Briony’s research interests are centred on programming and concert practices, both today and in 19th-century Europe
She is particularly interested in the ‘salon’ as a place in which much innovation occurred, both compositionally and in terms of expectations on audiences and performers alike. Because of this umbrella interest, the repertoire she looks at includes music by women (who were the motivators of most salon activity), chamber music and German Lied. Much of her research also engages with issues surrounding gender theory and music. Her PhD thesis (2007) was entitled ‘The Power of the Harmonies that Lie in Between’: Critical Responses to the Lieder of Bettina von Arnim, Fanny Hensel and Pauline von Decker, and looked at new ways in which listeners and performers might need to engage with the unfamiliar formal and harmonic patterns of music by 19th-century women. This has led to a broader interest in non-canonic chamber and song repertoire, especially that of the 19th-century German tradition. Fanny Hensel and Ignaz Moscheles remain two of the composers that feature most prominently in these types of investigation. Closely related to this is a parallel interest in nineteenth-century pianos, both in historical and current performance terms.
Briony is currently working on a book about the 19th-century salon, looking at ways in which salon culture offers a unique performance practice rather than a musical language. This highlights the people, places and concepts involved as important factors alongside repertoire. She is also looking at ways in which gendered use of language is reflected in music theory and practice. The current case study is the work of Lili Boulanger, particularly her cantata Faust et Hélène. Other research projects involve collaborations with singers and researchers on the relationship of poetry and music in song, and issues of gender and identity in performance.
Papers presented recently include ‘Being Creative: A Nineteenth Century Model’ (Kingston University); ‘Voice Pitch and Narrative Structure in Lili Boulanger’s Faust Et Hélène’ (RAM), ‘Mendelssohn and the Salon’ (RAM), ‘The Lyric as Mask: Uncovering Hidden Meaning in Nineteenth-Century Lieder’ (RNCM) and ‘Cécile Chaminade’ (University of Warwick). Collaborative presentations and performances include ‘Finding Words for the Piano’s Song’ (IMR).