1. Transforming performances of music of the “long 18th century” worldwide

Submitting Institution

Cardiff University

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Stowell's research into historically informed performance (HIP) resulted from his concern that performances of music of the `long 18th century' have lacked historical accuracy and fidelity, and that genuine `period' techniques have been widely misrepresented. Through his publications, outreach and public engagement activities he has fired imaginations and illuminated practice, influencing performers and conductors to revise their performance approaches and transform their interpretations by drawing on the evidence-based `period' string techniques and style that he promotes. His making more explicit the relationship between musicology and practice has also enhanced audiences' knowledge and understanding of HIP, with `knock-on' impacts on the trans- national music entertainment and recording industries, and on individual professional careers.

Underpinning research

Nature of the research

A body of Stowell's career-long (Cardiff University from 1976, Professor from 1988) HIP research has involved investigating practical issues in string playing of the `long 18th century' (e.g. fingering techniques, bowing styles, the application of vibrato and other expressive elements), a specialist area of scholarly expertise relating to period performance in which cultivation of appropriate technique and style is paramount and in which he is a leading authority. Recovering knowledge, enhancing understanding and providing performers with the tools to recreate a former sound world with optimum fidelity (and the public to understand that sound world) have required experiment with `period instruments' and interpretation of evidence from manuscripts, printed music, editions, treatises, historical writings, iconography, and other archival materials.

Underpinning research since 1993

In this period Stowell focused his research on performance practice issues in Beethoven. He investigated the text and editions of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, publishing his initial findings in his edited volume Performing Beethoven (1994).3.1 Further research (1995-97) led to a monograph about the work (1998).3.2

A collaboration with Colin Lawson (then Goldsmiths) culminated in a series of handbooks about HIP (1999-2002), guiding performers, students and listeners in interpreting the evidence of instrumental treatises and other sources, elucidating the aspects of style and technique that form well-grounded HIPs and demonstrating their practical application in case studies from the repertory. The series comprises a co-authored introductory volume (1999)3.3 focusing on `the long eighteenth century' and specialist volumes on individual instruments, including Stowell's on the violin and viola (2001).3.4 A book chapter for a series published by the ABRSM3.5 examines similar issues but is directed towards a more specific, examination-oriented readership.

Underpinning research since 2008

Collaborations during the REF period have resulted in a continuing acceleration of the research impact achieved. One with Clive Brown (Leeds) led to a major AHRC research award (2008-12) to create a digitized resource of 19th-century performing editions of string chamber music, contextualized in a web-based catalogue raisonée, together with analysis of the material and its implications for HIP.3.6 Stowell contributed to all aspects of the project as co-investigator, organised an international conference (Cardiff), presented papers at both the project's international conferences, and participated in pre-concert discussions and other events offering public access to its research findings and their implementation.

Stowell's contributions to the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment's (OAE) outreach projects in HIP led to a collaboration with one of its principal violinists, Claire Holden, and a consequent successful application for an AHRC Fellowship (2010-15), hosted at Cardiff University with Stowell as mentor.3.7 Building on Stowell's HIP consultancy experiences (e.g. English Symphony Orchestra; Welsh Sinfonia (workshops 2010-12)), Holden has been re-aligning period string performance in Beethoven's symphonies and other orchestral works with the corroborated practices of his time, promulgating scholarly research in practice-based, contextualized instructional video demonstrations on a dedicated website hosted by the School of Music (the first practice-led resource in this research area), and disseminating the relevant techniques in workshops with students and professionals, seminars, master classes, pre-concert talks, study days and other public fora in the UK and Europe.

References to the research

1. R. Stowell, `The Violin Concerto Op.61: text and editions', chapter in R. Stowell (ed.), Performing Beethoven (Cambridge, CUP, 1994), ISBN 0 521 41644, p/bk repr. (2005) 0 521 02374 2, pp. 150-194. Output can be supplied on request.

2. R. Stowell, Beethoven: Violin Concerto (Cambridge, CUP, 1998) ISBN: 9780521451598, p/bk ISBN: 9780521457750. Output can be supplied on request.

