Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Researching nineteenth century performance practice and applying the findings in performing Brahms’ orchestral music today

Are there elements of the lost performance practice of the nineteenth century that we can rediscover and use to shed new light on the performance of Brahms’ music for orchestra today?

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Johannes Leertouwer

In his Phd research at Leiden University violinist and conductor Johannes Leertouwer researches the performance practice of Brahms’ orchestral music in the nineteenth century. 

The central question of Johannes’ research is this:

Are there elements of the lost performance practice of the nineteenth century that we can rediscover and use to shed new light on the performance of Brahms’ music for orchestra today?

With the rise of the structuralist or modernist performance practice of the twentieth century in the 1920s and 30s, large parts of nineteenth century performance practice were discarded.

Much work has been done on rediscovering the lost traditions of the nineteenth century, especially on the subjects of tempo manipulation, use of vibrato and use of portamento.

Part of Johannes’ research investigates these findings as well as some new sources. 

An equally important element of his research will take place in four project weeks (each third week of September 2019-2022) in which he will look to implement the old techniques. In the coming four years, all Brahms symphonies and concertos will be recorded and performed in the Stadsgehoorzaal in Leiden. 

In the third part of his research, Johannes intends to take a step back and investigate the context of this kind of historically informed performance practice. 

He will look at its place in the larger field of performance practices of today, particularly in the educational system, and he will look at the intrinsic qualities of the post modernist historically informed performance practice.

What is it exactly that we are doing when we base our performance practice on historical information, knowing that any complete reconstruction of a historical past or truth is impossible?

 

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