Authentic Period Performance

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dulcinea
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Authentic Period Performance

Post by dulcinea » Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:30 pm

Who had the inspiration of performing Baroque and Classical exactly as it was performed at the time of its creation? Or, to put it more clearly, when did people make the discovery that playing JSB, GFH, FJH and WAM with Romantic era orchestras and in a Wagnerian style was not the correct way to play that music?
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:42 pm

I'm pretty sure it wasn't any one person. I guess we could re-phrase it to something that's more likely to have an answer: Who was the main person who pointed us toward that? I don't know if there's an answer for that either, but maybe others do.

Also IMO there's something else about how you ask it that doesn't lend itself perfectly to an answer: the "exactly" part. I don't think there has ever been anything close to a consensus that we should aim to play the works "exactly" as they were played in their time, among other reasons because the instruments we use are almost always significantly different.

But of course there are some who feel it should be "exactly," including that we should use "original" instruments or replicas of them rather than the more modern versions. And, as luck would have it :lol: ......the person who is probably the leader of that movement (not particularly for Baroque but from the Classical period onward) happens to have been one of my teachers and remains a friend and occasional coach: MALCOLM BILSON.
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:52 pm

It's interesting that the Wikipedia articles says nothing about this being a movement with a history. You'd think that there were HIP performances going on at the same time Mahler symphonies were being premiered.

This has come up here fairly often, and the traditional JBuck contribution is that the movement took off with a series of Telefunken recordings of Bach made by the Concentus Musicus Wien and the Leonhardt Consort around 1970. Obviously, the movement did not spring up full-grown with those productions, but they were for many people including myself the true introduction to the entire concept. Several of those recordings, including the Bach passions, were knocked-flat-on-my-rear listening experiences for several reasons and I treasure my copies of them to this day.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sat Dec 19, 2009 9:01 pm

jbuck919 wrote:.....a series of Telefunken recordings of Bach made by the Concentus Musicus Wien and the Leonhardt Consort around 1970. Obviously, the movement did not spring up full-grown with those productions......
Maybe interestingly, that's just about exactly when Bilson started getting into the movement (or perhaps "creating" it, from the piano standpoint); I think the exact year was 1969. I would have guessed that the basic movement (to the extent we could say there has been one) started much earlier (as you indicate), but maybe indeed 1970 (give or take a few years) was a major crux point.
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:13 pm

dulcinea wrote:Who had the inspiration of performing Baroque and Classical exactly as it was performed at the time of its creation? Or, to put it more clearly, when did people make the discovery that playing JSB, GFH, FJH and WAM with Romantic era orchestras and in a Wagnerian style was not the correct way to play that music?
It's a pretty vast history in fact. If you look at the origins of opera, you will find the Florentines largely responsible for inventing opera were trying to recreate Greek music as it was performed during sacred dramas and the plays by the Greek masters in ancient times. So in that sense, the EM revival movement has been around in some form or another since the Renaissance. We can look to the Mendelssohn revivals of Bach for the origins of the modern incarnation of HIP/OI. It coexisted with the Romantic movement and suffered from some of the latter's excesses (abominations like Handel for a chorus of 3000, monster concerts and the like) while people stumbled around trying to figure out how to recreate instruments and sounds, with scant little but artwork, dusty museum pieces improperly maintained, and arcane treatises to guide them.

If there was a seminal figure for the late 19th early 20th century, it would be Arnold Dolmetsch, a French musician who spent most of his working life in England and coincidentally produced a very large family which still carries on his tradition. http://www.dolmetsch.com/Dolworks.htm There's a lengthy article on him in Groves. People like to think that Landowska had a lot to do with HIP/OI, but views are mixed on her influence, esp. since she didn't use period instruments. Yes, she brought attention to the concept, and gained a large following, but in some respects she didn't have a clue what she was doing. Dolmetsch beat her by a considerable time, and Nadia Boulanger was actively teaching about the same time. Boulanger was an early booster of efforts to research and recreate EM music. There's an extant 1936 recording under her direction of Monteverdi's Lamento della ninfa whose sound, in terms of performance technique and style, is shockingly consistent with how it is performed today. Additionally the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, one of the two most important schools instructing in early music and HIP/OI, was founded in 1933 and began cranking out musicians trained in the concepts of authenticity. Naturally, as a critical mass of students was achieved, research into HIP/OI exploded, yielding more and more data, information, and insights into how these performances likely sounded and how the music was interpreted by contemporaneous musicians. It's a fascinating story, one I scarcely know in detail. I have lots of gaps in what I know about the origins and evolution of the movement, but that's what I've learned over the years.
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:54 pm

Karl Richter and the Munich Bach Orchestra started an interesting trend of playing with little to no vibrato while still using modern instruments. And Harnoncourt and Vienna Concentus Musicus were playing baroque instruments in the early 1960s while using early period performance techniques. The Leonhardt consort started in the 70s IIRC.
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Dec 19, 2009 11:08 pm

ContrapunctusIX wrote:Karl Richter and the Munich Bach Orchestra started an interesting trend of playing with little to no vibrato while still using modern instruments. And Harnoncourt and Vienna Concentus Musicus were playing baroque instruments in the early 1960s while using early period performance techniques. The Leonhardt consort started in the 70s IIRC.
Well, Richter used a very large adult choir. The achievement (and I know that some people do not consider it that) of Harnoncourt and Leonhardt was that they radicalized the situation. If Bach only wrote for honky winds and about eight scratchy strings and twelve choristers with no women, then--was the philosophy--dammit that's the way he should be performed. :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sat Dec 19, 2009 11:14 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:.....If there was a seminal figure for the late 19th early 20th century, it would be Arnold Dolmetsch, a French musician who spent most of his working life in England.......
That's the kind of thing I was looking for: somebody that most of us (like me) never heard of but who might have been a seminal figure.
......People like to think that Landowska had a lot to do with HIP/OI......
When I saw that, I went "Huh?????".....
.....but in some respects she didn't have a clue what she was doing.
......well there you go. :lol:

Back when I first heard of her, initially I had the impression that she had been a leader in what we're wondering about, but pretty quickly (both through knowing more and through being told that she didn't "really" particularly do authentic stuff) I was disabused of it -- and thereafter (which covers 4 decades) I never had the impression that she was thought of this way by people who really knew about it.

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Heck148 » Sat Dec 19, 2009 11:18 pm

dulcinea wrote:Who had the inspiration of performing Baroque and Classical exactly as it was performed at the time of its creation?
you mean, who was the presumptuous egotist who declared that they had the inside scoop on how music actually sounded 2-300 years ago??
I know that is harsh - there have been many pioneers who've explored what the composers might have heard at actual contemporary performances.

HIP has contributed some very worthwhile things, for sure - but it's claim to authenticity is certainly open to challenge, since no recordings exist of any performances from that period, and no musicians are alive to tell us how it was played...there are treatises, of course, but many of them conflict and contradict one another...
it is also extremely presumptuous to assume that composers would have preferred those original instrument performances to modern instruments - since instruments have unquestionably, been developed, and improved since then....this is due to the increasing demands placed by composers to push the limits of performance...
IOW - if composers were perfectly happy with contemporary instruments, there would be no new improvements or developments. obviously, this is not the case.

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Wallingford » Sun Dec 20, 2009 12:04 am

On records, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra is perhaps the pioneering ensemble in this practice. In fact, there are a plethora of albums from the 1950s of them performing AMERICAN orchestral works of the 20th century; new music, even.....on violins, cellos, wind instruments from the late 1700s! Not the ideal way to approach this music (and these recordings are rather underrehearsed, or perhaps even prima vista readings).
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Dec 20, 2009 12:46 am

More pioneering personalities:

August Wenzinger began teaching at the Schola Cantorum in the year of its founding 1933. In 1949 he conducted a recording of the Bach Brandenburgs on period instruments. He taught and was succeeded at the Schola Cantorum by Jordi Savall. In 1953 Harnoncourt founded the Concentus Musicus Wien.
Classical CD
Concentus Musicus Wien: A Celebration

* Andrew Clements
*
o Andrew Clements
o The Guardian, Friday 18 April 2003

When Nikolaus Harnoncourt founded the Concentus Musicus Wien in 1953, he can have had little inkling of what he had started. The period-instrument revolution effectively began right then; Harnoncourt and his colleagues painstakingly researched the performing practices of the baroque, and rehearsed for four years before giving their first concert.

It was another five years before their performances made it on to record. That first LP, of Purcell's music for viols, began the ensemble's relationship with Telefunken's Das Alte Werk label, and it was swiftly followed by other recordings that cemented their reputation - much-praised accounts of the Bach Brandenburg Concertos and orchestral Suites, and versions of the St Matthew and St John Passions and the B minor Mass.

In the early 1970s Harnoncourt joined forces with another baroque pioneer, Gustav Leonhardt, to begin the first ever survey on record of all of Bach cantatas, while on their own account he and the Concentus tackled the Monteverdi operas, as well as more neglected corners of the baroque, such as the works of Telemann and Fux.

Simultaneously, the ensemble's historical scope was gradually edging forward through the 18th century, and eventually took them into the first quarter of the 19th, stopping at Beethoven and Schubert. Though Harnoncourt's own explorations in the romantic repertory have persuaded him to collaborate increasingly with modern-instrument orchestras, he has continued to work regularly with the Concentus, and only last week they brought their performance of Haydn's Creation to London.

Theirs is a long and distinguished history, most of which has been faithfully documented on disc. In theory, the 10-disc compilation that Teldec has put together, from its own as well as the Das Alte Werk archives, should contain many treasures and offer a fascinating history of the development of period performance. Yet it is a real opportunity missed, for rather than concentrate on major landmarks in the Concentus chronology, these five pairs of discs, each more or less focusing on one 10-year period, are a hotch-potch of complete works and strangely chosen extracts.

The first two discs may cover the formative decade chronologically, but the result is irritatingly insubstantial: three choral numbers from Telemann's Der Tag des Gerichts are followed by a couple of isolated movements from the Bach Suites. The second disc begins with a section of Monteverdi's Orfeo and ends with the overture to Rameau's Castor et Pollux, including Erbarme Dich from the St Matthew Passion on the way.

The rest of the set is equally infuriating; the final two discs are supposed to include material from 1999 and 2000, but a recording of an early Mozart Missa Brevis, made in 1994, has crept in there too, after a complete account of Mozart's Oboe Concerto and a section of Haydn's Schöpfungsmesse. The set ends with four arias and a trio from the complete recording of Haydn's Armida. There are no texts supplied, and no detailed notes on the music.

The labels under the Warner umbrella, such as Teldec, normally do these big projects exceptionally well, but this one is badly planned and shoddily executed, and is not worthy of the great ensemble and conductor it aims to celebrate.

* guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2003/ap ... res2/print
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Dec 20, 2009 1:09 am

Heck148 wrote:HIP has contributed some very worthwhile things, for sure - but it's claim to authenticity is certainly open to challenge, since no recordings exist of any performances from that period, and no musicians are alive to tell us how it was played...there are treatises, of course, but many of them conflict and contradict one another...
Okay. So? [Later edit: Maybe I should say that I am more focused on HIP/OI and the value of research into medieval - Renaissance music than I am on Baroque, with certain exceptions in the latter involving vocal performance at original pitch. the use of gut strings, and A=436 than other aspects.]

Given the fact that there were no recordings from the periods in question, there are a couple of things we can say without challenge:

1. The music certainly wasn't rendered by a 100 piece orchestra consisting of basically modern instruments with 19th century innovations. That means Bach on a piano is no more authentic that Handel as arranged by Sir Hamilton Harty.

2. Research has enabled people to make educated guesses about how the music was rendered. The fact that the research can't necessarily nail the performance down to a single indisputable sound doesn't mean the educated guesses are wholly without merit and unworthy of an audience. Even the 19th Century with all its technological developments still provokes disputes about phrasing and time, and metronome markings giving a range are no help. If exactitude is demanded of authenticity, everyone loses. Chicken scratches on a piece of paper to capture a sound performance is not an exact science.
it is also extremely presumptuous to assume that composers would have preferred those original instrument performances to modern instruments - since instruments have unquestionably, been developed, and improved since then....this is due to the increasing demands placed by composers to push the limits of performance...
Not an issue, I'm sure you'll agree. What early music composers could have done with modern instruments isn't the question. They didn't have them. They couldn't choose to perform on instruments that didn't exist. End of that discussion. The question is, what did they do with what they had, how did it sound, when were they used or not?
IOW - if composers were perfectly happy with contemporary instruments, there would be no new improvements or developments. obviously, this is not the case.


A whole nother issue as well. The notion that the music should be played on modern instruments because that's what we have now is an opinion. I don't share it. I don't expect to hear Mahler performed on a lute and shaum just because they could be arranged for them. I don't wanna hear Handel by the VPO.
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 1:27 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
IOW - if composers were perfectly happy with contemporary instruments, there would be no new improvements or developments. obviously, this is not the case.

A whole nother issue as well. The notion that the music should be played on modern instruments because that's what we have now is an opinion. I don't share it......
As I implied in an earlier post, I agree they're separate issues but I think both are aspects of the question that was asked. Some people feel they're closely or inextricably linked (like my old teacher Malcolm Bilson), and far more people feel they're not -- i.e. they themselves might feel they are extreme sticklers about "correct" performance practices, but without feeling any necessity for period instruments and in most cases feeling that the period instruments are disadvantageous.