3. C. Lawson and R. Stowell, The Historical Performance of Music: an Introduction (Cambridge, CUP, 1999, ISBN 0 521 621933, p/bk 0 521 62738 9. Spanish trans. (Madrid, Alianza Música, 2005), ISBN 84-206-8207-1 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511481710


4. R. Stowell, The Early Violin and Viola: a Practical Guide (Cambridge, CUP, 2001), ISBN 0 521 62380 4, p/bk 0 521 62555 6 DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511481833


5. R. Stowell, `Strings', in A. Burton (ed.), A Performer's Guide to Music of the Romantic Period (London, ABRSM, 2002), pp. 45-55, ISBN 1 860961940. Output can be supplied on request.

Major Grants

6. AHRC Research Grant, £484,324 (2008-2012), Clive Brown (Leeds, Principal Investigator) and Stowell (Co-Investigator), `Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century annotated editions of string music: bibliographical problems, editorial content and implications for performance practice'.

7. AHRC Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts, £192,000 (2010-15), Holden with Stowell as Mentor, `Realigning historically informed string playing in Beethoven's orchestral works'.

Details of the impact

Nature and varieties of impact

Stowell's research has made a decisive contribution towards transforming performances of music of the `long 18th century' worldwide in terms of string techniques, style and general performance practice issues. Through collection and interpretation of the wide range of raw evidence with which musicians must engage when creating HIPs of music of that period, he has provided performers with the wherewithal to create historically more accurate interpretations, and audiences with the knowledge to comprehend and appreciate the new insights revealed. As sources cited in section 5 will corroborate, the traditional method of influence by scholarly publication has consistently been supplemented by other avenues - pre-concert talks on HIP issues, open practice-based workshops, public study days, public lectures, performance and commercial recording consultancies, concerts (some as soloist/director and presenter), broadcasts, contributions to professional journals (e.g. The Strad), and programme notes for major festivals/venues (e.g. Edinburgh International Festival; London's South Bank). For example, Stowell was invited to speak at the OAE's public Study Day (28 February, 2010, Purcell Room, London) on account of `his highly regarded research and work in the field of performance practice.'5.2 The annual event is `an integral part of the OAE's Residency at the Southbank and aims to assist with engaging our audience in the background behind OAE's concerts and stimulate further thought and discussion.'5.2 Stowell's talk (`Performance practice in Beethoven') underpinned the OAE's performances that season of Beethoven's symphonies and Violin Concerto in the UK and abroad. He also participated in a round table discussion, sharpening the historical awareness of OAE players and enriching the knowledge and understanding of a capacity audience of c.400.

Impact via Commercial Recordings: Kopatchinskaja's Beethoven

Stowell has influenced playing styles through commercial recording collaborations with Moldavian violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja (Beethoven's Complete Works for Violin and Orchestra (Orchestre des Champs-Elysées/Philippe Herreweghe (Naïve, V5174, 2009)) and American Jacqueline Ross (music by Schubert (Naxos 9.70164 and 9.70182, 2012/13)),5.4 and he has advised other period violinists such as Lucy van Dael (Holland). Ann Cnop (Belgium), Christoph Koncz (Austria), Kitty Cheung (Hong Kong), Margaret Faultless (UK) and Adrian Butterfield (UK), as well as conductors Sir Mark Elder, Roy Goodman, Sir Charles Mackerras, and Sir Roger Norrington.

Impact in the current REF period is most clearly exemplified by the reception of Kopatchinskaja's recording, for which she used Stowell's monograph3.2 as a principal source of guidance.5.7 Stowell also advised on HIP issues, made critical appraisals of preliminary `takes' and wrote supporting liner notes.5.1 He prompted Kopatchinskaja to interpret the evidence from new perspectives, his `insight' and `expert advice'5.1 focusing on matters of text, tempo, technique and style, including details of the playing style of Franz Clement, who premiered the work. The novel insights of the resultant recording challenged traditional readings and were very favourably received, The CD was proclaimed BBC Music Magazine's Orchestral Disc 2010 for its `imagination and invention' and its `fresh and exciting interpretation of a familiar work'
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHW1HCrMFpI, between 04'09" and 04'50"] and was hailed as `one of the most stimulating and provocative [of Beethoven's work] that has ever been committed to disc.'5.6 It was also highly commended in BBC Radio 3's `Building a Library' (4 April 2011), critics acknowledging that `Kopatchinskaja has something genuinely individual to say'5.8 and has made `the best "authentic" version so far'.5.1[Tully Potter, The Strad, December 2009] Its commercial success - 20,000+ copies sold by April 2013 - has had important ramifications both for the Naïve label's classical music outputs and Kopatchinskaja's career.5.1 She was immediately headhunted by Harrison/Parrott artists' agency, which has widened considerably the ambit of her solo, broadcasting and recording activities, especially in HIP. She has been engaged as artist-in- residence for the Beethovenfest (Bonn, 2013) to perform, among other works, Beethoven's Violin Concerto. Stowell's Beethoven research has also been embraced by other virtuoso violinists worldwide, notably Pekka Kuusisto and Isabelle Faust.5.1

