Performance studies in the Western art music tradition have often been dominated by the relationship of theoretical score-analysis to performance, although some recent trends have aimed at dislodging the primacy of the score in favour of assessing performance on its own terms.
In this book Julian Hellaby further develops these trends by placing performance firmly at the heart of his investigations and presents a structured approach to analysing the interpretation of a musical work from the perspective of a musically informed listener. To enable analysis of individual interpretations, the author develops a conceptual framework in which a series of performance-related categories is arranged hierarchically into an 'interpretative tower'. Using this framework to analyse the acoustic evidence of a recording, interpretative elements are identified and used to assess the relationship between a performance and a work.
The viability of the interpretative tower is tested in three major case studies. Contrasting recorded performances of solo keyboard works by Bach, Messiaen and Brahms are the focus of these studies, and analysis of the performances, using the tower model, uncovers an interpretative rationale.
The book is wide-ranging in scope and holistic in approach, offering a means of enhancing a listener's appreciation of an interpretation. It is richly illustrated with examples taken from commercial recordings and from the author's own recordings of the three focal works. A CD of the latter is included.
Contents: Preface; Part I Constructing a Framework for Listening: Writing, performing and listening; Constructing a framework. Part II Case Studies: Applying the Framework: Bach: Toccata in D major BWV 912; Messiaen: Première communion de la Vierge; Brahms: Variations and Fugue on a theme by Handel Op.24. Conclusion; Appendices; Bibliography; Discography; Index.
About the Author: Julian Hellaby is Associate Senior Lecturer in music at Coventry University. He has performed in the Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room and has also appeared as concerto soloist, chamber musician, duettist (with Peter Noke) and accompanist in the UK and overseas. He has recorded six CDs of solo piano and chamber music.
Reviews: Julian Hellaby's Reading Musical Interpretation: Case Studies in Solo Piano Performance proposes a new model for analysing, or, more accurately, understanding performance. Arranging the parameters that constitute a performance into a hierarchical framework, or 'tower', Hellaby extensively explores case studies from the piano repertoire by Bach, Brahms and Messiaen, each in a range of performances. The genial, but astute observations provide much food for thought, and the process itself is as valuable as the ultimate outcomes. While acknowledging that more work is needed to explore the potential of this model, this first step is a bold, but thoughtful and welcome contribution to the ongoing debate in the rapidly developing area of performance studies.
Dr Christopher Dingle, Reader in Music, Birmingham Conservatoire, UK
‘…thought-provoking…For the specialist with a solid grasp of music theory, advanced piano technique, and a refined stylistic awareness of piano literature, Hellaby’s method will prove fascinating… Recommended: Graduate students, researchers, faculty, professional musicians.’ Choice
'Reading Musical Interpretation is a thoughtful and musically engaged book. There are numerous perceptive comments about the differences both between different styles of interpretation in general and between particular recorded interpretations.' Psychology of Music
'... Hellaby's interpretative tower provides a novel tool for the study of recorded performances by musically informed listeners.' Music and Letters
'Hellaby's theoretical model is holistic in its inclusion of many discrete categories which can be applied flexibly to diverse musical styles, and indeed he suggests how other subcategories might be introduced for other repertoires.' Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland
Dr Julian Hellaby's profile page on the Coventry University website
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