Research seminar

Wednesday 2 March 2016, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Professor John Irving (Trinity Laban Conservatoire)

'How time flies': making sense of notated sounds and rests in Haydn's solo keyboard sonatas'

Discussions of Haydn's solo keyboard sonatas are not notable for their debating of note- and rest-lengths. Such details are clearly enough encoded in his notated scores and vary but little in their symbolic representation along a spectrum stretching from early handwritten copies and printed editions through nineteenth-century attempts at Oeuvres Complettes; adaptations of eighteenth-century performance practices to stylistic preferences deriving from changes in instrument design and public situations for the production and consumption of piano music; and recent attempts at so-called Urtext editions. 'On the page', then, note lengths retain a strong degree of fixity in these pieces.

But for performers, this situation is far more fluid and may radically affect fundamental issues in our interpretation of Haydn's music. This presentation, including live performance of excerpts from four of Haydn's solo sonatas (Hob.XVI:46/32/40 and 49, stretching across much of his composing career), will examine in detail the significance of note- and rest-lengths in performance contexts. Two areas will receive particular consideration: 

  1. Construction of real-time narratives in performance through deliberate distortion of Haydn's notated lengths (conforming to historically-informed principles of dissonance treatment, for instance);
  2. The significance and consequences of instrument technology. Haydn's sonatas were composed with a wide range of keyboard types in mind (including at least two species of Viennese fortepiano, as documented in the composer's letters). The presentation will examine contrasting types of sound production on keyboard instruments from Haydn's day, including detailed discussion of their influence of such issues on performance decisions in a recent CD recording of these four sonatas.

John Irving is Professor of Performance Practice at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, London. Previously Director of The Institute of Musical Research, University of London, and Professor of Music at The University of Bristol, John is a noted authority on Mozart, and also performs internationally as a fortepianist, harpsichordist and clavichordist. His five books on Mozart concentrate on the instrumental music and have in recent times turned strongly towards issues of historical performance practice. The merging of his academic and performance work has recently gained widespread popular recognition in the multi award-winning The Mozart Project, for which he was a Consultant Editor and in which he appears as author and performer. His CD recordings include solo discs of Mozart and Haydn, and a 5*-reviewed disc of Beethoven chamber music arrangements with Ensemble DeNOTE.

Location: E058