Character and performance practice from 1800 to 1850
This dissertation is a theoretical study of bassoon performance practice in the first half of the nineteenth century, analysing the temporal changes that took place in the different musical traditions of France, Germany and Britain. It emphasizes methodological problems inherent in historical performance studies in general, as well as those specifically related to nineteenth-century music, from the performer s point of view. Moreover, woodwind performance practice finds itself lagging behind keyboard or string instruments as a relevant research topic.
The research is based on the analysis of bassoon performance practice from a double perspective, combining research on historical written sources with a practical experimentation and application of data on period instruments. As a result, the conclusions derived from the investigation have ample and immediate practical applications. The thesis theoretical framework is interdisciplinary, bringing together different questions on history and music theory. This research seeks to be a new approach to understanding bassoon performance practice, in this historical period and in its relationship with the present-day practice of nineteenth-century repertoire. Furthermore, by using the bassoon as a case study, the research gives some hints that may be used to understand performance practice in a wider context.
The most important subject that gives structure to this thesis comes from what has been a constant presence in all historical sources. This is the concept of character as it is understood by arts in the early nineteenth century. Hence, character is used in the research to give unity to the analysis of the different parameters like tempo, articulation, ornamentation, and even the performance of repertoire in general. Therefore character lies at the core of the whole performance in this research.
The conclusion of this thesis is based on research which shows that performance in the first half of the nineteenth century finds its balance between the influences of some baroque practice, and the germ of some ideas, marked by a positivist mentality, that will fully develop by the end of the century. Somehow, the bassoon like other woodwind instruments also finds itself in a similar position. It is undeniable, according to the data, that singing and its new techniques had a great influence as the main source of inspiration for every performer. However, the period studied witnesses a new trend whereby bassoonists start to look into how string players developed new features that become personal marks, especially, in virtuoso performance.