But something which I think is "a whole nother issue" is this thing of what the composers would or wouldn't be "happy" with. I don't think "authenticity" has anything to do with that. To me, the question of whether Mozart (for example) might have preferred a Steinway or maybe an electronic piano to his own pianos is completely irrelevant to what's the most authentic way or the best way of playing his music.

By the way.....that whole thing is so complex that I must admit I've lost sight of whether I'm agreeing or disagreeing with you.
Probably somewhere in between. :lol:
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Dec 20, 2009 1:42 am

MarkCannon wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
IOW - if composers were perfectly happy with contemporary instruments, there would be no new improvements or developments. obviously, this is not the case.


A whole nother issue as well. The notion that the music should be played on modern instruments because that's what we have now is an opinion. I don't share it......
As I implied in an earlier post, I agree that they're separate issues but that both are aspects of the question that was asked. Some people feel they're closely or inextricably linked (like my old teacher Malcolm Bilson), and far more people feel they're not -- i.e. they themselves might feel they are extreme sticklers about "correct" performance practices, but without feeling any necessity for period instruments and in most cases feeling that the period instruments are disadvantageous.

By the way.....that whole thing is so complex that I must admit I've lost sight of whether I'm agreeing or disagreeing with you.
Probably somewhere in between. :lol:
I don't see it as complex at all. Whether OI or modern instruments with HIP or simply modern instruments are used is an artistic choice. It's one thing to say we can't know exactly how instruments and music sounded back in the days before recordings and another to say because we can't know, nothing is valid, and therefore there's no point to the effort to recover this music approximating what the music has a good likelihood of sounding like and the results can't be trusted. I concede it's not an exact science. But neither is any musical reproduction from paper notations, regardless of era. I think much is being demanded of the early music revival that is not, but could rightly be, demanded of music composed yesterday. I've heard the "what is authenticity?" issue raised a lot lately, esp with big blowout fights like the one voice per part in Bach controversy raised by Joshua Rifkin. I don't care. Gimme the music and your best estimate of what it sounded like. The lack of certainty is no reason to leave the music in dusty libraries forever cut off from appreciative listeners. The lack of castrati and other performance issues left Handel operas locked up in libraries for 200 years. Informed guesswork and work-arounds have allowed us to hear and see his operas at long last, in all their compelling dramatic beauty. I wouldn't go back for all the money in the world, just because it leaves something to be desired as far as exact authenticity is concerned. I can live with ambiguity and uncertainty. I can't live without the music.
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Chalkperson » Sun Dec 20, 2009 1:49 am

MarkCannon wrote:Ithe person who is probably the leader of that movement (not particularly for Baroque but from the Classical period onward) happens to have been one of my teachers and remains a friend and occasional coach: MALCOLM BILSON.
Really, but what about Richter, Harnoncourt and Leonhardt, Professor Bilson only started recording in the 80's on Arkiv, surely you refer only to his championing the use of Fortepiano's...I like his work a lot, way more than that young upstart Melvin Tan...
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Dec 20, 2009 1:58 am

Chalkperson wrote:
MarkCannon wrote:Ithe person who is probably the leader of that movement (not particularly for Baroque but from the Classical period onward) happens to have been one of my teachers and remains a friend and occasional coach: MALCOLM BILSON.
Really, but what about Richter, Harnoncourt and Leonhardt, Professor Bilson only started recording in the 80's on Arkiv, surely you refer only to his championing the use of Fortepiano's...I like his work a lot, way more than that young upstart Melvin Tan...
I forgot to mention that I was impressed with Mark's reference to Bilson. I plumped for many of his records when they first came out back in the 80s. Very interesting performances. Fortepiano turned out not to be my thing. I have limits to my tolerance of OI in music I have known since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Funny thing that. I didn't care for OI Mozart Symphonies when Hogwood came out with them either.
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:01 am

Corlyss_D wrote:......The lack of castrati and other performance issues left Handel operas locked up in libraries for 200 years......
You just helped me realize an additional aspect of "authentic" performance that I don't feel to be necessary. :lol:

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:03 am

Chalkperson wrote:
MarkCannon wrote:the person who is probably the leader of that movement (not particularly for Baroque but from the Classical period onward) happens to have been one of my teachers and remains a friend and occasional coach: MALCOLM BILSON.
Really, but what about Richter, Harnoncourt and Leonhardt, Professor Bilson only started recording in the 80's on Arkiv, surely you refer only to his championing the use of Fortepiano's...I like his work a lot, way more than that young upstart Melvin Tan...
SORRY!! My bad!!!
I meant to say something like ".....in terms of piano....." and I thought I did, but I see that I didn't.

By the way: Bilson recorded much earlier than you're aware of. He recorded (and released) his first fortepiano LP's around 1969-1970 (certainly no later than 1971) and continued actively with recordings throughout the '70's, on other labels.
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:11 am

Corlyss_D wrote:......I plumped for many of [Bilson's] records when they first came out back in the 80s. Very interesting performances. Fortepiano turned out not to be my thing. I have limits to my tolerance of OI in music I have known since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Funny thing that. I didn't care for OI Mozart Symphonies when Hogwood came out with them either.
Cool! I appreciate very much that you've been aware of him too. And by the way, in case you haven't gathered, I don't necessarily lean toward "original instruments" myself.
Bilson tolerates that fairly well. :lol:
When I play for him, it's on the "modern" piano. He'd prefer that I didn't, and invariably he takes me to the "authentic" period piano for a few minutes here and there to try to make a point (and invariably does). For decades I've been ready for him to kick me out, never to darken his door again :lol: but he never does.

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:15 am

MarkCannon wrote:invariably he takes me to the "authentic" period piano here and there for a few minutes to try to make a point (and invariably does). For decades I've been ready for him to kick me out, never to darken his door again :lol: but he never does.
I have this image of a wizened diminutive man sort of pulling you by the elbow to enlightenment, which you dutifully resist since it isn't your own, and muttering, "Now just come this way . . . no, just a little more, into the room, please, and sit down here, no, okay you can stand by the door, . . . while I show you how it should sound . . . Mark, come back here . . . I'm not finished . . . "
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:43 am

Corlyss_D wrote:I have this image of a wizened diminutive man sort of pulling you by the elbow to enlightenment, which you dutifully resist since it isn't your own, and muttering, "Now just come this way . . . no, just a little more, into the room, please, and sit down here, no, okay you can stand by the door, . . . while I show you how it should sound . . . Mark, come back here . . . I'm not finished . . . "
That's just about perfect -- except that he's tall. :lol:

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Heck148 » Sun Dec 20, 2009 8:32 am

Corlyss_D wrote: Given the fact that there were no recordings from the periods in question, there are a couple of things we can say without challenge:

