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Title: Early twentieth-century discourses of violin playing
Author: Knapik, Stefan
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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The thesis is a critical reading of pedagogical and biographical texts by and on violinists, written in the early twentieth century. It contributes to historical and discursive studies by providing a limited engagement with a largely neglected group of historical sources relating to musical performance, and further advances the historical research on subjectivity, the body, pathology, and erotics, in relation to discourses of music. The thesis also contributes to studies of performance practice, and empirical and psychological studies of musical performance, in that it engages with discursive notions of theoretical and performance categories, such as tempo, melody, vibrato and portamento. By taking a hermeneutic approach to detailed discussions of performative practices, primarily found in pedagogical texts, the project aims to provide a more nuanced assessment of many of the topics that have played a central role in the ongoing research on early twentieth-century performance (which principally consists of recordings analysis). The project does this by demonstrating the extent to which these practices are culturally and historically mediated. Following an introduction, chapter 2 demonstrates that notions of consciousness inform writers’ notions of musical virtuosity, and shows that Nietzschean and Wagnerian notions of self underpin the idea of the violinist as a superior producer of art. Chapter 3 argues that these ideas combine with metaphysical notions of melody to make the concept of ‘tone’/Ton the cornerstone of string playing during this period, which in turn has important implications for how writers conceive of tempo, rhythm, vibrato, portamento and dynamics. Chapter 4 demonstrates that writers perceive their ideal of tone to be threatened by moral and physiological disease, manifested in individual/social bodies, which leads to a very different articulation of these same practices. Chapter 5 explores traces of notions of intersubjectivity, arising from metaphors of erotic desire, which challenge the hegemonic ideal of universal mind. The conclusion frames the discourse as a problematic attempt to posit an authoritarian model of string playing. It also includes a preliminary study of early twentieth-century discourses of cello playing, and engages with the research to date on national styles of violin playing in the same period.
Supervisor: Clarke, Eric Sponsor: James Pantyfedwen Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: 20th Century music ; 19th Century music ; Performance ; violin ; early twentieth century performance ; late-nineteenth century performance ; string playing ; Joachim ; Flesch ; Auer ; performance discourse ; tone ; vitalism ; voice ; subjectivity ; pathology ; performance practice ; cello