On Character in Music

13 May 2011, 17:00 - 18:15

West Road Concert Hall, Faculty of Music

World-renowned pianist Alfred Brendel is the inaugural Humanitas Visiting Professor in Chamber Music at the University of Cambridge. He will give a series of public lectures at the Faculty of Music, which he will illustrate at the piano. In addition, he will participate in an open rehearsal with the Szymanowski Quartet, who will be performing at West Road Concert Hall subsequently.

Lecture 1: On Character in Music

This lecture sets out to show that the perception of character and atmosphere in musical performances is no less important than that of form and structure. The belief that the structure of a work automatically reveals its character is a fallacy.  The notion of character appears in 18th-century treatises on interpretation as well as in writing on aesthetics where it is first discussed at the time when Beethoven's sonatas begin to appear.  Czerny's comments on Beethoven's piano works are full of references to character.  The pianist's task becomes related to that of a character actor identifying with different roles, with an ever widening awareness of the staggering emotional and psychological variety great music has to offer. Brendel will illustrate this lecture with musical examples at the piano. 

Further lectures and events in the series are: 

Humanitas
On Character in Music
13 May 2011, West Road Concert Hall, Faculty of Music
Light and Shade of Interpretation
16 May 2011, West Road Concert Hall, Faculty of Music
Open Rehearsal with Alfred Brendel and Szymanowski Quartet
17 May 2011, West Road Concert Hall, Faculty of Music

Szymanowski Quartet and Alfred Brendel discuss Beethoven’s Quartet in A minor, op. 132.

Concert by Szymanowski Quartet
18 May 2011, West Road Concert Hall, Faculty of Music

The Humanitas Chair in Chamber Music has been made possible by the generous support of Mr Lawrence Saper.

The Humanitas Chair in Chamber Music will bring world-renowned performers to Cambridge to share insights into the character as well as the challenges of musical performance, explaining not only their own approach to a range of musical masterpieces but also the consequences for listeners of their interpretative choices. These 'behind the scene' observations will be complemented by actual performances, whether in masterclasses, open rehearsals, lecture-recitals or concerts.

Standing Committee

John Rink (Music; AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice)
Nicholas Cook (Music)   
Iain Fenlon (Music)
Martin Ennis (Music)
Edward Wickham (St Catharine’s College; Music)    
David Mawson (AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice)
George Unsworth (West Road Concert Hall)

Hosting College

Peterhouse