Graduate Research Colloquium: Professor Neal Peres Da Costa (Sydney Conservatory)

The 20th-century heralded unprecedented change in ‘classical’ music performance aesthetics as documented in sound recordings. By 1950, many unnotated expressive techniques (belonging to a long-established continuum of practice) had been all but expunged. In this ascendant modern style, the notation came to be considered sacrosanct, arguably for the first time ever. Compositions from Bach to Brahms donned identities and sound worlds that largely reflected their notation, largely devoid of individual artistic expression, and increasingly homogenous across performances and recordings. This text-literal ‘classicised’ style remains pervasive, even in historically informed performance (HIP), and has stultified performers and audiences alike.

But innovative methods including: i) emulation/imitation of 19th-century-trained musicians on record; and, ii) cyclical processes in applying historical written evidence, can reignite artistic agency to help unlock the modernist sound of canonic works. This presentation will highlight a novel reading of Mozart’s Piano Concerto K. 488, recently recorded by me with the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra on period instruments. Referencing, among other significant evidence, the ear-opening 1904 piano roll by Carl Reinecke (b. 1824)—lauded as preserver of an ‘old’ Mozart tradition—of his piano solo arrangement of the K. 488 slow movement, we re-enact documented Mozartian practices of note dis-alignment, marked rhythm and tempo variation, and ornamentation. In so doing, we reimagine Mozart as unbridled, blustery, varied, and rhetorical, an alternative to the expected identities for his music of pretty, neat, tidy, and balanced. Such vivification of past musical practices can inspire renewed artistry and expressivity in the staging of classical music.

Free to attend, register here.

Professor Neal Peres Da Costa is Associate Dean (Research) and Professor of Historical Performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He is a world-recognised performing scholar on historical keyboards, lauded for his monograph Off the Record: Performing Practices in Romantic Piano Playing (Oxford University Press, 2012), co-edited performance editions of Brahms chamber music (Bärenreiter Verlag), and award-winning (Fine Arts ARIA 2008) and practice-led recordings. He was lead chief investigator on Australian Research Council Discovery Project DP170101976 Deciphering nineteenth-century pianism: invigorating global practices, and is currently leading DP210101511 Hearing the music of early New South Wales, 1788-1860 and DP220101596 The shock of the old: Rediscovering the sounds of bel canto 1700-1900. He performs regularly with several leading Australian music industry partners including Ironwood, Bach Akademie Australia, and the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra of which he is also Artistic Advisor.

About the series:
The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate student Judith Valerie Engel organises the series. Presentations are followed by a discussion and drinks reception. If you would like more information, please email