Practice and Principle: Perspectives upon the German 'Classical' School of Violin Playing in the Late Nineteenth Century

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In spite of rigorous exploration of nineteenth-century performing practices, performers are still apt to characterise ‘Romantic’ performance as slovenly, sentimental and tasteless. This article challenges this view by examining the practice of a violinist whose artistic outlook was seen at the time as highly disciplined and artistically motivated – Joseph Joachim. Joachim, closely allied to the Leipzig ‘school’ and the conservative branch of German music in the nineteenth century, left ample evidence of his artistic approach in terms of a performance treatise, numerous annotated editions, and five sound recordings made towards the end of his life. This evidence attests to his rigorous application of performance theory to performance practice. In addition, Joachim's pupils Karl Klingler and Marie Soldat were known as faithful adherents of this approach and they too made a number of revealing sound recordings which help to create a fuller picture. This article examines a number of these recordings in detail in order to propose that they show significant correspondences with Joachim's own practice and, by extension, provide evidence of the outworking of a Classical German ‘school’ of performance theory.

The article suggests that, by acknowledging the basis of this tradition in performance theory (much of which displays the heritage of eighteenth-century ideals) present-day performer scholars should be encouraged to see nineteenth-century performance aesthetics not so much as devoid of principle as embodying a now unfamiliar performance language. The acquisition of this language is perhaps important to a fuller understanding of nineteenth-century music.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-52
Number of pages22
JournalNineteenth-Century Music Review
Issue number1
Early online date24 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'Practice and Principle: Perspectives upon the German 'Classical' School of Violin Playing in the Late Nineteenth Century'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this