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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 performers 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
prole in the recording studio and the concert hall. Reecting 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 prole as a period clarinettist and has played principal in
most of Britains 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 Cardi 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).






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permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published 2012
Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge
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978-0-521-89611-5 Hardback

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websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


List of illustrations ix
List of musical examples x
Notes on contributors xiii
Editors preface xxi

1 . Performance today


2 . Political process, social structure and musical

performance in Europe since 1450 35

3 . The evidence



4 . The performer and the composer



5 . The teaching of performance



6 . Music and musical performance: histories in disjunction?


P E R F O R M A N C E 207

7 . The Ancient World



8 . Performance before c. 1430: an overview







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


( C . 1 4 3 0 1 6 0 0 ) 295

12 . Performance in the Renaissance: an overview



13 . Vocal performance in the Renaissance



14 . Instrumental performance in the Renaissance



15 . Case study: Seville Cathedrals music in performance,

15491599 353


C E N T U R Y 375

16 . Performance in the seventeenth century: an overview



17 . Vocal performance in the seventeenth century



18 . Instrumental performance in the seventeenth century


19 . Case study: Monteverdi, Vespers (1610)








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 at major K543, G minor K550

and C major K551 552


C E N T U R Y 575

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




B E Y O N D 723

28 . Musical performance in the twentieth century and beyond: an

overview 725

29 . Vocal performance in the twentieth century and beyond





30 . Instrumental performance in the twentieth century and beyond



31 . Case study: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gruppen fr drei Orchester




32 . The future?



Select bibliography 834

Index 894








Illustrations of the faade, the concert hall and stairwell of the building Hochschule fr Musik und
Theater Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Leipzig.
Bibliothek/Archiv, A, II. 3/1: from the prospectus Das
Knigliche 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 ddle
(courtesy of the National Museums, Liverpool,
Walker Art Gallery) 273
Glorication 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








Opening of the lament for Charlemagne page 238

Opening of Bele Yolanz en ses chambres seoit
(Paris, Bibliothque 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 Lonins Viderunt omnes transcribed
in measured rhythm (Florence, Biblioteca
Medicea-Laurenziana, Pluteus 29.1, fol. 99) 257
The opening of Lonins 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. 1389 (used by permission
of the American Institute of Musicology,
Inc., Middleton, WI) 274
TAndernaken al op den Rijn (Trent, Castello del
Buonconsiglio, MS. 87, fol. 198v199r), opening.
The example is modelled after TAndernaken: Ten
Settings in Three, Four, and Five Parts, ed. R.
Taruskin (Coconut Grove, FL: Ogni Sorte
Editions, 1981), pp. 910 276
Machauts ballade 34, Quant Theseus / Ne
quier veoir, edited from the Reina Codex
(Paris, Bibliothque Nationale de France, nouv.
acqu. fr. 6771, fols. 54v55r) 288
Guerrero, Duo Seraphim, opening 373
Froberger, Toccata 3, bars 57 428
Froberger, Toccata 1, bars 13 429


List of musical examples

18.3. Louis Couperin, opening of Prlude limitation

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 aetti 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 Garaud, Mthode 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
25.10ac. Nineteenth-century nal 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 Garca the youngers
Treatise 639
25.14. Haydn, She never told her love (Hob.
XXVIa:34) 641
26.1. Beethoven, String Quartet in B at Op. 130,
opening of fourth movement 646
26.2. Schubert, Symphony No. 9 in C D944,
nale 647



List of musical examples



Schubert, String Quartet in G D887, rst

movement 649
Schubert, Impromptu D899 No. 2 649
Paganini, Violin Concerto No. 1 in E at major,
opening 650
Paganini, Violin Concerto No. 1 in E at major,
opening, as played 650
Portamento as suggested in treatises of Habeneck
and de Briot 651
Liszt, Grande Fantaisie de Bravoure sur la Clochette de
Paganini 653
Chopin, Waltz in A at Op. 69 No. 1, execution as
 ski 654
described by Kleczyn
Berlioz, Overture to King Lear, bars 3648 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 rst
movement 674
Liszt, Sonata in B minor, conclusion 674
Liszt, Consolation No. 3 677
Csar Franck, Violin Sonata, from fourth
movement 679
Wagner, Overture to Die Meistersinger von Nrnberg,
bars 8990, 978 681
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, rst movement,
bars 34752, 4603, 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 Caf 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 lm 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 Mozarts Le nozze di Figaro (1987),
Jacopo Peri (15611633): 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), Monteverdis 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 Weills rst 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
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 (Bogot) 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 Trouvres: 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
worlds 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 fr Neue Musik
(198294) 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 Woods chamber music (Toccata) and
Schoenbergs (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 Thtre 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 19928 and Director of the BBC Proms 1996
2007. He was a music critic of the New Yorker 197982, Editor of Early Music
198392 and edited the inuential volume Authenticity and Early Music (1988).
He is the author of The BBC Symphony Orchestra 193080 (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
C O L I N L A W S O N is Director of the Royal College of Music, London. He has an
international prole as a period clarinettist and has played principal in most of
Britains 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 Londons major concert halls and New Yorks Lincoln Center
and Carnegie Hall. His recent discography includes two volumes of sonatas by
Lefvre 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
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 Kings 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 Brahmss 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 Johns,
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 Performers 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 17001760: 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
J A N E M A N N I N G is an internationally known soprano, specialising in twentiethand twenty-rst-century music, who has given more than 300 world premieres. An
extensive recording catalogue includes many twentieth-century classics. She
founded her own ensemble, Janes 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 3s CD Review and Building a
Library and was invited to discuss the concept of musical resonance on BBC
Televisions 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 elds 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
Trgerverein 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 dierent versions for Carus Verlag and Edition
Peters, and Schumanns 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 Cardi. 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 Stbler. 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 Elgars 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 Cardi 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 Bachs complete violin
sonatas with Jacqueline Ross, Parthenia (1612), J. S. Bachs Clavierbung Part 3,
and the complete Handel recorder sonatas with Alan Davis. He has recently
published an edition of Bibers 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 ve 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 Queens College. Previously he held posts at St Peters
College and St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and at the University of Surrey. He has
published studies of the music of Cristbal de Morales, Francisco Guerrero and
William Byrd, and of musical sources and repertoires from Portugal and Spain. His
rst book, Polyphony in Portugal, considers music at the Monastery of Santa Cruz in
Coimbra, Portugal, and he is co-editor (with Bernadette Nelson) of Cristbal de
Morales: Sources, Inuences, Reception. His work as a scholar regularly relates closely
to his performances and recordings; he directs Contrapunctus, the Choir of the
Queens 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 fr antike Literatur und lateinische
Tradition within the sterreichischen 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 Cardi 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 Beethovens Violin Concerto (1998) and a co-authored volume (with
Colin Lawson) on historical performance (1999), the rst of a series of which he is
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 Kings College, London. He is founder-director
of Oxford Camerata and the Royal Academy Consort, has conducted almost fty
original commercial recordings of music spanning nine centuries, and has directed choirs and orchestras in locations as far aeld 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

Derings Latin Motets for 13 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 20022011 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, 17001914 (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 specically, 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 prole as a
singer of both early and contemporary music, specialising in the performance of
fteenth-, 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 performers 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 elds 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 prole 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 . . . superuous, 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
exible 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
Dorians 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 reects 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 specic 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 performers 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 dierent 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 benets of music to disadvantaged members of society.
Recording has made musical performance durable, its natural evanescence
captured and preserved by technology. No longer is musics 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 Smiths day with new expectations of a more leisured society for its
edication 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 Smiths 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 todays
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 Stadlers Musick Plan ,
Music & Letters, 71 (1990), 21524.
5 A. Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776), ed. E. Cannan, New York, Random House, 2000, p. 361.


Editors preface

therefore, todays listening habits reect little experience of musics original

social environments and conventions. This moves us away from the old acceptance of a hierarchy of works to more contingent and less codied musical
values eectively 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 music6 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 reected, represented and even to some extent
recorded in literary or visual art, music in performance was not essentially
open to scientic 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-ve 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 rst half of the twentieth century. Among pianists Wilhelm
Kemp 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 dierent
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 dicult; I suered agonies and was in a state of despair. . . .
Everything was articial 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. Lebrechts all-time classical chart is
topped by Soltis Ring Cycle (18 million), the Three Tenors (14 million) and I
Musicis 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 todays 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 dierent
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 Mozarts 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 dened as music (with or without
notation). In recreating medieval song that is manifestly raw, dramatic and
arresting, todays singer might be forgiven for feeling shackled by concerns
such as the replication of correct tempos, eective 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 nal responsibility
for content and coverage is ours.
10 Lebrecht, Maestros, Masterpieces & Madness, pp. 1368.


Editors preface

As a nal 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 modications as necessary. Many
of them have shown enormous patience in waiting for the nal 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 nancial support for the
project from our respective institutions, the Royal College of Music and
Cardi 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

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 ghting an
impulse to reach for a magazine . . . With all the arts making their small
sacrices 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 oor 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 Byrnes Playing the
As I leave, I notice an advert for another event, Longplayer Live: Lasting 1000
years, Jem Finers Longplayer is the longest non-repeating piece of music ever

1 J. Gleick, Faster, New York, Random House, 1999, pp. 1913.

2 See



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, its terric: Stifters 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 ve pianos and a few bare
branches. On the oor below are three shallow rectangular pools and three
breglass cubes. Of the ve pianos, two are uprights, played in the traditional
way by hammers hitting strings except that the keys are struck by invisible
ngers, 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 gure 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 o, 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 rst slipped into a Prom in a
late-night concert in 1996, had a whole high-prole, 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
Brians massive Gothic Symphony, music by lm 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
4 R. Dorment, Who cares what it is, its terric, Daily Telegraph, 16 April 2008.
5 BBC Proms Guide 2010, London, BBC Books, 2010; BBC Proms Guide 2011, London, BBC Books,

Performance today

around the seasons 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 rst 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 Bohme, Traviata to
Rosenkavalier are now complemented by a huge range of ancient and modern
pieces, from Monteverdi and Cavalli to Kurt Weill and Thomas Ads. The
201011 season at the Royal Opera House started not only with the staples of
Cos fan tutte and Don Pasquale, but also with the totally unknown Niobe, Regina
de Tebe, by Agostino Steani. At English National Opera, directors new to the
art-form stimulate new perspectives about music drama: Terry Gilliam in
Berliozs The Damnation of Faust, Mike Figgis in Donizettis 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 Kings College
Cambridge, in many respects a perfect example of an invented tradition, has
admirably commissioned a carol each year from composers including Arvo
Prt, 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 Kings. Kings 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 oered by choir schools and
cathedrals, and be drawn into a historical repertoire of music that has helped
to dene our culture over centuries. Specialist institutions such as the Purcell
School and Chethams School of Music oer 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 dicult 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 delity 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 dierent 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
inuential 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 19252010
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 nd archive
clips of Thomas Beecham, Henry Wood, Toscanini or Karajan, endless snippets of rare performances, a cornucopia of research possibilities. Enter
Furtwngler + Beethoven 9 and you can nd several newsreel versions of
the dreadful sight of him conducting that symphony on 19 April 1942 with
Nazi banners draping the stage; Beethovens utopian vision of brotherhood is
followed by Goebbels approaching the stage to shake the conductors hand.
(Does Furtwngler somehow move his handkerchief to clean his hand afterwards? The lm is not quite clear . . .) The images of wounded German soldiers,
intently listening in the audience, have a strange resonance: they are not so
dierent from those on the other side of the conict. In Humphrey Jenningss
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 conict, 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
193050, 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 Beethovens 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-rst 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 ourish, and since 1992 in the UK,
Classic FM has oered a commercial classical music station within the context
of an advertising-funded, pop-music format, oering 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 reects
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 oering 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 4298612.
16 The internationally successful Radio 3 free downloads of the nine Beethoven symphonies, oered to
complement its complete on-air Beethoven survey, proved controversial with the record companies, and
the BBC Trust prevented a repeat of this oer, 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 nd out? If you do know, can you
nd 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?

Dening 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 Mozarts 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 scientic authority. The
consequence has been that the text has come rst: 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 dierent key elements aecting performance can be highlighted by a
few recordings of Beethovens Seventh Symphony.20 There is one which
actually changes Beethovens notes: Herbert von Karajans rst recording of
1941 with the Berlin Staatskapelle,21 where the horn parts in the rst 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 Furtwnglers
recordings, recorded a decade later than Karajans, in 1953,22 changes
Beethovens 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 Beethovens
mark of 84). Toscanini, on the other hand, performed it at Beethovens 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 isnt what it used to be, 24 February 2001.
21 Berlin Staatskapelle/Herbert von Karajan, DG 423 5262.
22 Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwngler, DG 427 401.
23 BBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo Toscanini, BBC Legends BBCL40162.

Performance today


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
Brenreiter,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 dierence, 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 eect of Beethovens
Seventh Symphony as we heard it, it was undoubtedly what many would
regard as the least central, the metronome mark, that had the greatest eect.
Furtwnglers thought about that Trio was far more characterful in determining how we heard Beethovens Seventh than was an altered note from Karajan.
The evidence of Furtwnglers performance is that the piece meant something
very dierent 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 Beethovens 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 rst 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 dierently, but not done better! He then thought and added with a
laugh, actually you cant imagine it being done dierently! You feel theres a
core of interpretation, surrounded by the notes exactly the opposite of the
traditional musicologists view that there is a xed score, realised in diering
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 eld of its performances.26
24 Beethoven Symphonies 19, ed. J. del Mar, Kassel, Brenreiter, 19962001.
25 Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Claudio Abbado, DG 469 0042.
26 L. Rosenwald, Theory, text-setting and performance, Journal of Musicology, 11 (1993), 5265.
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 eect.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 eect 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
inuence 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 Reections 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.

Performance today


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 nally 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 reective 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 Crutcheld, nicely reecting the technologies of a couple
of decades ago, called a oppy-disc mentality towards a bank of performance
styles in the brain, all equally ready to be drawn on for dierent 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. Crutcheld, Fashion, conviction and performance style in an age of revivals, in N. Kenyon (ed.),
Authenticity and Early Music, Oxford University Press, 1988, pp. 1926.
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 dierent avenue not explored here is a mode of analysis which might benet 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 3s 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 qualication 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 reected 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 Knightons enlightened editorship and after have amply demonstrated this in earlier repertoires. In later music, to take at random one
example, Bernard D. Shermans 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
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 Brendels 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.

Performance today


exibility in tempo within movements. The 2010 yearbook of Keyboard

Perspectives from the Westeld Center includes both an attempt to suggest
how the reconstruction of Chopins performing style might also re-create the
ineability of his playing, as well as a stimulating consideration of historically
informed performance in Weberns 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 scientic,
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 dierent performance styles of Chopin mazurkas, involving detailed scientic analyses of performance variations. In the middle of this something very odd happened.39
They had developed a clever graphic demonstration which could compare
dierent recordings of a Chopin mazurka, with coloured sections showing
dierent degrees of variation. One chart showed the similarities between a
1988 recording of Chopins 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 ood 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 identied as a dierent recorded performance. Conclusive proof followed that most of the 119
recordings issued under Hattos 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
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, Chopins pianism and the reconstruction of the ineable, in A. Richards (ed.), Keyboard
Perspectives III, The Yearbook of the Westeld Center for Historical Keyboard Studies, Ithaca, NY, Westeld
Center, 2010, pp. 122; N. Mathew, Darmstadt pianism. Historically informed Webern and modernisms vanishing performer, ibid., pp. 4974.
38 See Daniel Leech-Wilkinsons project.



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 connes 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 inuence 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 dierent national schools were dened, 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 dierent 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,
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.

Performance today


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 Beethovens 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 codication 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 Philharmonics Beethoven symphony cycle
recorded with Simon Rattle, issued in 2002, the orchestras president writes in
the old mode: There are bona de reasons why the Vienna Philharmonic should
regard itself as a guardian of musical authenticity but then adds: like all
timeless works of art, Beethovens 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 dierent 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. 4315.
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 modied 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 inuence of Beethoven. He did not reject
that inuence, and when the great scholar and critic Friedrich Chrysander
reviewed the symphony he wrote that the reference to Beethovens 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 signicance. 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 Mozarts 40th Symphony; he edited the Requiem for the new collected
edition, and revived the choral heritage of Schtz 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 Bachs
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 nd 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 reected on
by the public, though Wagners 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
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.

Performance today


(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 rst 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 eect 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 signicant core elements of
classical music.
The canon was never xed: it changed and developed. We would now take a
more nuanced view of the inuences on the canon than Joseph Kermans bald
but inuential statement: Repertories are determined by performers, and
canons by critics.49 The key question of how reception inuences the canon,
and why performers choose to perform what they perform, has been the
subject of very little reection. (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 eld, Barbara Herrnstein Smith has identied 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 t
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, 10726, 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, 135, quoted by
Mark Everist in Reception theories, canonic discourses, and musical value, in Cook and Everist (eds.),
Rethinking Music, pp. 3923, 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-rst 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 inuence 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 rst
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 aect 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 eect 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 rst 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 qualication 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 eld 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.

Performance today


especially to make recordings: surely a direct response to the opportunities

oered 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 ourished, however, nding 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 BBCs enlightened support
for the most advanced modern music in the late 1920s and 1930s,55 thanks to
the presence on the sta of such gures as Edward Clark, and conductors as
open-minded as Adrian Boult. Boult conducted the UK premiere of Bergs
Wozzeck after weeks of rehearsal in 1934; he and others introduced a vast range
of new and recent music by Bartk, Prokoev, 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. 8599; for a dierent analysis of vibrato in violin playing, and for a polemical
view see R. Norrington, The sound orchestras make, Early Music, 32 (2004), 26.
55 J. Doctor, The BBC and Ultra-Modern Music 19221936: Shaping a Nations Tastes, Cambridge University
Press, 1999.
56 Listed in detail up to 1936, ibid., Appendix B, pp. 36689; see also N. Kenyon, The BBC Symphony
Orchestra, London, BBC Books, 1981, pp. 48898.



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 denite increase in the commitment to new music in the work of most UK
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 eect, 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 Garelds 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 inuential 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 inuence on popular and classical musical taste.
The inuence 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 Kildeas work on the
recordings of Benjamin Britten.)60 Some conductors and performers acquired
a remarkable cultural and nancial 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 prole and
reputation of Arturo Toscanini and Herbert von Karajan, whose eective
57 D. Wright, Reinventing the Proms: the Glock and Ponsonby eras 195985, in J. Doctor, N. Kenyon
and D. Wright (eds.), The Proms: A New History, London, Thames & Hudson, 2007.
58 S. Gareld, 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.

Performance today


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 inuence in the 1960s, when the EMI royalty lists
interestingly reveal that in the rst quarter of 1964 Karajan earned 10,903,
and Maria Callas 10,022, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau 7,165 and Klemperer
6,234 (against Cli Richards 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 worlds 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 Gardiners 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 Hall, 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 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 coee,
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 ock 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 Wrights 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 LeechWilkinsons recent conclusion that the outstandingly interesting aspect of
this was that probably for the rst time since at least c1600, perhaps for the
rst time ever, an entirely new performance style was forged deliberately from

Performance today


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. Harnoncourts 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
Boulezs are the words of a creator, while Harnoncourts 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 clichs. What happened in the later 1980s was a
reintegration of contemporary composition in an extremely exciting way,
65 Leech-Wilkinson, Recordings and histories, pp. 2534.
66 N. Harnoncourt, On the interpretation of historical music, (1954) repr. and trans. in Baroque Music
Today, Portland, OR, Amadeus, 1988, pp. 1418. Quoted in Kenyon (ed.), Authenticity and Early Music,
introduction, p. 4.
67 P. Boulez, The Vestal Virgin and the re-stealer: memory, creation and authenticity, Early Music,
18 (1990), 3558.



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-o inuences, the avant-garde and the
minimalist tendency could come together. The result in Britain today is the
music of Thomas Ads, 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

Integrating historical performance

As with composition, so too with performance today. There was a period of
extreme innovation, of polarised change, dened 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 oer 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 oers 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 Musics Mozart symphonies, in Early Music, 12 (1984),
69 L. Dreyfus, Early music defended against its devotees: a theory of historical performance in the
twentieth century, Musical Quarterly, 49 (1983), 297322.

Performance today


way of making music that sounded as contemporary as the newest piece of

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: Norringtons 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 eld: 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
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 ne recordings are made on period instruments and which
not? The clarity and transparency of Esa-Pekka Salonens conducting of Bergs
Wozzeck or Schoenbergs 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 Furtwngler 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 dierent 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 reected in William
Glocks 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-rst century. Perhaps this is because of their comparatively
stable economic model, enabling them to take the risks that produce, for
example, Mark-Anthony Turnages Anna Nicole at the Royal Opera.
Orchestras, perhaps nally 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 rst 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 Christies Les arts orissants
in 1995 for Purcells 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 oer to the public, just as directors have diversied (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 nally

Performance today


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 Hall, the Liverpool
Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic. Four chamber orchestras, interestingly none still extant, received small sums. Sadlers Wells Opera and the
newly refounded Covent Garden were supported, but the report was able to
point out that in Paris the Opra and Opra-Comique received far more and
that in Germany eighty opera houses were subsidised by nation, state or
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 Englands
funding for 20091071 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), Hall (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 gures will represent a peak of
public funding as the cuts of the years 201114 begin to take eect, 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.



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 fullled
in the area of both performance and buildings: we have world-class orchestras
around the UK, new opera companies, ensembles which have ourished 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 Musics ne 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 ourishing 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.

Performance today


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: rst 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 eorts 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 eld over the last twenty-ve 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 oer new pathways to young
people, linking local achievement with international excellence.
The rapid growth of these outreach programmes has also aected 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 Soldiers Tale across the ethnic divide.
At rst 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 dierent 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 xed 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
reection 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 reection
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 200809, A Vibrant Landscape for Orchestral Music, also available online

Performance today


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
Venezuelas system of music education, El sistema, under the visionary leadership of Jos 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 peoples 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 ve
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 Unocial 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
dierent 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 dierent 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 rm belief that, once encountered, it
will provide the appetite for a lifetimes 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, now Unquiet Thoughts at

. 2 .

