1st Edition

Musical Topics and Musical Performance

Edited By Julian Hellaby Copyright 2023
    270 Pages 81 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The principal purpose of topics in musicology has been to identify meaning-bearing units within a musical composition that would have been understood by contemporary audiences and therefore also by later receivers, albeit in a different context and with a need for historically aware listening. Since Leonard Ratner (1980) introduced the idea of topics, his relatively simple ideas have been expanded and developed by a number of distinguished authors. Topic theory has now become a well-established branch of musicology, often embracing semiotics, but its relationship to performance has received less attention. Musical Topics and Musical Performance thus focuses on the interface of theory and practice, and investigates how an appreciation of topical presence in a work may prompt interpretative thoughts for a potential performer as well as how performers have responded to such a presence in practice. The chapters focus on music from the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries with case studies drawn from composers as diverse as Beethoven, Scriabin and Péter Eötvös. Using both scores and recordings, the book presents a variety of original and innovative perspectives on the subject from a range of distinguished authors, and addresses a neglected area of musicology and musical performance.


    Julian Hellaby

    Chapter One

    Topics and Music Performance: Some Reflections and a Proposal for a Theory

    Eero Tarasti

    Chapter Two

    "Rhetorical" Versus "Organicist" Performances: A Pragmatic Approach

    Joan Grimalt

    Chapter Three

    ‘es brennt mein Eingeweide’: Agitato in Settings of Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt

    William Dougherty

    Chapter Four

    Expanding the Parameters of Historically-Informed Performance: Topics in Nineteenth-Century Miniatures for Stringed Instruments

    George Kennaway

    Chapter Five

    Piano Schools, Topics and Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor

    Daniela Tsekova-Zapponi

    Chapter Six

    Narrative Analysis, the Sonata Cycle and Implications for Performance: A Reading of Brahms’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in F-sharp Minor

    Janice Dickensheets

    Chapter Seven

    From Performer to Conjuror: Topical Performance in the Piano Works of Scriabin

    Darren Leaper and Cecilia Xi

    Chapter Eight

    The Topic of the Gato in the Early Works of Alberto Ginastera and the Disambiguation of Pequeña Danza

    Melanie Plesch

    Chapter Nine

    TopICS and Performance in PÉter Eötvös’s Violin Concerto Seven (2007)

    Márta Grabócz

    Chapter Ten

    Romantic Performance and Gestural Topic

    Lina Navickaitė-Martinelli


    Julian Hellaby has been Senior Lecturer and Associate Research Fellow at Coventry University and Programme Leader for Postgraduate Courses at London College of Music. His main publications include Reading Musical Interpretation (2009) and The Mid-Twentieth-Century Concert Pianist: An English Experience (2018) as well as journal articles on matters related to piano performance. As a pianist, Julian has played internationally and has released seven CDs.