Research & Pianistic Implementation

In 2014, Camilla Köhnken started working systematically on an interpretation issue she had been preoccupied with for a long time already: how to escape the narrow limits of 20th/21st century piano performance etiquette, especially in Beethoven repertoire.

Listening to historical recordings from the beginning of the 20h century, she grew more and more fascinated by 19th century interpretation strategies in pianistic core repertoire. As the focus of her dissertation were Lisztian interpretation practices, she dealt in-depth with pianists like Eugen d’Albert, Frederic Lamond, or Arthur Friedheim, among many others.

In an additional initative in her pursuit of a more convincing way of performing Beethoven, Liszt or Brahms, she started playing on fortepianos regularly. Her first intimate contact with a historical instrument occurred in 1999 when she started to regularly play short concerts at the Beethovenhaus Bonn, practicing and performing on their Conrad Graf fortepiano of 1828 and their Broadwood of 1817.

From 2019 to 2022, her contact with fortepianos intensified when she had the privilege of daily access to replicas of important instruments built by Chris Maene at the Orpheus Institute in Ghent and discussing questions arising from playing these with fortepianist-researcher Tom Beghin. This has significantly added to her perspective on musical rhetorics and pianistic declamation, along with what she learned from historical recordings.

Currently, Camilla is focusing on the fascinating Hungarian Liszt student and eccentric Josef Weiss (Weisz/Weiß) whose playing she first encountered in 2016 when her Bern research group found his long-lost piano rolls with the Liszt b minor sonata in a collection at the University of Frankfurt. She is now working on making his scattered and fragmentary estate and his recordings accessible to a wider circle of musicians and scholars. A second topic she is working on Liszt students performing Brahms’ music and contributing to the musical transfer to the US.

Personally, the most important element within her research of 19th century interpretation practice is a constant experimentation at the instrument and – where she is convinced and succeeds in making things work – the incorporation of forgotten stylistic means into her own performance practice.