Richard Wistreich

MA (Cantab), MA Music, PhD

Email: [email protected]

Research Supervisor

Richard Wistreich is a scholar, singer and teacher whose work focuses mainly on the cultural and social history of music-making in Europe in the period between about 1500 and 1800, with a particular interest in ‘vocality’ in all its manifestations. His wider research interests embrace the history and culture of performance in general, the pedagogy and practice of singing, and other related topics.

Richard is also an internationally renowned performer of both early and contemporary music. Concert, radio and tv appearances worldwide and over 100 CDs in performances of music from medieval to late Classical, are testimony to the breadth of his interests. In 1989 he co-founded the ensemble Red Byrd with the tenor, John Potter, dedicated to performing both old and new music, often side by side in the same concerts. Their repertoire ranged from twelfth-century Parisian polyphony through Monteverdi and Purcell to commissions from major living composers. Although no longer very active as a professional singer, his passion for performance and for the voice remains as strong as ever.

Richard Wistreich joined the RNCM as Dean of Research and Enterprise in 2010 from Newcastle University, where he was Head of Performance and Senior Lecturer in music history. From 1991–2003 he was Professor of Singing in the Institut für Alte Musik at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Trossingen, Germany. He studied English at King’s College, Cambridge (where he was a choral scholar), took a Masters in Renaissance music theatre at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham and has a PhD in music history from Royal Holloway College, University of London. Richard moved to the Royal College of Music to take up the post of Director of Research in September 2014.


Current and Future Research

My main research interest is the history of performance – especially the voice – in the early modern period (roughly 1500-1800). To give a better idea of what this means in practice, an overview of current and future projects can be found below.


I am co-editing (with Professor Iain Fenlon of Cambridge Unversity) The Cambridge History of Sixteenth Century Music (due for publication in 2015). The book brings together contributions by some of the world’s leading scholars to provide a new kind of history of the era that will contextualise the role of music within the wider historical field. My own contributions include substantial chapters on the working lives of professional musicians and on the role of music in a militarized society.

Another major ongoing project is my investigation of the cultural history of the voice in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which will eventually lead to a large-scale monograph, provisionally entitled The Voice in the Construction of Early Modern Identity. Preliminary work was started when I was a Mellon Foundation Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago in 2007. The project takes in a series of contributory studies, including a number of research papers already presented at international conferences, in plenary talks and at universities in the UK, Germany, Italy and the US and published in a range of international journals and as chapters in books. These include studies of a variety of aspects of singing and the social dimensions of musical practice, including such things as sight singing and sociability, vocal training and the singing profession, and ‘music materials and cultural spaces’ – which looks at the relationships between written texts, notation and their envoicing; the work also takes in early modern ideas about vocal anatomy and physiology and their relation to speech and singing acts in the fields of rhetoric, song and theatre.

I am now working on a large-scale research project together with Jennifer Richards, Professor of Early Modern English at Newcastle University on the theme of reading aloud. It is entitled ‘Voices and Books in Early Modern England, 1500-1800’, and has been awarded an AHRC Networking Scheme grant of c. £30,000 to run between January 2014 and July 2015. In the course of this project, we will hold three two-day conferences (at the RNCM, University of Strathclyde and the British Library) and a concluding International Conference (at the Central Library, Newcastle upon Tyne) bringing together academics from across the dsciplines of literary studies, musicology, the history of rhetoric and oratory, theatre and art-history, with non-academic partners from readers’ groups, amateur musicians and school teachers, interested in the cenral theme of the work both in historical and contemprary contexts. We will develop our ideas to include comparisons between spoken and sung text; reading aloud; and the role of the voice in Renaissance educaion and contemporary understandings of health and well-being. As part of the project, we will create a web-site with a number of databases of source materials about reading aloud including ealry modern texts, visual evidence, video and audio reports of research activities and publications. We also plan to publish a volume of inter-disciplinary essays at the end of the project. Further information at

Another of my research interests is the music and life of Claudio Monteverdi, with particular reference to performance. Publications include The Baroque Composers: Monteverdi (an edited collection of significant journal articles published during the past 45 years); The Cambridge Companion to Monteverdi (together with John Whenham); and a number of journal articles and book chapters about aspects of Monteverdi’s vocal music (for more details, please see my list of Publications).

