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Text to intensify instrumental musical expression
Jane Booth, Head of Historical Performance GSMD

Schubert lieder recording with Baermann arrangements within themed groups of Songs

Open to the public, this was an exceptionally rewarding research event, with not a dull quarter hour in a near three hour session.

Jane delivered a well organised exposition of nineteenth century publications of Schubert song arrangements for clarinet and piano by the famous clarinet virtuoso Carl Baermann, who supplied the sung texts below his scores, presumably to intensify musical expression in their performance.

Her talk was illustrated on screen and interspersed with video clips of discussion with Norbert Meyn, in collaboration with whom she'd investigated the performance scene and educational environment in 19th Century Munich.

The core of the afternoon was a live exploration of some of the songs with innovative suggestions from the distinguished singing teacher Janice Chapman, who discussed the revolution in vocal training and concentrated on the implicatons of new medical discoveries about the physical mechanisms of larynx etc, invoked to bring new thinking into conveying the emotional implications of the text in this music.

Scottish soprano Mhairi Lawson, with the leading accompanist Eugene Asti and the participation of Jane Booth on her early clarinet, experimented in our presence with ways to convey - and indeed feel physically - the emotional implications of text. Mhairi told us about her personal experiences with free ornamentation in strophic songs, widely recommended but a controversial area; she demonstrated her reservations when they "didn't feel right". Jane Booth went away enthused to explore whether singing techniques to heighten the feeling and expression of sadness might transfer to her instrument.

This was all in the context of a forthcoming release of recordings of Schubert lieder in which Baermann arrangements had been interposed within themed groups of songs, including the juxtaposition of performances of ‘Der Hirt auf dem Felsen’ and ‘Lob der Thränen’ with and without text.

For those of us privileged to share this research event, the CD will be eagerly awaited. Others who joined in the discussion included flutist Rachel Brown, who drew on her own experience of performing transcriptions of Schubert made by Theobold Boehm, and several members of the audience, who were encouraged to contribute freely by the the ever stimulating Professor Amanda Glauert, a peripatetic and open-minded academic, latterly at Kingston, now at the Royal College of Music, some of whose seminars at the Royal Academy I had previously attended with pleasure and profit.

The whole was a convincing demonstration of the value of interdisciplinary collaboration in advancing knowledge and musical performance.

For Research and Knowledge Exchange at the Guildhall School visit www.gsmd.ac.uk/research to see the wide-ranging current projects; I shall be particularly interested in their research programme The nature, value and purpose of Masterclasses, a topic which has been extensively tackled by Musical Pointers.

Peter Grahame Woolf