Sarah’s research interests focus on music of the 19th-century, particularly chamber music and the music of Brahms, and on the contexts and questions that inform performance of this repertoire
Her doctoral thesis (1994) was an analytical study of Brahms’s middle-period works borrowing methodology from semiotic analysis and exploring the nature of theme and structure in his music. Since then, her interests have become increasingly filtered through her engagement with the performance-led research environment at the Royal Academy of Music, resulting in a particular interest in modelling how the rhetorical character of a work is constructed through its preparation and performance.
She has explored the performance process through a series of collaborative projects, most recently looking at Brahms’s violin Sonatas and String Quartets. She is currently involved with a study of the idea of ‘resistance’ as a tool in musical performance, a joint publication (with colleagues and students involved with theAcademy PhD programme) that looks at the instinct of composers and performers to work ‘against’ their materials.
Sarah is also developing a project in collaboration with pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar looking at the impact of focussed programming strategies on preparation and performance — for example programming the complete Brahms piano and violin Sonatas in a single concert (arguably an act of ‘anti-programming’). She has also worked with the Kreutzer string quartet on Brahms’s op.51 quartets, exploring the impact of their decision to present both works in a single event, resulting in workshops, lectures and pre-concert talks. These two programming projects have also involved archival work on some of the programming history of Brahms’s music in the UK.