Reinvigorating nineteenth-century performance

A curation of informed-practice experimental interpretations
World-renowned performing scholar and educator, Professor Neal Peres Da Costa investigates the nature of 19th-century performance and offers new and alternative ways of interpreting the repertoire.

Professor Neal Peres Da Costa has received an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project grant (DP170101976) to study 19th-century piano playing, researching in collaboration with Professor Clive Brown, Emeritus Professor of Applied Musicology at the University of Leeds and guest Professor at the MDW (University of Music and the Performing Arts, Vienna).

This project combines early recording emulation with rigorous multi-modal academic research on performing practices of the 19th century. The video recordings presented on this page are the result of experimental research working with music of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Reimagining Brahms and Schumann

The exemplar recordings in this playlist include the three movements of Johannes Brahms' Sonata for Violin and Piano op. 120 no. 2 and the entire of Robert Schumann's song-cycle "Dichterliebe". The interpretations presented here are based on experimental application of the latest performance practice evidence (available in written texts and early recordings) together with practice-led research methods including recording emulation and cyclical research processes. The interpretations are re-imaginings of these works in the context of the palette of expressive practices that Brahms and Schumann and their close circle were known to enjoy and expected in a ‘beautiful’ rendition. These include un-notated practices such as portamento and vibrato, bowing, piano arpeggiation and asynchrony, articulation and accentuation and flexibility of rhythm and tempo in the styles employed by German and Austrian singers, string players and pianists of the era, but largely forgotten during the upsurge of modernist aesthetics in the 20th century. The interpretations also demonstrate how these composers expected performers to read their notational signs and symbols.

There are four recordings in this playlist:

  • Brahms recording date: September 2018
  • Venue: Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
  • Schumann recording date: 30 September 2019 
  • Venue: Paddington Uniting Church, Paddington, NSW, Australia at a lunchtime concert during the Eastside Sydney Music Festival
  • All videos and audio have been recorded and produced by Patrick Mullins (Audiofile Pty Ltd)
  • Artists: 
  • Clive Brown, late 17th century Cremona violin on gut strings, with a mid 19th century bow by Nicholas Maine.
  • Neal Peres Da Costa, Viennese-action grand piano after J.B. Streicher & Sohn c.1868 by Paul McNulty
  • Koen van Stade, tenor

19th century French performance practices discussed and demonstrated by the musicians of Ironwood

In this playlist Ironwood’s musicians discuss and demonstrate expressive performance practices that were integral to the soundscape of 19th-century French chamber music—Louise Farrenc's Piano Quintet in A minor op.30 and Camille Saint Saëns' Piano Quintet in A minor op.14.  The videos cover subjects including string portamento and vibrato, modification of rhythm and tempo, accents and accentuation, singing through instrumental playing, 19th-century French sound, and experimental historically informed performance (HIP). Along the way, piano asynchrony and arpeggiation are also discussed and demonstrated. The videos capture rehearsal and workshop sessions that took place in December 2019 in preparation for Ironwood's CD recording “Romantic Dreams" (ABC Classic 481 9887) of Piano Quintets by Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) and Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921). The CD was recorded in December 2019 and January 2020 in the ABC's Eugene Goosens Hall, Ultimo, Sydney, Australia. The sessions and the recording were part funded by a Sydney Conservatorium of Music (University of Sydney) internal grant, Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant DP 170101976 and the ABC Classic.


  • Recording date: Friday 6 December, 2019
  • Venue: Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Studios, Ultimo
  • Sound and Video Engineer: Patrick Mullins AudioFile Pty Ltd
  • Rachael Beesley,  Violin by Count Rodolfo Fredi, Rome 1915; bow by Brian Tunnicliffe, Somerset, England
  • Robin Wilson,  Violin by Gagliano family, Naples 1784; bow by James Tubbs, late 19th century
  • Simon Oswell,  Viola by Gaspare Lorenzini, Piacenza 1740; bow by John Dodd, circa 1810
  • Daniel Yeadon (Cello by William Forster II, London 1781; bow by Michael Maurushat, Sydney.)
  • Robert Nairn Double Bass by Gabriel Xavier Jacquet, Mirecourt c. 1860; bow by L. Pages, after Peccatte
  • Neal Peres Da Costa, Érard grand piano, Paris 1869

Mozart K. 488 Project

Co-designed by Professor Neal Peres Da Costa and the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra, the Mozart K. 488 Project culminated in a performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488, recorded 25-27 August 2022 in All Saints Church, Hunter's Hill, Sydney, NSW.

An excerpt from the second movement can be viewed below: