when anachronistic performing practices are visited upon such works. Through so doing, a more intimate portrait of Brahms, Schumann and Joachim emerges as artists and friends – one virtually suppressed by later comment and practice – a point made powerfully by Brahms scholar, Anna Scott.
The central premise of this session is to propose that compositional style and performing practices are inseparable. Rather than try to create new performance ‘rules’ (or further performance ‘rules’) this talk seeks to encourage continued performance experimentation with music of this epoch. With such great chronological distance between our times and the nineteenth century, it seems long overdue that we evaluate performance of this century in a more open-minded way and see its traits of style not as abuses of music notation, but rather as subtle elaborations, unlocking veiled meanings.
Dr David Milsom is Head of Performance at Huddersfield University and, along with Jonathan Gooing, is a member of the historically-experimental Meiningen Ensemble. David has various recordings in preparation which experiment with ‘historical awareness’, and is best known for his 2003 text, Theory and Practice in Late Nineteenth-Century Violin Playing.