Behind the Notation: Understanding Brahms’s expectations for performers
Lecture Theatre 1, School of Music
The speaker is Jung Yoon Cho
(University of Leeds)
Performers in Brahms’s time approached notation in a much more liberal and musically inspired way, in contrast to our current approach, which 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, implied by the notation in ways that are no longer understood, or completely omitted from the score. This means that 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 colloquium examines how expressive performing techniques of the nineteenth century may be the subject of experimentation, later to be internalised by a performer emerging from the modern tradition. The colloquium suggests how this information may contribute to understanding the hidden messages behind Brahms’s notation.
Jung Yoon Cho holds BMus and MMus degrees in Violin Performance from the Royal Academy of Music, and has recently completed her PhD in the School of Music, University of Leeds. Her PhD studies focused on evaluating late nineteenth-century Romantic performing practice as an accessible and valuable source of knowledge and inspiration for modern performers, with special reference to Brahms’s Violin Sonatas. She is an active soloist, chamber musician, orchestral player, and musicologist. Her current research interests include nineteenth- and twentieth-century performing practice, and other performance-related studies.