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Jan Gunnar Sørbø: Bygone Romantic Piano Practice

Interpretation of selected Beethoven sonatas and Chopin etudes based on Hans von Bülows instructive note editions.

Field of study: Performance Practice


The dissertation is based on Hans von Bülow's (1830–1894) instructive edition.

Sørbø examines interpretative aspects of selected Beethoven sonatas and Chopin etudes. The Bülow edition reveals a tradition of interpretation in which the concept of interpretation is much more prominent than in modern Urtext editions. To a certain extent, Bülow's edition can be understood as an explication of characteristic parts of bygone romantic piano practice.

By performing selected passages, originating from the Bülow- and Urtext editions, respectively, Sørbø investigates practices and how the performer approaches the material. Developed from this is a discussion of how different understandings of notation can regulate interpretation.

An overarching goal of the study is to contribute to an expansion of the interpretative scope for the modern interpreter by illuminating parts of the work's reception history that have hitherto been given relatively little attention. Although instructive editions were widespread in the second half of the 19th century, these editions have been marginalized in our time. This is in part due to a more general anti-romantic shift in music understanding. Moreover, the understanding of notation as such has undergone a significant transformation during the same period. By restoring a historical concept of interpretation, imprinted in these piano works, Sørbø intends to establish a foundation for artistic development and novel interpretation of these key works.

The theoretical perspectives are largely derived from hermeneutics and reception aesthetics, particularly from the works of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Hans-Robert Jauss and Wolfgang Iser. The methodological framework draws mainly on text criticism and hermeneutics. Questioning the modern concept of text fidelity and the Urtext concept as a regulatory model of the interpretation is central to the discussion.

The dissertation

Title: A bygone romantic piano practice: Interpretation of selected Beethoven sonatas and Chopin-etudes, departing from Hans von Bülow's instructive edition.

The dissertation is a monograph. It is available in Norwegian from NMH Brage.

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Published: Oct 18, 2016 — Last updated: Mar 22, 2024