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Historical music performance, violin performance, early recordings, nineteenth-century music performing practices

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4 Last updated 24 January 2023

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Dr David Milsom (BMus Hons, MMus, PhD, FHEA) is a Senior Lecturer, instrumental teacher (violin and viola) and co-ordinates classical performance studies at the University of Huddersfield, having joined the staff in 2010. His teaching is principally in the area of performance, although he also teaches musicology. David is an internationally-recognised scholar of string playing in general and nineteenth-century violin performing practice in particular; he is also an active professional violinist and violist in a range areas spanning ‘baroque’ performance on period instruments to modern solo, chamber and orchestral playing. At Huddersfield he was Head of Performance (2014-2019) and currently leads performance in team with other members of academic staff in a collective. In 2014, David headed up a research centre, Huddersfield Centre for Performance Research (HuCPeR); when this moved to be part of the Research Centre for Performance Practices (ReCePP), David headed up a nineteenth-century performance research group. in 2022, owing to staffing changes, he formed a 'Historical Performance Research Group' (HPRG), which is now a thriving (mainly online) forum for visiting scholars, research fellows, PhD students, and past and present staff interested in topics concerning the performance of historical music: the group sent a number of delegates to the June 2022 PSN conference at Surrey, and a number have been invited, including David, to lead a series of workshops, lecture-recitals and sessions in a 'Nineteenth-century salon' series of events in Brussels and Ghent in December, 2022. David has successfully integrated members into undergraduate teaching, merging the activities of this group with his undergraduate 'Historical Performance' modules, espousing his firmly held belief that research and practice are bound together and for the overall benefit of the whole music community at Huddersfield.

David read music at the University of Sheffield, gaining a first-class degree in 1995, an MMus in 1996 and PhD in 2001. In 2003 David was awarded an Edison Fellowship by the British Library, in which he continued his studies into the performance styles of early recordings, and in 2006 he was awarded a Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts by the AHRC in a project entitled ‘String Chamber Music of the Classical German School 1840-1900 – Studies in Reconstructive Performance’. His research since joining the staff at Huddersfield remains in the sphere of nineteenth-century performing practices, in which manner he performs chamber music regularly with his nineteenth-century chamber group, The Meiningen Ensemble. 

Outside his immediate specialism, David has undertaken music journalism (as a reviewer for The Strad magazine between 2008 and 2017), and was the author of Naxos' A-Z of Solo String Players (2014) - a biographical dictionary of over three hundred string players with biographies, recordings listings, and reviews. His performing activities since coming to Huddersfield have included conducting the university orchestra, string orchestra, and choir in a number of successful performances, and helping to found baroque chamber group, Four's Company, where he plays baroque violin. David is also an experienced choral tenor performing regularly with semi-professional Sheffield Chamber Choir (of which he is Chairman), and, since 2013, has made a yearly pelerinage to rural France to perform as part of 8-voice choir, Voces Sacrae, under the directorship of noted choral director, Judy Martin. David's eclecticism can be gauged by his participation, from time to time, in 'non classical' contexts including, notably, a collaboration with Wayne Hussey (The Mission) to record incidental music to the Brazilian play, 'As Ismas Siamesas', shortlisted for several Brazillian recording awards in 2018 (EWS RO22). David has also been a violin and viola teacher for approaching thirty years, and continues to maintain a small private practice in his spare time, as well as enjoying a contrasting visiting employment as a visiting instrumental tutor in an independent school in South Yorkshire. In 2019, David (as leader) became a founder member of 'The Brigantes' orchestra, a new professional orchestra based in Sheffield (conducted by Quentin Clare); press attention praised David's solos as 'beautiful and lyrical.'

Recent projects included release (2020) of a disc of Brahms violin and viola sonatas on modern instruments but in historically-interested ways on Pennine Records - a label David set up at Huddersfield as a portal for a range of historical music approaches. This was followed by a very different disc (2022) entitled, 'Austro-German Revivals' (with former Huddersfield-based Leverhulme Research Fellow, Dr Inja Stanovic, now a Visiting Research Fellow at Huddersfield) in which new acoustic recordings present, in historically-informed ways, a range of violin and piano music as an innovative research tool, placing David's work at the forefront of current research into historical performing practices.

In 2020, David's second major monograph, Romantic Violin Performing Practices was pulished by Boydell. Two book chapters are awaiting publication, including imminent release of a chapter in Eva Moreda Rodrigues & Inja Stanovic (eds.), Early Sound Recordings - Academic Research and Practice (Routledge, expected before end of 2022). Current research includes a new short monograph on the Franck violin sonata for Routledge, due for completion in 2024.

Since 2020, David has collaborated with a range of other performers to release Youtube video performances of a range of historical string works in different styles and stylistic clothing, on the MMT Youtube channel - a project that is on-going, and currently numbers seven videos: an imminent new project includes recording Spohr op 67/1 violin duo with visiting PhD scholar, Joanna Staruch-Smolec, who has come to Huddersfield on a short residency specifically to study with David.

In 2022, David was honoured to be invited to become External Examiner of Post-Graduate degrees at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Research Expertise and Interests

  • Historical performance, especially of the nineteenth century
  • String playing style and practice, c.1840-1930
  • Study of recordings, particularly of string playing before 1939
  • Study of annotated performance scores and editions of string music c.1840-1930
  • Performing (violin) in historically-reconstructive nineteenth-century ways

Research Expertise and Interests

  • Music
  • Performance
  • Violin
  • Historical violin
  • Performing practices


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