1. The music certainly wasn't rendered by a 100 piece orchestra consisting of basically modern instruments with 19th century innovations.
this is true - large romantic era string sections using full vibrato were very likely not in use during the classical and baroque periods.
2. Research has enabled people to make educated guesses about how the music was rendered.
yes - educated guess is correct, and it hardly justifies the often condescending attitude presented by HIP zealots.
The fact that the research can't necessarily nail the performance down to a single indisputable sound doesn't mean the educated guesses are wholly without merit and unworthy of an audience.
nobody has made that claim.
Heck: it is also extremely presumptuous to assume that composers would have preferred those original instrument performances to modern instruments - since instruments have unquestionably, been developed, and improved since then....this is due to the increasing demands placed by composers to push the limits of performance...
What early music composers could have done with modern instruments isn't the question. They didn't have them. They couldn't choose to perform on instruments that didn't exist.[
actually, they could - they wrote beyond the capabilities of existing instruments to play well. subsequent generations of performers/instrument makers made modifications to facilitate the increased demands.
or...they quickly adopted the newer instruments to replace those contemporary ones that were insufficient, ie - Berlioz, in Symphonie Fantastique, originally scored for the dreadful sounding ophicleides, which he hated..however, the far-better-sounding tuba soon became available, and he ditched the ophicleides ASAP.

the question - which is very much alive - is: what was the ideal sound that the composer heard in his mind for the particular composition?? that we will never know for sure, regardless of whether we are original or modern instrument advocates.
to assume that great composers would NOT approve of their works played on modern instruments, is unsupportable. they might very well have heartliy approved!! again, we can't know.
IOW - if composers were perfectly happy with contemporary instruments, there would be no new improvements or developments. obviously, this is not the case.


but progress is undeniable - and instruments have been developed and improved consistently. Why should Handel, Haydn, Bach be treated as static, immutable stone statues that cannot be improved by better instruments, or by fine modern instrument performances..
I don't expect to hear Mahler performed on a lute and shaum just because they could be arranged for them. I don't wanna hear Handel by the VPO.
I don't want to hear Handel performed on poor sounding, weak original instruments that do not bring out the full expressive potential of the music.
I agree - playing Bach, Haydn, a la Ormandy or HvK - with a 60-voice string section, all using full bows, full romantic style vibrato is not the ticket...
however - fine modern instrument performances, played by smaller ensembles, using shorter note values, bow strokes, etc is very satisfying for me.

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Heck148 » Sun Dec 20, 2009 8:40 am

MarkCannon wrote:Bilson tolerates that fairly well. :lol:
When I play for him, it's on the "modern" piano. He'd prefer that I didn't, and invariably he takes me to the "authentic" period piano for a few minutes here and there to try to make a point (and invariably does).
Bilson was supposed to perform with us at our last concert - Mozart Concerto #19, to be performed on fortepiano...he had to scratch, due to injury/illness, I forget which..

his substitute, Frederick Lacroix, was very good. tho the sound and dynamic limitations of the fortepiano certainly took some getting used to...balance was a problem in places...

THEHORN
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by THEHORN » Sun Dec 20, 2009 9:51 am

The HIP movement is based on some questionable premises ,
among them that a: old instruments or replicas thereof still sound exactly as they did in the past and b: that living musicians who use them are playing them exactly as they played in the past , and c: the music is being interpreted exactly as the composers would had wanted .
There are mighty big ifs. Furthermore , even if the first two premises are correct , how do we know that the interpretation is exactly as the composer would have wanted , since musicians of the past , playing "authentic " instruments of the day , did not always please the composers with the manner in which they played the music .
Let's suppose that some pianist of Mozart's day came to one of Wolfie's concerts and heard him play one of his new piano concertos . He says that he just loved the new concerto and he's dying to play it himself as soon as possible wherever he might .
And then let's suppose that the pianist gets to play this concerto sometime later at a concert of his own .
Would Mozart have approved of the way this pianist played the concerto ? Maybe yes, maybe no .
Yes, the pianist was using the authentic piano of the period , and the orchestra was using instruments of the period .
But Mozart might not have liked the performance purely on intyerpretive grounds , such as in matters of tempo, phrasing , ornamentation , expression etc .
Now let's suppose a pianist of today perform's Carter's formidably difficult piano concerto with some orchestra and conductor. The musicians are using the authentic instruments of our day , but that would not necessarily mean that if Carter attended the performance , that he would like it .
Now it so happens that Carter has a coterie of devoted musicians who play the music in a way he approves of throoughly , but if the performance I've just described was not by one of them , he might not be pleased weith the performance at all for a variety of reasons , such as tempi he felt were incorrect , inability of the musicians to play his extremely different rhythms correctly, etc .
In this case, if the performance was unsatisfactory to the composer , it wasn't because of the instruments used .
It's the same with the music of the past; the composers were not really interested in the instruments used ; it was the interpretation that mattered to them .
So just going through all the motions of using period instruments today doesn't guarantee anything artistically .
Or as Richard Taruskin has so wisely pointed out -"Instruments don't make music -people do ".

Heck148
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Heck148 » Sun Dec 20, 2009 10:19 am

THEHORN wrote:The HIP movement is based on some questionable premises ,
among them that a: old instruments or replicas thereof still sound exactly as they did in the past and b: that living musicians who use them are playing them exactly as they played in the past , and c: the music is being interpreted exactly as the composers would had wanted .
There are mighty big ifs. Furthermore , even if the first two premises are correct , how do we know that the interpretation is exactly as the composer would have wanted , since musicians of the past , playing "authentic " instruments of the day , did not always please the composers with the manner in which they played the music .
You make some very good points....the contemporary interpetetion is unknown, and since we have no way of knowing what those composers prefered, it will remain that way.

further on the instrument issue - in the last century - Stravinsky wrote his famous ballets and chamber works for French orchestras, using French bassoons, since that's where many of them were first performed..
however, Stravinsky was certainly aware that other orchestras, using German bassoons, would be performing his music. TMK, he certainly made no stipulations that only French bassoons were to be used. He was a realist, he wanted his works performed, just like any other composer...it seems he was content with either sound...

the same applies to Bruckner - the German/Viennese orchestras he wrote for used rotary-valve trumpets, but there is no indiocation whatsoever that he required that they be used..certainly the French, Czechs Russians, English, Americans etc would be using valve instruments, with their much more brilliant sound.
Bruckner may or may not have heard any performances using these instruments, but again, TMK, he never stipulated that orchestras performing his works HAD to use rotary valve instruments...he might very well have favored the more brilliant sound...

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:18 pm

Heck148 wrote:
MarkCannon wrote:Bilson tolerates that fairly well. :lol:
When I play for him, it's on the "modern" piano. He'd prefer that I didn't, and invariably he takes me to the "authentic" period piano for a few minutes here and there to try to make a point (and invariably does).
Bilson was supposed to perform with us at our last concert......
Cool that you were going to play with him! Too bad he didn't make it. BTW.....pardon my having to ask, but.......who is "us"? I gather you're with an orchestra......

