Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

From Living Traditions to Museum Culture: A Critical History of Piano Pedagogy and Performance Practice c. 1870-1950

How and why did the practice and culture of classical pianism change during the first half of the twentieth century?

Emphasis on the pedagogical dimension of musical culture implies scrutiny of the practices and discourses associated with modern academic musical institutions: conservatories and historical musicology in particular. These institutions make strong claims to authority in selecting, interpreting, and transmitting the works and practices that constitute the Western musical canon, yet their histories remain understudied. Only a handful of musicological publications from the past quarter century discuss either pedagogy or institutions (e.g., Kingsbury 1988, Born 1995, Nettl 1995, Taruskin 1995, Hamilton 2008).

This interdisciplinary study analyzes changes in oral pedagogical traditions and performance style in Europe following the First World War: a periodization based on the working hypothesis that as a result of the final dissolution of aristocratic society, traditional pedagogical practices experienced ‘widespread deterioration’ (Hindemith 1949). The inter-war period also witnessed the wholesale rejection of traditional performance practice, an aspect of the emergence of a general culture of anti-Romanticism and the 
modernists’ conscious determination to break with the past (Hill 1994).

An abundance of primary written sources, unbroken oral traditions, and early gramophone recordings document these changes in detail. Analyses of various artistic phenomena are grounded in my own training in the old 'Russian' tradition of pianism associated with Anton Rubinstein, as transmitted by Marcel Ciampi to his pupils.

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