docARTES+ lecture concert ANNA SCOTT “Brahms the ‘Untouchable’: What mainstream pianists stand to lose by refusing to experiment with historical information.”
November 3, 2011 –
“Brahms the ‘Untouchable’: What mainstream pianists stand to lose by refusing to experiment with historical information.”
In recent years, many of the tools and ideologies of the historically-informed performance (HIP) movement have been successfully assimilated into mainstream practices for Western canonic music composed pre-1830. Furthermore, recent interest in historical recordings has uncovered fascinating insights into the lost performance contexts that gave rise to the music of Schumann, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, and even the Second Viennese School – though hearing the practical artistic results of such studies on the world’s most prestigious concert stages remains something of a rarity. However, in spite of all our authentic concerns, the piano music of Johannes Brahms has suffered a degree of neglect and has become a kind of vacuum of artistic experimentation. Though much is known about Brahms’ performing practices, both mainstream and HIP pianists continue to either ignore or distort this knowledge – despite our common concern for what ‘Brahms would have wanted’. So what is it about Brahms’ music that is so untouchable; what are the risks associated with experimenting with established repertoire; and perhaps most importantly…what do we risk by categorically refusing to do so at all?
Over the course of this lecture, the historical evidence of Brahms’ performing practices will be critically examined with a view to initiating a frank discussion about the tastes, myths and agendas responsible for today’s Brahmsian performing practices on one hand, and our reluctance to ‘play’ with historical information on the other. We will evaluate the distance between what performers say and what they actually do, as well as the triviality and danger of mainstream vs. HIP territorialism when it comes to Brahms’ late piano music. 21st century Brahms performance practices will be compared with those evidenced by the historical record, and finally this gap will form the basis of a live experiment with historical style in the masterclass immediately following the lecture.
Canadian pianist Anna Scott began lessons in both piano and violin at the late age of thirteen. By her late teens she was already a top prizewinner in many of Canada’s most prestigious piano competitions, including The Canadian Music Competition, The Canadian National Music Festival, The Ludmila Knezkova-Hussey International Piano Competition and The Nova Scotia Kiwanis Music Festival Gala Rose Bowl. Anna has always been particularly noted for the depth of emotional and intellectual presence she brings to the keyboard, and favors the late Romantic miniaturists of the piano repertoire. Her live recordings of Schubert, Schumann and Brahms have been regularly featured on CBC’s popular radio program ‘All the Best’. Anna completed simultaneous BA/BSc degrees at Dalhousie University, a Performance Diploma at the Glenn Gould Professional School, her Masters in Piano Performance at McGill, and is now a Doctor of Music candidate (docArtes) and ORCiM doctoral artist-researcher at The Orpheus Instituut in Ghent, Belgium. Anna’s doctoral supervisory team is comprised of Daniel Leech-Wilkinson (King’s College, London), Naum Grubert (Amsterdam Conservatory/The Royal Conservatory of The Hague), Frans De Ruiter (Leiden University/The Royal Conservatory of the Hague) and the late Bruce Haynes (McGill University, Montreal).