Political process, social structure and

musical performance in Europe since 1450

I will examine the history of musical performance by, in political terms, seeing
how a cultural community is shaped by diering 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 conict. Dierent 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 nancial 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 ecient 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 conict 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
rst section of this chapter briey 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 aecting 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 (13801500), 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
Dierent modes of listening

Location is the basis of the rst 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 dierences 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 citys 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 dierent 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.

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


after 1688 took little leadership in opera, Frederick II in Prussia and Joseph II
of the Habsburg Empire involved themselves considerably in such aairs.
Rulers in the smaller courts in this period developed signicant opera companies, as Daniel Heartz has shown in fascinating detail for Stuttgart and
Courts continued to play important roles in musical life during the rst 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 rst 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 unication 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
eect 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 beneted 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, 17201780, New York, Norton, 2003.
5 J. Toelle, Oper als Geschft: Impresari an italienischen Opernhusern, 18601900, Kassel, Brenreiter, 2007;
Philipp Ther, In der Mitte der Gesellschaft: Operntheater in Zentraleuropa, 18151914, Vienna, Oldenbourg,
6 J. Hecht-Gienow, Trumpeting down the walls of Jericho: the politics of art, music and emotion in
GermanAmerican relations 18701920, Journal of Social History, 36 (2003), 585613; and Sound Diplomacy:
Music and Emotions in Transatlantic Relations, 18501920, 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 nd 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 Kings 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 rst 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 dierent social strata was crucial to these concerts, which were unprecedented for involving no pieces for voice. Concert
societies of the twentieth century likewise ourished only if their managers
worked hard to maintain support from wealthy patrons and a large paying
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. 427, 81, 179.
11 R. Strohm, European politics and the distribution of music in the early fteenth century, Early Music
History, 1 (1981), 30523.

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


or emissaries. George Frideric Handels rst visit to London occurred in 1708

chiey 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 opra 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 unied 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 lpoque 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 dene
their music in nationalistic terms.14

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 signicant 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 dEste, 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 Noblemens 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 rst three decades after its founding in 1814. Professionals

14 See Toelle, Oper als Geschft, and Ther, In der Mitte der Gesellschaft.
15 W. Priser, Lucrezia Borgia and Isabella dEste as patrons of music: the frottola at Mantua and Ferrara,
Journal of the American Musicological Society, 38 (1985), 133; J. Rice, Empress Marie Therese and Music at the
Viennese Court, 17921807, 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 Dierences, between Messrs. BS, 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.

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


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 (181948), where the rst 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
eect 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 Londons 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 Handels 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. 197207, 2558.

19 G. Cumberland, Musical Problems: IV. Musical Festivals, Musical Opinion and Trade Review, 398
(November 1910), 901; H. Antclie, 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,
19001914, 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 dierentiate between two ways of producing music: through entrepreneurship or association. It is possible to produce music either as a personal
speculation, for either prot or loss, or through an association whose members
intend to pursue larger collective goals. In present-day language, entrepreneurism is usually dened 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 towns market.21
Entrepreneurism goes far back in musical culture, for the travelling entertainer
had to learn how to manipulate expenses and income in dierent 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, nally, 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 ne 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 prot motive have often led
to conict 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, 17001914: 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 fteenth-century Europe, Early Music, 32 (2004), 11933.
23 A history of the enterprises sponsoring Musards 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, 183637; Concerts Vivienne, Concerts de la salle Montesquieu, 183336.

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


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 diered 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 (17261802) 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 Socit 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 Acadmie Royale de
Musique in Paris was directed by Pierre Perrin, Jean-Baptiste Lully and a
succession of directeurs, but received necessary nancial support from the
court.25 Holding a monopoly over French opera, the Opra in 1725 then
gave a privilge over all public concerts to the Concert Spirituel, the citys
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 Kings 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, LOpra Paris au temps de Louis XIV: Histoire dun thtre, Paris, ditions Desjonqures,
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
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 reected 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 ock 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 fteen 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 17191728: The Institution and its Directors, New York, Garland,
1989; J. Hall-Witt, Fashionable Acts: Opera and Elite Culture in London, 17801880, 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.

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


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 bua or opera seria.30 The
patrons of Beethovens 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 Rossinis Il turco in Italia (1814), each half introduced by a sonata for
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) oered
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 Beethovens music and that vocal music remained
central to aesthetic thinking, suggesting that absolute music appeared much
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, 17921807, Cambridge University Press,
2003, pp. 902, 1703.
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, Beethovens Critics: Aesthetic Dilemmas and Resolutions during the Composers 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), 387420; 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 oer just string quartets. In 1907 a London
violinist put on a recital made up entirely of Nicol Paganinis Caprices, a
programme that would have appealed to the virtuosos fans in the 1830s.34
Since the 1990s rst the Juilliard Quartet and then the Pacica Quartet have
played all six of Elliott Carters string quartets in two sittings.
Devoting a concert to a single work an oratorio or a symphony most
commonly was by denition 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 citys 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 gures
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 Pouplinire 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.

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


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 rmer 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.

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 Martins, 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. 75112.
39 Fair play to all parties, Musical Examiner, 11 March 1843, 1334.
40 K. Hamilton, After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance, Oxford University Press,



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 fteenth century a key musical canon developed in the
Sistine Chapel prior to 1500, providing the context where Giovanni
Palestrinas 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 eorts of Leonard Bernstein. Interest in new music came alive under the
inuence 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 denition both composer
and performer until the time of Charles Hall 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. 13866.

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


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 fteenth century
admitted that the composer would not produce the proper kind of music for
a court nearly as eciently 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 composers control of opera production grew signicantly
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 Haydns freedom from the Esterhzy court,
Ludwig van Beethovens private patronage in his ailing years and Franz Liszts
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
Socit National de Musique (1871).
The dierent modes of listening in dierent social contexts have also
required negotiation among those involved in musical performance. Todays
readers bring to the subject rmly 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 dicult 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. 97100, 1213, 1804.
45 A. Ross, Why so serious? When the classical concert took shape, New Yorker, 8 September 2008, 7981.



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 dierent interests. In
the fteenth-century Burgundian court, Howard Brown tells us, dinner,
sweets and drink were consumed, then dancing would commence, and nally
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
conict in musical performance acquired in dierent periods. What was the
nature of political structures in a period, and how did that inuence 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?

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 rgime.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 dierent 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 fteenth
century, in M. Fink, R. Gstrein and G. Mssmer (eds.), Musica Privata: Die Rolle der Musik im privaten
Leben, Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Walter Salmen, Innsbruck, Helbling, 1991, pp. 3752.
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), 67891; 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), 102999,
especially J. Dewald, Crisis, chronology and the shaping of European social history; P. Goubert, trans.
S. Cox as The Ancien Regime: French Society, 16001750, New York, Harper & Row, 1973.

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


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 dicult to
dene. 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 ow
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 ooding 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 dierent 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 fteenth century to Josquin des Prez a century
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, 13001700, see Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, ch. 1; and
Goubert, The Ancien Regime.
50 Brown and Stein, Music in the Renaissance, pp. 17; R. Starn, Renaissance redux, American Historical
Review, 103 (1998), 1224, and other articles on the problem in the same issue.
51 Strohm, Rise of European Music, pp. 110.
52 R. Wegman, The Crisis of Music in Early Modern Europe, 14701530, New York, Routledge, 2005;
A. Planchart, The early career of Guillaume Du Fay, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 46
(1993), 34268.



around 1450. In any one city bourgeois and nobles interacted continuously,
nobles living either inside or outside the walls, and city ocials setting the
standard of conduct. By 1500 at least 150 German courts and 100 cities provided
strong musical activities, chiey for processions, banquets and dancing. Sacred
and secular music owed 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 aorded 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 Jrgen
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), 20996.
55 H. Koenigsberger, Republics and courts in Italian and European culture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Past and Present, 83 (1979), 3256.

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


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 signicant ways. As freewheeling discourse
began in salons and coee 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
diered 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-o 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 reied the Public in order to sway taste and give a new kind of
authority to learned or opinionated listeners. Essays expressing controversial
opinions set o 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 Franois
Raguenet had done in Parallle des Italiens et des Franois, en ce qui regarde la
musique et les opras (1702). It is wise to be careful with usage of the term public
sphere, which can easily amount to clich. Jrgen Habermas dened it as
open-ended discourse on aairs 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 denition.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, 16601789, Oxford University Press, 2002,
pp. 125.



oer an opinion by denition formed part of the new framework of public

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 inuential families had long dened their
high status by aunting 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 oered 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, inuential 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 eect, 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 dierent musics.
France was a special case in this regard. With only a few exceptions, the
Opra 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. 201.

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


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 Acadmie Royale de
Musique during the 1770s formed part of the rethinking of French politics,
often called libration, which presaged the Revolution of 1789.
In London the Kings Theatre followed a dierent indeed, the opposite
policy with equal rigour: almost no work set by British-born composers was
performed there until the premiere of Michael Balfes Falsta, 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 Kings Theatre,
dened 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 benet 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 lumires in France and called die
Aufklrung 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 reied and made a simplistic label. The most specic
denition of Enlightenment is to see it as a critique of tradition or custom, an
eort to reform that was directed most intensively at the established Church,
whether Catholic or Protestant. Daniel Heartz followed a broader denition in
Music in European Capitals: The Galant Style, 17201780.59 Finding great dierences between the movements across Europe, I tend to favour the strict
denition, 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 eorts 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 Aufklrung 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), 11332; R. Darnton, The High Enlightenment and the low-life of literature in
pre-revolutionary France, Past and Present, 51 (May, 1971), 81115.



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 Zauberte 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, chiey 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 Opra, 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 Opra
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, conrms 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 signicant
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 Mozarts Magic Flute, European Studies Review, 5 (1975), 22975.
J. Van Horn Melton, School, stage, salon: musical cultures in Haydns Vienna, Journal of Modern History,
76/2 (2004), 25179.
62 Weber, Great Transformation of Musical Taste, pp. 6581; and W. Weber, Les programmes de concerts,
de Bordeaux Boston, in P. Taeb, N. Morel-Borotra and J. Gribenski (eds.), Le Muse de Bordeaux et la
musique de concert, 178393, University of Rouen, 2005, pp. 17593.
63 J. Mangum, Apollo and the German muses: opera and the articulation of class, politics and society in
Prussia, 17401806, Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Los Angeles (2002).

Musical performance in Europe since 1450


processes conicts and compromises endowed contrasting musical activities and tastes with a tenuous unity. Some people complained about noise at
the opera, others about clich-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 181415 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 18489 contributed to forcing
the question of how musical life should be dened, 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 Lon 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 chiey 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 eorts 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 rmly 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 oered 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 caf-concert, or
varit. Performing traditions in semi-private venues existed in almost every
country, oering songs in rooms where listeners could eat and drink. The
song-and-supper clubs in London resembled somewhat Pariss cafs-chantants
and goguettes where chansons were performed to airs du couplet related to skits
of vaudeville; in both contexts one can nd 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 chiey 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
Westons Music Hall in Holborn advertised that it would oer Mozarts great
works, a Rossini medley and a piece from Daniel Aubers 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 rst
British rendition of Charles Gounods 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 cafs-concerts in their early decades. Although these events grew out of
strong traditions of music-making, what emerged by 1870 aected 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 cafs-concerts acquired what
Bernard Gendron called a cultural empowerment of popular music, taking on
an authority parallel to the Conservatoire concerts.66 Particularly signicant
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
identied 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 conicts 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 Clis, 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? Havent we had enough
already? Isnt 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 o?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 conict 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 oered 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
Slonimskys Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers since
Beethovens Time (1953) pre-dated Pleasantss book by two years, and indeed
his Music since 1900 (1937) pregured 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 Pleasantss 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 frs moderne tgliche Leben, Deutsche Sngerbundeszeitung, 7
(June 1913), 374; Weber, Consequences of Canon: institutionalization of enmity between contemporary
and classical music, c. 1910, Common Knowledge, 9 (2003), 7899.
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 Beethovens 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 oer some new music. Whether that helped or hurt public appreciation of
contemporary music is an open question, of course.72 Ideological conict
ourished 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,
specically in the meetings of the Society for British Musicians, and such events
ourished from the 1860s under the auspices of the Allgemeine Deutsche
Musikverein and the Socit 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 (191921). 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 dierent kinds, oering 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 dierent 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 192736: Shaping a Nations Tastes, Cambridge University
Press, 1999; J. Pasler, The political economy of composition in the American University, 19651985, in
J. Pasler, Writing through Music, Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 31862.
74 Weber, Great Transformation of Musical Taste, pp. 138, 140, 238, 2405, 252, 305.
75 G. Cowart, The Triumph of Pleasure: Louis XIV and the Politics of Spectacle, University of Chicago Press,
76 J. H. Calico, Fr eine neue deutsche Nationaloper: Opera in the discourses of unication 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. 190204.



Resistance to ocial 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 dierent 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 ne 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 rmly
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-denition the much debated principle of authenticity remained
controversial.79 Once again we nd the main story of this book: the multiplication of musical cultures competing for public attention.

77 S. Maisonneuve, La constitution dune culture et dune coute musicale nouvelles: le disque et ses
sociabilits comme agents de changement culturel dans les annes 1920 et 1930, Revue de musicology, 88
(2002), 4366, and LInvention du disque, 18771949: Gense de lusage des mdias musicaux contemporains,
Paris, ditions 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

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 oers 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 benet 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 IIVII 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 cta
provision to the determination of, amongst other issues, instrumentation, pitch
levels, tuning, rhythmic considerations, specic 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 veries in
his case study of Mozarts last three symphonies.2 The situation worsens the
further one ventures back in time from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,
as John Haines veries 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 uctuating 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 Bachs church cantatas;3 and the same parent
volume includes Ellen Harriss case study of Mozarts Mitridate, in which she
uses Mozarts 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 Haydons 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 lm, 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 elds 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 Bachs church cantatas: the case
of Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erlsen, 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. 5784.
4 E. T. Harris, Mozarts Mitridate: going beyond the text, in Crist and Marvin (eds.), Historical Musicology,
pp. 95120.
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 erce 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 exibility of Viennese-action pianos are as much key to the understanding of Mozarts 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 Machauts enumerations in his poems Remde de
Fortune and La prise dAlexandrie, 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. 1536.



example, that the history of the medieval ddle, like that of many other instruments, has still only partially been traced, Bachmanns 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 at and rounded bridges were used
(and when, why, and with which repertories); and some hypotheses must be
oered to explain the presence, in a number of pictures, of what looks like a
second bridge between the bow and the ngerboard.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 codied and some not.14 It thus
follows that the specic ceremonies accompanying the consecration of
an instrument, the underwritten rules dening 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 eld may embrace
any combination of musical, technical, aesthetic, symbolic, historical and ethnological issues. It may inform us how playing techniques inuenced 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 nancial investment, or to furnish ethnological and
historical evidence, illustrate technological developments or serve as models
for new construction. Some of the most signicant 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
Clapissons collection by the Paris Conservatoire in 1864, the creation of the
Brussels Conservatoires museum from the private collections of Ftis,
Mahillon and others in the 1870s and the Berlin Knigliche Hochschule fr
Musiks procurement of Paul de Wits rst 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 modied forms, due
to progress in their construction methods and, in some cases, radical technical
The increased practice of collecting instruments has inevitably raised the
controversy over the relative claims of preservation and investigation through
use. The potential benets 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 scientically 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. 43267, 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. 46870,
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 Harnoncourts dream to
dierentiate between oboes, oboes damore and the prescribed oboes da caccia for
Nos. 48, 49, 59 and 60 in J. S. Bachs 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 exibility. Bach employs it for especially tender moments, sometimes in
combination with the transverse ute (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 modied. 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. Bachs motet O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht
Examination of exhibits in the worlds 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 Stradivaris 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 insucient, 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
conating 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
nger-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 eldwork. It has complemented the irreplaceable notebook since Jesse Fewkes rst used the Edison
cylinder machine in the eld 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 Mhlfeld, 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 oers a useful history of technological developments in ethnomusicological research in
The Music Industry, in Myers (ed.), Ethnomusicology: An Introduction, pp. 34964.



Arizona (18901).24 The phonograph and its numerous later developments

enabled easy capture and transmission of evidence for oral, unwritten traditions and oered 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 Bartk) 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, oering 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 UKs 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 Bla Vikr was the rst to record Hungarian folk song (1896); Bla Bartk used the phonograph from
1906. Other researchers such as Percy Grainger (18821961) 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 19001950,
Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 2.
27 The Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound was one of the rst major collections devoted to the
acquisition, preservation and dissemination of historically and artistically signicant 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 exibility, 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
(18321909), the rst singing teacher at Munichs Knigliche Musikschule as
part of Wagner and Ludwig IIs scheme to reform vocal instruction in the
city, particularly with performances of Wagners operas in mind. Hey
coached many of the singers involved in the rst 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 Heys 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 Heys principles and
left recordings that furnish vital evidence regarding period singing of

28 Examples of published research using the evidence of early recordings include: Robert Philips Early
Recordings and Musical Style and his Performing Music in the Age of Recording, New Haven and London, Yale
University Press, 2004; Timothy Days A Century of Recorded Music: Listening to Musical History, New Haven
and London, Yale University Press, 2002; and Will Crutchelds Vocal ornamentation in Verdi: the
phonographic evidence, 19th-Century Music, 7 (1983), 354, 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), 13970; H. Spiller, Continuity in Sundanese dance drumming: clues from the
1893 Chicago Exposition, World of Music, 38/2 (1996), 2340; A. Stillman, Sound evidence: conceptual
stability, social maintenance and changing performance practices in modern Hawaiian hula songs, World of
Music, 38/2 (1996), 522.
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 (Gtterdmmerung) and Gurnemanz (Parsifal).
He later played the roles of Hermann (Tannhuser), Titurel (Parsifal) and King Mark (Tristan und Isolde).
Schumann-Heink became renowned in the roles of Erda, Fricka and Waltraute (Der Ring), and Brangne
(Tristan und Isolde). Her recordings as Erda and Waltraute (c. 1930) are particularly good examples of Heys
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 signicant 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
conicting. 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 Lehmanns instructions to avoid vibrato in
her How to Sing with the strikingly wide vibrato evident in her recordings.35
Leech-Wilkinson oers us three crumbs of comfort: rst, 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 justiable to
use, for example, Joachims 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 lm 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?,
humanities/depts/music/dwlpubs.html. Last accessed 22 June 2009.
34 L. Auer, Violin Playing as I Teach it, London, Duckworth & Co., 1921, pp. 224.
35 Leech-Wilkinson, Early recorded violin playing; L. Lehmann, How to Sing, New York, Macmillan
Company, 1914, rev. 1924, pp. 1405.
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 lmed jam session of Lester Young,
Red Callender, Harry Edison, Marlowe Morris, Barney Kessel et al. (Jammin
the Blues, 1944). Even the RCM Corporations short soundies, made for reproduction on optical jukeboxes in the 1940s, oer insights into a chapter of
performance history, and the full-length lms involving the Beatles (A Hard
Days Night, 1964; Help!, 1965) and their promo lms 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 worlds foremost collections for classical music; it holds lm
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 Virdungs
Musica getutscht (Basle, 1511), for example, is questionable, their function being
simply to enhance the text by giving some idea of an instruments appearance.
That said, the clavichord keyboard is represented accurately (though in mirror
image) and the depiction of the family of recorders oers valuable information
about consort performance, showing that these instruments came in three
sizes a fth 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 rm conclusions regarding the physical
characteristics of any given instrument or family. In so doing, Woodeld 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 identication of normal and
variable features.40
One of the most reliable early treatises on instruments appears in the
second volume, De Organographia (1618), of Praetoriuss Syntagma Musicum
(161418).41 Following almost a century after Agricolas 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 ngering 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 Woodeld points out, almost all fteenth-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. Woodeld, The Early History of the Viol, Cambridge University Press, 1984, p. 6.
41 M. Praetorius, Syntagma Musicum II: De Organographia I and II (Wolfenbttel, 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 reection of contemporary
reality without careful evaluation in its artistic and historical contexts.
Investigation into the artists 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
evenings 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 Woodeld, 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. 4901.
44 Especially pre-1600, when composers scarcely indicated specic groupings.
45 See W. Weber, Did people listen in the eighteenth century?, Early Music, 25 (1997), 678.
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, Brenreiter, 1961, pp. 10920; 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. 7993.



Few of the buildings in which performances took place through history were
designed specically 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
reect 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 McVeighs
study of eighteenth-century concert life in London oers a unique snapshot of
the situation; only two of the capitals major halls were built primarily as concert
venues the Hanover Square Rooms (from 1775) and (from 1794) a room
alongside the new Kings Theatre in the Haymarket.47 While some churches
and theatres could accommodate large audiences,48 most halls were modestly
proportioned. Londons 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 Queens Hall for the NewmanWood Promenade Concerts (est. 1895)
reected the increasing popularity of public concerts and established a completely dierent 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 eorts were made (during the 1770s
and in 1788) to suppress the over-resonant acoustics of Londons Pantheon by
introducing a false ceiling;51 and both Kuerath 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. Kuerath, Lart de diriger. Richard Wagner et La Neuvime Symphonie de Beethoven. Hans Richter et La
Symphonie en ut mineur. LIdylle de Siegfried Interpretation et Tradition, 3rd edn, Paris, Fischbacher, 1909,
p. 116, n. 1; L. Spohr, Lebenserinnerungen, ed. F. Gthel, 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 Societys 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 conrms 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 modications 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, oering 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 Wagners 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 dier 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. 328.) 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. 40323.



perhaps the most signicant 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 oering only
very limited and tentative clues. Take, for example, the staess 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 specic 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 composers manuscript (holograph), or an autograph or
printed edition approved by the composer. Questions must be asked such as:
Does the written text represent the composers xed 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 composers 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 ngers 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, 193161.

