Heinrich Neuhaus: aesthetics and philosophy of an interpretation

Razumovskaya, M. (2014) Heinrich Neuhaus: aesthetics and philosophy of an interpretation. Doctoral thesis, Royal College of Music.


This thesis investigates one of the key figures of Russian pianism in the twentieth century, Heinrich Gustavovich Neuhaus (1888 – 1964). Although Neuhaus is known, particularly in the West, as an important pedagogue of the Moscow Conservatory rather than a performing artist in his own right, this thesis seeks to address the tension between Neuhaus’s identities as a pedagogue and his overshadowed conception of himself as a performer – thus presenting a fuller understanding of his specific attitude to the task of musical interpretation. The reader is introduced to aspects of Neuhaus’s biography which became decisive factors in the formation of his key aesthetic, philosophical, pedagogical and performative beliefs. The diverse national influences in Neuhaus’s upbringing – from his familial circumstances, European education and subsequent career in Russia – are investigated in order to help locate Neuhaus within the wider contexts of Russian and Central European culture at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In addition, this introduction will highlight ways in which Neuhaus’s national identity has been oversimplified in recent literature by both Russian and non-Russian authors. Whilst this thesis draws on a range of contemporaneous and recent international sources throughout its investigation, it presents a substantial amount of Russian-language material that has previously been unavailable in an English translation: this includes many writings and articles by Heinrich Neuhaus, his colleagues and the leading musicologists and critics of his time.The core of the thesis traces Neuhaus’s personal philosophical approach to the act of performance and explores the impact it had on his interpretations of Beethoven and Chopin. This will show that despite aspiring to a modern, Urtext-centred approach and sensibility to the score, Neuhaus’s Romantic subjectivity meant that he was unafraid of making assumptions and decisions which often misinterpreted or transformed the image of the composer to reflect his own artistic identity. Thus, the investigation of Heinrich Neuhaus as a performing artist, alongside his role as a pedagogue, presents a powerful model of interpretation as a creative process, from which performers today can learn.

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