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Masterclass – Dr. Laura Tunbridge (University of Oxford)

Listening to Lieder between the Wars

Date: 26 & 27 May, 2016
Time: 26 May, 16.15-19.00 hours; 27 May, 9-13
Venue: Utrecht University (26 May: Janskerkhof 13, 0.06; 27 May: Drift 21, room 1.04)
Credits: 1-2 ECTS
Open to: Research Master students in Musicology and in the Humanities
Fee (non-members): € 100
Coordinated by:  Karl Kügle (UU)
Register here

The interwar period was an important time of transition for the performance and interpretation of music of all kinds, but perhaps especially for art song. On the one hand, repertoires could become charged with political meaning according to their nationality or the language in which they were performed. On the other hand, the dissemination of music through media technologies (recordings, radio, and cinema) seemed to promise a more mobile, international marketplace. In this masterclass we will be investigating how this combination of political and technological change influenced the interpretation of lieder – the songs of Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf, and Richard Strauss. While some consideration will be given to questions of performance practices, broadly conceived, discussion will also consider broader questions of listening habits in interwar culture; about not only what music was heard, but also how and where it was consumed.

Laura Tunbridge (*1974) gained a B.A. (Hons.) in Music from the University of Oxford, before completing a M.A. in Musicology at the University of Nottingham and a PhD at Princeton University. Her doctoral thesis (2002) was on Robert Schumann’s Szenen aus Goethe’s ‘Faust’ and music to Byron’s Manfred. She was a lecturer at the University of Reading and then a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, before joining the Music Faculty at the University of Oxford in 2014, where she is also a Fellow of St Catherine’s College. Laura Tunbridge’s research focuses on German Romantic repertoire, with a particular interest in reception studies and performance cultures. Her publications include Schumann’s Late Style (Cambridge, 2007), The Song Cycle (Cambridge, 2010), the co-edited volume Rethinking Schumann (Oxford, 2011), and articles in Journal of the American Musicological Society and Representations. She is currently editor of the Journal of the Royal Musical Association.

This event is organised by the Huizinga Institute in cooperation with Research Group Musicology, Utrecht University.


This master class will consist of a lecture and a seminar on the same topic held by Laura Tunbridge. The lecture outlines the changing contexts for lieder performance during the interwar period, considering two songs from Schubert’s Schwanengesang – ‘Ständchen’ and ‘Der Doppelgänger’ – and a number of significant performances (by, among others, John McCormack, Paul Reimers and Hulda Lashanska, Richard Tauber, Alexander Kipnis, and Lauritz Melchior). The different spaces and contexts in which the song was presented will be considered, alongside questions of performance style. Questions to be asked will include: How are interwar performances different from today’s approaches towards Schwanengesang? Are the songs presented as high art or something more popular? What is the effect of hearing such songs in translation? To what extent does including the song outside of the concert hall (on film, radio, or on theatrical stages) change its meaning?

Following this lecture, the master class is designed to offer participants the opportunity to discuss and build on the materials and interrelations developed earlier. The main objective is to encourage participants to think about how performance contexts can radically shape interpretations of musical works, and the extent to which the status of lieder today is dependent on twentieth, rather than nineteenth-century, practices.

Preparation and readings:

The participants are asked to acquaint themselves with Schubert’s Schwanengesang (both by listening and reading the score). Martin Chusid’s edited volume A Companion to Schubert’s ‘Schwanengesang’: History, Poets, Analysis, Performance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996; on reserve in the Utrecht University Library, Drift 27, 3512 BR Utrecht) provides useful background material.

Further required readings:

  • Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, The Changing Sound of Music:  Approaches to Studying Recorded Musical Performance (London: CHARM, 2009). Chapter 4: ‘Changing Performance Styles: Singing’
  • John Potter, ‘Beggar at the Door: The Rise and Fall of Portamento Singing’, Music and Letters 87 (2006), 523–50.
  • Laura Tunbridge, ‘Singing Translations: The Politics of Listening Between the Wars’, Representations 123 (2013), 53-86.


Participants are requested to prepare an informal presentation and a short essay (750 words) on one song by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf or Strauss, in three performances; at least one should be from the interwar period. Performances may be taken to mean recordings or writings about a performance (for example in reviews or memoirs). The assignment should consider:

  1. Significant differences between performances
  2. The implications of particular performances (or contexts for performances) for the understanding of the song.

Students may choose any one song from the following list:

  • Schubert: Ave Maria
  • Schubert: Du bist die Ruh
  • Schumann: Mondnacht
  • Brahms: Vergebliches Ständchen
  • Wolf: Wo find ich Trost?
  • Wolf: Auch kleine Dinge
  • Strauss: Ständchen

The written part of the assignment has to be submitted to on or before the deadline of 23 May 2016.

All assignments will be graded and receive 2 EC . Students wishing to audit the master class (1 EC) are expected to attend both sessions in full, do all preparatory readings, and participate actively in discussion but will not be called upon to submit written and do a classroom presentation.