Learn, Speak & Write
Historically Informed Performance has more or less become standard in music up until around 1820. Substantial research as well as the introduction of period instruments has brought about performances that are much closer to what the composer expected to hear.
A wealth of journals, magazines and books exists devoted to the music of the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods. Dennis Shrock has produced three impressive volumes on these periods and how choral music was performed therein. Clive Brown has written an exhaustive study of Romantic music; however, choral music and performance is only minimally discussed.
The Preface to my Urtext edition of Liszt’s magisterial oratorio Christus addresses many aspects of performance practice. However, the work was primarily researched in Germany and England; thus, much ground remains to be plowed regarding choral performance practices, including what types of ensembles existed, cause and effect of the relationship between directors and composers, and how similar and dissimilar were vocal and instrumental performances.
To remedy this gap, Lexington Press, a division of Rowman & Littlefield, will publish my books, Choral Metamorphoses in the Romantic Age and Sing Romantic Music Romantically. These will address performance practices in all countries—from mass ensembles and cathedral men & boys choirs in England to the extensive choral tradition in Sweden that led directly to the development of the program at St. Olaf College to the influence of Italian opera choruses on music composed specifically for choir.
One consequence of this new research, some of which will be take place in Europe, will be articles for journals and magazines. Moreover, there is always the chance that an accidental discovery will bring to light knowledge we didn’t even know existed. Such good fortune does occur: I found unknown choral pieces by Hans von Bülow sitting in a dusty box on a shelf in the Leipzig Stadtarchiv.
In 2011 Prof. Nick Strimple reviewed Christus and wrote that “If a single volume on choral performance practice across the centuries is ever written, he should probably be the author.” When the Romantic book is finished, and I’ve had a bit of a break, I’ll begin that enormous challenge.
Using the work of Dennis Shrock, Clive Brown, Joshua Rifkin, Ton Koopman, Helmut Rilling and others, I hope to create a narrative that will begin in ancient Greece and progress through the early Christian church, the rarified forms of the Medieval period, the Apollonian intellectualism of 15th-century Italy, the peculiarities of German church music in the age of Martin Luther, the large-scale choral/orchestral works of late 18th century Vienna, multitude of choral ensembles, styles and forms of the Romantic era to the endless exploration of the voice and how it’s used in ensemble singing that has proliferated in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Projects of this scope can’t be executed by one person; Christus employed ten undegraduates, the library borrowed many books from far away, and my Dean spent $30K to produce it. Such research projects perfectly suit an academic environment and, once published, will reflect handsomely upon the institution on whose faculty I serve.