Session 4

Saturday, 11th July, 10:35 – 11:40 am

Laura Granero, Clara Schumann’s tradition through the recordings of her pupils

Clara Schumann was regarded by many as one of the greatest performers of her time, and thus wrote Franz Liszt about her: “No one will excel her in the truthfulness with which she renders the masters that have become sacred to her through an intimate acquaintance.” Furthermore, in 1870 Amy Fay compared her with Carl Tausig and Anton Rubinstein and concluded: “I have not yet decided which I like the best, but in my estimation Clara Schumann as a whole is superior to either. […]”

Moreover, for her pupil Adelina de Lara, Clara was the carrier of a tradition which started long ago:

“The interpretation of pianoforte music as taught by my great teacher, Clara Schumann, is a matter of tradition; and tradition meant very much in those days now so far off. We were not guided merely by editions brought out, more or less responsibly, by contemporary musicians. Tradition, as we all know, is that which is handed down from father to son, or from teacher to pupils who themselves turn into teachers, and Clara Schumann may be said to have had this in direct descent from Bach and Beethoven.”

This tradition was disrupted by the World Wars and the new modernistic approaches to music making. How can performers nowadays cross this temporal and aesthetic chasm between the styles of the 19th century and those of the present and create a beautiful performance according to the taste of performers of the past? Thanks to the early recordings we can state that as consequence of the strong paradigm shifts (that have formed the modern consensus on what is “correct” and “beautiful” in the interpretation of the 19th-century repertoire) the taste and perception of performance have changed enormously since then. 

In this online lecture, I would like to present the results of the analysis of several aural documents and piano rolls of Clara Schumann’s pupils and of the pianists of the so-called German “Academic” tradition of Robert Schumann’s pieces. The outcome will be compared to the readings of the testimonies of Clara’s playing and teachings and complemented with additional information and indications from her Instructive Ausgabe. In addition to my conclusions extracted from the close listening of these recordings (annotation of the scores, appropriate software), I will present also my methodology as a pianist-researcher when trying to implement their style of playing and characteristics into my own performances, as well as several videos of this experimentation.

Bio: Laura Granero is a fortepianist specialised in 19th century performance practice. She studied modern piano with Claudio Martínez-Mehner and graduated with honors at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in 2016 and 2018 in the class of Edoardo Torbianelli (fortepiano). She has given recitals throughout Europe, performing at festivals such as Festival Royaumont, Noites de Queluz, Geelvinck Festival, Fabulous Fringe Oude Muziek in Utrecht, Quincena Musical de San Sebastián, Festival de Santander, Festival de Música Antigua de Úbeda y Baeza, Clásicos en Verano (Madrid), Festival de La Nouvelle Athènes (Salle Cortot), Festival Pianos, Pianos (Théâtre aux Bouffes du Nord), Klavieren in Zutphen (Holland). Laura’s first CD recording (feat. Antonio Viñuales, violin) will soon be released, and features pieces written by the Portuguese composer João Domingos Bomtempo. She is the artistic director of the Fortepiano Project Notre Temps, which aims at promoting the presence of the fortepiano at the Iberian Peninsula through activities such as concerts, lectures and masterclasses in several halls and conservatories. In 2018, she founded the Marie Soldat Ensemble, an ensemble that works as a lab in which performers and researchers of different generations and backgrounds meet (Clive Brown, Leila Schayegh, Johannes Gebauer, Aldo Mata, Sebastian Bausch, Kai Köpp…). In January 2020, she released a CD recording (“Dans un salon de La Nouvelle Athènes”), produced by the Label Son an ero, together with other performers such as Edoardo Torbianelli, Olga Pashchenko and the Ensemble Lélio. As an artist-researcher Laura is specially interested in early recordings and in the study of the vocality at the piano in Schumann’s music, having given lectures about these topics at the Salle Cortot in Paris, at the Conservatorio Profesional Arturo Soria (Madrid), Château d’Arnouville, Conservatoire Régional de Paris, Salle Cortot or the Sydney Conservatorium, among others.

Sebastian Bausch, How can (or should?) we listen to piano rolls?

The value of reproducing piano rolls for the research in romantic performing practice has become widely accepted during at least the last two decades. However, when analyzing them, they are often still being treated very much like sound recording, whereas they would actually require a very specific methodology to do them justice. Most problematic, in my opinion, is the way in which we are used to listen to piano rolls in comparison with acoustic disc recordings from the early 20th century. While the performances recorded on early discs are (at least by “modern” standards) just as irritating as those on rolls recordings, most people feel rather comfortable listening to them due to their historic aura (cracks and hissing), while at the same time being alienated by the overly direct sound of piano rolls. But as, especially for professional performers, listening to a recording makes up a vital part of their analysis (so-called “close listening”), it is detrimental to entirely exclude the listening process from the work with piano rolls and to rely solely on scanning and measuring them. In my presentation, I would like to describe three methods, complementing each other, leading to a more convincing and revealing listening experience:

  • A historically informed restoration and maintenance of reproducing instruments, using the 1930s disc recording of a Welte piano in perfect condition as a role-model.
  • Digitization, virtualization and (even one step further), digital enhancement and reconstruction of roll recordings, e.g. by comparing them with disc recordings
  • Artistic emulation and re-performance of roll recordings, by trying to play as similarly as possible to a roll recording, while at the same time adding missing aspects of the roll in an artistically convincing way.

Bio: Sebastian Bausch received his first organ lessons at the Neresheim Abbey in southern Germany. From the age of 11 on he was given the chance to specialize himself in performing on period keyboard instruments, studying with Robert Hill at the University of Music in Freiburg (Germany). Today, he feels equally at home at the harpsichord, organ and pianoforte, which he all studied with professors J.-A. Bötticher, W. Zerer and E. Torbianelli at the Schola Cantorum in Basle (Switzerland) and appears in concert regularly as a soloist and chamber musician. Through his studies of the modern piano with Christoph Sischka in Freiburg, he has developed a great interest in the music for piano duet. He is currently completing his PhD thesis on Carl Reinecke and the piano playing in the German academic tradition. of the 19th century. This is part of his work as a research fellow in Prof. Dr. Kai Köpp’s project “Instructive Editions” at the Bern University of Arts. In 2018 he was appointed main organist for three parishes in the city of St. Gallen (Switzerland).