Impact via Pedagogical and Professional Practice

Stowell's research has also impacted on non-specialist practitioners through his links with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). He contributed to its series of `Performers' Guides', aimed at its `own constituency of students!and their teachers - not to mention examiners!'3.5 Further, his co-authored volume (with Lawson) on HIP3.2 has served as a recommended specialist text for university and conservatoire programmes in performance practice worldwide as well as for the ABRSM's LRSM and FRSM diploma examinations, influencing performance practices globally and making a major cultural impact on public awareness and understanding of changing performing traditions in music of the period.5.9

Stowell's publications have provided an important information resource for numerous conductors and performers who have espoused HIP, influencing their interpretations from various technical and interpretative standpoints, filtering into the performances of modern symphony orchestras and broadening the listening tastes of the wider community. Knowledge has also been transferred through Stowell's own professional activities as a violinist, whether as soloist or presenter/director in concert or in HIP workshops with professional players, students and youth orchestras throughout Wales (including the NYO), supported by The Arts Council of Wales.5.5

Both AHRC-funded projects with which Stowell has been associated have achieved impact through knowledge transfer, encouraging the development of relevant performing skills and providing scholars, performers and the listening public with fresh and stimulating insights into the performance of works central to the canon of western art-music. For example, as mentor to Holden, Stowell has consistently offered theoretical and practical advice regarding the substance and content of her scholarly, outreach and public engagement activities and her project's website.5.2 In addition to academic beneficiaries, research outcomes have already impacted on present and future generations of professional string players (via OAE study days, workshops at UK and European conservatoires and public seminars/lectures), conductors, ensembles, and the wider performing and listening communities.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Testimony from an international solo violinist emphasises the importance of Stowell's: monograph3.2 as an information resource (re sources, style and other insights) for Beethoven performance; advice during the CD's recording process; liner notes. It also confirms the CD's acclaimed critical reception, sales, and transformative effect on this violinist's career worldwide.
  2. Testimony from the Chief Executive of a London orchestra confirms: Stowell's participation in its outreach/public engagement programme; the positive audience response; Stowell's significant influence, as mentor, on Holden's outreach and professional development activities.
  3. Individual corroboration from the Director at a London conservatoire will verify the impact claimed through the ABRSM's publications and its recommendation of Stowell's writings amongst specialist texts for its diploma examination candidates.
  4. Individual corroboration from a violin professor of a London conservatoire will confirm Stowell's advisory input (including liner notes) into recordings of works by Schubert and an edition for violin of Schubert's 'Trockne Blumen' variations.
  5. Individual corroboration from the Artistic Director of a professional chamber orchestra will confirm the impact of Stowell's research on professional and amateur practice, as well as in concert as a soloist, director and presenter.
  6. http://www.classical-music.com/review/beethoven-violin-concerto-1 A critical review of the CD5.1 by Erik Levi, confirming the `stimulating and provocative' approach and use of anecdotal evidence [from Stowell's monograph] regarding Franz Clement's playing style.
  7. http://patriciakopatchinskaja.com/texts-BEETHOVEN-patkop.html Provides further evidence of the soloist's use of Stowell's monograph as a principal source of information.5.1
  8. http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/gmq4 A critical review of the CD5.1 by Andrew McGregor, confirming the recording's individual approach and `sense of re-discovery.'
  9. http://www.abrsm.org/resources/writingProgNotesApr05.pdf] Evidence (see p.5) of recommendation of Stowell's research among specialist texts for exam candidates.

[All testimonials and supporting documents (including translation of 7) saved as pdfs on 5.7.13 and available on request from the HEI.]