Expressiveness in Historical Perspective: Nineteenth-Century Ideals and Practices

David Milsom, Neal Peres Da Costa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter examines the philosophical and aesthetic underpinnings of nineteenth-century performance, as suggested in contemporary written literature and heard on early recordings, and summarizes them as an almost universal understanding of music in terms of its linguistic and declamatory properties, giving rise to flexibility in the meaning of music notation and basic musical parameters, and being used to justify specific expressive practices. The chapter summarizes the main tenets of such thought as a context for understanding the nature of expressive practices in violin and piano playing, including portamento, vibrato, dislocation, and arpeggiation. The authors discuss their experiences of producing “stylistically reconstructive” recordings, highlighting the challenges and potential for musical expressiveness. The results suggest that any research into cognitive/psychological music performance, particularly of the romantic repertoire, must widen its parameters beyond the modern aesthetics of expressivity, and focus more on the singing and rhetorical devices examined in this chapter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExpressiveness in music performance
Subtitle of host publicationEmpirical approaches across styles and cultures
EditorsDorottya Fabian, Renee Timmers, Emery Schubert
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780191634550 , 9780191771651
ISBN (Print)9780199659647
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2014


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