Eggert’s project ’Down with Romanticism’ aims to illustrate the forgotten dimensions of playing19th-century music. Here, he challenges musicians to consider historical music through the lens of Romantic-style playing


David Eggert © Neda Navaee

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1. Learn about anti-Romantic rhetoric

Read up on the origins of anti-Romanticism and how it challenged the expressive and emotional elements in music. It’s vital to understand how this movement shaped the interpretive inclinations inherited by all 21st-century players. 

2. Investigate source material

Dive into early sound recordings from the turn of the 20th century, where performers studied with and played alongside greats like Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and Joseph Joachim. Discover how audio recordings can reshape our understanding of music from the 19th-century. 

3. Challenge conventions

Analyse the recordings of pianists Adelina de Lara and Fanny Davies, former pupils of Clara Schumann, and observe where, and no less importantly how, they deviate from the written notation. Look for the (to our ears) unconventional arpeggios, tempo fluctuations, and unique interpretations that privilege in-the-moment and spontaneous musical storytelling over precision-oriented text recreation. 

4. Rediscover string players’ techniques

Explore the early recordings of string players like violinist Marie Soldat and cellist Hugo Becker. Don’t baulk at those practices that are different from today’s standards, including prominent portamenti, poetic intonation, and more. Welcome them! Understand how these asymmetries mimic singers’ expressions.

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5. Declamation and verses

Learn about lyrical declamation, where voices quiver, emotions flow, and rhythm and delivery vary according to expressive content. Discover the continuum of speaking and singing in early recitations of verses. Ask yourself how this technique can add a new dimension to your musical interpretations. 

6. Embrace unconventional approaches

Down With Romanticism: Recital 1869 isn’t your run-of-the-mill album; it’s a modern recording with a highly unconventional approach and offers an entirely new perspective on well-known compositions. What kinds of preparatory methods might you make use of in your own projects? Which sources and approaches inspire you to look at things from a new angle? 

7. Instruments matter

Take into account the significance of historical instruments in preserving the authenticity of Romantic music. Ask yourself what insights can one glean from the instruments themselves? How does sound production affect technique, and vice versa? 

8. Choose spirit over smoothness

We always chose takes that were spirited and dynamic over takes that were smooth and seamless. Don’t fear taking some risks! Embrace the raw, unbounded energy that makes a recording stand out.

Watch cellist David Eggert and fortepianist Gili Loftus perform ’Träumerei’ by Robert Schumann here:

Down with Romanticism: Recital 1869 parts one and two are out now on the Backlash label. Part three will be released on 17 November 2023.

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