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Re-interpreting Brahms Violin Sonatas: Understanding the Composer’s Expectations

Cho, Jung Yoon (2017) Re-interpreting Brahms Violin Sonatas: Understanding the Composer’s Expectations. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This practice-led research investigates late nineteenth-century Romantic performing practice with special reference to the Brahms violin sonatas. It is conducted with the aim of understanding the composer’s expectations, which lie behind the notation on the score. In the nineteenth century, performers used to approach notation in a much more liberal and musically inspired way, whereas our current approach tends to be constrained by a reliance on literal accuracy (i.e. keeping note values, articulations, dynamics, and other performing instructions on the score very strictly) as representing ‘the composer’s intentions’. The nineteenth- and early twentieth-century treatises and early twentieth-century recordings confirm that portamento, vibrato, tempo rubato, tempo and rhythmic modifications, arpeggiation, and dislocation were expressive performing techniques often used by performers in the late nineteenth century. These interpretative elements are only partially notated or completely omitted from the score, which means performers consciously or unconsciously following a modern notion of ‘faithfulness to the score’ may not be able to discern the composer’s expectations as they exist behind the notation, especially in relation to Romantic repertoire. This research demonstrates how expressive performing techniques of the nineteenth century may be the subject of experiments and later internalised by a performer emerging from the modern tradition, and how this information may contribute to understanding hidden messages behind Brahms’s notation. The process behind this research involves exploring late nineteenth-century expressive resources more closely by imitating selected early twentieth-century recordings. Chapter One discusses the research context including research questions and methodology. Chapter Two contains extensive investigations into the nineteenth-century expressive resources such as portamento, vibrato, and tempo rubato based on early recordings. Chapter Three presents the application of the accumulated experiences and insights gained from practical experimentation with early recordings and other historical sources to Brahms’s Violin Sonatas, for which there are no relevant early recorded examples. This research is not intended to provide definite interpretative ideas in relation to the Brahms violin sonatas. It is ultimately conceived as an example of how modern performers might utilise historical knowledge, including ideas about how the composer’s expectations may be recognised, and also as an encouragement to engage with historical practices in a more varied, interesting, and creative modern context. This thesis includes two CDs containing my imitations of early recordings and independent interpretations of Brahms’s Violin Sonatas, which were produced as an indispensable part of this research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Practice-led research, Late nineteenth-century Romantic performing practice, Brahms violin sonatas, Johannes Brahms, Joseph Joachim, Marie Soldat-Roeger, Louis Spohr, Historically informed performance, HIP, Composer's intentions, Composer's expectations, Portamento, Vibrato, Tempo rubato, Rhythmic modifications, Imitation as learning process, Spectrogram analysis, Practical experimentation, Historical practices, Exploratory recordings
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Music (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.721824
Depositing User: Dr Jung Yoon Cho
Date Deposited: 18 Aug 2017 11:19
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:55
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/17924

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