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In the Shadow of the Kunstwerk II

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Im Schatten des Kunstwerks II
In the Shadow of the Kunstwerk II

International Conference for Music Theory Vienna 2008

Theory and interpretation of the Kunstwerk in the Nineteenth Century

24-26, April 2008, University for Music and Performing Arts Vienna


Much research has already focused on musical performance and interpretation practices. Regarding Early Music - music until the eighteenth century -, a suitable and extremely active research scene has been established for a long time. Further, we find a great deal of research concerning the interpretation of twentieth-century-music, e.g. particularly on the performance practice of the Second Viennese School.

However, the interpretation and performance practice of music of the nineteenth century has been - perhaps through fortune and chance - less investigated. This may be rooted in its enormous variety, also in its complex sources, and, on the other hand - in contrast to the twentieth century - in its lack of recorded audio sources.

Indeed, Mendelssohn's legendary re-premiere of Bach's St. Matthew's Passion in 1829 did not pay tribute to historical performance practices. Further, it is obvious that Schumann, Brahms, Wagner, Mottl or Reger, on the contrary, intended an actualisation of Early Music by the partially strange means of arranging the Urtext. Contemporary reports of those days state that the great pianists of the nineteenth century sinfully measured questions of tempo – as compared to today's modern performance practice.

However: how can we make sure that, let's say, Simon Rattle's or Lang Lang's interpretation - to mention only two modern prominent figures - fully correspond to the composer's original intention, or even to the werk's intention itself?
We do not appeal to the naive idea that music from former times should forever be performed as it was executed in those days. At first glance, it could be enough to head towards the forgotten, diverse views, concepts and ideas of music in the nineteenth century, questions on orchestration, 'sound' character, expression, tempo, etc... and backgrounds linked with it thus: this, in respect to the actual music of those days, as well as to what was at that time considered 'early' music - and then, confronted with later views on performance practice.

Similar to the 2007 Conference (entitled: Komponisten als Theoretiker im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert, Composers as Theorists in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries), we will treat the subject in two ways. First, source findings will be viewed and discussed by well-known and internationally prestigious experts, in an interdisciplinary manner, using a variety of methods. Second, based upon resources of the Historische Aufführungspraxis which are, in particular, available at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, historic interpretations of music of the nineteenth century will be compiled and presented by students, lecturers and performers - a combination of academic and artistic reflection, connected to each other.

Again, an accompanying exhibition with original documents of the performance and interpretation practice of the nineteenth century will be hosted by the University of Music and Performing Arts's Library. It is further planned to cooperate with the Music Collection of the WienBibliothek im Rathaus, the ÖNB (Austrian National Library) and the Archive of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien. Moreover, a cooperation with the WDR Cologne (West-German National Broadcasting Service) has been established and we aim at a similar connection with the ORF (Austrian National Broadcasting Service).

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