Redefining Early Recordings as Sources for Performance Practice and History: Newsletter 3, January 2022 

Welcome to our first newsletter of 2022 – we hope you are all having a good beginning of the year.

“Interpreting Early Recordings: Critical and Contextual Perspectives” held in Glasgow, 6th January 2022

The second symposium of the network took place at the University of Glasgow on 6th January 2022. Focusing on critical and contextual perspectives, it included four invited talks, an “open mic” session featuring short papers, and a roundtable. The contributions to symposium indeed engaged with different types of contextual dimensions (some of them innovative or unexpected), which further confirmed that early recordings are complex artefacts are best approached with a range of diverse methodological tools. The event – and, more obviously, the final roundtable – faced participants with questions about the very nature and existence and the “early recordings” research community, as well as its immediate and longer-term needs. 

You can read a report about the second symposium, as well as watch the four invited talks, here.

The image from the cover of the libretto of El fonógrafo ambulante – a zarzuela discussed by Dr Eva Moreda Rodríguez in her contribution to the symposium

Pennine Records launched with recording of Brahms’ violin and viola sonatas

We were delighted to hear about the launch of Pennine Records, a new research-based recording label set up at the University of Huddersfield – which, as many of our readers will know, is home to a vibrant community of research into nineteenth-century performance practices. It aims to act as an umbrella for a wide range of performances of historical music, seeking to go beyond ‘period instrument’ performance and ‘normative’ performances of pre-existing material and instead setting itself up as a hub for a wide range of projects in which conscious thinking has been dvoted to the intellectual infrastructure underpinning the various artistic outputs.

The label’s first launch is a recording of Brahms’ violin and viola sonatas by its artistic director, Dr David Milsom, accompanied by Jonathan Going. Milsom comments: “I wanted to consider how historical performance research – often associated with period instruments, conspicuously variant artistic practices, and other paraphernalia of what is still sometimes called ‘authentic’ performance might coalesce and combine with present-day instruments, thought, and infrastructure. The disc is an experiment in how to inject hitherto quite specialised and cloistered discussions of romantic performing practices into modern instrument performance: to lift some of the edges, as it were, of current less historically-reflective ways of playing such music, not in order to make some sort of academic ‘point’ but rather (and simply) to make a disc of personal readings, gained from my own very varied career as both modern instrument and period instrument violinist.”

The next disc will put the focus on early recordings: it will be a release of digitisations of acoustic violin and piano recordings – but brand new ones, made in order to experiment with ground-breaking research into making new recordings by old processes better to understand one of the most vivid (and also contentious) sources of historical performance evidence.

The first disc can be bought, or downloaded as open access, here.

ReCePP Historical Performance Research Group announces programmes of Zoom seminars

Newly re-cast in its original home the University of Huddersfield, HPRG is a meeting of music ReCePP postgraduates, Visiting Research Fellows, networked guests, and Dr David Milsom, the staff ‘lead’ for the group.

This term, the group is meeting on Zoom (299 452 3237; passcode 807843) for meetings as follows: visitors interested in topics are always welcome to join us! Sessions marked with asterisks are process/strategy/infrastructure meetings of limited external appeal, but others are open to all interested!

MONDAYS, 19.35 – 20.35 (UK time), on Zoom.

January 24: Rosalind Ventris [Bohemian Quartet recordings and performing practices]

January 31: HPRG meeting for action points (primarily for PhD students/fee-waivers, but open to all normal HPRG members)*

February 7: HPRG PhD students’ quick-fire PhD project summaries

February 14: Professor John Bryan [William Byrd performance]

February 28: Sandra and Johan – [PhD topic discussions]

March 14: Dr George Kennaway [Topic Theory/Performance Markings]March 28: Dr Inja Stanovic – Pachmann on Record: Digital analysis as a method for understanding early recordings

If you would like to share any content related to early recordings research (a new publication, a conference or seminar, a performance, etc.) or write a post for the blog, please get in touch: we will be delighted to feature it.

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