MarkC
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:19 pm

THEHORN wrote:The HIP movement is based on some questionable premises ,
among them that a: old instruments or replicas thereof still sound exactly as they did in the past and b: that living musicians who use them are playing them exactly as they played in the past , and c: the music is being interpreted exactly as the composers would had wanted .....
You're wrong, at least in most cases. They're just trying to come as close as possible.

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by dulcinea » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:40 pm

MarkCannon wrote:
THEHORN wrote:The HIP movement is based on some questionable premises ,
among them that a: old instruments or replicas thereof still sound exactly as they did in the past and b: that living musicians who use them are playing them exactly as they played in the past , and c: the music is being interpreted exactly as the composers would had wanted .....
You're wrong, at least in most cases. They're just trying to come as close as possible.
When I compare the way I originally knew Johann Sebastian and George Frideric, in those big Beecham and Stokowsky-type orchestral arrangements, to the way they are played today, I very much prefer the latter, not only because it's more charming and graceful, but also because it sounds genuinely MAGNIFICENT and POWERFUL instead of pretentious and loud.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

Heck148
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Heck148 » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:50 pm

MarkCannon wrote:They're just trying to come as close as possible.
close as possible to what??
somebody's concept of what they think it might have sounded like?? :D

Heck148
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Heck148 » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:57 pm

dulcinea wrote: When I compare the way I originally knew Johann Sebastian and George Frideric, in those big Beecham and Stokowsky-type orchestral arrangements, to the way they are played today, I very much prefer the latter, not only because it's more charming and graceful, but also because it sounds genuinely MAGNIFICENT and POWERFUL instead of pretentious and loud.
I partly agree with you - the huge orchestra productions, and the bogus transcriptions - ie - and esp, the Harty-farty arrangement of H2O music - are not too satisfying. but to me, neither are the scrawny, wimpy sounding original instrument ones, with the twittering, barnyard quality woodwinds, braying, bad-sounding horns, nasal flat-sounding strings etc...I find them equally unsatisfactory..

the original scorings of Handel's and Bach's orchestral music is exquisite, and should be preserved - but I'd rather here it played well on modern instruments that can really do justice to the musical possibilities. .

MarkC
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 3:23 pm

Heck148 wrote:
MarkCannon wrote:They're just trying to come as close as possible.
close as possible to what??
somebody's concept of what they think it might have sounded like?? :D
Why not just concede this little point? :)

P.S. Was I taking you too literally about the "exactly" part?

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by JackC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 3:26 pm

I tend to think that peformance practice and style has a lot more to do with my reaction than the instruments used.

That said, with Bach, all else equal, (which NEVER happens :lol: ) , in the concertos, suites, canatas, passions etc I tend to find the sound relationships created by the old - "orginal" -instruments as sounding more right and more convincing musically. And I do not like hearing a piano used instead of a harpsichord.

Of course, I have no doubt that Bach would have loved to have better instruments. Also, I MUCH perfer to hear his works for solo instruments peformed on moder instruments, piano, cello, violin.

In the end, however, it's all about the musicians.

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 3:30 pm

JackC wrote:I tend to think that peformance practice and style has a lot more to do with my reaction than the instruments used.

That said, with Bach, all else equal, (which NEVER happens :lol: ) , in the concertos, suites, canatas, passions etc I tend to find the sound relationships created by the old - "orginal" -instruments as sounding more right and more convincing musically. And I do not like hearing a piano used instead of a harpsichord.

Of course, I have no doubt that Bach would have loved to have better instruments. Also, I MUCH prefer to hear his works for solo instruments preformed on modern instruments, piano, cello, violin.

In the end, however, it's all about the musicians.
I'm glad to say I agree 99%. :lol:

(The other 1% is about hearing Bach's solo works played on modern instruments. For me, it's sometimes yes, sometimes no.)

ContrapunctusIX
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Sun Dec 20, 2009 4:42 pm

JackC wrote:I tend to think that peformance practice and style has a lot more to do with my reaction than the instruments used.

That said, with Bach, all else equal, (which NEVER happens :lol: ) , in the concertos, suites, canatas, passions etc I tend to find the sound relationships created by the old - "orginal" -instruments as sounding more right and more convincing musically. And I do not like hearing a piano used instead of a harpsichord.

Of course, I have no doubt that Bach would have loved to have better instruments. Also, I MUCH perfer to hear his works for solo instruments peformed on moder instruments, piano, cello, violin.

In the end, however, it's all about the musicians.
I totally agree. I find that the period instrument sonorities are better balanced and easier to sort out in the larger-scale works - in particular the large choral works. But for solo instrumental works I'd rather the fuller and more clearly articulated notes possible on modern instruments. For instance, in my opinion the keyboard partitas sound dry and academic with less clearly discernable musical lines when played on harpsichord. On the flipside I find that modern instruments have tendency to turn the contrapuntal complexity of the Mass in B Minor into a thick, sludgy mire.
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by premont » Sun Dec 20, 2009 4:54 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:August Wenzinger began teaching at the Schola Cantorum in the year of its founding 1933. In 1949 he conducted a recording of the Bach Brandenburgs on period instruments.
As much as I love Wenzingers recording (one of the treasures in my library), - it is not played entirely on period instruments. Archiv has never published a list of the used instruments, and it is probable, that the strings are period, but the harpsichord is definitely not, and neither are most of the wind instruments except perhaps the recorders. Even Horensteins recording (Vox 1954) was claimed to be played on period instruments, which it was not at all. The first real period instruments recording was the recording of Concentus Musicus Vienna / N. Harnoncourt (Telefunken 1964), and let us ignore the fact, that it was played in a rather traditional "preauthentic" style.

MarkC
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 5:50 pm

ContrapunctusIX wrote:......But for solo instrumental works I'd rather the fuller and more clearly articulated notes possible on modern instruments. For instance, in my opinion the keyboard partitas sound dry and academic with less clearly discernable musical lines when played on harpsichord.....
In terms of keyboard instruments, I'm thinking that either we have different ideas of "articulated," ....or maybe you're just talking about harpsichord and not "fortepiano."

With harpsichord vs. piano, I guess we could argue that either way. But I don't think we could on "fortepiano" vs. piano, unless (as I said) we have different ideas of "articulated."

The clearer articulation, faster "decay," and easier action of the fortepiano are (I think) the main reasons one might prefer the early instrument to the modern piano. But of course the piano has its advantages too, as you mentioned.

I usually prefer the modern piano for a totally different reason: it's the instrument that I play. :mrgreen:

ContrapunctusIX
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Sun Dec 20, 2009 10:32 pm

MarkCannon wrote:
ContrapunctusIX wrote:......But for solo instrumental works I'd rather the fuller and more clearly articulated notes possible on modern instruments. For instance, in my opinion the keyboard partitas sound dry and academic with less clearly discernable musical lines when played on harpsichord.....
In terms of keyboard instruments, I'm thinking that either we have different ideas of "articulated," ....or maybe you're just talking about harpsichord and not "fortepiano."