The evidence


as the Cistercians and Dominicans incorporate more specic information

about liturgical usage.
Early printed materials often raise questions of practicability such as those
discussed by Jon Banks regarding Petruccis 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, Handels 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 composers 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 ngerings 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 ngerings are clearly non-interpretative and
seem gratuitous, but most reveal something of Beethovens own approach
to the performance of his music.67 Haydn, among other composers, also occasionally included some ngerings 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 ngerings in
63 E. Darbellay, Peut-on dcouvrir des indications darticulation dans la graphie des tablatures de clavier
de Claudio Merulo, Girolamo Frescobaldi et Michel-Angelo Rossi?, in H. Glahn, S. Srensen and P. Ryom
(eds.), Report of the Eleventh Congress Copenhagen 1972, Copenhagen, Hansen, 1974, pp. 34250.
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. 678.
66 B. Friedland, Some reections on performance practice, musicology, and aesthetics, Current
Musicology, 12 (1971), 57.
67 W. S. Newman, Beethovens ngerings as interpretive clues, Journal of Musicology, 1 (1982), 171
68 See W. Drabkin, Fingering in Haydns quartets, Early Music, 16 (1988), 512.



the Trio (bars 3468) having timbral implications and calling for specic
portamento eects.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 Toms Luis de Victoria can serve as useful evidence for
performance practice.70 Such emendations range from simple corrections to
musica cta 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 specic 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 Rogers 1710 issue of Corellis Op. 5 violin
sonatas, which includes ornamentation for the adagios of the rst six sonatas
supposedly provided by the composer. Telemanns twelve Sonate metodiche
(1728, 1732), C. P. E. Bachs Sechs Sonaten (1760) and Kurze und leichte
Klavierstcke mit vernderten Reprisen (1766, 1768), the celebrated castrato
Luigi Marchesis fourteen dierent embellished versions of a theme by
Cherubini,71 Franz Bendas thirty-two three-movement sonatas for violin
and bass (c. 1760) and Haydns 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 Pharnaspes aria,
Cara, la dolce amma in J. C. Bachs Adriano in Siria.72

69 See R. Stowell, The Early Violin and Viola: A Practical Guide, Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 1345.
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. 6572.
71 See R. Haas, Auhrungspraxis der Musik, Wildpark-Potsdam, Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft
Athenaion m.b.h., 1931; repr. 1949, pp. 225.
72 KV293e, written in Wolfgangs or Leopolds hand.

The evidence


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 composers original, approved
notation as the authoritative text, Urtexts normally used the earliest or safest
sources (the MS or rst printed edition) free of editorial intervention, and
allowing performers to form their own interpretations.73 However honourable
the concepts intentions, even its staunchest proponents, such as Gnter Henle
and Georg Feder, eventually conceded that an editors 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 editors 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 liation of its sources and its historical context and style, an
edition may represent only a snapshot in a works complex prole; by contrast, it
may incorporate all of the works variant forms as found in the sources, or its aim
may be, for example, to reproduce the Fassung letzter Hand the composers nal
version. Indeed, most modern editors seem to prefer to base a new edition on
one good source than to publish a conation resembling nothing that actually
existed during the works evolution. Diculties 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 (Arnolds incomplete and inaccurate attempt to create a complete Handel edition was a
pioneering eort); it was prompted further by a parallel trend set by the Bach-Gesellschaft in 1851 with the
rst 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), 43254;
G. Henle, ber die Herausgabe von Urtexten, Musica, 8 (1954), 37784; W. Emery, Editions and Musicians,
London, Novello, 1957, p. 9.
75 Primarily through the elegantly printed, but woefully unexplained editions published by Gnter 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 editors aims,
objectives, working methods and dilemmas before formulating rm 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 composers
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 composers
intentions and those markings found in the musical sources (perhaps regarding
rhythmic issues in Baroque music such as overdotting, notes ingales or passages
in which triplets coincide with dotted gures;76 the incidence and content of
cadenzas and Eingnge 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 editors
investigations must be accessible. His work, in Darts words, is no longer a coat
of protective varnish through which the composers 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 dicult or impossible to use in
performance without more or less extensive re-editing, so-called performing
editions often fail to include sucient 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 composers intentions,
not least by introducing precepts and prejudices of the editors own era.

76 See Chapter 18 for a discussion of sources for rhythmic conventions such as overdotting and notes
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 fted
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 composers original notation with
undeclared editorial performance annotations (e.g. tempo markings, dynamics,
phrasing, bowing and articulation indications, ngering 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 composers
Some editions are of repertoires with which the editors had close connections,
such as Davids editions of Beethoven, Schubert, Spohr and Mendelssohn, and
preserve practices that reect 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 oers 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

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 Davids 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. 11749, 15094.



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 (18991975) has
revealed, for example, the extent of the inuence of Gestalt theory towards the
fullment 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 conductors correspondence with Puccini),
recordings (some unpublished of rehearsals and broadcasts with the NBC
Symphony Orchestra), lms and memorabilia.81
Evidence from similar sources can be used to reconstruct or, at least,
approximate closely historical practices and styles. For example, Walter
Blumes copious annotations have been used to inform the Scottish Chamber
Orchestras 1997 recording of Brahmss 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 Blow as Kapellmeister of the Meiningen
Hofkapelle (a chamber-sized orchestra which, under Blow, had become one
of the best in Europe) and became the accepted interpreter of Brahmss
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 orchestras forty-eight players, as testied in a letter of 1886 from
Blow to Richard Strauss, and to have declined an oer to augment the strings
for a performance of his Fourth Symphony (2 April 1886) in celebration of
the birthday of the orchestras patron.83 According to Brahmss friend and
79 Keith Griths has researched Hans Swarowskys legacy to the art of conducting, under the authors
supervision at Cardi University.
80 The Royal Academys 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 Blow/Richard Strauss: Briefwechsel, Richard Strauss
Jahrbuch 1954, Bonn, Boosey & Hawkes, 1953, pp. 788, trans. A. Gishford as Hans von Blow and
Richard Strauss: Correspondence, London, Boosey & Hawkes, 1955, p. 27.

The evidence


biographer Max Kalbeck, Steinbach modelled his interpretations on those of

Brahms. Blume, Kalbecks pupil, detailed Steinbachs conducting of Brahmss
symphonies and Haydn Variations bar by bar in his 1933 publication. He
indicates some violent changes of tempo unmarked in Brahmss scores, as well
as individual features of articulation and lingering upbeats.84 Mackerras and
the SCO recreate much of the detail of Blumes 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 composers 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 Tannhuser.86

Historical writings
Historical writings of many dierent 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, oers an overview of musical thought and practice and provides justiable 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. 24476.
85 For further discussion on metronome markings, see, for example, P. Stadlen, Beethoven and the
metronome I, Music & Letters, 48 (1967), 33049, and Beethoven and the metronome II, Soundings, 9
(1982), 3873; C. Brown, Historical performance, metronome marks and tempo in Beethovens symphonies, Early Music, 19 (1991), 24758; B. D. Sherman, Tempos and proportions in Brahms: period
evidence, Early Music, 25 (1997), 46277; L. Somfai, Tempo, metronome, timing in Bartks music: the
case of the pianist-composer, in J.-J. Dunki and A. Haefeli (eds.), Der Grad der Bewegung, Bern, Peter Lang,
1998, pp. 4771.
86 See Chapter 27.



musicians performed their music, how their audiences heard and received it and
what liberties were taken with it, adding the esh 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 oer 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 Zaberns 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 Ortizs Tratado de
glosas (1553), a treatise on ornamentation for viols, also reveals that a detached
style of performance was the norm;89 Simpsons 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. Maces Musicks 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 Caccinis Le nuove musiche (Florence, 16012; repr. 1934) and Bnigne de Bacillys Remarques
curieuses sur lart 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 gneros de puntos en la musica de violones, Rome, 1553.
90 A. Banchieri, Lorgano suonarino Op. 13, Venice, 1605; A. Agazzari, Del sonare sopra l basso con tutti li
stromenti e delluso loro nel conserto, Siena, 1607; A. Werckmeister, Die nothwendigsten Anmerckungen und
Regeln, wie der Bassus continuus oder General-Bass wol knne tractiret werden, Aschersleben, 1698; F. Gasparini,
Larmonico pratico al cimbalo, Venice, 1708; J. D. Heinichen, Der General-Bass in der Composition, oder Neue und
grndliche 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 Franois

Couperins Lart de toucher le clavecin (1716), which represents a more independent approach to solo keyboard performance, and Hotteterres Principes de
la te traversire (1707), which includes instructions for playing the ute,
recorder and oboe, and is an important source of information about early
woodwind practice in general, particularly tonguing and ornamentation.
Tosis Opinioni de cantori antichi e moderni (1723) reects the growth in popularity of opera, incorporating signicant instruction about ornamentation,
expression and tempo rubato. Signicantly, Geminianis progressive The Art
of Playing on the Violin (1751) was the rst 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: Quantzs Versuch einer Anweisung die Flte traversiere zu spielen
(1752), C. P. E. Bachs Versuch ber die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (1753,
1762) and Leopold Mozarts Versuch einer grndlichen Violinschule (1756).
The inuence 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 oering systematic courses of technical and interpretative instruction for aspiring
Practical treatises also provide vital evidence for the concept of national
style, which concerns not only the ways in which composers wrote their music,
inuenced 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 signicant aspects of Tosis treatise.
92 The merits of the Conservatoires rst singing treatise (1804), for example, are also discussed in
Chapter 21.
93 For example, F. Raguenet, Parallle des Italiens et des Franois en ce qui regarde la musique et les opras
(1702), in O. Strunk, Source Readings in Music History, New York, Norton, 1950, repr. 1965, pp. 46388; J. L.
Le Cerf de la Viville, Comparaison de la musique italienne et de la musique franaise (1704) in Strunk,
Source Readings, pp. 489507. Georg Muats descriptions of the French style of his teacher, Lully, and the
inuence of Corellis 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 Flte traversiere zu spielen, Berlin, 1752, trans. E. R. Reilly as On
Playing the Flute, London, Faber, 1966, pp. 3345. 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 mlange des genres, it was left to German musicians to integrate French
delicacy and Italian vitality into an expressive, ornate galant idiom, thereby
realising Quantzs 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
inuence of folk music and dance to extra-musical elements or even the use
of instruments with specic national sounds and characteristics.97
Among the most signicant practical treatises published since c. 1760 were
those of Trk (1789), Milchmeyer (1797), Clementi (1801), Adam (1804), Hummel
(1828) and Czerny (1839) for the piano,98 and LAbb le ls (1761), Galeazzi
(1791), Cartier (1798), Rode, Baillot and Kreutzer (1803), Spohr (1832), Baillot
(1835), Habeneck (c. 1840), Briot (1858), David (1864), Joachim and Moser
(19025) and Flesch (19238) 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), Lefvre (1802), Ozi (1803), Hugot and Wunderlich
(1804), Brod (182535), Klos (1843), Sellner (1825), Mller (1825), Berr (1836),
Baermann (186475), 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, ecient
damping mechanism and clear, transparent sound of Viennese pianos and the greater cantabile potential
and volume of English action models; and the tonal dierences between nineteenth-century French and
German double-reed instruments. See also Chapter 28 regarding national styles of playing.
98 D. G. Trk, 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, Mthode de piano du Conservatoire, Paris, 1804; J. N. Hummel,
Ausfhrliche theoretisch-practische Anweisung zum Piano-Forte-Spiel, 3 vols., Vienna, 1828; C. Czerny,
Vollstndige theoretisch-practische Pianoforte-Schule Op. 500, 3 vols., Vienna, 1839.
99 LAbb le ls, Principes du violon, Paris, 1761; F. Galeazzi, Elementi teorico-pratici di musica con un saggio
sopra larte di suonare il violino analizzata, ed a dimostrabili principi ridotta, 2 vols., Rome, 1791 and 1796; J.-B.
Cartier, Lart du violon, Paris, 1798; P. Rode, P. Baillot and R. Kreutzer, Mthode de violon, Paris, 1803;
L. Spohr, Violinschule, Vienna, 1832; P. Baillot, Lart du violon: nouvelle mthode, Paris, 1835; F.-A. Habeneck,
Mthode thorique et pratique de violon, Paris, c. 1840; C.-A. de Briot, Mthode de violon, Mainz, [1858];
F. David, Violinschule, Leipzig, 1864; J. Joachim and A. Moser, Violinschule, 3 vols., Berlin, Simrock, 19025;
C. Flesch, Die Kunst des Violinspiels, 2 vols., Berlin, Ries & Erles, 19238.
100 P. Baillot, J. Levasseur, C.-S. Catel and C.-N. Baudiot, Mthode de violoncelle du Conservatoire, Paris,
1804; J. L. Duport, Essai sur le doigt du violoncelle, et sur la conduite de larchet, Paris, c. 1806; J. J. Dotzauer,
Violonzellschule Op. 165, Mainz, 1832; F. A. Kummer, Violoncello-Schule Op. 60, Leipzig, 1839; B. Romberg,
Mthode de Violoncelle, Berlin, 1840; A. Piatti, Method for the Violoncello, London, 1878; T. Labarre, Mthode
complte pour la harpe, Paris, 1844.
101 J. G. Tromlitz, Ausfhrlicher und grndlicher Unterricht die Flte zu spielen, Leipzig, 1791; X. Lefvre,
Mthode de clarinette, Paris, 1802, repr. 1974; E. Ozi, Nouvelle Mthode de basson, Paris, 1803; A. Hugo and
J.-G. Wunderlich, Mthode de te du Conservatoire, Paris, 1804, repr. 1975; H. Brod, Mthode pour le hautbois,
Paris, 182535; J. Sellner, Theoretische-praktische Oboeschule, Vienna, 1825, rev. 2nd edn, 1901; I. Mller,

The evidence


Meifred (1840), Gallay (c. 1845) and Arban (1864),102 and Mancini (1774), Hiller
(1774), Corri (1810) and Garca (1847) authored inuential methods for the
Vocal treatises are especially helpful as evidence for ornamentation,
extempore embellishment and improvisation, but few other than Garcas
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, inections 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
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, Quantzs instructions (1752), published when he was ftyve 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 adavit about
certain things they knew . . . believed in, [and] . . . wished their readers to
Mthode pour la nouvelle clarinette et clarinette-alto, Paris, 1825; F. Berr, Mthode complte de clarinette, Paris,
1836; C. Baermann, Vollstndige Clarinett-Schule, Munich, 186475; C. Almanraeder, Die Kunst des
Fagottblasens, Mainz, 1843; E. Jancourt, Grande mthode pour le basson, Paris, 1847.
102 J. E. Altenburg, Versuch einer Anleitung zur heroisch-musikalischen Trompeter- und Pauker-Kunst, Halle,
1795; L. F. Dauprat, Mthode pour cor alto et cor basse, Paris, 1824; P.-J. E. Meifred, Mthode de cor chromatique
ou pistons, Paris, 1840, rev. 2nd edn, 1849; J. F. Gallay, Mthode complte pour le cor, Paris, c. 1845;
J.-B. Arban, Grande mthode complte pour cornets pistons et de saxhorn, Paris, 1864.
103 G. B. Mancini, Pensieri, e riessioni pratiche sopra il canto gurato, Vienna, Ghelen, 1774, rev. and
enlarged 3rd edn, 1777 as Riessioni pratiche sul canto gurato; J. A. Hiller, Anweisung zum musikalischrichtigen Gesange, Leipzig, 1774, enlarged 2nd edn, 1798; D. Corri, The Singers Preceptor, London,
Silvester, 1810; M. Garca [ls], Trait complet de lart 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. 18598.
105 P. H. Lang, Performance practice and musicology, in M. Bente (ed.), Musik. Edition. Interpretation.
Gedenkschrift Gnter Henle, Munich, Henle, 1979, pp. 31617.
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. Burneys 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 inuence of
the writer, the credibility, reliability and consistency of both the treatises 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 (161418), Mersenne (16367), 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 oer 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 specic 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),
108 G. Lanfranco, Scintille di musica, Brescia, 1533; G. Zarlino, Le istitutioni harmoniche, Venice, 1558;
M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, 3 vols., 1: Wittenberg and Wolfenbttel, 161415, repr. 1959, 1968; 2:
Wolfenbttel, 1618, 2nd edn, 1619, repr. 1958, 1980; trans. 1962, 1986; 3: Wolfenbttel, 1618, 2nd edn,
1619, repr. 1958, 1976; M. Mersenne, Harmonie universelle, Paris, 16367, 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 sthetik 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

The evidence


devoted to these latter issues, dierent temperaments having the potential to

inect 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 rst 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 uidity of numbers and personnel could
even characterise successive performances of individual operas.114 Further, as
Selfridge-Field points out, At the Cthen court during Bachs employment
there (171723) the total number of instruments, between 13 and 15, was
relatively stable, but their specic distribution in both the string and wind
sections varied from year to year and from genre to genre.115 Bachs requirements for a well-appointed church music stated in his famous memorandum
to the Leipzig Council (23 August 1730) amounted to a mere 1820 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. 50711.
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 signicance in the eighteenth century of Vallottis tuning in Chapter 22.
112 J.-G. Kastner, Trait gnral dinstrumentation, Paris, 1837, Cours dinstrumentation, Paris, 1839;
H. Berlioz, Grande trait dinstrumentation et dorchestration modernes Op. 10, Paris, 1843, trans. 1856;
R. Strauss, Instrumentationslehre, Leipzig, 1905, trans. New York, 1948 [= Berliozs Grand trait 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 dorchestre, Paris, 1856, trans. 1917; R. Wagner, ber das Dirigieren (1869) in
Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen, 110, Leipzig, 187183, vol. 8; F. Weingartner, ber 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 Entwur 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. 1204.



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
Quantzs 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 Handels 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 (11261) and 2 harpsichords. His Rinaldo, premiered in
February 1711, has 4 trumpets and drums in the famous march and elsewhere
a ageolet, 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 fullled by double-handed members of the orchestra.119 It seems likely
that Handels orchestra remained fairly consistent between 1727 and his
Foundling Hospital orchestra of 1754, whose strings comprised 14632.
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 reected that instruments heightened role in the accompaniment of four-part oratorio choruses.

117 J. Rifkin, Bachs chorus: a preliminary report, Musical Times, 123 (1982), 74754 (revised as Bachs
Chor Ein vorluger Bericht, Basler Jahrbuch fr historische Musikpraxis, 9 (1985), 14155); Page turns,
players and ripieno parts: more questions of scoring in Bachs vocal music, Early Music, 25 (1997), 72834.
Rifkins proposals sparked a verbal conict, particularly with Robert Marshall (Musical Times, 124 (1983),
1922, 1612) and Ton Koopman (Early Music, 25 (1997), 3037, 5412; 26 (1998), 10921, 380), but
received support from Andrew Parrott (Bachs chorus: a brief yet highly necessary reappraisal, Early
Music, 24 (1996), 55180; Bachs chorus: Who cares?, Early Music, 26 (1998), 297301; The Essential Bach
Choir, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2000). John Butt (Bachs chorus: what can it mean?, Early Music,
26 (1998), 99107), among others, joined in the debate. The principal evidence in Jonathan
Wainwrights discussion in Chapter 19 of the performing forces used through history in Monteverdis
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 (19767), 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 specied periods, and orchestral
performance practices. Koury (Orchestral Performance Practices) also includes information on the constitution of various orchestras.
119 D. Burrows, Handels London theatre orchestra, Early Music, 13 (1985), 349. Among Burrowss later
evidence are lists of performing musicians from 1714 and 1727 when George I and II respectively attended
festivities at the Guildhall on the rst Lord Mayors 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 202010810, 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 concertmasters 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 rst 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 Krtnertortheater (1821) and layouts for a performance of
Handels Alexanders Feast (arr. Mozart) in 1812 and for the Concert
Spirituel c. 1825 dier strikingly from todays commonly employed placements,125 as do Verdis views on the placement of the string ensemble around
the wind instruments (with the double basses grouped together) and
Wagners 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, Mozarts 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
Pichten eines Kapellmeisters oder Musikdirektors, Winterthur, 1782; J. S. Petri, Anleitung zur practischen Musik,
Lauban, 1767; J. F. Reichardt, ber die Pichten des Ripien-Violinisten, Berlin and Leipzig, 1776; F. Galeazzi,
Elementi teorico-pratici di musica con un saggio sopra larte 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), 2133.
124 See McVeigh, Concert Life in London, p. 212.
125 In C. Brown, The orchestra in Beethovens Vienna, Early Music, 16 (1988), 420.



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.
Platos 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 Harts An Orthographie (1569) or
Palsgraves Lesclarcissement de la langue francoyse (1530).127 The implementation
of accurate period pronunciation can have important consequences for tuning,
rhythm and expressive eect.
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. Bachs 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 Bachs 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 Fabians 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 specic dances. Dance steps
and gures (and with them the tempos) varied widely at dierent 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 79.

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 Bachs Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin: preliminary
investigations, in L. Vikrius and V. Lampert (eds.), Essays in Honor of Lszl Somfai on his 70th Birthday,
Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 97. Fabian here quotes from a transcription of a talk by Jaap Schrder
included in the Journal of The Violin Society of America, 3 (1977), 19.
129 Ibid., pp. 978.

