Romantic Lab is a video blog dedicated to the study of late 19th- and early 20th-century performance practice, presenting the results of research and experimentation with Romantic performance by imitating historical recordings.———
There is a consensus among musicologists and researchers that the earliest surviving recordings are an invaluable source of information of what performance practices of the time were. This is corroborated by a large amount of written evidence, such as treatises, methods, reviews of concerts, letters and memoirs of composers and performers. Sadly, there are still few performers today, even among the ones who are interested in or associated with the Historical Performance Practice movement, who seriously study and make use of the expressive devices that are an essential part of the late romantic performance style and musical language. Romantic Lab’s aim is to bring us closer to it by using both analytical and practical approaches.
The study of early recordings and late romantic tradition is a popular subject among researchers and it is gradually beginning to get more attention from performers. As with many new subjects in music, implementation of musicological findings in performances takes a long time and it is therefore not surprising that currently there is a lack of audible examples of contemporary musicians experimenting with these findings. Researchers and musicologists who are working on romantic performance practice will undoubtedly be among the first to be interested in such a project. Hearing our experiments will help them contextualise and engage with practical and musical considerations of performers in a new way that can pave the way to a better, more comprehensive understanding of Romantic performance practice as well as its modern adaptations. In other words, this project could help to bridge the gap between the researcher and the performer and help establishing new ways of cooperating, as well as strengthening connections that are already there. Having on the blog a space for free exchange of ideas and open discussions is conductive to such an intermingling of musicians and researchers.
Hopefully, many musicians interested in performance practice will learn from our experiences and be inspired to experiment and learn on their own. This will undoubtedly bring different approaches and individual takes on how late romantic expressive devices can be incorporated into modern performances. Bringing more diversity to interpretations and engagement with evidence are among the most important aims of this project.
Modern performers are likely to find many of their assumptions questioned. In contrast to lectures, books and articles, however, they will have a chance to see theories applied in practice and in the context of musical compositions that are known to them. Exposure to different approaches to interpretation steeped in historical information and a whole array of different technical and expressive devices should be of much interest to performers looking to expand their expressive palette.
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.
Videos by Noelia Nicolas and sound by Antal van Nie.