Correct, but not Beautiful Performance II

Deciphering the hidden messages in 19th century notation
Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the University of Music and the Performing Arts Vienna (MDW) are delighted to be hosting this three-day symposium at the Festsaal MDW in Vienna.

Convened by Professor Neal Peres Da Costa, this event is supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant DP 170101976.


Date: 23-25 September 2019

Venue: Festsaal MDW, Seilerstätte 26, 1010 Wien (Directions)

Registrations: Registrations are now open.

Keynote speaker

Robert Toft
Professor of Music, Don Wright Faculty of Music, Western University (Ontario, Canada)

Key information

Recent performing practice scholarship reveals that 19th-century and earlier music notation often signified something different to contemporary musicians than it does to those of the present day. In the first half of the 19th century, the characteristic qualities of artistic performance and the ways to achieve these were discussed by Johann Nepomuk Hummel in his Anweisung zum Piano-Forte-Spiel (1828) and Louis Spohr in his Violinschule (1833). Both state that an accurate, literal, or face-value realisation of the notation will produce a “correct” performance (richtiger Vortrag), which is the necessary first stage for an apprentice who wishes to become a master. They explain, however, that this falls far short of mastery, which requires “fine” or “beautiful” performance (schöner Vortrag), in which myriad rhythmic, tempo, and dynamic modifications of the notation, as well as a range of other un-notated expressive practices, such as piano arpeggiation, or portamento and vibrato in singing, string, and wind playing, are indispensable.

With the increasing internationalisation of musical culture during the 19th century, musicians (especially the younger generation) began to rely more on notation than on traditional performing conventions. Such a practice led Joseph Joachim to criticise the tendency of Franco-Belgian school violinists, such as Henri Vieuxtemps, to adhere “too much to the lifeless note-heads when performing the classics, not knowing how to read between the lines.” For Carl Reinecke, a conscientious reading (following the score exactly) of Beethoven’s Op. 111 Piano Sonata, although it might transmit all the work’s essential details, left “much to be read between the lines which no composer can convey by signs, no editor by explanations.”

Building on our highly successful 2018 Symposium at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, this three-day Symposium in Vienna brings together musicians (both professionals and students) interested in exploring the hidden messages in 19th-century notation and in experimentally applying well-documented 19th-century expressive practices in performance.

Prospective applicants (from all musical disciplines) are invited to submit a proposal/abstract for presentations (25-45 mins) including papers, lecture recitals, workshops and panels. Preference will be given to those proposals that involve demonstration of experimental application of evidence in performance.

All submissions must be received by 5pm, Friday 12 July 2019 (Australian Eastern Time). The Symposium format will provide successful applicants with 25-45 mins presentation and 10 minutes for Q&A. Applicants will be informed of acceptance by July 1, 2019.

Proposals should be 300 words in length (500 words for panel sessions including a full list of panel members) and be submitted as per the guidelines outlined above. Please include a 300-word biography with your submission including institutional or other affiliation and position.

Please contact for further details and to submit your abstract or proposal.