The evidence


Peter le Huray points out, the allemandes in Corellis 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

Several histories of music oer valuable insights into important performance
issues. Praetoriuss Syntagma musicum (161418) has already been mentioned
for its second volumes detailed organological drawings, and, despite its
characteristic digressiveness and occasional uncritical reporting, Mersennes
Harmonie universelle (Paris, 16367) 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-Bourdelots
Histoire de la musique et de ses eets (Paris, 1715) and Marpurgs Der critische
Musicus an der Spree (Berlin, 174950). Marpurgs Historisch-Kritische Beytrge
zur Aufnahme der Musik (Berlin, 175462, 1778) and Kritische Briefe ber die
Tonkunst (Berlin, 1759) adopt dierent 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
Browns Dissertation (London, 1763) and Forkels Allgemeine Geschichte der
Musik (Leipzig, 17881801), while Martinis Storia della Musica (Bologna,
175781) incorporates valuable observations on plainchant (canto fermo).
Two outstanding examples of historiography were published in direct competition in London in 1776: Burneys A General History of Music and Hawkinss A
General History of the Science and Practice of Music. Hawkinss work provides vast
quantities of information and data, but often includes prejudices of a bygone era,
while Burneys eloquent prose evaluates and interprets the events recorded, with
a heavy bias towards the history of music in England.132 La Bordes 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, 18628) ), Ftis (Histoire Gnrale de la Musique (Paris, 186976) ),
and others nearer our time contribute to the pictures 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. Grants Dr Burney as Critic and Historian of Music, Ann Arbor, MI, UMI Research Press, 1983,
includes (pp. 283306) an assessment of Burneys 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, Grtry 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 rst
decades of the nineteenth century.
Biographies such as Mainwarings Memoirs of the Life of the Late George Frederic
Handel (1760), Forkels rst biography of J. S. Bach (1802), or Helen Henschels
When Soft Voices Die (1944) are often similarly informative, if not always
accurate. Henschels book provides a vivid picture of her family, its circle of
musical friends (including Paderewski, Sargent and other prominent gures),
and the music-making of their times (including Georg Henschels 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. Schindlers description of
Beethovens piano playing from rst-hand experience and Blumes detailed
notes on Steinbachs conducting of Brahms are cases in point, as are the
English pianist Fanny Daviess or Ethel Smyths descriptions of Brahmss
playing.136 Berliozs Mmoires 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. Grtry, Mmoires, 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 Gttingen, 18601, trans. 1865, repr. 1969, 2nd edn, 1878; H. Berlioz, Mmoires, 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, Rockli, 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 dun tenor, Paris, 1880.
136 F. Davies, Some personal recollections of Brahms as pianist and interpreter, in W. W. Cobbett (ed.),
Cobbetts Cyclopaedic Survey of Chamber Music, 2 vols., Oxford University Press, 1929; 2nd enlarged edn,
Oxford University Press, 1963, vol. 1, pp. 1824; 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 oer
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 artists life on the road. Some refer to instruments,138
concert organisation, impressions gained in various signicant musical centres
and reactions to concert and opera performances and specic 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 Burneys observations and critical evaluations especially enrich
the readers 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 Burneys 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 Razzis 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 inuenced musical practices, explaining the

London, Longmans, Green, 1919, and Female Pipings in Eden, London, Davies, 1933. See also G. S. Bozarth,
Fanny Davies and Brahmss late chamber music, in Musgrave and Sherman (eds.), Performing Brahms,
pp. 170219.
137 In addition to his Mmoires, see Berliozs Voyage musical en Allemagne et en Italie, Paris, 1844; Les soires
de lorchestre, 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. 2623) veries the existence of Zarlinos 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 betreend, 2 vols., 1: Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1774; 2: Frankfurt and Breslau, 1776.
140 Burney managed to oend numerous German musicians, and he was also especially critical of the Paris
141 P. V. Bohlman, Missionaries, magical muses, and magnicent menageries: image and imagination in
the early history of ethnomusicology, World of Music, 30/3 (1998), 526; J. Bor, The rise of ethnomusicology: sources on Indian music c17801890, Yearbook for Traditional Music, 20 (1988), 5173.
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
oer 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
Strassburgs 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 conrmed 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 oer 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 Brahmss music: clues from his letters, in Musgrave and
Sherman (eds.), Performing Brahms, pp. 1147.
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 schnen Knste, Leipzig, 17714; A. Rees (ed.), The Cyclopaedia; or, Universal
Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature, London, 180220.
145 See I. Finlay, Musical instruments in Gotfrid von Strassburgs Tristan und Isolde, Galpin Society
Journal, 5 (1952), 3943.
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, 177583, repr. 1972; Musikalischer Almanach fr Deutschland, ed.
J. N. Forkel, Leipzig 17818, 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 Zaslaws 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 fteenth 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 ocially 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 ocial note being
made; and, as already noted, one performer might serve in two distinct roles
in eighteenth-century Venice oboists were often autists 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, 16801806, 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, 13641419: A Documentary History, Henryville, PA, Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1979.
152 In Brown and Sadie (eds.), Performance Practice: Music after 1600, pp. 1415.
153 See, for example: C. Page, Voices and Instruments of the Middle Ages: Instrumental Practice and Songs in
France 11001300, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1986; David Fallows, Specic
information on the ensembles for composed polyphony, in S. Boorman (ed.), Studies in the Performance of
Late Mediaeval Music, Cambridge University Press, 1983, pp. 10959.



of fashion.154 And McVeighs survey of Londons concert life in the eighteenth

century uncovers detailed evidence about the nancial 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 oer valuable insights into performance history.156

Newspapers and other print

Journals, diaries and the monthly and weekly forerunners of modern daily
newspapers have included signicant 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 specically
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. Homann, 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, 17707), the Magazin der Musik (Hamburg
and Copenhagen, 17839) and the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (Leipzig,
from 1798/9), while general publications such as the Journal de Paris, Mercure
de France, the Gentlemans 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. Marxs Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (1824) in Berlin, Ftiss Revue musicale (1827) and Schlesingers
Gazette musicale (1834; amalgamated from November 1835 with the Revue
musicale to become the Revue et Gazette musicale) in Paris, and Schumanns

154 An inventory of instruments owned by the Wrttemberg 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. 167205.
156 L. Cinti-Damoreau, Mthode 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: Viennas Golden Years of Music 18501900, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1950, rev.
2nd edn, New York, Dover, 1963, as Music Criticisms 184699); A. Robertson (ed.), G. B. S. on Music,
Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1962.

The evidence


celebrated Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik (1834) in Leipzig, as well as the Musical

World (1836) and Musical Times (1844) in London, the Gazzetta musicale (1842)
in Milan and Dwights 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 dened 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 concerts strict
programme format in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries oered
an overture, an aria, a solo instrumental work and a vocal/choral nale, 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 centurys rst half. Only when the Italian concerto and the German symphony
grew in popularity and scale did instrumental idioms begin to play a more
signicant part. A particular genre of oratorio concert, built initially around a
small number of Handels 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 o 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 nal 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 gures, the type of texture and so on, right down to the
acoustics of the performance venue. Similarly, the eective application of
dynamics, stylish continuo playing (where appropriate), exibility 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 ux through
history. Burney commented that Geminianis 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 Handels 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, Pices de clavecin: troisime livre, Paris, 1722, Preface; Quantz, On Playing
the Flute, pp. 223; P. F. Tosi, Opinioni de cantori antichi e moderni o sieno osservazioni sopra il canto gurato,
Bologna, 1723, trans. M. Pilkington, I.29, II.1, III.15 and 19, V.15, VII.4, VIII.45, IX.412, 63, X.8, 31 and
160 F. Geminiani, The Art of Playing on the Violin, London, Johnson, 1751, p. 6; J. Mattheson, Die neueste
Untersuchung der Singspiele, nebst beygefgter 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, 177689, 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 Mozarts Piano Concerto in D minor K466, and Mahler,
Wagner and others retouched Beethovens symphonies in keeping with the
taste of their era. Further, Leech-Wilkinson has observed how tastes in singing
style and interpretation of Schuberts Wandern (Die schne Mllerin) changed
from the simple, straightforward approaches of Elisabeth Schumann, Gerard
Hsch 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
denitive or widely accepted answers. Well-considered application of musical
taste can give interpretations individuality, variety and their intrinsic value
within the exible, though not indenitely 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 benecially, 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 writers background, his motives, his relation
to his contemporaries, and his intended or actual readership; and it is rarely
clear how widely most of any generations 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 t as
much of the available evidence as possible, drawing in all the various sources to
gain a three-dimensional view (admittedly always slightly ctional 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

163 Mozart also modernised Handels Acis and Galatea, Alexanders Feast and the Ode for St Cecilias Day for
Baron van Swietens Sunday musicales.
164 D. Leech-Wilkinson, Musicology and Performance,
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

musics 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 persons
feelings dier from anothers.166 But in their eorts 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

166 F. W. Marpurg, Anleitung zum Klavierspielen, Berlin, 175561, 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


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. Pleyels 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 delity to the score. It will also survey
relevant performance issues which inform this relationship, such as improvisation, tempo and rubato, focusing on increased notational specicity introduced during the nineteenth century.

Communication and collaboration

The composerperformer 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 dicult 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 composers 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
composers music is performed in a style remote from his own, separated in time
and place from his own epoch and performance practices; a composers 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 specic composition, making the history of the
performance style for any one era/composer/composition numbingly complex.
As such, the possibility of identifying any one composerperformer relationship in relation to specic 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 claried 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 diering compositional and interpretative
styles, namely, a belief that the relationship between composers and performers
was highly collaborative. Prior to the nineteenth century delity 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 composers

2 See Filippo Villanis Liber de civitatis Florentiae famosis civibus, cited in P. Weiss and R. Taruskin (eds.),
Music in the Western World, New York, Schirmer, 1984, pp. 725.
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. 96122.

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 cta.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 eective 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 composers work in a manner believed to be faithful to the
score and the composers intentions. For almost a millennium, a notation which
indicated pitches and later rhythm and metric organisation was sucient to
impart the information needed for a successful performance, since implied in
these pitches, rhythms and metres was a host of signals specically understood
by performers to indicate appropriate aect, tempo, strong and weak relationships, as well as a variety of other interpretative decisions. For most of music
history, performers could justiably consider themselves co-creators.
The remarkable changes in the nature of the composerperformer 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 ne introduction to issues relating to musica cta and other important Renaissance theory and
performance practice issues see S. Mead, Renaissance theory, in J. Kite-Powell (ed.), A Performers Guide to
Renaissance Music, New York, Schirmer, 1994, pp. 289316.
5 H. M. Brown, Embellishing Sixteenth-Century Music, Oxford University Press, 1976, p. vii.
6 See J. Ashworth and P. ODette, Basso continuo, in S. Carter (ed.), A Performers Guide to SeventeenthCentury Music, New York, Schirmer, 1997, pp. 2915 for an extremely useful summary of norms of continuo
band instrumentation.
7 See G. Houle, Meter in Music: 16001800, 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 aect 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-rst-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 rst wave of an early music revival in the nineteenth
century, red 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 Liszts 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. Specically, older vocal music of every kind. True,
youll say its 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. 3371.
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 composers ideas. First, all those matters which are rmly 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 inuencing
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
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 rst to describe specic 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 eect 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 o his own ngers.14

A fourteenth-century account of a similar nature is found in one of the earliest

biographical accounts of a composer, Filippo Villanis 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 musics charm and sweetness, he began to compose, rst
for voices, then for strings and organ. He made astonishing progress. And then,
to everyones 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 Wesleys description of Haydns playing
in 1792 in which he reports that Haydns performance on the Piano Forte,
although not such as to stamp him a rst-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, Leonhardts response
being to a real musician, which is a composer.18
The gulf between composers and performers oered 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 wouldnt 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,
14501500, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 49 (1996), 40979, 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. 745.
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. 2034.

The performer and the composer


scratch out La folie dEspagne on the lute or saw away at The Angels 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 fathers 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 composers 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 Chambonnires:
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

Indeed, Johann Jacob Froberger (and presumably most other composers) thought
it essential to have studied directly with himself, as Caspar Griegens, 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 Uenbach, a German student visiting Venice in 1715, recalls
Vivaldis 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, specic 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
ne example: Whoever does not like this should hear sometime the incomparable Mr. Buxtehude perform at Lbeck. 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
Even in a not so subtle criticism of a composers performance, such as is
found in this description of Vivaldis 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: 16141667: a link between the Renaissance and Baroque, Musical Times,
108 (1967), 1094.
25 E. Preussner, Die musikalischen Reisen des Herrn von Uenbach, 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), 52477, for an important discussion of improvisational trends
among ripieno players in eighteenth-century orchestras.
27 K. Snyder, Dieterich Buxtehude: Organist in Lbeck, 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 ne 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 ineective.
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 rst 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 dicult 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 Uenbach, 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. 38793.
31 A. Carse, The History of Orchestration, New York, Dover, 1964, pp. 3367.



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 Handels frequent librettist Charles Jennens of a new
organ, apparently designed by Handel himself:
Mr. Handels 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 Matthesons 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 rst 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 Lullys orchestra and for a discussion of Corellis leadership see Spitzer and Zaslaw,
The Birth of the Orchestra, pp. 70104 and 10536.
33 Letter of Charles Jennens, 19 September 1738, London, cited in Weiss and Taruskin (eds.), Music in the
Western World, pp. 2434.
34 Spitzer and Zaslaw, The Birth of the Orchestra, p. 389.
35 For a discussion of the demise of this system, see ibid., pp. 3901.

The performer and the composer


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

Quantzs 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 nest 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 x 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 dierent 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 Varse in 1922:

36 J. J. Quantz, Versuch einer Anweisung die Flte 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. Wol 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 oends me equally, however, is that without asking me whether you

CAN and MAY do so you simply set a denitive 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 x a date
and think thats all there is to it! Have you any inkling of the diculties 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, Im not smart enough for that! If
you want to have anything to do with me, you must set about it quite dierently. 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 its always poor old Beethoven
who comes o worse in the end. The informed will declare that so-and-so
conductors got the correct tempo. But who are they to know! Are they in
receipt of communications from Above? Its nothing more than posthumous
chitchat astonishing coming from Beethoven. If his errant spirit were to
wander into a concert hall, Im sure he would y 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 youve been down to that dreadful place again. Perhaps
that would be the last time theyd 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 delity 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. 789.
40 C. Debussy, Debussy on Music, collected by F. Lesure, trans. and ed. R. L. Smith, Ithaca, NY, Cornell
University Press, 1977, pp. 234.

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.

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 rst period, encompassing the entirety of music history until around
1850, may with some justication be dened as an age of creative collaboration
and is notable for its intensely collaborative interaction between composers
and performers in the creation of a nal 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 owering 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 dicult 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 Mendelssohns distaste of public improvisation see Hamilton, After
the Golden Age, pp. 459.
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. 12.



Machaut, clearly prescribing the tempo as well as indicating a exibility 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 Garca the younger regarding a c. 1815 rehearsal involving his father
Manuel Garca, is a ne example of a performer fullling the intentions of the
composer through improvisational co-creation:
When his rst aria had been reached he sang it o with perfect phrasing and
feeling, but exactly note for note as written. After he had nished 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! Magnicent! 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 Beethovens apparent delight with Bridgetowers
embellishments during a performance of the Kreutzer Sonata, the act of adding
embellishments to set compositions was essentially nished 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 delity
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. 11746.
44 M. S. Mackinlay, Garcia the Centenarian and his Times, Edinburgh, 1908, p. 34, cited in C. Brown,
Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 17501900, 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 Reard,
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 o 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, Quantzs 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 suciently brilliant by themselves should remain free of them, for embellishments serve only
to increase the weight and import of notes and to dierentiate 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, Musicks 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 ber 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 aettuoso 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 pieces aect, 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 Scheibes 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

Bachs friend Johann Abraham Birnbaum responded to Scheibes criticism by

invoking the practice of the French: the Hon. Court Composer is neither the
rst 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
dorgue have used this very method.54 J. S. Bachs 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
composerperformer collaboration.
Echoing Scheibes 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. Wol, 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
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 conne the invention and imagination of a singer. The only excuse a
composer can plead for this practice, is the want of qualications 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 Tosis 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 Franois 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 LArt 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 arm 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. Mozarts
Piano Sonata in B at 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 Mozarts
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, Franois 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 gure in the move towards notated
Improvisation in the nineteenth century was largely practised by bel canto
performers as well as in performances by virtuoso pianists.59 Here too, we nd
amusing examples of frustrations of composers as in Rossinis 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
Chopins 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 Chopins own improvisations were
described by his pupil Karol Mikuli, writing that Chopin took particular
pleasure in playing Fields Nocturnes, to which he would improvise the most
beautiful orituras.62
The practice of adding embellishment to Chopins own music appears to
have lingered until the end of the nineteenth century and may be heard in
the alternate gurations performed by Theodor Leschetizkys 1906 WelteMignon piano roll performance of the Nocturne in D at 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 nd a manner of imitating the spontaneity of improvisation. A recommendation that improvised cadenzas be learned, memorised and then oered in a
spontaneous manner is described in 1789 by Daniel Gottlob Trk: From what has
been said it follows that a cadenza which perhaps has been learned from memory
with great eort 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. 27684.
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. 10138; and for a
discussion of textual delity and improvisation among nineteenth-century pianists, ibid., pp. 179223.
64 D. G. Trk, 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 nd 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 Chopins
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 exibility

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 specic metres, note values employed, and
their relationship to corresponding dance movements utilising the same metre.
These relationships indicated general tempo, aect, relative degrees of accentuation, strong and weak relationships as well as a general articulation scheme.
Beethovens 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 dicult 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 aect 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


See Rosenblum, Performance Practices, pp. 289309.

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.
Mozarts 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
sonatasand 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 aect 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 composers attempt to comprehend the diering 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
Beethovens 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
indenite a signicance 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 aect.73 Yet even as an indicator of aect,
Beethoven expressed real frustration with tempo words, as he explained in a
letter addressed to Ignaz von Mosel:

70 Mozarts Letters, Mozarts Life: Selected Letters, ed. and trans. R. Spaethling, London, Faber, 2000,
p. 353.
71 R. Kramer, Notes to Beethovens education, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 18 (1975), 75.
72 Thayers 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.

The performer and the composer


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 signies
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 Maelzels metronome aords 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 composers 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 Beethovens
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 nally been solved.
As Hummel optimistically wrote:
to composers it oers 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 eect 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 aecting
tempo circumstances do too, and every performance is a dierent 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 Beethovens
metronome markings.



them. I would be surprised if any of my own recordings follow the metronome

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 modications 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
Hummels concern is remarkably similar to Gustav Mahlers on the necessity
for exibility. Expressing his almost mystical concept of tempo, Mahler
purportedly stated that:
of all the most important thingsthe tempo, the total conception and structuring of a workare almost impossible to pin down. For here we are concerned
with something living and owing 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 modications 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, Trk and Czerny, described
contexts with great specicity when pulse modications were indeed appropriate.81 Trk 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 intensied
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

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, Ausfhrliche 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. 36973, for an important discussion of sectional changes of
tempo as well as appropriate contexts for accelerandos and ritartandos as suggested by Trk, Clementi and
82 Trk, School of Clavier Playing, p. 360.

The performer and the composer


Of equal importance, melodic rubato was frequently linked with pulse

modication 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 Mozarts 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 aect 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 diering 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, Mthode 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. 1501.



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 Berliozs 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 diering 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
modication (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 signicant that the music of Alkan, Berlioz, and Faur 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 signicance of Debussys
instrumental writing has been very well dened 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 composers 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 (196970), 75.

The performer and the composer


individuality expressed largely through the rhythmic sophistication of their

Arnold Schoenberg, reacting to these trends in 1948, responded with a
rather unique perspective as to the causes of the mystery:
Todays 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 modication 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

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 rst 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 delity

Towards the end of the improvisatory era new issues relating to delity 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, Todays manner of performing classical music (1948), in L Stein (ed.), Style and Idea:
Selected Writings, trans. L. Black, New York, St Martins Press, 1975, pp. 3201.
90 Quantz, On Playing the Flute, pp. 1245.



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 dierent 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. Haydns famous
description of his compositional process provides a ne 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
eort 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 o 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 Schumanns 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. 2289.
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 specic 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 aected. You are the true
guardian of my intellectual ospring.95
A similar sentiment was expressed much later by Claude Debussy, describing
Mary Gardens performance of the death of Mlisande: At last came the fth act
Mlisandes deatha breathtaking event whose emotions cannot be rendered in
words. There I heard the voice I had secretly imaginedfull of a sinking tenderness,
and sung with such artistry as I would never have believed possible.96
When composers encountered performers they believed successfully
fullled 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 rst half of
the twentieth century. As the century was a dynamic period of change in the
composerperformer 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 eld to the
performer and to the music of the past. That this created a sterile state of aairs
above ground was perfectly clear to the more educated virtuoso, who has been
trying ever since to resolve the conict, 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 composerperformer relationship: a monologue and a dialogue, Perspectives of
New Music, 1 (1963), 456.
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 aairs 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 composers 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 rst 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-gures 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 Schoenbergs and, especially, Weberns
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), 7978.

100 Foss, The changing composerperformer relationship, 47.
101 Smalley, Some aspects, 734.

The performer and the composer


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 conict still rages, and
yet the feud between composition and performance is over. The factor which
led to the conict, the division of labor (performance/composition), will
remain with us. The procedural advantages are too great to be sacriced. But
a creative investigation is under way. Composers have had to abandon
Beethovens proud position: Does he think I have his silly ddle in mind
when the spirit talks to me? Composers are again involved in performance,
with performance. Morethey work with handpicked performers toward a
common goal.102

Foss then identies numerous celebrated composerperformer 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? Isnt it
to keep music fully alive, renewed, refreshed? And how is that to be accomplished if the interpreter fails us?103

A greatly inuential 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
composerperformer relationship, frequently driven by composers and changes in
compositional style, this movement has been entirely generated by the activities of
todays performers, completing a process begun in the late eighteenth century
with the rst performances of old music in Vienna and London.104
The philosophies of the early music movement re-energized many sectors
in todays 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 composerperformer 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. 1326 for a discussion of Baron van Swieten and John
Pepuschs energetic support of the performances of old music in the eighteenth century.



variety of repertoire. For the rst 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


Throughout history the ability to perform has been transmitted in dierent

ways that naturally reect musics 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 aair 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 inuence 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
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
2 The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, 26, No. 512 (1 October 1885), 61314.




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 dierent 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 benets of music to
disadvantaged members of society.

Musical education before the rise

of the conservatoires
Noting Platos belief that music and physical education were crucial for the
development of young people, Swanwick and Spencer have suggested that
musics 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 persons 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 fth century BC, where a
kithara teacher taught both instrumental technique and lyric poetry. Later
were added a grammatists and paidotribs to teach letters and physical training
respectively. From vase paintings it is clear that kithara instruction was
3 See Education, Oxford Music Online,
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 rm 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 eect 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 ourished for hundreds of years in
some cases. The training of the large body of secular professional musicians
from the twelfth century onwards, included chiey 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 Nicholss comment that the
early troubadours . . . created the rst 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.

6 C. Plummeridge, II. From the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century: 1. Christian education,
Oxford Music Online,
7 R. Strohm, The Rise of European Music 13801500, 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. 68.



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 Confrrie 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 benet 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. Niedts 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
11 For more background on this topic see M. Gomez and B. Haggh, Minstrel schools in the Late Middle
Ages, Early Music, 18 (1990), 21316.
12 See, for example, K. Polk, German Instrumental Music of the Late Middle Ages: Players, Patrons and
Performance Practice, Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 110. 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, Confrrie,
Bruderschaft and Guild: the formation of musicians fraternal organisations in thirteenth- and fourteenthcentury Europe, Early Music History, 14 (1995), 25774, 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), 199219; and G. Peters, Urban ministrels in late
Medieval southern France: opportunities, status and professional relationships, Early Music History, 19
(2000), 20135.

The teaching of performance


Musicalische Handleitung (170021), 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 o 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 nally 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 certicate, 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 apprentices 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 Mozarts likely options if his father had not been a rstrate 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 Leopolds 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, reecting his own Jesuit education and
his strong beliefs that young minds were broadened and sharpened by good
literature in dierent 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 Beytrge 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 Stadlers 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 Nannerls 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 childrens 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 Auernhammers enchanting
playing, while noting that in cantabile she has not got the real delicate singing

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
Mozarts 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. Agricolas more
general recommendation for singers was a healthy diet of pheasant, lark and
trout, noting that the old teachers specically prohibited herring.20 In the
early nineteenth century, when health was still a relatively fragile aair, Joseph
Frhlichs Vollstndige theoretisch-praktische Musikschule (Bonn, 181011) 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 grndlichen 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. 867.

The teaching of performance


mouth should be rinsed with an alcoholic beverage to give the lips new
Treatises contribute signicant evidence of performance practice to many of
the chapters within this book. For example, Timothy McGees 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 Trk (1789) variously encourage an holistic approach to
what it is to be a performer. The hugely inuential Quantz found it desirable
for a musician to have at least some knowledge of mathematics, philosophy,
poetry and oratory. Signicantly, only ten out of his original 334 pages are
devoted exclusively to the transverse ute, 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 ery 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. Bachs 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 aects
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 Trk also aims to
instruct the teacher as well as the student, oering 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. 1614.
22 J. J. Quantz, Versuch einer Anweisung die Flte traversiere zu spielen, Berlin, 1752, trans. E. R. Reilly as On
Playing the Flute, London, Faber, 1966, pp. 1213, 25.
23 C. P. E. Bach, Versuch ber 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 eects
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 specic chapters on written and improvised
embellishments. His book immediately won the praise of F. W. Marpurg,
whose Historisch-kritische Beytrge 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
Garca, 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 diculty 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. Garcas son continued the tradition with the immensely
successful Trait complet de lart du chant (184047), which reected newer
preoccupations with the scientic approach to singing. Manuel Garca the
younger enjoyed a successful teaching career, particularly in London where
he taught at the Royal Academy of Music between 1848 and 1895. Garca the
younger attempts to explain intricacies of vocal technique through physiology
and the results are occasionally baing, 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 rmly xed, 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. Trk, 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 Beytrge, vol. 3, 1757, p. 160.
26 M. Garca, 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 xed.27

On the thorny issue of successful expression, Garca recalls C. P. E. Bach when

he states:
Expression is the great law of all art. Vain would be the eorts of an artist to
excite the passions of his audience, unless he showed himself powerfully
aected 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 dierent 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 benet from a musical education:
musically trained children were useful to the orphanage chapels, and would be
27 M. Garca, Trait complet de lart du chant, Paris, author, 1847, trans. as Garcias 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 Piet (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), 7799. In Naples, there were a number of institutions including Sant Onofrio,
Santa Maria della Piet dei Turchini, San Pietro a Majella, Santa Maria di Loreto and Conservatorio dei
Poveri di Ges Cristo. See, for example, D. Arnold, Instruments and instrumental teaching in the early
Italian conservatoires, Galpin Society Journal, 18 (1965), 7281.
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 Piet 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 nancially overstretched) nature of the institutions. The reputable maestri would teach only the most gifted of the girls in the
coro. At the Piet, this was just twelve, and later fourteen girls, who were
known as the glie di coro (later maestra). These glie 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 glie 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 rst 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 Piet made many instrumental purchases including oboes, utes, 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 (JulyDecember
1994), 126.

The teaching of performance


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 Constables 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 sta were high-prole musicians with ourishing
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 bua 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 chiey known for the leading positions they held at large
churches. At the Ospedaletto, for example, members of the teaching sta
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 dicult to retain sta. 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 Ges
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 ve ospedali. This extraordinary range was not
untypical; Porporas 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 Porporas 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., 181212.
39 See D. Arnold, Music at the Ospedali, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 113/2 (1988), 15667.
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. Vivaldis longest period of teaching at the Piet

was between 1703 and 1709, and then again in 1711; after this, his career as an
international opera composer took o. 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, specic 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 nances of the ospedali meant that the governors had to beg for additional support
from the state. Finally, the conservatoires had undertaken nancial 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 fullled 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 ve British proposals to have been written between
1762 and 1822, when Londons 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., 15667.
41 For the Mendicanti and the Derelitti, the date was 1749. See Constable, The Venetian Figlie del
Coro, 195.
42 J. C. Kassler, Burneys sketch of a plan for a public music school, Musical Quarterly, 43 (1972), 21033.
This article cites Burneys complete text.
43 Burneys manuscripts containing the sketch form part of the Osborn Collection housed at Yale

The teaching of performance


and T. F. Walmsley. Kassler usefully charts the background of educational

theory and its application to music noting that while British gentlemen had
the benet 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 prociency
was directly related to the amount of scientic 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 rst 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 suciently provided for.46 The
Academys committee of patrons stated in the prospectus that the rst 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 fty-page German document comprising the clarinettist
Anton Stadlers 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 counts 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, Burneys sketch, 225.
46 Unsigned editorial, Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, 4/15 (1822), 370400.
47 Cited from Kassler (Burneys sketch, 225), who notes that the curricula for boys and girls continued to
dier; while the boys were copying music, the girls were to spend that hour doing needlework.
48 E. Hess, Anton Stadlers Musick-Plan , Mozart-Jahrbuch (19623), 3764.



of the following paragraph is indebted.49 According to Stadler the counts

goals in founding a music school were: to improve and sta 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,
stang, grades, levels, textbooks, musical aesthetics, repertoires and library
resources are all matters for consideration. Recognising three aspects of
music theory, performance and composition, Stadlers 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 Poulins quotations from Stadlers 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 ocial was passed over in advancement . . .
the banker has won only 99% [interest], the malicious denouncer has failed to
catch his prey, the junior ocer 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 Stadlers 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 edgling 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 rst truly modern institution for music education,
49 See Poulin, A view.

50 Ibid., 2202.

The teaching of performance


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 qualied, irrespective of social status. Its development was the result of careful planning, artistic vision and astute political
action. The sta 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 sta 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 sta
included many distinguished composers, such as Gossec, Mhul, Cherubini
and Boieldieu. From the outset, teaching was taken very seriously at the
Conservatoire. In the words of Mhul, 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 ones 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 Franois-Adrien Boieldieu from Rouen was
appointed to the piano faculty and his teaching was described by one of his
pupils, Franois-Joseph Ftis: 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 ne
remarks on his art, full of interest for his students and not without prot 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. Mhul, loge on Gossec (1808), quoted in A. Lavignac and L. de la Laurencie (eds.), Encyclopdie 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. Ftis, Biographie universelle des musiciens, 2nd edn, 8 vols., Paris, Didot, 18605, vol. 2, p. 3.



In Chapter 3 Robin Stowell has already mentioned the faculty-based

Conservatoire treatises that oered 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 musics position as
one of lifes moving forces to a mere adornment.54
By 1805, bassoon, cello, clarinet, ute, piano and violin had newly written
manuals for them. Jean-Louis Adams Mthode de piano remained in use for
many years and was translated into German in 1826 by Beethovens 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 reects Beethovens notation in his
Sonatas, and Czernys recollection that he pedalled much more frequently than
indicated may well reect practice as it had developed by the 1840s. Dening
the trill as a structural rather than an ornamental device, Adam is among the
rst 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 exibility of tempo as an essential musical eect, an aspect
of interpretation that is especially dicult to characterise in words. As a whole
it emphasises musical taste and certainly cannot be accused of advocating mere
Characteristically, wind tutors oered fewer hints as to musical taste, though
tienne Ozis bassoon method has some useful hints about the articulation of
staccato notes and also about extempore ornamentation, which was still widely
practised. Xavier Lefvres Mthode 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. ONeill as Baroque Music Today: Music as Speech, Portland,
OR, Amadeus, 1982, pp. 227.
55 J.-L. Adam, Mthode de piano du Conservatoire, Paris, Magasin de musique du Conservatoire Royal, 1804,
p. 219.

The teaching of performance


armoury must include a good knowledge of harmony and sound musical taste.
His technical groundwork would be sucient 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 Dcade philanthropique could write: A numerous orchestra, consisting entirely of young people, performed with unity, precision and rmness,
using intelligence and discretion in the accompaniments, which is even more
dicult.56 Later, especially under the direction of the violinist Franois
Habeneck, the unied 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 lEurope et des
spectacles showed an equal measure of understanding and horror, referring to
a few harsh germanisms, which [the composer] used by force of habit57 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 Londons Royal Academy of Music. The Regio Conservatorio di Musica in
Milan was established in 1824, with a curriculum which modied that of
Paris and with students recruited partly on a fee-paying basis and partly
by state subvention. Somewhat later, the Hochschule fr Musik und Theater
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in Leipzig proved a huge inuence 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. Prodhomme, 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. Rntsch (ed.), Bericht
ber die ersten 75 Jahre des Kniglichen Konservatoriums zu Leipzig, erstattet zum 2. April 1918, Leipzig,
Linnemann, 1918, pp. 56.



opened in 1862 under the aegis of Anton Rubinstein. Under Mendelssohns

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.
Mendelssohns 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 rst 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 procient musicians; it is known that Liszt paid no attention to
issues like technique or ngering, 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 musikpdagogischen Modells auf das internationale Musikleben, Studien und Materialen zur Musikwissenschaft, vol. 33, Hildesheim, Georg Olms, 2004,
pp. 815, 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 & Hrtel, 1843, p. 3.

The teaching of performance


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
gured bass, piano and singing.62
Mendelssohns initial vision was perhaps too idealistic; very soon, problems
began to manifest themselves. As with Paris, one of the chief problems was
retaining high-prole sta. At Leipzig, the original professorial sta 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 sta members who remained for a long
period of time included Moscheles, Ferdinand David and academic sta such as
Franz Brendel and later on Arnold Schering (history) and Reger (composition).
Then, as now, there existed a delicate balance between attracting high-prole,
prestigious sta and keeping rank-and-le sta 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 rst weeks of the conservatoires
opening) sheds some light on how Mendelssohns 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 Gods 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 4050 students.64 Although
62 E. Kneschke, Das Conservatorium der Musik in Leipzig, Leipzig, Breitkopf & Hrtel, 1868, p. 21.
63 Mendelssohn, Briefe, pp. 2556.
64 Quoted in J. Daverio, Robert Schumann: Herald of a New Poetic Age, Oxford University Press, 1997,
pp. 26970.



Mendelssohns vision had been for a specialist school in the truest sense, the reality
was that many of the students were amateurs a state of aairs that persisted in
many conservatoires until well into the twentieth century. At Stuttgart, there was
even a dedicated department for dilettantes. David J. Golbys 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 eect. Perhaps the most famous student who did not understand his
lessons at Leipzig was Arthur Sullivan. Mendelssohns 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
nal 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. Wasserlooss 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 ll the institutions coers. 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 Kniglichen Conservatoriums der Musik zu Leipzig 18431883, Leipzig,
Breitkopf & Hrtel, 1883, preface, p. vii.
67 Wasserloos, Das Leipziger Konservatorium, p. 31.
68 Ibid., pp. 4950.

The teaching of performance


Fig. 5.1. Illustrations of the faade, 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 sta and
students (and Leipzig certainly had its share), and maintaining sucient numbers for the institution to remain nancially viable. Altogether, as a conservatoire model Leipzigs advantages and disadvantages remain largely unchanged;
student access to rst-class teaching and high-level resources is enhanced by an
environment of competition, stimulus and future professional contacts. The
directorate must manage high-prole sta, while oering 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, 19347

The teaching of performance


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 Prokoev and the establishment. A classic
example is Rostropovichs failure in his rst 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 (18591918), 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
Anton Rubinsteins celebrated article written to promote the establishment
of the rst 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. Rubinsteins
attack on Russias 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 denition only as amateurs.
In Russias 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), 4161.
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 nd 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 nal aspect
of Sargeants magisterial guide through the dicult 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
(18881964), rst 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 dierences 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

Neuhaus reports that his teacher Godowskys 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 Muzykalnoe uchilishche v Moskve, Russkie vedomosti, 3 February 1866, cited ibid., 52.
74 H. Neuhaus, Ob iskusstve fortepiannoy igr (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 dierences
because the implied testing would challenge the underlying ideological societal postulates.

The teaching of performance


the method of playing the piano were usually a few bare words on weighty
playing or complete freedom.
Neuhauss own declared teaching method was to use every means to arouse
[a students] 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 pianists modest yet vast
purpose is to play our amazing, our magnicent 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 Rubinsteins 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 Pianists 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 Garca. 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
procient 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. 201.

77 Ibid., p. 22.
78 Ibid., p. 173.
79 Boris Berman, Notes from the Pianists Bench, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2000.



learning how to practise, engendering respect for the music, projecting authority and condence 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 re
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 rst instance, for him, a means of transmitting grandiose
ideas, hypnotic images, profound spiritual states of being; it was an instrument
through which one could inuence 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 cellos standing. The politics in
Moscow that were an inherent part of competition culture are well caught
in Elizabeth Wilsons biography of the great cellist; a dening 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 Kodly. Following Rousseau, Galin, Paris and Chev in
nineteenth-century France developed a system for sight-singing that dispensed
with notation in favour of imagery. The Swiss mile Jaques-Dalcroze developed his Eurythmics to inspire students to feel an enhanced involvement in
music through movement. Carl Or s Schulwerk developed Dalcrozes 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 rst encounter, and it is music for
everyone, in classes, with contributions at whatever level an individual can
oer. 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.

The teaching of performance


The Suzuki method was conceived by Shinichi 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 Boethiuss 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. 3. 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 sta taught at the
university; the choristers won scholarships to continue their studies; the choir
school often functioned under university auspices; in fact, Notre Dames 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 specied
within the curriculum. In England, there is documented evidence of the
existence of B.Mus. and D.Mus. degrees from the late fteenth century
onwards.87 In 1464, the rst rmly 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 codied 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 ve years for the D.Mus., and to submit a composition
(Canticum) of ve 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 rst
Professor of Music in 1684, one Nicholas Staggins who was Charles IIs bandmaster.90 Until the nineteenth century, these posts were not always regularly
lled, or when lled, 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., 13741.
87 S. Wollenberg, Oxford, Oxford Music Online,
88 J. Milsom, Henry Abyngdon, Oxford Music Online,
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.

The teaching of performance


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 rst 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 chiey 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, oering 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 denition are forms of non-verbal discourse, but rich in intellectual

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. 412.



equally importantly, made contacts which are then helpful in their professional
careers. The British soprano Susan Gritton, for example, read botany at St
Hildas, Oxford; during her time at the university, her musical interests were
not formally supported, but ourished 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 Tooleys 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 nancial 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 identication of
talent), the benets 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 eect was limited to a joint opera school over the next
Tooleys 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 dicult 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.

The teaching of performance


have been blamed for the shortage of orchestral players, and criticised for
lacking clear objectives, for failing to dierentiate 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 prole, 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.
Tooleys 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. Musics 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 dierent 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
eld 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 oering 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 qualications 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
reects the range of activities in which many musicians engage, including
freelance playing in a number of dierent 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
96 Also relevant here is the 1997 study Europes Caprices: A Study of Violin Curricula in European Musical
Institutions of Higher Learning undertaken by the Association Europenne des Conservatoires, Acadmies 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), 23682) outlines the
background to the establishment of the Royal College of Music.

The teaching of performance


range of studio-based options such as CD production, pop-song writing and

electro-acoustic composition, outreach and teaching. Performance-based
research is ourishing 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 chiey 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 oers 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.



To ease the transition into running a career as a freelance musician, the

RCMs 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 oered. 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 Alzheimers 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 Smildes 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
masterapprentice 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. 1078.

. 6 .

Music and musical performance: histories

in disjunction?

If you love music, hear it; go to operas, concerts and pay ddlers to play
to you; but I insist upon your neither piping nor ddling 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
ddle under your chin, or a pipe in your mouth.1

The Earl of Chesterelds 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
reected the rarity and beauty of their talents, and compensated them for the
social discredit of employing them in this manner. But Smiths prediction
that any lessening in societys 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 musics
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. Dobre (ed.), The Letters of Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chestereld, London, Eyre &
Spottiswoode, 1932, vol. 4, Letter 1633.
2 A. Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776), bk. I, ch. 10, pt. 1, pp. 1234. 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.
Crowests 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 Chestereld and Adam Smith be thought a peculiarly
British aiction, 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 Mozarts interment into an unmarked grave,
witnessed only by a priest and a sexton, from the extraordinary send-o to
which Beethoven was treated. The procession of thousands (estimated at
between 10,000 and 30,000) that accompanied Beethovens con to the
church, taking some one-and-a-half hours to cover the 500 yards, has its epic
representation in Franz Stobers painting, Beethovens Funeral Procession.5 It was
an occasion that could truly be said to have set the seal on compositions new
place in the cultural rmament, 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 dierent attitude (both
more knowing and respectful) being accorded to music as an autonomous and
self-sucient 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 inuentially 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. 3001; 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. Mller, 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 16481815, London, Allen Lane, 2007, pp. 5213; 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. 12047; and T. Blanning, The
Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe 16601789, Oxford University Press, 2002,
especially pp. 514 and 7899. 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. 1401 and 2323.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


regardless of how exquisite a degree of adoration the audience seems to be

showing to the ociants the performers themselves at this musical rite.8
The social and cultural constructions of the new market of eager and culturally
aspirant bourgeois consumers rmly established compositions in the high-art
tradition as musics central focus.9 And signicantly for the way that musics
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
protable 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 Handels 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 Russells 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
Graees Ludwig van Beethoven und die Intimen, dem Spiel desselben lauschend, Moritz von Shwinds
Die Symphonie and A Schubert Evening at Spauns, 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, 17921803, 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. 1609; see D. Russell, Popular Music in England,
18401914, 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 dierent 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 inuential tabulation of the eld of
musicology drawn up by Guido Adler.13 This tabular survey makes but one
mention of performance, and that only as a quantiable 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 oered 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 veriable performance practices from the how to manuals of
Franois 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 Committees 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. 1418.
13 G. Adler, Umfang, Methode und Ziel der Musikwissenschaft, Vierteljahrsschrift fr Musikwissenschaft,
vol. 1 (1885), 1617.
14 B. Bujic, Music in European Thought 18511912, Cambridge University Press, 1988, pp. 34855; 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. 411 and 3844. For an inuential 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 signicance 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 todays 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 dierent 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.