With harpsichord vs. piano, I guess we could argue that either way. But I don't think we could on "fortepiano" vs. piano, unless (as I said) we have different ideas of "articulated."

The clearer articulation, faster "decay," and easier action of the fortepiano are (I think) the main reasons one might prefer the early instrument to the modern piano. But of course the piano has its advantages too, as you mentioned.

I usually prefer the modern piano for a totally different reason: it's the instrument that I play. :mrgreen:
By "articulate" I mean the modern instruments' inherent ability to better sustain a musical line in juxtaposition with others. And yes, I was comparing specifically to the harpischord in my example, where I find the speedy note decay tends to cloud the architectural picture, so to speak. Perhaps articulate was not the proper word?

Also, I try to avoid fortepiano discs, unfortunately I just have no taste for the instrument.
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MarkC
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 10:41 pm

ContrapunctusIX wrote:
MarkCannon wrote:
ContrapunctusIX wrote:......But for solo instrumental works I'd rather the fuller and more clearly articulated notes possible on modern instruments. For instance, in my opinion the keyboard partitas sound dry and academic with less clearly discernable musical lines when played on harpsichord.....
In terms of keyboard instruments, I'm thinking that either we have different ideas of "articulated," ....or maybe you're just talking about harpsichord and not "fortepiano.".....
By "articulate" I mean the instrument's inherent ability to better sustain a musical line in juxtaposition with others. And yes, I was talking specifically about the harpischord.....
Indeed we were viewing "articulated" differently......

John F
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by John F » Sun Dec 20, 2009 11:31 pm

dulcinea wrote:Who had the inspiration of performing Baroque and Classical exactly as it was performed at the time of its creation? Or, to put it more clearly, when did people make the discovery that playing JSB, GFH, FJH and WAM with Romantic era orchestras and in a Wagnerian style was not the correct way to play that music?
Nobody is playing Baroque and Classical period music "exactly as it was performed at the time of its creation," and hardly anybody even supposes that this is possible today. Heck148 has it right. So-called "historically informed performance" as practiced today is the creation of musicologists working mainly from old theoretical treatises and teaching methods, mainly by minor figures (Leopold Mozart, not Wolfgang) or unknowns (Daniel Gottlob Türk). None of these can tell us exactly or even approximately how Mozart's and Beethoven's piano concertos were performed by their composers. Sorry, but it's a will o' the wisp.

Besides, nobody in Mozart's or Beethoven's time believed that older music should be played exactly as it had been performed when new. Mozart reorchestrated and partly recomposed Handel's "Messiah" and other works so that they would appeal to the taste of his late-18th century contemporaries. When Mendelssohn revived Bach's St. Matthew Passion, he not only reorchestrated it but cut it by about 1/3. Ironically, these unfaithful versions of old music are now being performed and recorded; so much for fidelity to the composer's original scores, let alone the original manner of their performance.

The only defensible justification for what's called "historically informed performance" (the word "authentic" is no longer used by knowledgeable professionals) is not that the composers might have liked to hear the music that way - we can never know that - but because we like to hear the music that way. Robert Levin's Mozart may not be Mozart's Mozart, even he would never claim as much and he knows as much about Mozartean style as anyone alive, but it's pleasing to our present-day ears. Which is all that it can be, and needs to be.
John Francis

MarkC
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 11:46 pm

John F wrote:.....Robert Levin's Mozart may not be Mozart's Mozart, even he would never claim as much and he knows as much about Mozartean style as anyone alive, but it's pleasing to our present-day ears. Which is all that it can be, and needs to be.
Cool that you know about him.......Do you know about his reconstruction of the Sinfonia Concertante for winds? It's brilliant and very interesting. And what's even more interesting is his book on it -- he wrote a pretty long book explaining what he figured out about the piece and what he did with it.

Not to name-drop :lol: ......but I've spent a bit of time with him a few times too, including turning pages for him (whoopee) :mrgreen: at a concert that he played with Bilson.

John F
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by John F » Mon Dec 21, 2009 12:07 am

MarkCannon wrote:
John F wrote:.....Robert Levin's Mozart may not be Mozart's Mozart, even he would never claim as much and he knows as much about Mozartean style as anyone alive, but it's pleasing to our present-day ears. Which is all that it can be, and needs to be.
Cool that you know about him.......Do you know about his reconstruction of the Sinfonia Concertante for winds? It's brilliant and very interesting. And what's even more interesting is his book on it -- he wrote a pretty long book explaining what he figured out about the piece and what he did with it.

Not to name-drop :lol: ......but I've spent a bit of time with him a few times too, including turning pages for him (whoopee) :mrgreen: at a concert that he played with Bilson.
Yes, I know Bob, though I haven't turned pages for him. :) He made an outstanding presentation at Juilliard's 5-day symposium on performing Mozart, on the occasion of the bicentennial, being an outstanding scholar as well as a fine pianist. Even as a Harvard undergraduate he was producing remarkable completions of pieces Mozart abandoned for one reason or another - a movement for clarinet and strings, almost on a level with the famous quintet, was recorded with Jack Brymer back in the '70s.

While I don't agree with some of his most striking changes to the sinfonia concertante for winds - in the finale, the refrain following each variation seems to me a happy idea unlikely to have been inserted by a later hand, though the actual realization by anon is sometimes pretty gauche - it's certainly a stimulating listen. And the improved ritornello to open the first movement is Levin at his best.
John Francis

MarkC
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Mon Dec 21, 2009 12:15 am

John F wrote:Yes, I know Bob......
While I don't agree with some of his most striking changes to the sinfonia concertante for winds - in the finale, the refrain following each variation seems to me a happy idea unlikely to have been inserted by a later hand, though the actual realization by anon is sometimes pretty gauche - it's certainly a stimulating listen. And the improved ritornello to open the first movement is Levin at his best.
I agree intensely about that "refrain" in the last movement!! I mean, in terms of liking it, and missing it when it's not there. I didn't feel I knew enough to think Levin was wrong about its inauthenticity, but I definitely felt something to be very lacking without it.

It's the one and only big thing I don't like about the reconstruction.

BTW.......I'm struck and impressed not just that you know him, but that you actually know about this piece and that you know it so well. Relatively few people do.
Did you know about the book?

dulcinea
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by dulcinea » Mon Dec 21, 2009 12:25 am

John F wrote:
dulcinea wrote:Who had the inspiration of performing Baroque and Classical exactly as it was performed at the time of its creation? Or, to put it more clearly, when did people make the discovery that playing JSB, GFH, FJH and WAM with Romantic era orchestras and in a Wagnerian style was not the correct way to play that music?
Nobody is playing Baroque and Classical period music "exactly as it was performed at the time of its creation," and hardly anybody even supposes that this is possible today. Heck148 has it right. So-called "historically informed performance" as practiced today is the creation of musicologists working mainly from old theoretical treatises and teaching methods, mainly by minor figures (Leopold Mozart, not Wolfgang) or unknowns (Daniel Gottlob Türk). None of these can tell us exactly or even approximately how Mozart's and Beethoven's piano concertos were performed by their composers. Sorry, but it's a will o' the wisp.

