Declassifying the Classics

Rhetoric, Technology, and Performance, 1750 – 1830

Tom Beghin (Principal Investigator)

Abstract

This research cluster explores the ramifications of rhetoric for the historically informed performance of late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century music, both solo and in small ensemble, with a focus on the keyboard in its various technological guises.


Going beyond borrowing the language of the pulpit or the salon as a critical metaphor, we explore through performance the ramifications of socio-cultural and intellectual networks of both men and women historically engaged in musicking.

What does it mean for four men to be seated around a quartet table and play through a Haydn quartet? How can or should such a prima vista experience inform modern-day performance? What made Beethoven praise so highly Ms. Dorothea von Ertmann’s performance of one of his sonatas, while scolding his pupil Carl Czerny for taking too many “liberties” in his Piano & Winds Quintet?

The proposed time span marks, on the one end, C. P. E Bach’s seminal Essay on the True Art of Playing the Keyboard (1753) and, on the other, Beethoven’s late works and beyond. Our study of rhetoric includes also those elements that (especially as move into the nineteenth century) have been understood as indicative of a “decline” of rhetoric. Of special interest are shifting conceptualizations of the identities of composers vs. performer and, as their goals redefine themselves, the emerging act of “interpreting” pieces of repertoire, to replace the traditional “delivery” or “execution” of music.

Absolute premise is the performance on historical instruments—newly built. The new construction of some specific types of keyboards—to fill crucial gaps in our knowledge of the past—happens in partnership with the Early Keyboard Instruments Workshop of Pianos Maene (Ruiselede, Belgium). Engaging technology, but resisting teleology, our artistic research revisits familiar scores and explores unfamiliar ones to tell “real” stories of men, women and their instruments in a period that we so reverently—but stiflingly—call “classical.”

Partners

Early Keyboard Instruments Workshop - Pianos Maene ( Industrial partner)

Maene Pianos

Early Keyboard Instruments Workshop (Chris Maene)

www.chrismaene.be
www.maene.be

McGill University (Institutional partner)

McGill University

www.mcgill.ca
www.cirmmt.org

Related researcher(s)