Oscar Schmitzs 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
aw of the British condition, which he expressed somewhat metaphysically as
its capacity for appreciating a things 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
justication 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. Schmitzs 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 Groves Dictionary, as Grove makes clear in his Preface to the
rst edition. The fact that Schmitzs phrase gained such currency was not just
because it oered 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
signicantly inadequate because it lacked sucient 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 dierent
type of contextual investigation.
Perhaps most indicative of this situation was the fact that E. D. Mackerness,
the author of one of the rst 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
Ehrlichs hugely inuential study of the music profession in Britain was the
work of a social and economic historian; and that Ruth Finnegans 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 Schmitzs book in the context of the English musical renaissance, see
J. Schaarwchter, Chasing a myth and a legend: The British Musical Renaissance in a Land without
Music , Musical Times (Autumn, 2008), 5360.
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 musics social and
economic context, and on the ways that cultural, educational and market
factors have inuenced and shaped its performance and reception across society. In turn, they inuenced 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 eects 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 eort from audiences and performers
alike. The informal reports of musical events found in private letters and diaries
are often more valuable than ocial printed accounts, because they can have
that whi 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 18401914, 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 18851920 as Recounted in Hazells 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 18401914, Cardi, University of Wales Press, 1998; C. Bashford and
L. Langley (eds.), Music and British Culture 17851914: Essays in Honour of Cyril Ehrlich, Oxford University
Press, 2000; P. Gillett, Musical Women in England, 18701914, 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, 16901914, 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. 32140.
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. 12244.



before. The soaring market for pianos is usually cited in this context,25 but it
was as equally signicant 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 benet 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
signicant 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. Thompsons 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 Burrows 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 aairs of nations focus of historys 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 historys 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. 1067.
27 D. Russell, Looking North: Northern England and the National Imagination, Manchester University Press,
2004, pp. 21011.
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 inuence 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
Langleys investigation into Berlioz reception in England and the impact that
Berliozs music made upon the orchestral culture and aesthetic perceptions of
the time.31 Interpreting the data in this way can explain dierences in programming tastes between metropolitan and provincial centres, and between
dierent regional and local communities. For example, The Times review of
Gounods 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 doeuvre 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 aected opera repertoire, see R. Beale, Opera in
Manchester, 18481899, Manchester Sounds, 6 (20056), 7197.
31 L. Langley, Agency and change: Berlioz in Britain, 18701920, Journal of the Royal Musical Association,
132/2 (2007), 30648.
32 The Times, 25 October 1902.



us today, or only do so in a specialist context. Eclectic programmes can be

dicult 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 dierent 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 (196073) 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 dierent 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 dierent 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 dier 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 Roses 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
denes 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 dierent 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 Glocks approach to programme building in Reinventing the Proms, in Doctor, Kenyon and
Wright (eds.), The Proms: A New History, pp. 168209, and in Concerts for coteries, or music for all? Glocks
Proms reconsidered, Musical Times (Autumn 2008), 334.
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 dierent region) for
vividly expressing emotions that feel connected to particular circumstance.
Though time may show a works general take-up was insucient 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 classication 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 dierent kinds of repertoire and
the exemplary status of the canon. In the present context, Ephemera typies
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 oer 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. 11734.
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 oered
important spin-os for performers and publishers alike. If prepared by a superstar virtuoso, a publishers 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, ngering, 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 composers text, so missing their point as being
about the preservation and transmission of an interpretation. Busonis celebrated performance edition of Bachs Wohltemperierte Klavier illustrates this
point.38 He begins it with a polemical Introduction that justies the custom of
modernising Bach (by occasionally retouching the musical text or by transcription), because of Bachs 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. 135; 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 at minor Prelude and Fugue (No. 8 of Book One) is especially personal and
40 Excellent rsums of changing repertoires in two taste-creating institutions are: C. Ehrlich, First
Philharmonic, Appendix 1 (The Evolution of the Repertoire), pp. 2437; 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 performers
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 dierent 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 aected 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 McKibbins 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-specic. There was a vast

table I: Symphonies at the Proms 18952005, pp. 2667. For an insight into Halls choice of repertoire,
see R. Beale, Charles Hall: A Musical Life, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2007, Appendix 4 (Most frequently
performed works in Halls Manchester concerts 18571895), pp. 2523.
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 18501900, in P. Bailey (ed.), Music Hall: The Business of Pleasure,
Milton Keynes, Open University Press, 1986, pp. 7392; see also D. [Hoher] Kift, The Victorian Music Hall:
Culture, Class and Conict, Cambridge University Press, 1996, and P. Bailey, Popular Culture and Performance
in the Victorian City, Cambridge University Press, 1998; for some examples of the signicance 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 Keiths long-running radio programme, Your Hundred
Best Tunes (19592007), 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
mlange of orchestral, choral and operatic excerpts and ballads, originally
chosen by Keith and then by polls of listeners.
This cultural middle ground formed the nancial basis of such series as the
Queens Hall NewmanWood 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 ineable vigorously contesting the ground with
those they considered mere vulgarians; Henry Woods comment on Robert
Newmans 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 Londons established orchestras (though the players
remained freelance). A rebellion by members of the Queens Hall orchestra
in protest against Woods 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 19181951, 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 Queens Hall
Promenade Concerts, 18951926, in Doctor, Kenyon and Wright (eds.), The Proms, pp. 3273.
47 H. Wood, My Life of Music, London, Victor Gollancz, 1938, p. 68. For an interesting and strongly
supportive discussion of the benets 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 Londons 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 o 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 signicant for their respective supporting communities. These cultures reect the process of musics 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 takeo of the piano and domestic music markets, as well as the band and choral
society markets, all of which are reected 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 signicant 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, musicologys 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 Hazells
Annual; Lewis Foreman reproduces their annual digest in his Music in England 18851920.
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), 95103.
52 D. W. Krummel, Music Publishing, in N. Temperley (ed.), The Athlone History of Music in Britain, vol. 5:
The Romantic Age, 18001914, London, The Athlone Press, 1981, 4659, 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 dierent perspective on, and

understanding of, musics 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
inuenced musical practice all across its Empire.54
The general lack of social respectability, let alone standing, accorded to
musicians was changed by bourgeois societys demand for music and for
music instruction. By the nal 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 musics
enhancement of pleasure activities had made it the essential accompaniment to
a wide range of sophisticated pastimes and amusements designed to ll 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 Londons West End. And although something like
Henry Irvings 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 Irvings 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. Baneld (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. 6389) illustrates the case in relation to organ
building, Stanfords migr 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. 21744.
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. 96120.
56 Ibid.; C. Ehrlich, The rst hundred years, in J. MacRae (ed.), Wigmore Hall 19012001: A Celebration,
London, Wigmore Hall Trust, 2001, pp. 3165, and E. Rappaport, Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the
Making of Londons 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 Irvings 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. 24158; 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 nancial return on his labour, as opposed to the much more

speculative prospects oered by the less-developed British market for high
art concert music. Arthur Sullivans success in the Savoy operas illustrates the
British composers dilemma extremely well. The ideological issues were clearly
pinpointed in an obituary in the Cornhill Magazine by J. A. Fuller Maitland, a
music establishment gure and inuential 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 dierent levels of performance attainment; often
such classics tended to dene the capability of the ensemble concerned. Thus
Stainers The Crucixion (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 Stainers music was calculated to oer a rewarding experience
and to full the taste expectations of performers and audience alike. In its
rst 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 dierent musical level, the emotional directness of Handels
Messiah helped to account for its perennial appeal to audiences of many
dierent types, but its diculties posed problems to groups of less procient
performers. This helps explain the many dierent 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-edged orchestral performances envisaged as a crowd-puller (and
the nancial rescue) of larger and more procient 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), 3009.
58 BL Add. MS 69522, p. 958.
59 We get a vivid sense of the multivalent social currents bound up in performances of Handels 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. 87113.



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

The choral society culture

The programme of the Philharmonic Societys 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 rst time in London the Bradford Festival
Choral Society, and to hear them, too, in such splendid works as Bachs
big double motet, Sing ye to the Lord and the [Beethovens] 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 inched,
even in the last ten pages of the Choral Symphony, so that the performance, as far as the choir is concerned, was rst 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 eort 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 Societys orchestra suered in comparison. To put this into context, no less a critic than Berlioz had described
the Philharmonic Societys 1847 performance as murder, and the Musical
Times review of the Societys performance on 28 June 1890 conrmed
the audiences expectation: Many present retired before the vocal Finale.
We can hardly blame them . . . since the setting of Schillers Ode must always
be more or less painful hearing. Presumably the decision to import the
Bradford Chorus was an attempt to restore the Philharmonics 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 diculties 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 eort 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 Hudderseld 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 Hudderselds 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 Hudderseld Choral Society, but
even more so when . . . informed . . . that England possessed several choral
societies quite as good.64 Hudderseld had also once performed Bachs
B minor Mass in London with the London Symphony Orchestra at the
Queens Hall, for a fee of 125 and a tea for all!65 But Hudderseld programmed
Bach rarely (only the Mass and the motet before 1914), because its home
audience found Bachs music tough going: the 1906 B minor Mass began with
a full hall which gradually emptied during the performance.66 No choir could
nancially sustain that sort of negative reaction, regardless of the musical
satisfaction it aorded 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 Hudderseld
had performed The Mount of Olives (the only Beethoven work in their repertoire)
eight times; but between 1856 and 1906, Bradford participated in ve 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 Choruss rst fty 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 Hudderseld Choral
Society, Leeds, W. S. Maney, n.d., p. 83.
66 Ibid.



and with the annual performances bringing in some 60 prot on average it

was considered a means of nancing 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 prot of 138.68 Meanwhile in Hudderseld,
Messiah had been performed sixteen times between 1836 and 1866, and thereafter was given at least once annually (and presumably protably). 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 gures 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 Societys origins have been traced to their rst complete
performance of Elijah in 1849, with a chorus of over 200. Their rst 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 Jamess Hall (In many respects
these musical ladies and gentlemen aord a lesson by which our own choral and
part singers might prot).70 For its rst fteen 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 Hall 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, 18651914: a case-study of Bradford, Journal of the Royal
Musical Association, 114/1 (1989), 4355.
69 Figures given in C. Dale, The Provincial Musical Festival in Nineteenth-century England, in Cowgill
and Holman (eds.), Music in the British Provinces, 32547, 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 rst-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 Hudderseld 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 Sheeld Choral Union on a
famous tour of the Dominions in 1911.73 Handel and Mendelssohn dominated the core repertoire at both Bradford and Hudderseld. Hudderseld
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). Hudderseld performed eight
Mendelssohn works, led by Elijah (17) followed by St Paul (15) and Hymn of
Praise (12). Bradford performed twelve of Mendelssohns works, performing
them less frequently, though the order of popularity is as for Hudderseld,
Elijah (13), St Paul (9) and Hymn of Praise (8). Haydns Creation was performed
an astonishing twenty-seven times at Hudderseld, but only six at Bradford.

71 Sewell, A History, pp. 93, 1745, 2401, 243.

72 P. Clark, British Clubs and Societies, 15801800: The Origins of an Associational World, Oxford University
Press, 2000; Musical Times, 43 (April, 1902), 23941. 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. 195221; S. E. Taylor,
Finding themselves: musical revolutions in nineteenth-century Staordshire, pp. 22335; P. Horton,
Outside the cathedral: Samuel Sebastian Wesley, local music-making, and the provincial organist in mid
nineteenth-century England, pp. 25568; C. Dale, The provincial music festival in nineteenth-century
England: a case study of Bridlington, pp. 32547. For a wider perspective, see S. Gunn, The Public Culture
of the Victorian Middle Class: Ritual and Authority in the English Industrial City 18401914, Manchester
University Press, 2000, especially ch. 6. An earlier, but still valuable study of musical life in the
Staordshire Potteries, is Nettel, Music in the Five Towns.
73 J. Richards, Imperialism and Music, Manchester University Press, 2001, pp. 45068.



Perhaps unexpectedly from todays perspective, Mozarts Requiem received

only one performance (at Bradford) in this period.
There was common ground, too, in several of the British works performed:
Elgars Gerontius (twice each), Parrys Blest Pair of Sirens (twice each), Sterndale
Bennett (Woman of Samaria, May Queen) and works by Sullivan, Prout, ColeridgeTaylor (several performances of Hiawathas Wedding Feast) and the Bradford
musician William Jackson. They overlapped in some modern European repertoire. For example, Brahmss Requiem and Berliozs Faust (eight performances at
Bradford and six at Hudderseld, attest to Fausts popularity). Rossinis Stabat
Mater was performed by both societies, but Dvoks setting was given only at
Bradford, though both programmed his Spectres Bride. Wagners popularity is
evident in selections of Lohengrin and Tannhauser, and Bradford also performed
The Flying Dutchman twice. Overall, Bradfords repertoire is the more enterprising
and musically ambitious, something probably explained by its involvement in the
Subscription Concert series, with Sir Charles Hall and F. H. Cowen. For example, Bradford gave four performances each of Schumanns Paradise and the Peri and
Verdis Requiem; two each of Saint-Sanss Samson and Delilah and Gades Psyche;
and once each of Francks The Beatitudes, Gounods The Redemption and Messe
Solennelle, Webers Der Freischtz and Horatio Parkers Hora Novissima. What we
see is that both these choirs, once clear of their nancial 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 nances. On programming he says: At the present time (1886)
there is a great race between societies all over the kingdom to be the rst 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 Gounods latest oratorio, Dvoraks 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 [Gounods] The Redemption, [Mackenzies] Rose of Sharon,

[Gounods] Mors et Vita and [F. H. Cowens] 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
diculties;77 and, In Yorkshire they [modern works] are quite as much
appreciated by the chorus, but not sung as much on account of diculty 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 Leslies eponymous London choir. As a
favourite pattern he cites the miscellaneous concert, with sacred music in the
rst 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 rst 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 Hall, of Bach in the rst and
Chopin in the second. The third programme cited was an all secular concert, a
mlange of madrigals, part-songs, glees, an old song (Sally in our alley), a
humorous part-song and a sentimental Irish melody.79
Venabless 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 chiey 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 oered 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. 7581.
80 Ibid., ch. 9, Concert prots and losses, pp. 704.



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 nal 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: Mozarts so-called Twelfth Mass,
Rossinis Stabat Mater and Mendelssohns 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 oce was
unable to cover. Finances had become an acute issue in London, where the
growth in serious amateur participation had generated a signicant 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 Societys 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 Parkers Hora Novissima, Benoits Lucifer,
Henschels Stabat Mater, Schuberts Song of Miriam and Wagners 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 Londons Alexandra Palace Choral Society, which some considered
the capitals best chorus, are a judicious mix of the popular and the uncommercial: Bachs B minor Mass, Elgars Apostles, Handels Israel in Egypt and Acis
and Galatea, Coleridge-Taylors Hiawatha and Dvoks Stabat Mater. The idea
of performing Solomon (given once in Bradford and twice in Hudderseld)
had to be dropped, reecting, the tyrannous popularity of some two or three
of Handels works and the consequent impossibility of arranging for
adequate performances of others.83 Hudderseld and Bradfords 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. 177206. For an overview of the repertoire that choral
societies were performing in the 18867 season, see P. Scholes, The Trend of Taste, in Scholes, The Mirror
of Music, vol. 1, pp. 1445.
83 W. J. Galloway, Musical England, London, Christophers, 1910, p. 119.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


metropolitan one facing a more competitive environment. Dave Russell

makes the point that while Manchester might enjoy 1520 public concerts
a month during the winter season in the 1890s when such activity was at its
zenith, London oered 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 Verdis Il trovatore were published by Boosey & Sons within a month of
its premiere, while James Smyths arrangement of the overture to La forza del
destino was being circulated within a few months of the operas rst performance in St Petersburg in 1862.86 It was therefore through the medium of the
brass band that many developed and satised 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 rst place.
Among many possible examples, the self-governing Besses o th Barn and
the private Cyfarthfa bands are two bands that oer 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. 1067; p. 56.



contrasting perspectives.87 The name Besses o th Barn derives from an old

industrial town between Manchester and Bury in Lancashire. The bands
history has been traced to 1818 and a wind band based at Cleggs Cotton
Mill, known as Cleggs 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, Whiteld.88 The change from reed to an allbrass ensemble is signicant and reects 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 oered by instrumental manufacturers for players to exchange their
current instruments for newer models.90 The Besses typied 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 reected 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 evenings 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 oered
their membership a very dierent 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
The Besses had the good fortune to have Alexander Owen (18511920) as
their trainer and arranger from 1884. As erce 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 bands technique and endurance, this transcription
was one of several Owen made of Wagners 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 signicance of developments in instrumental technology, see Herbert, Nineteenth-century bands.
88 D. H. Van Ess, Band music, in N. Temperley (ed.), The Romantic Age 18001914, p. 138; the bands
history at the ocial website,
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. 15486.
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. 10518.
93 D. Russell, Alexander Owen, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


arrangers art. It capitalises on the bands ability to sustain a beautifully rened

blend of sound and integrated ensemble as well as brilliance and re. 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 Owens Reminiscences of Rossini (1882), which included the William Tell overture, a calling card for the Besses, who won fourteen rst 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 Cowards previously mentioned
Sheeld Musical Union choirs 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 condence 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 Tydl to provide music for the family
and its social occasions.96 Herbert has categorised the Bands repertoire into
three broad types, light diversions, art-music transcriptions and miscellaneous
pieces, including original compositions like Joseph Parrys Tydl 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. 815. For a helpful outline of brass band repertoire see
R. Newsome, Brass Roots: A Hundred Years of Brass Bands and their Music (18361936), Aldershot, Ashgate,
1998. Recordings of some of Owens 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 Bands website ( 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 Bands 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 Dickenss Household Words conveys something of

the bands 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 Londons
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 eect, that was how the brass-band world operated in the nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries. Its self-suciency 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 signicance of the band.
100 T. Herbert and J. Wallace, Aspects of performance practices: the brass band and its inuence on other
brass-playing styles, in Herbert (ed.), The British Brass Band, p. 284.
101 See Ehrlich, First Philharmonic.

Music and performance: histories in disjunction?


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 rm, 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 & Rounds Amateur Band Teachers Guide and
Bandsmans Adviser with systematic tips (some seemingly garnered from the
Brass Band News) on technical issues and matters of ensemble.103 Contesting
was signicant 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

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 Londons
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 Committees music adviser, Carl Ambruster, oered 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 dont 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 Councils 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. 2945.
104 Contest rules and the results and repertoire of successful bands in the Open and National
Championships, 18531997 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

Tchaikovskys Sixth. Overtures included Brahmss Academic Festival,
Mendelssohns Athalie, Smetanas Bartered Bride, Webers Euryanthe and
Sullivans In Memoriam, and selections came from Gounods Irene,
Humperdincks Hansel and Gretel, Leoncavallos Pagliacci, Sullivans 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 Beethovens Coriolanus and Fidelio, Mozarts Titus,
Mendelssohns Midsummer Nights Dream, Mackenzies Cricket on the Hearth,
Nicolais Merry Wives of Windsor, Rossinis William Tell, Schuberts Rosamunde,
Wagners The Flying Dutchman, Webers Oberon and selections from operas by
Auber, Benedict, Leoncavallo, Meyerbeer, Nicolai, Puccini, Rossini, Johann
Strauss, Verdi, Wagner and Wallace. Another contributor to Londons free
music was the National Sunday League, which sponsored 511 concerts and 121
band performances in various parks in 19089, 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 Londons 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 rst to be given on
denitely 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.
Sheeld 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 Liverpools support of
organ recitals in St Georges Hall was considered a particularly successful
means of civic musical provision because of the instruments ability to popularise considerable amounts of music through transcriptions and arrangements
(economical, too, given that one man, using the mechanical eciency and
sound spectrum of the organ was an eective 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
auent 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
oset 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 Elgars First Symphony),113 the company of La Scala,
Milan with Cavalleria rusticana and (Gounods) Faust, John McCormack, Clara
Butt and Henry Wood.114
Civic music in the seaside resorts of Eastbourne, Bournemouth and Brighton
reects their own very dierent 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 dierence in ticket price was because the classical concerts were
110 Ibid., p. 57.
111 Ibid., p. 64.
112 Ibid., pp. 578.
113 Although not necessarily quite as Elgar had composed it; see J. Lucas, Thomas Beecham: An Obsession
with Music, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2008, pp. 501.
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



unrehearsed. In its rst 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 18), and 41 British
works (including Elgars First Symphony). The success of Brightons 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-Taylors Bon-Bon Suite, selections from Tannhuser and Lohengrin,
Elgars First Symphony and In the South, Tchaikovskys Sixth Symphony,
Stanfords Irish Rhapsody, and A. C. Mackenzies Britannia Overture.115
Galloways 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 subject116
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
Beethovens Ninth Symphony and Brahmss 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 aord 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 Strattons UK-wide estimate of 40,000 musicians in 1897 indicates

that there had been an immense growth in musical employment since 1851.


Municipal music, The Times, 16 January 1909.

G. Grove (ed.), A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, London, Macmillan, 1879, editors preface.
W. J. Galloway, The competitive movement, in Galloway, Musical England, pp. 167206.
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 Musics 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
Humperdincks reaction to the quality of the playing of Sullivans 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 inuential 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. cxxicxxvii). 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. 78.
121 Figures taken from Ehrlich, Music Profession, table 1, and N. McCord, British History 18151906,
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), 34457.
126 Haweis, Music and Morals, pp. 4913.



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 Chrysanders Handel edition (1858
94) and biography (185867), the Bach-Gesellschaft (185199) and
Philipp Spittas Bach biography (187380), the Mozart edition (18771905),
Kchels Mozart catalogue (1862) and Otto Jahns Mozart biography (1856,
revised in 1867 and 188991), as well as editions of Beethoven (18625),
Schubert (188497) and Schtz (18851927). 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 Forkels Bach biography for the English market in
1869,129 and George Grove had written a preface to the translation by
Pauline Townsend of Jahns 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 Parrys,

127 Stanford, Pages from an Unwritten Diary, pp. 2234.

128 F. Hiller, Quasi Fantasia, in E. Graeme (ed.), Beethoven: A Memoir, London, Grin, 1870, quoted in
M. Hughes and R. Stradling, The English Musical Renaissance 18401940: 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. 135.
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 dierent from
Germanys. 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 Musics founding in 1883.134 Clearly, then, the weight of
British musical strengths lay dierently from those of the ubiquitous Germanic
model, hence Mackernesss injunction to look at the dierent 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 dierent 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 signicant manifestation of Victorian scholarship, George Groves
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 nations 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. Putnams 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. 16991.
133 The RAMs 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. 12.
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), 23682; for details of the
RCMs General Regulations of 1883 and 1889 see Appendix 1, pp. 27980. 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 (187989), 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 reected by the increasing numbers of
performers who routinely cross between dierent 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 Groves words written to Richter in 1897 after a performance of
Tchaikovskys Pathtique, 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
The performers 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 beneted the box oce; today,
the situation is reversed, sometimes excepting well-trailed, high-prole commissions. This ambivalence became especially striking in the 1960s, when many
136 L. Langley, Roots of a tradition: the rst Dictionary of Music and Musicians, in M. Musgrave (ed.), George
Grove, Music and Victorian Culture, Basingstoke and New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, pp. 168215.
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. 32140; on the educational
and cultural signicance 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. 11542, and Educating England: networks of programme provision in the nineteenth century, in
Cowgill and Holman (eds.), Music in the British Provinces, pp. 34976.
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
aecting the way it sounds. Todays even not-so-old listener is likely to have
experienced music from the classical mainstream clothed in several very dierent 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 Norringtons 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 consumers 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 nal 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 Elgars 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 proles of performers and their performance identity
has given successful recording artists unprecedented inuence in shaping our
musical culture. And because of the ways musicians are commodied in todays
139, 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 dierent 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. Gardiners cycle was conceived to link both the new
Millennium celebrations and the 250th anniversary of Bachs 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, Gardiners 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 nancial backing to set his
SDG project rmly underway on an independent, not-for-prot basis, and to
expand it to cover further performance projects.
Technology has not only moved the spotlight rmly 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 musics 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. 15887.




. 7 .

The Ancient World


The notion of performance was central to the practice and ideology of ancient
Greek and Roman societies: a politicians speech or a lawyers 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 mousik embraced the entire eld of poetic performance to
which the Muses gave their name, including song, poetry and bodily movement, all integrated within an event, which served to dene 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 specic 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
dierent parts of the Greek world. It was through these occasions that regional
identities consolidated their Hellenic sense of aliation.

The culture of mousik in Archaic and Classical Greece

In the Archaic (eighth to sixth century BC) and Classical ages (fth to fourth
century BC), composers called melopoioi, that is, makers of melos, a composition
dened 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. 129.
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. 18.
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-gured 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 Homers 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 Platos portrayal of a rhapsode in Classical time still
clearly shows: For I [i.e. Ion, the rhapsode protagonist of Platos dialogue named
after him] must frankly confess that at the tale of pity, my eyes are lled 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 rst century BC). Scholars working in the ancient libraries that ourished at that time (the most famous of which was in Alexandria) organised the
poetic material of their past, producing the rst critical editions of such
material. Alexandrian scholars referred to the ancient melopoioi as composers of
lyric poetry (lyrik poisis), 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 rst 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 cd.
6 For a discussion on this articial classication, see M. Davies, Monody, choral lyric, and the tyranny of
the hand-book, Classical Quarterly, 38 (1988), 5264.