Besides, nobody in Mozart's or Beethoven's time believed that older music should be played exactly as it had been performed when new. Mozart reorchestrated and partly recomposed Handel's "Messiah" and other works so that they would appeal to the taste of his late-18th century contemporaries. When Mendelssohn revived Bach's St. Matthew Passion, he not only reorchestrated it but cut it by about 1/3. Ironically, these unfaithful versions of old music are now being performed and recorded; so much for fidelity to the composer's original scores, let alone the original manner of their performance.

The only defensible justification for what's called "historically informed performance" (the word "authentic" is no longer used by knowledgeable professionals) is not that the composers might have liked to hear the music that way - we can never know that - but because we like to hear the music that way. Robert Levin's Mozart may not be Mozart's Mozart, even he would never claim as much and he knows as much about Mozartean style as anyone alive, but it's pleasing to our present-day ears. Which is all that it can be, and needs to be.
Obviously I have not made myself clear about the first Bach and Handel that I ever heard. Besides the Hamilton Harty mishandeling of Handel, I remember that the first version of ST MATTHEW that I listened had such a thick muddy orchestration that I could neither tell the instruments apart nor follow the melody; that orchestra sounded like a huge toad with acid reflux disease. The version of the BACH EDITION sounds so totally different that it is practically a different work from the one I heard back in 1970.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Dec 21, 2009 1:18 am

dulcinea wrote: Obviously I have not made myself clear about the first Bach and Handel that I ever heard. Besides the Hamilton Harty mishandeling of Handel, I remember that the first version of ST MATTHEW that I listened had such a thick muddy orchestration that I could neither tell the instruments apart nor follow the melody; that orchestra sounded like a huge toad with acid reflux disease. The version of the BACH EDITION sounds so totally different that it is practically a different work from the one I heard back in 1970.
For a long time THE St. Matthew on LP was Klemperer, an extreme example of what Bach interpretation had become that HIP was reacting to. I wonder if that's the version you're talking about. Many people still find his performance compelling (and if Brendan is reading this I owe him an apology from a long way back for unfairly taking him to task for this preference), but like you my feeling in those days was that it was a monument to the reasons people say they don't like classical music--lugubrious, as though performing Bach were a painful duty for symphony orchestra conductors. When folks say that we can't be sure how Bach would have received a modern HIP performance, there is a grain of truth in that, but personally, I find that setting Harnoncourt next to Klemperer provides so much internal evidence based on the qualities of a convincing performance that I don't see how anyone can maintain a sweeping skepticism on those grounds (rather than personal preference for forces we know were not like those available to Bach), unless out of perversity.

Perhaps this is a good point to remark (if someone has already, apologies--I have not caught every post here) that HIP has done a lot of self-correction much to the good. There is more refinement in the use of the period instruments, no one thinks anymore that you have to use a boy soloist for the soprano arias, and mixed choruses are doing such a wonderful job with the music that not even a pedant can question their use. In fact, there are a couple of reasons to think that Bach would have approved of this if he had not, like Shakespeare, had all-male forces as the only possibility. First, the Christe eleison from the B Minor Mass is so difficult that even Harnoncourt did not use boys, speculating convincingly in the liner notes of his recording that Bach had women in mind because they would have been available at the court of the prince to whom he dedicated the first part of the Mass. Second, there is the charming story of Bach being reprimanded for allowing a woman (his fiancée?) to sing in the choir loft when the church was empty, or so he thought.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by THEHORN » Mon Dec 21, 2009 11:00 am

I try not to be dogmatic about how music should be played .
There is no one absolutely right way to interpret any given work of whatever period .
It was certainly an interesting idea in theory to hear how the music of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven etc might have sounded in the past , but the results have too often sounded simply awful to me, particularly the gut strings , which
usually have a nasal, pinched , wheezing sound which makes me wince .
And many HIP performers sound as though they were so determined to rid the music of everything "romantic " and
opulent - sounding that they have merely succeeded in throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater .
There have been some exception, though and I have enjoyed these performances , such as some ones by Gardiner and Harnoncourt , and occaisionally Norrington .
And the HIP movement has now reached absurd lengths .
Do we really NEED HIP performances of Wagner, Brahms, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky , Dvorak ,Holst, Elgar,Mahler and even Vaughan Williams , who died as recently as 1958 and who apparently never expressed any desire to hear his music performed on "authentic " instruments ?
Yet we now have the New Queens Hall orchestra in London which purports to give "authentic " performances of this repertoire , and whose management claims that we desperately need such an orchestra as a corrective to "modern " instruments .
Just check its website to hear some truly preposterous claims about it .
I judge each performance on its individual merits , not by whether it uses period instruments or not . I'm not opposed to their use per se , but I refuse to praise a performance or recording merely for using them .
And I also refuse to scorn a performance or recording merely because it uses modern instruments and fails to be "politicially correct " in performance style .

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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Tiger » Mon Dec 21, 2009 5:11 pm

THEHORN wrote:I try not to be dogmatic about how music should be played .
There is no one absolutely right way to interpret any given work of whatever period .
It was certainly an interesting idea in theory to hear how the music of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven etc might have sounded in the past , but the results have too often sounded simply awful to me, particularly the gut strings , which
usually have a nasal, pinched , wheezing sound which makes me wince .
And many HIP performers sound as though they were so determined to rid the music of everything "romantic " and
opulent - sounding that they have merely succeeded in throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater .
There have been some exception, though and I have enjoyed these performances , such as some ones by Gardiner and Harnoncourt , and occaisionally Norrington .
And the HIP movement has now reached absurd lengths .
Do we really NEED HIP performances of Wagner, Brahms, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky , Dvorak ,Holst, Elgar,Mahler and even Vaughan Williams , who died as recently as 1958 and who apparently never expressed any desire to hear his music performed on "authentic " instruments ?
Yet we now have the New Queens Hall orchestra in London which purports to give "authentic " performances of this repertoire , and whose management claims that we desperately need such an orchestra as a corrective to "modern " instruments .
Just check its website to hear some truly preposterous claims about it .
I judge each performance on its individual merits , not by whether it uses period instruments or not . I'm not opposed to their use per se , but I refuse to praise a performance or recording merely for using them .
And I also refuse to scorn a performance or recording merely because it uses modern instruments and fails to be "politicially correct " in performance style .
I also trust that I am not dogmatic, as I simply go by what sounds pleasing and rewarding to my ears. Speaking of my ears, I tend to wince when modern stringed instruments are used for baroque music; they just sound bad to me.

