Hartley Residencies in Music: Laura Tunbridge

In February 2015, the Music Department launched the Hartley Residencies in Music – an annual programme of two-day visits from eminent scholars. Post-graduate research student Xin Ying Ch’ng recounts her experience of our most recent event:Laura_Berlin_cropped_400x400

We were privileged to welcome Laura Tunbridge, Associate Professor from the University of Oxford, St Catherine’s College for the Music Department’s second Hartley Residency in Music on the 21st and 22nd of April. Laura’s two-day residency involved a rich variety of activities, including an introductory seminar for postgraduate students, a formal presentation, one-to-one meetings with students and staff, a departmental roundtable and a guest lecture for an undergraduate module.

Laura’s current venture focuses on the song cycle and its interpretation on concert platforms during the mid-twentieth century. She is researching a book that will examine vocal recitals in London and New York during the 1920s and 1930s in order to understand how themes such as the use of the German language and trans-atlantic relationships played out during the interwar years.

These themes figured prominently throughout Laura’s talks and seminars. As part of the introductory seminar, she led a discussion on Elena Gerhardt and George Henschel, investigating their recordings of Schumann’s Der Nussbaum and Schubert’s Der Leiermann from the 1828 song-cycle Winterreise. We talked about different vocal translations of German lieder and how that led to different interpretations and understandings of the performances.

For me, the highlight of Laura’s residency was her talk ‘Listening to Hugo Wolf between the World Wars’, in which she used performances of Wolf’s lieder in London concert halls during the 1920s to depict changes in musical tastes and attitudes towards Prussianism in British society. The talk ended with refreshments at the bar, after which we proceeded to the Cowherds for dinner with myself and a few colleagues from the Music Department.

The second day was similarly eventful. It began with one-to-one meetings with various students in the department. I found my meeting Laura particularly helpful, her since my research on case studies of mid-twentieth century British singers resonated with her work.

After lunch, staff and students gathered for a departmental roundtable on ‘Using Musical Examples’. To initiate the discussion, Laura presented a short paper titled ‘Memory in, Memories of a Mahler Song’, which featured the voices of Kathleen Ferrier and Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson in one of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’. I was especially excited as the talk related to Kathleen Ferrier, one of the singers on whom I have been working on for my thesis. The discussion was also interesting as it involved a diverse panel of departmental staff: Mark Everist (who specialises in music of western Europe in the period 1150-1330 and nineteenth-century French music), Sarah Boak (who researches popular female singers) and Kate Guthrie (whose interests lie in mid-twentieth-century British musical culture). One of my take away points from the discussion was how music tracked memories and how singers were seen as inhabiting desires of mortality and death in their performance of these songs.

The residency ended with a guest lecture for the undergraduate module on 19th-century German Song, in which Laura discussed Schumann’s Frauenliebe und-leben. Overall, I enjoyed Laura’s residency thoroughly as it was a great opportunity for me to engage with one of the leading scholars in my area of research.