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 mens 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 oered 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 reecting the fact that each symposiast participated in
turn on receipt of the myrrin (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 dierent 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 aultrides (literally, female aulosplayers), psaltriai (literally, harp-girls) and orchstrides (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 aultrides 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
dierent 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 fth-century symposia see, for example,
Aristophanes, Knights, v. 529.
9 L. Kurke, Inventing the hetaira: sex, politics, and discursive conict in archaic Greece, Classical
Antiquity, 16 (1997), 10650.



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 eective 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 dierent 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 years calendar (e.g. the Panathenaea and the City
Dionysia in Athens, the former in honour of the citys 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 diered in the
detail of their ritual, since it was believed appropriate that dierent gods were
honoured in their own, distinctive way: hence there were specic choral forms
for each god (or goddess).10
A distinction among musical types and forms (eid kai schmata), according to
the functions and the contexts in which they were originally performed, may
already be found in Plato, Laws, 700ab; 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 dierentiate
types of worship).11 They might consist of prayers to the gods (hymnoi), funeral
lamentations (thrnoi), 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 rened
art form more than a ritual composition, sung by a chorus of up to fty 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 societ, vol. 2. I,
Turin, Einaudi, 1996, pp. 47196.
11 B. Kowalzig, Changing choral worlds: song-dance and society in Athens and beyond, in Murray and
Wilson (eds.), Music and the Muses, pp. 446.

The Ancient World


and marriage-songs (hymenaioi and epithalamia), these latter based on the

exchange between two mixed choral groups; and laudatory (enkmia) and
victory odes (epinikia) commissioned by rulers or nobles for both public
and private festivities, through which the donors high standing was armed
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 dierent 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 chorgos, or chorus-leader, gave the signal (exarchein) of dancing and singing
(Suda s.v. chorgos).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 dierent
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 dening the social role, age-group, gender and political status of
their participants.
During the main religious festivals of the Greek world, however, musics
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. 13556.
13 I. C. Rutherford, (Xen. Mem. 3.3.12): song-dance and state-pilgrimage at
Athens, in Murray and Wilson (eds.), Music and the Muses, pp. 6790.
14 C. Calame, Les churs de jeunes lles en Grce archaque, Rome, Edizioni dellAteneo, 1977.
15 See Odyssey, 8.261., 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), 30214, 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 nd musical contests (mousikoi agnes) in singing to the aulos
(aulidia) and to the kithara (kitharidia), as well as in solo aulos or kithara
playing. According to the competitive nature of Greek performance culture,
prizes were oered 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 xed patterns: in Greek, nomos means also custom
or law. They were originally given dierent 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 specic geographical regions); a
Terpandreios and a Kpin (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 Apollos ght with the serpent named Python (who occupied the
site of Delphi before him), introduced and developed as the main musical form in
which the aultai challenged during the Pythian games, held in one of the most
important Apollinean sanctuaries (i.e. Delphi). In the nal section of this nomos
(called syringes, literally whistles), the players imitated the death of the serpent
as it expired with its nal whistlings, by exploiting the high harmonics achieved
via the speaker hole of the aulos.
The musical forms which became the most fashionable between the fth 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 rst 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. 24955.
19 E. Csapo, The politics of the New Music, in Murray and Wilson (eds.), Music and the Muses, pp. 20748.

The Ancient World


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 nger-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 rst 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 orchstra,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 inuenced the performeraudience 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: . 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 worlds rst 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. 3968.
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 parakatalog (that is, katalog (i.e. recitation) beside or along
with (para) musical accompaniment), the irregularity of which was thought to
produce a tragic eect (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 ameib, 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 kopt, 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 oce 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 rst to separate the functions of actor and poet due to his weak
voice (mikrophnia). Ancient literary sources often remarked that the vocal talents
of an actor, who wore a mask during performance, should undoubtedly exhibit
euphnia (good voice production and delivery), megalophnia (loudness of voice,
necessary in an open-air theatre) and lamprots (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
reected sounds, such as those characteristic of the orchstra.28
In the second half of the fth 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 inuence 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 orchstra reection.

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for one person to execute many modulations than for many (Pseudo-Aristotle,
Problems, 19.15). The rst 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 fth 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 Charons 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,
31 The frogs acquire the role of keleusts (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
209267, Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica, 85 (2007), 13742.



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 Lityerss (after the mythical Phrygian hero), melodies sung by
hired labourers who went to work in the eld, 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 Alexanders 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
These touring companies operated specically as autonomous political
32 M. L. West, Ancient Greek Music, Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 2830.
33 See, for example, the lyric agon between an old woman and a girl to grasp the attention of the beloved
man, or the lovers complaint sung at his mistresss door (called paraklausithyron) in Aristophanes
Ecclesiazousai (vv. 893923 and 95275).
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,  .   
M , Heraklion, University Publications of Crete, 1988; B. Le Guen, Les
Associations de technites dionysiaques lpoque hellnistique, 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 oered 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 tragidoi and kmidoi, 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 reects 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 classication, 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 dierent hypothesis see T. Fleming, The survival of Greek dramatic music from the fth century
to the Roman period, in B. Gentili and F. Perusino (eds.), La colometria antica dei testi poetici greci, Pisa,
Istituti Editoriali e Poligraci Internazionali, 1999, pp. 1729; and T. Fleming and E. C. Kop, Colometry
of Greek lyric verses in tragic texts, Studi Italiani di Filologia Classica, 3/10 (1992), 75870 (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 Aristotles 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 eect so
well as a play which has a plot, seems to conrm 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 nd an
anthological selection of two lyrical excerpts from an Euripidean drama of
the late fth century, the Iphigenia in Aulis.40 The two excerpts are rearranged
in their order: the rst is part of an amoebean song between Iphigenia and the
chorus, coming from the last part of the tragedy (vv. 15009),41 and the
second is an originally choral section coming from its second stasimon
(vv. 78494). 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 rst excerpt, and a solo performance for the second fragment (even if the hypothesis of a solo performance
also for the rst 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
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 dellOrso, 2006.
40 E. Phlmann and M. L. West (eds.), Documents of Ancient Greek Music: The Extant Melodies and Fragments,
Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 1821.
41 As Prauscello (Singing Alexandria, p. 179) opportunely points out of the long astrophic section in
Iphigenia in Aulis (vv. 14751531), 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 fth 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 nale (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 ocially invented
in 22 BC, when Pylades of Cilicia and Bathyllus of Alexandria introduced it in
Rome, see next section). This musical performance oered the public
something similar to modern ballet interpretation of serious drama: a single
actor/dancer (called orchsts), 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 krou, to strike), a sandal with
an iron sole, used to mark time for the dance.
The pantomimes 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 nale of
Aristophanes Wasps (vv. 1474515), 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. 732.
44 Delphi III 1. 551, on which see M. Robert, Pantomimen im Griechischen Orient, Hermes, 65 (1930),



dance the old dances of Thespis, the traditional founder of Athenian tragedy. It
has been argued that here the dance gures 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 Xenophons Symposium (a dialogue written around 360 BC as if it were a
record of actual after-dinner conversation), we nd 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 (9.27).
Furthermore, scholars have identied 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 inuenced
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 Homers 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 rened 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 nale delle Vespe e di altri passi
aristofanei), Rivista di cultura classica e medievale, 20 (1978), 114970; W. T. MacCary, Philokleon ithyphallos: Dance, costume and character in the Wasps, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological
Association, 109 (1979), 13747.
46 O. Weinreich, Epigrammstudien, I: Epigramm und Pantomimus nebst einem Kapitel ber einige nichtepigrammatische Texte und Denkmler 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. 23853.
47 R. Hunter, Theocritus and the Archaeology of Greek Poetry, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 113.

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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 nd 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 signicant 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, lovers complaint sung at his mistresss door), as in
Idyll 3 (The Serenade). We also nd examples of work songs, such as the
reapers song named Lityerss (see above) displayed in Idyll 10.41.; 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, nally, 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 denition),49 assuming the form of typical high

48 R. Pretagostini, Tracce di poesia orale nei carmi di Teocrito, Aevum Antiquum, 5 (1992), 6778.
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. 5770.



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 dierent arts assumed more spectacular features than in Greece. Roman musical performances, especially those of
the Imperial period (27 BCAD 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 inuenced 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 inuence 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
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 dierent 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, 7.2.47.
51 D. Briquel, Ludi/Lydi: jeux romains et origines trusques, Ktema, 11 (1986), 1617.

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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 fth 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 ghts, 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-rst
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, 7.2.47) 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 signicant 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 nellantica Roma,
Bologna, Il mulino, 1996.
53 The amphitheatres, like the theatres, were originally made of wood: the rst permanent building in
Rome dates from around 30 BC.
54 Vitruvius, On Architecture, 10.8; Athenaeus, Banquet of the Learned, 174a185a.



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 rst 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 ocial 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 nale (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
dierent 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 specically 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 gures, 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 rst two productions of the comedy, Terences Mother in
Law (Hecyra), were failures because the public left, rst 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

The Ancient World


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 dierent 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 Terences comedies,
for instance, we know that one Flaccus Claudi (i.e. slave or ex-slave of Claudius,
one of Terences 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 rst 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
dellAteneo, 1985.
56 In Rome the actors who performed in dramas were rigorously excluded from membership in the res
57 E. J. Jory, Association of actors in Rome, Hermes, 98 (1970), 22453; 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. 22537.



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 Senecas plays, which
strongly inuenced 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 modication of the Roman theatre design: the space of the orchstra,
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
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 rst century BC, of numerous permanent theatres in all areas of the Empire). Traditional tragedies and
comedies, however, were anked 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 ocially 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 Senecas 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), 2144;
E. Hall The singing actors of antiquity, in Easterling and Hall (eds.), Greek and Roman Actors, pp. 338.
60 Annales, 14.15 and 16.4.

The Ancient World


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 ocial 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 rst 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, oering 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 rst 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, 4.8.3942).
Since the second century AD, with the diusion of Christian religion in the
Roman Empire, the Christian Church consistently condemned all the spectacular performances of the Roman world. In Tertullians 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. 4079.
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. 282303.
63 R. E. Fantham, Mime. The missing link in Roman literary history, Classical World, 82 (19889), 15363.



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 ction 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

64 W. Puchner, Acting in the Byzantine theatre: evidence and problems, in Easterling and Hall (eds.),
Greek and Roman Actors, pp. 30424.

. 8 .

Performance before c. 1430: an overview


The rst 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 fth to the fteenth centuries. It is
dicult to generalise about a millennium of music-making. Major dierences
exist, for example, between a lament from Carolingian Gaul and a lute composition from fteenth-century Italy.1 These two pieces dier 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),
2 R. Rosenfeld, Technologies for musical drafts, twelfth century and later, Plainsong and Medieval Music,
11 (2002), 4563.
3 H. Fielding, Tom Jones, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 67.
4 See, for example, J. Yudkin, Music in Medieval Europe, Englewood Clis, 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 xate on notated polyphony
partly because it pregures masterworks by such well-known composers as
Palestrina and Brahms, a representative case being Guillaume de Machauts
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. 43257; Wilson, Music of the Middle Ages, pp. 379382 (entitled An
instrumental postscript).
6 See, for example, J. Haines, Friedrich Ludwigs 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 edication (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,
ocial music such as ceremonial instrumental pieces and other miscellaneous
functional songs such as those performed in battle. The second category of
edication 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, Lambertuss Epiglotus, Journal of Medieval Latin, 16 (2006), 142.
8 For an original discussion of musics function in medieval society see A. Hughes, Style and Symbol:
Medieval Music, 8001453, Ottawa, Institute of Medieval Music, 1989, pp. 13374.
9 C. Page, Discarding Images, Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 734.



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 edication)

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 tting 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 oated 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 rst 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 inuence, 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 rst 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 Go, 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
556; C. du Fresne du Cange, Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et inmae 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. Bchers Arbeit
und Rhythmus, 3rd edn, Leipzig, B. G. Teubner, 1902.



songs to them.12 At the core of this remark lies the mothers rocking rhythm
whence originates the lullaby. As Karl Bcher has pointed out, bodily motion
governs much work song.13 We nd a rare medieval passage on lullaby music in
Albert the Greats thirteenth-century edition of Aristotles 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 eects 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 denition 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, ber Arbeitslieder bei Johannes Chrysostomos Patristisch-literarisches zu
K. Bchers Arbeit und Rhythmus , Berichte ber die Verhandlungen der Kniglich Schsischen Gesellschaft
der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philologisch-historische Klasse, 57 (1905), 1045.
13 Bcher, Arbeit und Rhythmus, pp. 295377. On the lullaby, see Naegeles appendix in his ber
Arbeitslieder, 13142.
14 H. Stadler, Albertus Magnus de Animalibus libri XXVI, Mnster i. W, Aschendor, 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. 2912, 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. Testers translation on p. 177
diers 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 eects for their ecacy.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 Lords 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 ocial occasions or ceremonies, the best attested of
these being funerals. Funeral rites were elaborate aairs, 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 tting

18 E. Bozoky, Charmes et prires apotropiques, Turnhout, Brepols, 2003, pp. 345; 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 1214: Incantare herbas ad malecia 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 prires, pp. 3644.
21 Gregory of Tours, Histoire des Francs, trans. O. M. Dalton as The History of the Franks, Oxford, Clarendon
Press, 1927, vol. 2, pp. 1067; Patrologiae cursus completus . . . series latina, vol. 71, Paris, 1879, col. 263B:
aliquid agere malecii.
22 For example, McNeill and Gamer, Medieval Handbooks of Penance, pp. 43 and 294.
23 F. Broomeld (ed.), Thomae de Chobham summa confessorum, Louvain, ditions Nauwelaerts, 1968,
pp. 4789: 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 eectum 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. 1516;
H. Angls, Hispanic culture from the 6th to the 14th century, Musical Quarterly, 26 (1940), 51011.
25 E. De Coussemaker, Histoire de lharmonie au Moyen ge, Hildesheim, Georg Olms, 1966, pp. 8797 and
plates 12 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 ocial occasions would have called for
musical instruments, some of which are described in Chapter 10. We nd an
example of a vocal performance in Sugers 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 nal 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 songs 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, Womens 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 Bcher. Later genres codied 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 loves name! Never did I think I would feel its pain!
Ex. 8.2. Opening of Bele Yolanz en ses chambres seoit (Paris, Bibliothque
Nationale de France, f. fr. 20050, fol. 64v)

30 McKinnon, Early Christian Period, p. 124; Dronke, Medieval Lyric, p. 15; Naegele, ber
Arbeitslieder, 115. The word 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. 6672. Ted Gioia, in his recent book Work Songs, Durham, NC, Duke
University Press, 2006, pp. 81, cites this passage from Dronkes 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 dicult 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 nd 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
Christians side, and from their side the devilish and dirty Hi, hi.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 nd evidence for solo performances. A famous anecdote comes
from Waces 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 edication

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

31 M. Zink, Les chansons de toile, Paris, Champion, 1977, pp. 23.

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 Trouvres: The Changing Identity of Medieval Music, Cambridge
University Press, 2004, p. 58.
35 C. Burger, dicatio, fructus, utilitas: Johannes Gerson als Professor der Theologie und Kanzler der Universitt
Paris, Tbingen, J. C. B. Mohr (P. Siebeck), 1986, pp. 4055.
36 R. Schulmeister, dicatio und Imitatio: Studien zur internationalen Poetik der Legende und Kunstlegende,
Hamburg, Ldke, 1971, pp. 1842 and 6878, 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 edication 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 dierent 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 dierent picture.
The practice of musical troping appears to have been widespread, even though
Grocheio, for example, only briey mentions troped pieces (farsae).40 The rst
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 signicant 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 ocials, 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. Rohlo, Der Musiktraktat des Johannes de Grocheo nach den Quellen neu herausgegeben mit bersetzung ins
Deutsche und Revisionsbericht, Leipzig, Reinecke, 1943, pp. 5867.
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. 1642.
40 Rohlo, Musiktraktat, p. 67.
41 The best introduction is J. Stevens, Words and Music in the Middle Ages: Song, Narrative, Dance and Drama,
10501350, Cambridge University Press, 1986, pp. 249.
42 D. OSullivan, 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 suns 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 ocials 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 dierent saints, so all throughout the year. The practices that particularly irked
church ocials, 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 Lords
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. 468 and 1029.
45 MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism, p. 105; Quasten, Music and Worship, pp. 14977; MacNeill and
Gamer, Medieval Handbooks of Penance, p. 319 (where Regino of Prm attests to the songs joyful character)
and p. 333.
46 For example, Broomeld (ed.), Thomae de Chobham, p. 477.
47 See B. Delaurenti, La puissance des mots: Virtus verborum: Dbats doctrinaux sur le pouvoir des incantations
au Moyen ge, Paris, Cerf, 2007.
48 For example, Broomeld (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 betting a
processional song. As I have explained elsewhere, the Latin text resonates with
pagan themes, from the openings 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 nal
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 edication.
Medieval edication 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. 11819. In his useful introduction to the Feast of Fools, E. K. Chambers (The Medival Stage,
Oxford University Press, 1903, vol. 1, pp. 27981 and 289291) does not mention the feasts 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, 11001300,
London, Dent, 1987, pp. 1545 and 172.
52 Cited in The Variae of Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, trans. S. J. B. Barnish, Liverpool University
Press, 1992, pp. 38 and 423.



Ex. 8.4. Banquet song from Renart le nouvel*

* This is refrain 29 in the edition portion of my Satire in the Songs (manuscript Vs

lighter pieces such as the banquet songs parodied at dierent points in Renart le
nouvel. Near the end of this romance occurs a spectacular entertainment scene
featuring some forty notated refrains sung by dierent animals.53 One such is
the short ditty performed by the lioness Orgueilleuse, a parody of the prevailing trouvre 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 potique des Mrovingiens, Paris, Pickard, 1893, pp. 314; on the Anglo-Saxon
tradition, see Stevens, Words and Music, pp. 20412.
55 Kurth, Histoire potique, p. 55.
56 On the surviving evidence see Stevens, Words and Music, pp. 2226.
57 Ibid., pp. 23549.
58 H. W. Garrod (ed.), Einhards Life of Charlemagne: The Latin Text, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1925, p. 26,
para. 24, 2, lines 13: Inter cenandum aut aliquod acroama aut lectorem audiebat. Legebantur ei historiae
et antiquorum res gestae.
59 Barnish, The Variae of Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus, pp. 401.

Performance before c. 1430: an overview


As Christopher Page has emphasised, private courtly settings were also the
theatre for another edication genre, this one well attested by both literary
and notated evidence: the love song. One of Pages poignant examples is the
account of a southern French minstrel who spends an evening at the court of
the Count Dal dAlvernhe 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 rened
circles we nd 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 ery 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 rst 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
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
Augustines 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, 11001300, London, Dent, 1989,
pp. 4653.
61 Cesarius of Arles, Sermons au peuple, trans. M.-J. Delage, Paris, ditions du Cerf, 1971, vol. 1, pp. 1367
and 324.
62 R. Weber (ed.), Ambrosii Autperti Opera, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medaevalis XXVIIB,
Turnholt, Typographi Brepols, 1979, vol. 3, pp. 9545 (diversis carminum sibilis).
63 L. Gougaud, La danse dans les glises, Revue dhistoire ecclsiastique, 15 (1914), 12.
64 M. Sahlin, tude sur la carole mdivale: lorigine du mot et ses rapports avec lglise, Uppsala, Almqvist &
Wiksells, 1940, pp. 13792, Gougaud, La danse dans les glises, and Stevens, Words and Music, pp. 1612.
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 eeruntur; the
passage is taken from Ivo of Chartress Decretum. As Sahlin notes (tude 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 nd 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 edication, we should briey inspect music for the
stage. Here too, condemnations by churchmen preserve important information
on a mostly lost performance practice. The early Christian poet Prudentius oers
up in the early fth century an especially colourful description of theatre music.
He rails against the lascivious bodies of eeminate 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
Halles 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.

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 nd 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, tude sur la carole mdivale, p. 137, n. 4, and Y. Rokseth, Danses clricales du XIIIe sicle,
Mlanges 1945, vol. 3, tudes historiques, Publications de la Facult des Lettres de lUniversit de Strasbourg
106, Paris, 1947, 93, n. 1, and the sources cited there.
67 Page, Voices and Instruments, pp. 7784; Page, The Owl and the Nightingale, pp. 14 and 11033.
68 Prudentius, Cathemerinon liber (Livre dheures), 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-rst chapter of the Apocalypse of Saint John.69
But here we may be testing the limits of a modern history of musical
To sum up, in the realm of dicatio, 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
ocially 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
eld. 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 Rohlo, Musiktraktat, p. 66: Ecclesia enim haec terrestris et militans signum est et imago illius caelestis
et triumphantis, in qua sunt angeli et archangeli sine ne dicentes Sanctus, sanctus et caetera.
70 Haines, Lambertuss Epiglotus, 1601; see, however, T. McGee, The Sound of Medieval Song, Oxford
University Press, 1998.

. 9 .

Vocal performance before c. 1430


Do not force the high notes. Sing sweetly, elegantly, and with uidity neither
harshly nor nasally. Be rhythmically exible 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 diculty, 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 rst 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 codication of a great body of monophonic sacred music
(plainchant) and the cultivation of the earliest polyphony (organum).

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.


Vocal performance before c. 1430


gravitas and audibility to the texts that it decorates. A useful by-product is that
it is easier and more fullling 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 ecient way to project a text in a large space without the
use of amplication. 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 rst-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 uid 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 Oce).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),
5673, 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. 21217.
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.

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 ToneToneSemitoneToneTone. 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 xed 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
rst nger depending on the notes melodic context. Or to put it another way, c0
can be played on each of the cellos 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 todays 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 cta
(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.

Vocal performance before c. 1430


the gamut.9 The application of hexachords associated with musica cta 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.

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 reect 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 ol, 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 rst 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 Harolds army signicantly dierent from todays 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 Taillefers 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 conict. If Taillefer and/or his fellow warriors can be presumed
9 Ibid., pp. 10514, 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. xxiiixxiv.
12 The term Great Vowel Shift (GVS) was coined by Otto Jespersen in 1909 and his theory has
subsequently been rened; see W. Labov, Principles of Linguistic Change, vol. 1: Internal Factors, Oxford,
Blackwell, 1994, pp. 14554. 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-arming commitment and forthright vocal delivery to

match, Blondels trouvre 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 Drnstein 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 Christs 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 oended 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 reect.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 todays
dramatic soprano appear to be a cultivated form of musical expression to the
medieval musical ear? The answer seems obvious no, it would not.