College and External Research Roles

Director of Research, Royal College of Music

Member, Conservatoires UK Research Forum

External examiner: Master of Music in Historical Perfomance Practice, University of Glasgow and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

External examiner (PhD) at Unversity of Oxford; Universtiy of York; Universty of Birmingham; University of Southampton; Royal College of Music

Editiorial Advisory Board member, Renaissance Studies

Research Funding

2013-2015:  Co-Investigator, AHRC Networking Scheme award (c. £30K) for ‘Voices and Books in Early Modern Engalnd, 1500-1800’

Research Supervision

PhD primary supervisor:

Rosamund Cole (AHRC Studentship): ‘The New German Vocal Style: Wagner, Mahler, Strauss and Beyond’

Rachel Johnson (AHRC Studentship): ‘Music for the People or Music for the Wealthy? An investigation into amateur music-making and class division in Manchester, 1840-1860’

Cheryll Duncan: ‘Music and Musicians in the Equity and Common Law Courts of England during the Long Eighteenth Century’ (Awraded 2015)




    Authored Books

  • Warrior, Courtier, Singer: Giulio Cesare Brancaccio and Performance of Identity in the Late Renaissance, (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).
  • Edited Books

  • The Cambridge History of Sixteenth Century Music, ed. by Richard Wistreich and Iain Fenlon, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).
  • The Baroque Composers: Monteverdi, (Ashford: Ashgate, 2011).
  • The Cambridge Companion to Monteverdi, ed. by Richard Wistreich and John Whenham, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • Chapters in Books

  • ‘High, Middle and Low: Singing Monteverdi’, in Passaggio in Italia: Music on the Grand Tour in the Seventeenth Century, ed. by Margaret Murata and Dinko Fabris, (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015)
  • Richard Wistreich and Jennifer Richards, ‘Voice, Breath and the Physiology of Reading’, in The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities, ed. by Anne Whitehead and Angela Woods, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015)
  • ‘Ars militaria’, in Die Musik in der Kultur der Renaissance. Kontexte, Disziplinen, Diskurse, ed. by Nicole Schwindt, (Laaber, Germany: Laaber-Verlag, 2014)
  • ‘Who Sings the Cantus Part? Children as Performers of Sixteenth-Century Secular Music’, in Rekrutierung musikalischer Eliten. Knabengesang im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert, ed. by Nicole Schwindt, (Kassel: Bärenreiter Verlag, 2013), pp.157-176.
  • ””Nach der jetzig Newen Italienischen Manier zur guten Art im singen sich gewehnen”. The trillo and the mechanics of migration of Italian noble singing”, in Migration und Identität: Wanderbewegungen und Kulturkontakte in der Musikgeschichte, ed. by Sabine Ehrmann-Herfort and Silke Leopold, (Kassel, Basel, London, New York, Prague: Bärenreiter, 2013), pp.138-150.
  • ‘Sopranos, castratos and the performance of late-Renaissance secular music’, in Der Countertenor: Die Mannliche Falsettstimme Vom Mittelalter Zur Gegenwart: Die männliche Falsettstimme vom Mittelalter zur Gegenwart, ed. by Corinna Herr, Arnold Jacobshagen and Kai Wessel, (Mainz: Schott, 2012), pp.65-78.
  • ‘Vocal Performance in the Seventeenth Century’, in The Cambridge History of Musical Performance, ed. by Colin Lawson and Robin Stowell, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011)
  • ‘Thou and I’le sing to make these dull shades merry: Herrick’s Charon Dialogues’, in Community and Conviviality in the Work of Robert Herrick, ed. by Tom Cain and Ruth Connolly, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp.153-190. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199604777.003.0008
  • ‘Of Mars I Sing: Monteverdi Voicing Virility’, in Masculinity and Western Musical Practice, ed. by Kirsten Gibson and Ian Biddle, (Ashford: Ashgate, 2008)
  • ‘Monteverdi in Performance’, in The Cambridge Companion to Monteverdi, ed. by John Whenham and Richard Wistreich, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp.268-79.
  • ”Real Basses, Real Men’: Virtù and Virtuosity in the Construction of Noble Male Identity’, in Gesang zur Laute: TroJa Trossingen Jahrbuch für Renaissancemusik, ed. by Nicole Schwindt, (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2002)
  • ‘Reconstructing Pre-Romantic Singing Technique’, in The Cambridge Companion to Singing, ed. by John Potter, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp.178-191.
  • Journal Articles

