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Cello techniques and performing practices in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

Kennaway, George William (2009) Cello techniques and performing practices in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.


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This thesis comprises a study of cello performance practices throughout the nineteenth century and into the early decades of the twentieth. It is organised in terms of the increasing complexity of the concepts which it examines, as they are to be found in printed and manuscript music, instrumental methods and larger treatises, early recordings, concert reviews and pictures. Basic posture is considered along with different ways of holding the bow. The development of the tail-pin shows that even when it was widely used, the older posture was still referred to as a model. Some implications for tone quality and tonal projection are considered in the light of the shape of the arms. Some connections between the cellist's posture and that recommended by etiquette books are explored. The functionality of the left hand and arm, and the development of modem scale fingerings, show that there was a considerable period of overlap between newer and older practices, with modern scale fingerings evolving over a long period of time. Similarly, views on the function of the right wrist in bowing are shown to change gradually, moving towards a more active upper arm movement with less extreme flexibility of the wrist. Two central expressive techniques especially associated with string playing arc considered in the context of the cello, namely vibrato and portamento. These topics are examined in the light of written indications in music, recommendations in cello treatises, and the practices evidenced in early recordings. The sources for this study can be brought into an overall framework of a constant dialogue between `theory', as expressed in verbal instructions to the learner, or general a priori reflections about the cello, and `practice', manifested in performing editions and early recordings, or in individual acts of reception. A wide divergence is noted, both between theory and practice in general, and in terms of different styles of playing observable at any one time. It is suggested that tensions between practice and critical disapproval can be resolved in terms of Lacanian discourse. Several test cases are used in order to compare several different recordings of the same works. The question of the musical character of the cello is discussed in terms of widespread assumptions about its gendered identity. A wide range of sources suggest that this moved from a straightforwardly `masculine' identity expressed through a controlling, elevated eloquence to a less clearly defined one, incorporating the 'feminine', with a greater stress on uninhibited emotional expression. Some performance implications for this change of view are pursued with respect to specific repertoires. Broad conclusions stress the importance of the diversity of performance practices as opposed to unifying generalisations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Music (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.509818
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2012 12:20
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2014 11:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2718

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