Even though it is impossible to be sure of the exact eect that single-line music
had on the medieval ear, melody evidently provoked a range of responses
13 D. Boyle, Blondels Song: The Capture, Imprisonment and Ransom of Richard the Lionheart, London, Penguin,
2006, pp. 16679.
14 C. Page, The Owl and the Nightingale: Musical Life and Ideas in France 11001300, London, Dent, 1989, p. 8.
15 F. Broomeld (ed.), Thomae de Chobham Summa confessorum, Analecta Mediaevalia Namurcensia,
Louvain, ditions Nauwelaerts, 1968, p. 292.

Vocal performance before c. 1430


depending on the mode of the moment. That, in itself, was nothing new. Plato
had described how Ancient Greek modes aected character.16 Aristotle had
written about the enthusiastic, relaxed, feeble and sad qualities of specic
modes.17 And in the early twelfth century, Johannes Cotto18 described the
characteristics of the eight medieval church modes. Cotto dened 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 dierence 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 denition, 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 signicant 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 todays 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, 398e399c.
17 Politics, 1340b15.
18 The author of the treatise De musica (c. 1100) is variously referred to as John of Aighem (Johannes
Aigemensis), 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. 1378.
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 signicance 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.

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 dierent 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 fth) 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 dArezzo, 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 signicance 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 specic 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 fullling)
ensemble performances frequently take little account of the aural eect 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 eect of twelfth-century music on the listener.
John of Salisbury studied in Paris with Peter Ablard, became Secretary to
Thomas Becket, and nished 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 gures. 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 deled, in that before the face of the Lord, in
the very sanctuary of sanctuaries, they, showing o as it were, strive with the
eeminate 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 mens voices; he may marvel at the exibility of tone which neither
the nightingale, the parrot, or any bird with greater range than these can

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.



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 t for
medieval polyphony. When Christopher Pages 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 fteenth 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 Lonins dentist or to Protins bathroom, todays
performers of medieval music increasingly feel that they should acquire an
understanding of the culture that surrounded the music that they sing. Most
pertinently, todays 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 Protin was
dubbed Protin the Great (Perotinus Magnus) is comforting: we like the music of
Protin and so did the man now known as Anonymous IV.25 True, the
Englishman who described Protin in such reverential tones was writing
some years after the event, but he lived in the same century as Protin, 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 dierent from that in England: the Gallic ear favoured
perfect consonances over imperfect consonances. This dierence in regional
taste within medieval northern Europe brings into play yet another factor that
might aect the way in which medieval music could plausibly be interpreted

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 scaolding 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 Lonins 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, ditions de LOiseau-Lyre,
19932009, vol. 2, M. Everist (ed.), Les organa deux voix pour loce du manuscrit de Florence, Biblioteca
Medicea-Laurenziana, Plut. 29.2, 2003, p. lxxviii, n. 113.



Ex. 9.2. The opening of Lonins 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 unspecic in the matter of rhythm; however, he had the
benet 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
Todays 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 eects on the listener markedly dierent,
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 performers 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 Lonin or not (and surely the
identity of the composer makes no dierence 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.

The aural eect of medieval consonance and dissonance is a thorny issue.
Where tuning is concerned, todays singer is inevitably heavily inuenced 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. 435.

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 fths, 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 fths, 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 fths 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 ones 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 ones own
voice-part is magnied 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
eect 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 condence: authority is easily assumed when primary
sources have been used for the preparation and/or execution of the performance; and condence 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 performers
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 ones 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
eectively, 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 dier 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


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 diculties, the related task of pinpointing the
specic 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 denition
left very few written traces. What complicates the historians 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 aairs 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 ctions 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 eld, 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 conrmed, 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 full a merely decorative function.
Musical iconography from the fourteenth and fteenth 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 msica de las Cantigas, trans. and abridged E. Hague and
M. Lengwell, 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 specically 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 oers 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 ddle
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 Grocheios omnem formam only included the monophonic genres such as trouvre 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, oers rare
information on the tuning of the ddle 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. 14246), French Theologian Jean Gerson discusses at some length the
instruments cited in Psalm 150.8 Many other sources, from Isidor of Sevilles
Etymologiae to Bartholomaeus Anglicuss De proprietatibus rerum, either
4 See H. M. Brown, Catalogus. A corpus of trecento pictures with musical subject matter, part I, Imago
musicae IIII (19857) and V (1988); Mary Remnants 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 11001300, London, Dent, 1987, pp. 503 and 679; C. Page, The Owl and the Nightingale:
Musical Life and Ideas in France 11001300, London, Dent, 1989; Berkeley, University of California Press,
1990, pp. 6975; C. Page, Johannes de Grocheio on secular music: a corrected text and a new translation,
Plainsong and Medieval Music, 2 (1993), 1741.
6 Page, Voices and Instruments, p. 68.
7 Page has discussed Jerome and Konrad respectively in Voices and Instruments, pp. 5776 and 12633, and
in his German musicians and their instruments: a 14th-century account by Konrad of Megenberg, Early
Music, 10 (1982), 192200.
8 C. Page, Early 15th-century instruments in Jean de Gersons Tractatus de Cantici, Early Music, 6
(1978), 33949.



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 gure 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 (ninththirteenth centuries) the minstrels were primarily associated with
a court. They played ddles, 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 dierent 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 sta). 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. 21042.
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. 30017 and 35767. 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, 13641419: A Documentary History,
Ottawa, Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1979, pp. 2354; 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


gures 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 atterers).

The city
Beginning in the fourteenth century the term minstrel came to indicate the gure
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. 13501450.11 The members
of city bands enjoyed the benets and the status of city ocials or clerks.
As Polk has pointed out, the aura of power and magnicence 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 reected 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: Trmer, who might be also employed on the battleeld) to the more
elaborate public performances of professional wind musicians (called
Stadtpfeifer or piari).
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 oer 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), 3901.
12 Ibid., 400.
13 On minstrel schools, see M. Gomez, Minstrel schools in the Late Middle Ages, Early Music, 18 (1990),



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
(hoeren) 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 ute with three or four holes and a generally
narrow bore to allow overblowing; the tabor (in its many dierent 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. 188224, 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 ow 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 aord 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 dierent contexts and in dierent 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 Oce, 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. 1531. On the early history of the ute and the recorder, see A. Rowland-Jones,
Iconography in the history of the recorder up to 1430, pt. 1, Early Music, 33 (2005), 55774; pt. 2: Early
Music, 34 (2006), 327.
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, 7501250, Cambridge University Press, 1993.
17 Remnant, English Bowed Instruments, p. 106.
18 Ibid.
19 A. Tomasello, Music and Ritual at Papal Avignon, 13091403, Ann Arbor, MI, UMI Research Press, 1983,
pp. 346.



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
specically to full that function, though painters, sculptors and other artists
were also hired as chamber valets. Skilled performers (usually harpers) such as
Gautier lAnglais 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. 790852), who is credited with having added a fth
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 rst (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. 31319.
22 Wright, Music at the Court of Burgundy, pp. 12337.
23 This short summary of the early history of the lute in Western Europe is indebted to Smith,
A History of the Lute, pp. 1633.

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 conrmed by the very
high number of lutes depicted in fourteenth-century Tuscan paintings.
There is no extant trecento music written specically 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 Petruccis Frottole libro sesto (1505)
may be by Venetian poet, statesman and musician Leonardo Giustinian (1383
1446). They are frottola-like pieces, with a orid 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 fteenth-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 ve 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
ngerboard, allowing better control of intonation, began to emerge around
1400, whereas the addition of a fth 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. 224.
26 Smith, A History of the Lute, pp. 523.



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 luteorgan duos in early fteenthcentury Germany (most likely portable organs were involved); not coincidentally Conrad Paumann, the most prominent German organist of the
fteenth century, was also an accomplished lute player, indeed one of the
rst ones to play the instrument polyphonically, that is, plucking the strings
with his ngers, 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 gure 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 fteenth century. Needless to say, it is not known how the instrument was
used in performance. Even the famous ars subtilior rondeau La harpe de mlodie
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 ddle, 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 ddle. Another thirteenth-century chanson de geste
of the Lorraine cycle, Hervis de Metz, likewise mentions a joungleur singing to
the accompaniment of his own ddle.32 References to sons damours 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. 25389).
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. 3573.
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
ddles played a gamba with underhand bow, and non-waisted (i.e. oval or
rectangular) ddles 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 fteenth
centuries the ddle 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 rabb in the a gamba
position continued unabated (to judge from a number of paintings with
musical scenes from that area). The rabb 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 ve or six) tuned in fths 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 Woodeld, the rabb 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-fteenth-century Aragon also came the vihuela de mano, a sort of plucked
ddle 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 rou in France and later hurdy-gurdy in England),

33 Ibid., pp. 1228.

34 The short presentation of bowed instruments that follows is based for the most part on Remnant,
English Bowed Instruments, and I. Woodeld, The Early History of the Viol, Cambridge University Press, 1984.
35 Woodeld, The Early History of the Viol, pp. 1537, 6179.
36 Ibid., pp. 3860.



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 trouvres 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 ddle in medieval musical performance hinges on
the answer to that question. If medieval ddles were routinely built with at
bridges until around 1470, as scholars such as Peter Holman and Ian Woodeld
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-fths 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 ddle 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 ddles would have featured at bridges, with
relatively limited potential.
On the other hand, the anonymous textless motet In seculum viellatoris (In
seculum of the ddle player, see the opening bars in Ex. 10.1), from the late
thirteenth century, may have been conceived for at least one ddle, 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 dierent tunings for the ddle:
d G g d0 d0 , d G g d0 g0 , and G G d c0 c0 ; Howard Mayer Brown has observed that
the rst 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 Jeromes pitch indications are to be viewed as

37 S. and S. Palmer, The Hurdy-Gurdy, Newton Abbot, David & Charles, 1980, pp. 4467.
38 Woodeld, 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. 2067.
39 See Remnant, English Bowed Instruments, pp. 247, and Brown, The trecento ddle and its bridges,
Early Music, 17 (1989), 30829.
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. 245.

Instrumental performance before c. 1430


Fig. 10.2. Giovanni del Biondo, Musical angels (Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery),
showing two players of organetto and ddle.
relative, not absolute.42 One sentence from the Tractatus suggests that skilled
ddle players would have been able to improvise a contrapuntal line against a
pre-existing melody, following the technique of fthing in use among
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 ddle, pp. 3235.

43 See also Page, Voices and Instruments, pp. 706.



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 ddles.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 ddle is considered old-fashioned at that time, and
that wind instruments and percussions (presumably played in small consorts)
are the latest fashion.46
Until Konrads 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
are. This instrument, variously known as buisine or (in Germany) posaune, had
very limited musical capabilities, since it could generate only the rst four
sounds of the natural harmonic series (i.e. unison, octave, twelfth and
44 Ibid., p. 47.
45 Page, German musicians, pp. 1956.
46 Ibid., pp. 196. Polk, German Instrumental Music, pp. 21 and 228, n. 26.

Instrumental performance before c. 1430


fteenth). 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 rst half of the fteenth
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 rst 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 mnestrels 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 fteenth
century the posaune, known in Italy as trombone, was extended into the lower
range and tted 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 fteenth-century Burgundian documents refer to as
the teneur de mnestrels.53 Presumably such professional ensembles performed a
wide-ranging repertoire that included motets and chansons in addition to dance
music. According to Ross Dun, instances of this repertoire are provided by
47 P. Downey, The Renaissance slide trumpet: fact or ction?, Early Music, 12 (1984), 26.
48 For an overview of the organisational structure, the instrument types, and the musical activities of the
fteenth-century alta capella, see L. Welker, Alta capella: zur Ensemblepraxis der Blasinstrumente im 15.
Jahrhundert, Basler Jahrhbuch fr historische Musikpraxis, 7 (1983), 11965; K. Polk, German Instrumental
Music, pp. 4586. Welkers 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
49 Downey, The Renaissance slide trumpet, 26.
50 K. Polk, The trombone, 4023. See also T. Herbert, The Trombone, New Haven and London, Yale
University Press, 2006, pp. 4560.
51 R. Dun, The trompette des mnestrels in the 15th-century alta capella, Early Music, 17 (1989), 397.
52 Ibid., 399400.
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 fth, 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 gures 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. 2730 inches (6976 cm) in length, ending with a
are (quite prominent in Fig. 10.3 below). Modern versions of the instrument,
which may dier 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. TAndernaken al op den Rijn (Trent, Castello del Buonconsiglio, MS. 87,
fols. 198v199r)

& 4

6 .
V 4


? b 46 .

j b
. j .




j j j j j .
& . . j j j






54 Ibid., 399400.
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. 5862.

Instrumental performance before c. 1430


Fig. 10.3 School of Giotto, Glorication 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 fteenth 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
specic duty of sounding the alarm (sveglia) on particular occasions; an ensemble of three piari (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
ocials 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. 6685.
57 McGee, The Ceremonial Musicians, pp. 12445.



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 fteenth century,
with the return of the papacy in Rome and with the establishment of piari
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 specic circumstances in which they were used
has increased signicantly, thanks to a carefully contextualised evaluation of
the available iconographical and documentary sources. As a result of this
sustained scholarly eort, 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 prole 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. 14653.

. 11 .

Case study: Guillaume de Machaut, ballade

34, Quant Theseus / Ne quier veoir

This chapter explores the issues laid out in Chapter 8 by inspecting a wellstudied piece, Guillaume de Machauts 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 Machauts
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
ocial 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 Machauts 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
But rst, 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
(Pronne).2 As related in the Voir Dit, ballade 34 originated in an epistolary
exercise of one-upmanship. When Machauts 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. xxvixxvii.




je vois ma dame (I see enough, since I see my lady). According to Machauts

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 Pronne. 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 Pronne, 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
Machauts 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, Machauts relationship with Pronne, as
an imagined pretext for the authors 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 ction. 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 works surprisingly
modern-sounding tonality, has made ballade 34 a hit in modern music
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 briey 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 trouvres, 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
Ludwigs major work on late medieval polyphony in the early part of the
twentieth century, including his lifetime project, the complete edition of
Machauts 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), 549.
4 Machaut, Livre dou Voir Dit, ed. Leech-Wilkinson and Palmer, p. xxi.
5 J. Haines, Eight Centuries of Troubadours and Trouvres, Cambridge University, Press, 2004, pp. 93 and

Case study: Guillaume de Machaut, ballade 34


pinnacle of mid-fourteenth-century musical art, rmly establishing musical

forms for all French polyphonic genres . . . in which he is emulated by a
signicant number of French composers during the second half of the century.6
Henceforth, Machaut should no longer be classed with the knightly trouvres,
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 centurys 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, Machauts secular works including his forty-two
ballades rose to the rank of classic master works, in Ludwigs 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
rst time the double ballade by the man he called the greatest musical genius of
the French fourteenth-century in Guido Adlers popular music history, rst
published in 1924 with the last edition published in 1977.11 From there ballade
34 was adopted in Claude Paliscas companion anthology to Donald Grouts
best-selling History of Western Music. There it remained in circulation as the
representative of Machauts secular music for a decade and a half (in the rst
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 trouvre rose in the twentieth century to become one

6 Haines, Friedrich Ludwigs 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, 3301400, 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 Langs rather curt treatment of
Machaut, the new trouvre, 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 2702.
12 C. Palisca, Norton Anthology of Western Music, New York, Norton, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 7881, 2nd edn, 1988,
vol. 1, pp. 836, and 3rd edn, 1996, vol. 1, pp. 824. The ballade is also mentioned in Reese, Music in the
Middle Ages, p. 347.



of the most signicant masterworks by a medieval musical genius leading one

musicologist to simply call it miraculous.13

Machauts 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, Grocheios discussion of music performed in Paris around 1300 rst
categorises dierent 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
codication 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 trouvres. Machaut himself enjoyed trouvre 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 Grocheios treatise was a witness, including the ductia and stantipes.16
As one injunction from around 1350 put it, city ocials 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 Machauts 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 Machauts 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 Oce. Anne Robertson has recently reminded us that
most of Machauts sacred polyphony occurred in the context of predominantly
monophonic chant. As canon at Reims for forty years, one of Machauts major
13 Leech-Wilkinson, Le Voir Dit, p. 57.
14 R. Bossuat, Manuel bibliographique de la littrature franaise du Moyen ge, Paris, Librairie dargences,
1951, pp. 49 and 54; F. Gennrich, Der musikalische Vortrag der altfranzsischen chansons de geste, Halle,
Niemeyer, 1923, p. 10.
15 Haines, Eight Centuries, pp. 1821 and 25; J. Boogaart, Encompassing past and present: quotations and
their function in Machauts motets, Early Music History, 20 (2001), 186.
16 C. Page, Discarding Images: Reections on Music and Culture in Medieval France, Oxford University Press,
1993, p. 73.
17 E. Martne, 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 oces and various masses for
the complex liturgical web of feasts and events, the most notable being the
important coronation rites in that citys 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 classied all animals. Consequently, Grocheio adjusted
the musical reality of his day, leaving out music that did not t 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
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 eectiveness 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. 3751.
20 J. Haines and P. DeWitt, Johannes de Grocheio and Aristotelian natural philosophy, Early Music
History, 27 (2008), 4798.
21 Ibid., 92.
22 Page, Discarding Images, p. 74: musica composita vel regularis vel canonica quam appellant musicam
23 B. Delaurenti, La puissance des mots: Virtus verborum: dbats doctrinaux sur le pouvoir des incantations au
Moyen ge, Paris, Cerf, 2007, pp. 40578. Following Aristotle, Grocheio asks Quis enim audivit complexionem sonare? See E. Rohlo, Der Musiktraktat des Johannes de Grocheo nach den Quellen neu herausgegeben mit
bersetzung ins Deutsche und Revisionsbericht, Leipzig, Reinecke, 1943, p. 46.
24 Delaurenti, La puissance des mots, pp. 41213.



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 untting 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 diorm with some strange unaccustomed diormity . . . dissimilar to the ordinary human voice.28 Nicoles precious description of the
singing incantator rivals any other medieval witness on the sound of medieval
song, to paraphrase the title of Timothy McGees important book.29 Thus
Nicole Oresme, writing in Rouen during the 1360s, describes incantation
performances that cannot have been much dierent 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 persons medical needs in Machauts day. Medieval medical writers
prescribed that meals be regulated with a view to a persons 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. 3501.
26 Clagett, Nicole Oresme, p. 350; Delaurenti, La puissance des mots, pp. 41920.
27 Clagett, Nicole Oresme, pp. 3689; 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, Machauts medical musical world, in M. P. Cosman and B. Chandler (eds.), Machauts
World: Science and Art in the Fourteenth Century, New York Academy of Sciences, 1978, pp. 136.
31 Ibid., p. 3.

Case study: Guillaume de Machaut, ballade 34


treatment of diseases, including psychological ones.32 It is dicult 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 conict with the
Christian view; they belonged to Gods 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 Cosmans title in the subheading for this section,
Machauts Musical World, holds an irony. For all of the musics just mentioned
did not so much belong to Machauts musical world as his music belonged to
their world. Machauts 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 rareed 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, Frances 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 Machauts 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. 10919.
33 Cosman, Machauts 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. 351; and Leech-Wilkinson and Palmer, Livre dou Voir Dit, pp. xixviii.
35 Robertson, Guillaume de Machaut, pp. 24 and 25775.



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 authors literary ego more manifest than in his Voir Dit,
as Jacqueline Cerquiglini has emphasised. With its complex admixture of
genres (letters, songs), Machauts 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 rst encounter ballade 34 well into the second half of the Voir Dit, in a
letter from Pronne to Machaut dated 5 October 1363. She informs him of a
poem (balade) that he accidentally sent her, Thomas Paiens poem Quant
Theseus, which she promises to send back to him.40 Apparently, sometime
prior, perhaps in September, Machauts 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 misled it and accidentally sent it to
Pronne.41 Less than two weeks later, on 17 October, Machaut sends to her
Paiens 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 Palmers 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 authors role in fourteenth-century book production: Guillaume de Machauts
Livre ou je met toutes choses, Romania, 90 (1969), 446.
38 J. Cerquiglini, Un engin si soutil: Guillaume de Machaut et lcriture au XIVe sicle, Geneva, Slatkine, 1985,
pp. 3249, 93103 and 21121; 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. 167202.
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), 1247.
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,
Pronne comments on the two poems, adding that his is better than Paiens,
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, Machauts 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 fteenth century.46 Machauts ballade 34 also departs
from the majority of his other ballades in that its tonal centre is C and not B
at.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 rst
cantus (cantus I in Ex. 11.1), as Theodore Karp has suggested.48 The tenor was
not a foundational voice, but added as contrapuntal ligree, as with most of
Machauts other polyphonic songs.49 One thing is clear, though: more so than
with his other ballades, Machaut made a special eort to integrate all four
voices into a single sonorous unit. Arguing from ballade 34s anities 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
composers 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. 4515, lines 6464541).
44 Machaut, Livre dou Voir Dit, p. 461.
45 Leech-Wilkinson, Le Voir Dit and La Messe de Nostre Dame, 4373; E. E. Leach, Machauts Balades with
Four Voices, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 10 (2001), 48 and 5765
46 K. Moll, Texture and counterpoint in the four-voice Mass settings of Machaut and his contemporaries,
in E. E. Leach (ed.), Machauts Music: New Interpretations, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2003, p. 54.
47 P. Leerts, Machauts B-at Balade Honte, paour (B25), in Leach (ed.), Machauts Music, pp. 1634.
48 T. Karp, Compositional process in Machauts 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. 756.
49 Leach, Machauts Balades, 60; see her analysis, 5865.
50 Leech-Wilkinson, Le Voir Dit, 58.



Ex. 11.1. Machauts ballade 34, Quant Theseus / Ne quier veoir, edited from
the Reina Codex (Paris, Bibliothque Nationale de France, nouv. acqu. fr.
6771, fol. 54v55r)

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 nal 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