A few last words...



Contribution to the field and further research


Coming out of this project, I am left with many thoughts and experiences. I hope that my artistic research could be of significance to fellow performers, researchers, teachers and students. Although the potential contribution is first and foremost in artistic research, I also believe that my research could be relevant in musicology, particularly with regards to Ricardo Viñes - a giant in the piano world of great significance both to the preservation of classical repertoire as well as the avant-garde development of pianism. Despite all his efforts, Ricardo Viñes paradoxically remains a relatively unknown figure in the musical world of today. If my research project could in any way contribute to his emerging from the shadows of music history, I would be both proud and pleased. 


In the field of performance practice research, I believe that my development and use of the recreating method, especially with regards to the play-along”-approach, could be an important contribution. The instructions on how to use this method do however not need to be restricted to performance practice research, or solo piano playing. Indeed, it could be used in a range of musical styles as a tool to enhance one’s creativity and skill set – a method for artistic development.


Through this research project, I believe I have demonstrated that the playing style of Ricardo Viñes is of great importance in a historical performance practice perspective. The knowledge attained from recreating his recordings may have relevance to similar research in the field. Although Viñes’s importance as one of Debussy’s “preferred” pianists and his extensive efforts in presenting the composer’s works for the public is recognized, this is to my knowledge the first research project to thoroughly investigate how Viñes’s played these pieces from a performance practice perspective, and also the first to investigate the two fragmented recordings.


Ricardo Viñes’s recorded performances are in my view artistic statements that showcase musical intention and consistency, as well as a deep respect for the composer. By using my own body and mind as a vessel in the recreating process, I became able to access artistic knowledge that lies deep within the historical recordings. The most important value of this work was not to establish that a romantic performance practice is present in these historical recordings, nor was it to make synchronized copies as a demonstration of a skill. The true value for me was to gain an understanding of the artistic intentions that lie behind the performance practice. By making these discoveries and then realizing them myself as a performing artist, I was speaking the language of Ricardo Viñes. The value of this goes far beyond performance practice research and is hard to describe in words - it has deeply changed me as a pianist.  


Although recreating the performances of Ricardo Viñes became increasingly rewarding during these past four years, I had to stop at some point. I see several paths for further research where my project could have relevance:


  • The “extrapolated” performances based on Viñes’s playing style certainly open new doors of opportunities for where this project could have journeyed, had I continued. An example could be Maurice Ravel’s piano music in the playing style of Viñes.


  • Although it was never my main intention to do so, using Viñes’s (the performer’s) recordings as the primary source of performance practice as opposed to the composer’s (for example as opposed to Debussy or Ravel playing their own works) would certainly challenge the concept of “performance ownership”: whose is the more valid performance – the composer of the work or the performer(s) who champions it? This could be an interesting path to explore in the world of pianism – where history often tells a story where composers are regarded as the greatest pianists of their time and thus regarded as having “performance ownership” of their works.


  • I believe that Viñes’s recordings of the piano music of Debussy challenge modern performance ideals and norms in impressionistic music. This is definitely a subject for further and greater exploration, particularly by comparing Viñes’s recordings to other recordings made by Debussy’s “preferred pianists”.


Personal goals and artistic development


With the last scene of the film Playing in the Manner or Ricardo Viñes in mind, where I step out of the role as Viñes and become myself again, there is an “elephant in the room” - the question of now what? What is the future for me as a performer after this research project? How will I engage with classical repertoire from now on?


One could argue that the downside of committing into this “all-or-nothing”-approach in the process of recreating recordings is that it then becomes somehow problematic to perform these pieces with only a chosen part of Viñes’s performance style, or indeed as a kind of symbiotic artistic creature somewhere between Viñes and myself. Although this on/off way of thinking about modern-day performance versus historical performance practice was essential in my research, looking at things now, my personal artistic development seems to have transcended these binaries. Going back to this concept of understanding the intentions behind Viñes’s playing (or any of the other pianists whose performances I recreated for that matter), by understanding, or even better by experiencing the musical intention that lies behind such characteristic aspects as “polyphonic rubato”, “arpeggiation” and “dislocation”, for me these eventually become artistic tools rather than stylistic traits or a performance practice that is confined to a specific type of repertoire. This is not to say that I don’t make a clear distinction between styles or indeed historical performance practice versus modern-day performance norms, it’s rather a way of seeing how the research has become a fundamental part of my playing in general. By regarding these characteristic practices as artistic tools rather than a “romantic piano playing style”, it is, at least for me, possible to see the value of this personal artistic development beyond the aims of this research project. 


Although it is too soon at this point to say how this research project will generally influence my playing of classical repertoire in the future, it has by now already influenced the way I play and compose my own works as a performer/composer. An example of this is my Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra in four movements, which appears on the album Visions of Tango, recorded with violinist Atle Sponberg and the chamber orchestra the Trondheim Soloists, released in 2021.[1] This work, which in my own words can be considered as “riff-driven classical music rooted in the rhythms of the Argentine tango”, has a retrospective dimension because specific aspects of the romantic performance practices I worked on in the research project, such as “polyphonic rubato”, “dislocated attacks” and “arpeggiation”, are integrated not only in the performance, but also in the composition itself. These practices are no longer restricted to solo piano playing, but also occur between the piano and the orchestra, as well as in the string parts. Although my playing style at this point and beyond is not quite “in the manner of Viñes”, the experiences from this research project have become inseparable from my aesthetic ideals and intentions in my own works. Thus, in this contemporary music, the romantic performance practice style of Viñes takes on a new dimension and continues to be a fundamental part of my life as a musician. 



[1] Skogstad, Håkon. Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra. Played by Håkon Skogstad and the Trondheim Soloists. Håkon Skogstad: Visions of Tango, Øra Fonogram, 2021. YouTube, accessed on January 25, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6qF90L2K24&list=OLAK5uy_mPTVnlaYlwE3z8IYB8DbMlm4OnkqDXrhs




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