  • ”, , (2014).
  • ‘Using The Music: Musical Materials And Expert Singers’ Practices In Monteverdi’s Time’’, Basler Jahrbuch für Historische Musikpraxis, (2013).
  • Richard Wistreich and John Potter, ‘Singing Early Music: a conversation’, Early Music, 41 (2013), 22-26. 10.1093/em/cas155
  • ‘Musical Materials and Cultural Practices’, Renaissance Studies – Special Issue, 26 (2012), 1-12.
  • ‘Music Books and Sociability’, Il saggiatore musicale, 18 (2011), 230-244.
  • ‘‘Philippe De Monte: New Autobiographical Documents’’, Early Music History, 25 (2006), 257-308.
  • ‘‘Teaching and Practising Historically Informed Singing: Who Cares?’’, Basler Jahrbuch für Historische Musikpraxis, 26 (2002), 17-30.
  • ”La voce e grata assai, ma…’: Monteverdi on Singing’, Early Music, 22 (1994), 7-19.
  • ”, , ().
  • Review Articles

  • Anne Smith, The performance of 16th-century music: learning from the theorists, Early Music, 2013, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 2011
  • Edward V. Foreman, The Art of bel canto in the Italian Baroque: A Study of the Original Sources, Early Music, 2008, Pro Musica Press, 2006, Minneapolis
  • Conference Contributions

  • Voice, Breath and the Physiology of Reading (Society for Renaissance Studies Annual Welsh Lecture) ,  Early Modern Soundscapes (Keynote), University of Bangor 25 Apr. 2014 2014
  • Using the Music: Musical Materials and Expert Singers’ Practices ,  Il compositore come autore e la musica tra testo e performance nell’Europa della prima età moderna, University of Bologna 14 May 2013 2013
  • Reading the Voice: The Anatomy and Physiognomy of Speaking and Singing ,  Reading and Health in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800 (Plenary), Newcastle University 6 July 2013 2013
  • Notation and performance of early music ,  Opening the Score: The Place of Notation in Composer and Performer Collaboration, University of Surrey 5 July 2012 2013
  • An Anatomy of Singing: Early modern European constructions of the voice and individual vocal identity. ,  Seminar in Medieval & Renaissance Music, All Souls’ College, Oxford 8 March 2012 2012
  • Who sings the cantus part? Boys, women and men as performers of sixteenth century secular music ,  Rekrutierung musikalischer Eliten: Knabengesang im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster, 1 July 2011 2011
  • Using the Music: Musical Materials and Expert Singers’ Practices in Monteverdi’s Time ,  Werk, Werkstatt, Handwerk: Neue Zugänge zum Material der Alten Musik, Schola Cantorum, Basel 20 Nov. 2010 2010
  • ‘ „nach der jetzig Newen Italienischen Manier zur guten Art im singen sich gewehnen”: How Italian singing technique conquered the world. ,  Internationale Tagung der Gesellschaft für Musik: Migration und Identität, Rome 3 Nov. 2010 2010
  • Reading between the notes: sight-reading and sociability ,  Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, York 10 Feb. 2010 2010
  • Studying to be a Band: Learning Collective Performance at Newcastle University ,  International Council on Traditional Music: Ireland, University of Limerick 27 Feb. 2010 2010
  • Histories of Musical Change and Changes of Music History: Was there really a transition? ,  Sixteenth-/Seventeenth-Century Music Network (Plenary), University of Oxford 25 Sep. 2010 2010
  • Sight Singing and Sociability ,  RNCM Research Forum, RNCM, Manchester 6 Oct. 2010 2010
  • Reading between the notes: sight-reading and sociability ,  Research Seminar Series, Christchurch Canterbury University 26 Jan. 2010 2010
  • Reading between the notes: sight-reading and sociability ,  Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, University of Southampton 15 Feb. 2010 2010
  • Reading between the notes: sight-reading and sociability ,  Research Seminar Series, Department of Music University of Birmingham 8 Dec. 2009 2009
  • Singing Between the Notes ,  International Centre for Music Studies Research Forum, University of Newcastle 11 Feb. 2009 2009
  • Music Books and Sociability ,  Saggiatore Musicale: Imparare, leggere, comprare musica nell’Europa del Cinquecento, University of Bologna 21 Nov. 2009 2009
  • The Anatomy of Renaissance Singing ,  Public Lecture Series, Newcastle University 5 Mar. 2009 2009
  • ‘Very faire and strange Organe’: Representing the Early Modern Voice’ ,  Renaissance Society of America Annual Conference, Chicago, IL 3 April 2008 2008
  • Reading between the notes: sight-reading and sociability ,  Early Modern Reading: Books, Communities, Conversations, Newcastle University 11 Apr 2008 2008
  • Sopranos, castratos and the performance of late-Renaissance secular music ,  American Musicological Society, Nashville, TN 7 Nov. 2008 2008
  • ‘Very faire and strange organe’: Representing the Early Modern Voice ,  Society for Renaissance Studies Biennial (Plenary), Trinity College, Dublin 10 July 2008 2008
  • Recordings

