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My research examines the recorded performance history of the Overture to Weber’s Oberon in light of these aesthetic goals. I have charted changes in performance practice trends, including in timing, tempo fluctuation, rhythmic accuracy and ensemble, and the use of portamento. The twenty recordings studied that I surveyed span nearly seventy-five years, and include many of the 20th century’s most prominent conductors and orchestras, including groups from Communist Russia, both pre-World War II and post-World War II continental Europe, the British Isles, and the United States.8 Though by no means comprehensive, my selections encompass a diverse sampling of surviving recordings, ensuring a large enough sample size to reflect general trends in the performance of Weber’s masterpiece. My research and analysis confirms the conventional view of a move toward more accurate—but also more cautious, uniform, and inexpressive— performances. Surprisingly, however, this analysis also suggests that we are on the cusp of a new era in orchestra performance practice, one that shares many of the values of the earlier recorded performances. While maintaining today’s high standards of execution, modern performances now look to regain many of the past’s expressive qualities, doing so in sometimes surprising ways.



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