After each lecture, Gresham College is making available videos and podcasts of its Professors' offerings. Click on the links below to be taken to Gresham College's media downloads for each lecture.
The Past is a Foreign Country
In its passage from manuscript composition to audible performance, a musical work passes through the hands of editors, teachers, interpreters, recording engineers and many others, all of whom make decisions, often based on personal choices, and have to satisfy the tastes and needs of a changing public. With over a century of recorded sound as evidence, we can now assess the options and expectations of the modern performer, and measure these against the evidence available to the interpreter today, and the range of choices to be made.
St. Cecilia and Music: True or False?
Why does music require a 'patron saint'? What are the qualifications of such a person, and how has the praise of a non-musical heroine contributed so much to our poetic and musical heritage: music ranging from Purcell and Handel to Benjamin Britten provides partial evidence, but the social and guild fabric of professional music-making has also benefited from the long-standing Annual Feasts.
Fakes, Completions and the Art of Borrowing
Although Mozart's unfinished Requiem is the most publicised composition requiring a helping-hand, there are many similar incomplete may-be masterpieces which have been assisted in some way, plus a number of well-loved classics which have very little connection with their supposed author ('Albinoni's Adagio' heads such a list). In addition composers of all periods have been open to the 'art of borrowing' - Handel was particularly active in this area and the reasons and results of his 'borrowings' shed a new light on some very familiar compositions.
The Authenticity of Genius
Although Mozart is the usual example of genius that springs to mind (a combination of youth and perfection), in this lecture Felix Mendelssohn is proposed as a more precocious example of the same qualities, with an even greater range of abilities (painting and languages in addition to both composing and performing). As a test case we will examine his Octet for Strings, Op. 20, written at the age of sixteen and performed for this lecture by players from the Royal Academy of Music.
From Composer to Printed Page
Musical notation is both inexact and changeable; the assumptions of one period may be lost on following generations, and the greater part of written music still remains unpublished at the present day. The challenges of editing and presenting a text, either of a well-known classic or of an unknown writer differ in music from those faced in the similar worlds of literature or Biblical criticism. The dilemmas created by composers' second thoughts and revisions, and disciples' 'improvements' require a 'correct' way of presenting obsolete information to the modern performer and raise questions which can both change our attitude to familiar works and resurrect forgotten treasures.
From Printed Page to Performance
When so much in music education is formulated on the principle of imitation, and the passing down of received 'traditions' from teacher to pupil, it is important to readdress the significance of original and informed opinion in performance. Dame Emma Kirkby, who has done more than any other musician of our generation to reassess the vocal approach to earlier music will discuss with the Lecturer her approach to singing, teaching, recording and performing and the effect her performances have had on singing world-wide over the last forty years.
The lecture is illustrated by live examples taken from Renaissance lute songs and other repertoire, including pieces by John Dowland, Tarquinio Merula and Henry Purcell.