  • Memoirs of the Late Georg Friderich Handel by John Mainwaring, London, 1760 (audio book – reader), ORF Edition Alte Music, 2010
  • Jacob Obrecht Missa ‘Rosa playsante’ and Missa ‘Fortuna desperata’, The Sound and the Fury, ORF Edition Alte Music, Vienna, 2009
  • Nicholas Gombert Nicolas Gombert 3, The Sound and The Fury, ORF Edition Alte Music, 2009
  • Firminus Caron Firminus Caron 1 – Missa ‘l’homme armée’ and Missa ‘Accueilly m’a la belle’, The Sound and The Fury, ORF Edition Alte Music, Vienna, 2009
  • Roger Marsh Albert Giraud’s Pierrot Lunaire, Red Byrd, NMC, 2007
  • Heinrich Schütz, Hermann Schein Sacred Concerti, Circa 1500, Nancy Hadden, CRD, 2009
  • Anon Penny Merriments: Street Songs of Seventeenth Century England, The City Waites, Richard Wistreich, Lucy Skeaping , NAXOS, 2005
  • Thomas Tomkins Above the Stars My Saviour Dwells, Fretwork, Richard Wistreich, Emma Kirkby, etc. , Harmonia Mundi, 2003
  • Magister Leoninus Sacred Music from 12th century Paris, vol. 2, Red Byrd, Richard Wistreich.John Potter , Hyperion, 2002
  • Cipriano de Rore & pupils Dangerous Graces, Musica Secreta, Linn Records, 2002
  • Magister Leoninus Sacred Music from 12th Century Paris, vol 1, Red Byrd, Richard Wistreich, John Potter , Hyperion, 2001
  • Carlo Gesualdo Tenebrae Responsories, Taverner Consort, Andrew Parrott, Sony Classical, 2000
  • Talks, Workshops and Masterclasses

  • Music Books and Sociability ,  Research Seminar Series, Trinity-Laban, London 19 Feb. 2014
  • Reconstructing Historical Singing: Reality or Fantasy? ,  Crees Lecture, The Royal College of Music, London 17 Feb. 2014
  • The mechanics of migration of Italian noble singing ,  Conservatorio della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Swizerland 7 Feb. 2014
  • Reading between the notes: sight-reading and sociability ,  Research Seminar Series, University of Huddersfield 4 March 2014
  • Singing Renaissance choral music: 16c sacred music – religion, function, institutions, patronage ,  Inside the Orchestra, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester 25 Feb. 2013
  • Rhetorical instrumental practice ,  Aufführungspraxis Seminare, Musikhochschule, Würzburg 29 April 2013
  • Der singbare Vortrag: transferring the vocal to the instrumental ,  Aufführungspraxis Seminare, Musikhochschule, Würzburg 26 Nov. 2012
  • Monteverdi’s Singers ,  I Fagiolini Madrigal Workshop, London 9 Oct. 2011

Professional Activity



Co-founder of Red Byrd

Member of vocal ensemble The Sound and the Fury 

Visiting Professor

National Endowment for the Humanities, Newberry Library, Chicago (2009)

Visiting Professor of Historical Performance, Hochschule für Musik, Würzburg (2012-2013)

Research Fellowship

Mellon Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, Newberry Library, Chicago (2007)

Learned Society

Member of Council, Society for Renaissance Studies (2010-2016)