John F
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by John F » Tue Dec 22, 2009 3:09 am

MarkCannon wrote:
John F wrote:Yes, I know Bob......
While I don't agree with some of his most striking changes to the sinfonia concertante for winds - in the finale, the refrain following each variation seems to me a happy idea unlikely to have been inserted by a later hand, though the actual realization by anon is sometimes pretty gauche - it's certainly a stimulating listen. And the improved ritornello to open the first movement is Levin at his best.
I agree intensely about that "refrain" in the last movement!! I mean, in terms of liking it, and missing it when it's not there. I didn't feel I knew enough to think Levin was wrong about its inauthenticity, but I definitely felt something to be very lacking without it.

It's the one and only big thing I don't like about the reconstruction.

BTW.......I'm struck and impressed not just that you know him, but that you actually know about this piece and that you know it so well. Relatively few people do.
Did you know about the book?
Yes, I have the book, and it's a model of how one can research this kind of question and apply objective criteria - not just one's impression of the style, which can be misleading. (When revising the Köchel catalog, Alfred Einstein dated many pieces based on his sense of their style; objective studies of the handwriting in the autographs and even the paper they're written on, have shown how wrong even he could be, and he was a fine scholar.) So the book's interest goes beyond the specific musicological project.

I've loved the Sinfonia Concertante since childhood as my parents had the 78 rpm recording by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski, with those great wind players led by Marcel Tabuteau ravishing the ear. How they came to acquire the set, I never thought to ask, and it's only one of many things about their taste in music that I took for granted then but impress me now. Anyway, Stokey played the music straight, some nice dynamic shading here and there but no Stokowski-isms in the tempos etc., but he neither cared nor perhaps knew about the niceties of period performance style - he just made the music sound as beautiful and characterful as possible. There's a good reissue on CD:

http://www.amazon.com/Mozart-Sinfonia-C ... 875&sr=8-1

The audio clips include Tabuteau in the slow movement, taken at a true adagio, and Anthony Gigliotti in the clarinet variation in the finale.

A quick response to dulcinea's comments: Of course you're entitled to your taste, or distaste, for this or that performance or arrangement of older music. I'm just pointing out that it's indeed a matter of taste and has a very shaky foundation in actual history.

Hamilton Harty's enormously successful 20-minute "Water Music Suite," from the hour-long Water Music, made it an eminently practical piece for inclusion in modern symphony orchestra concerts, and thereby achieved what Mozart's version of "Messiah" once did: recovered some wonderful but forgotten music and made it accessible to a general audience beyond Baroque music connoisseurs. Without that rescue operation, it's a good question whether the whole of the Water Music, in the original orchestration, would finally have been recorded in the 1950s.

The Water Music in its original form is hardly ever given a public performance, being too long for a program that includes other music as well, but not long enough to stand alone. But it has certainly put Harty's eminently practical arrangement of selected movements for symphony orchestra in the shade (railing against the latter today is beating a dead horse). So new generations of classical music lovers have been growing up that hardly know the Water Music at all. This is progress?
John Francis

MarkC
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by MarkC » Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:12 am

John F wrote:.....the sinfonia concertante for winds....
Yes, I have the book, and it's a model of how one can research this kind of question and apply objective criteria.....the book's interest goes beyond the specific musicological project.
I wish there were a 'smilie' for "Hitting Nail on Head." :lol:
That's what strikes me about things like this in general: the methodology, when it's original and terrific, is more important than the subject.
By the way, for what it's worth......a few years ago I did a 'review' of the book on Amazon. It seems like you could do a better one if you felt like it!
The review is on this page:
http://www.amazon.com/Who-Wrote-Mozart- ... 343&sr=1-1
My review was and remains the only one, which made me wonder if I was the only person who bought the book or who had read it!
I've loved the Sinfonia Concertante since childhood as my parents had the 78 rpm recording by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski.....How they came to acquire the set, I never thought to ask, and it's only one of many things about their taste in music that I took for granted then but impress me now......
Thanks for the reference of the Stokowski recording, which I didn't know about.
My acquaintance with the piece has a little story too, including that I had to do sort of a "reconstruction" of it, although just in my mind. I was living in Milwaukee, had no TV, no stereo......nothing but an AM radio. (Don't feel sorry for me, I wasn't "poor" or anything, just a student, and all of that was by choice.) The only classical music I could listen to (besides my own playing, which hardly counts) :mrgreen: was a weekly 1-hour late-evening show. One time I turned it on in the middle, and there was this odd piece, apparently in the middle of a 1st movement, probably Mozart but somehow a little weird. I felt an immediate identification with it, a certain "closeness" as though it was something I could have sort of written myself! (When I learned much later what Levin was to discover about it, this made sense: the piece as known at the time was simply more pedestrian than real Mozart). I had a little cassette recorder and flicked it on. I spent the rest of the night (entire night) re-listening to the piece, or rather the portion that I had, which began in the 1st movement's development section, and "conducting" it, in the mirror, over and over again. Then, for some weeks, I would try in my mind to imagine what the first portion of the first movement might have been. Little did I know that the whole piece needed some imagination!

P.S. When I finally got a turntable (a year later), one of my first records was an "authentic" version of the Water Music -- not much more complete than the usual but with the movements re-ordered in what was thought to be a more correct order. I listened to that again and again too. :)

Marc
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Marc » Tue Dec 22, 2009 6:17 am

Some names that were not mentioned (so far :wink:), but deserve at least a mention:
Paul Badura-Skoda, Alfred Deller and the former Thomas-Cantor Günther Ramin.

But the discussions already started in the second half of the 19th century. At least that's my impression after reading a book about the Matthäus-Passion tradition in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.
In the Netherlands this eventually led to the foundation of the Dutch Bach Society in 1922, as a counterpoise to f.i. Willem Mengelberg and other large romantic baroque interpreters. Important figures were Siegfried Ochs, Anthon van der Horst, Albert de Klerk and Hans Brandt Buys. The books of the latter were of great influence for performers of the 'Leonhardt-school'.

Heck148
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Re: Authentic Period Performance

Post by Heck148 » Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:52 am

John F: The Water Music in its original form is hardly ever given a public performance,

That is not so - I've played the original scoring quite a few times, and not too long ago the Chicago SO played it on a subscription series...
the original scoring - for pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets, then flute in the G major section plus strings is quite readily playable by modern symphony orchestra...
scarcity of performances is more due to the choice of music directors to defer to the original instrument crowd, rather than any problems of performance by modern orchestra...
I hope this trend is reversed in coming seasons...

one of our past conductors loved the Harty arrangement, and kept pulling this outdated dinosaur out to play at various concerts...I grew quite sick of it. I love the H2O Music, but the original scoring works best by far, for me.

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