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Colin Davis & Bach

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 13, 2003):
In the biography of the tenor Alejandro Ramirez: http://www.muho-mannheim.de/personal/Bios/ramirez.htm
it is said that he recorded Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244) & the Mass in B minor (BWV 232) under Colin Davis.

I have not been able to find anywhere information about these recordings. Is there any member who has these recordings and/or any information about them (label, recording month/year, other soloists, etc.)

Thanks & Enjoy,

Riccardo Nughes wrote (September 13, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< In the biography of the tenor Alejandro Ramirez: http://www.muho-mannheim.de/personal/Bios/ramirez.htm
it is said that he recorded Mäathäus-Passion (BWV 244) & the Mass in B minor (BWV 232) under Colin Davis. >
I've made some researches but I didn't find anything but the confirm that C.Davis has conducted the MP in the past. I think that there are 3 possiblities :
1) an error in the biography
2) a recording made but not (yet)released
3) a recording with a very limited circulation (possibly a giveaway for the Orchestra's subcribers)

Aryeh, why don't you write to Mr.Ramirez and ask him some info ?

Uri Golomb wrote (September 13, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< In the biography of the tenor Alejandro Ramirez: http://www.muho-mannheim.de/personal/Bios/ramirez.htm
it is said that he recorded Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244) & the Mass in B minor (BWV 232) under Colin Davis. >
Colin Davis definitely conducted the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244). I heard it myself -- a live broadcast on June 6, 2001, with an orchestra assembled especially for the occasion, hand-picked by cellist Steven Isserlis. The cast otherwise featured:

Mark Padmore (tenor, the Evangelist)
David Wilson-Johnson (baritone, Christ)
Susan Gritton (soprano)
Sarah Connolly (mezzo)
James Gilchrist (tenor)
Stefan Loges (baritone)
BBC Singers, Boys of Gloucester Cathedral Choir

As far as I recall, the announcement for this declared that it has been about 20 years (or was it 30?) since Davis had last conducted the SMP (BWV 244), which presumably means that he has done it before.

Alejandro Ramirez's online biography states that he recorded the SMP (BWV 244) and B minor Mass (BWV 232) with Davis and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. I know that Davis did, in fact, perform the Mass (BWV 232) with that orchestra on 19th September 1987, and the National Sound Archive in London holds a tape of that recording (as does, presumably, the archive of the Bavarian Radio); Ramirez is indeed listed among the soloists, alongside Edith Mathis, Marjana Lipovsek, Andreas Schmidt and Jan-Hendrik Rootering. But as far as I know (and I've done extensive research on this) that recording has never been commrecially released -- unless, as Ricardo suggests, a limited-circulation recording was made at the time. More likely, the biography mistakenly lists a live performances as a recording.Presumably the same applies to the SMP (BWV 244).

Hope this helps,

 

Colin Davis

Metthew Westphal wrote (January 27, 2004):
Laurent Planchon says:
>>>
> [....] but he [Colin Davis] replied that Bach had been "completely hijacked> by the early music brigade" and so nobody would think of asking him to> conduct it. [...] <
Interesting. One wonders what this so-called 'brigade' might be. First reaction is to suspect the HIP performers, but no, apparently he thinks of the concert organizers ('nobody would ask him'). But then should he not blame the audience instead ? It seems to me that any normal concert organizer would try to sell his concert first and might have a pretty good idea of what kind of performance sells.
In any case it is somewhat disappointing to read this comment from such a great conductor as Colin Davis.
<<<
I couldn't help wondering if Sir Colin was angling to get the OAE to invite him to conduct them ...

Robert Sherman wrote (January 27, 2004):
What I find disappointing is the fact that Davis and Matthew are both probably right.

At the risk of boring everyone by making the same point for the seventeenth time: Offer people a choice between hearing baroque music on allegedly authentic instruments or on modern instruments -- this applies to concerts and recordings equally -- and a large majority will choose the allegedly authentic instruments. So that's what's performed and recorded, to meet what the public thinks is its taste. This is Matthew's point, and he's right.

Conversely, do a blind test of the best modern-instrument vs the best allegedly-authentic-instrument performances of the same work, and the listeners will prefer the modern instruments by a large margin. But it's hard to find top-class live performances or recent recordings done this way, because the commercial demand is elsewhere. This is Davis' implicit point, and he's right.

I admit that I have been remiss in failing to post excerpts to illustrate my point. Hollywood-authentic performances have been nominated by Brad (Vivaldi Concerto for 2 trpts in C) and Memphis Bob (Trumpet Shall Sound.) I'm obligated to put up or shut up. I will try to do the former soon.

Donald Satz wrote (January 27, 2004):
[To Robert Sherman] Could you cite the blind tests that prove your position and the specific individuals who controlled, administered, and tabulated the results? I'm aware of blind tests of butter vs. margarine, but I've never heard of the tests you mention. Also, I trust you're aware that your posting basically states that people don't know what they want.

Laurent Planchon wrote (January 27, 2004):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< Conversely, do a blind test of the best modern-instrument vs the best allegedly-authentic-instrument performances of the same work, and the listeners will prefer the modern instruments by a large margin. >
Well let's see. Take for instance the '4 seasons'. On one side, the best modern orchestra there is, lead by one of the greatest conductor of the XX century: the BPO and HvK. On the other side, let's take Il Giardino Armonico. Are you really saying that most people would prefer the former in a blind test ?

< But it's hard to find top-class live performances or recent recordings done this way, because the commercial demand is elsewhere. >
You will have to define 'this way' better. Is it just the instruments, the number of players or the style ? For instance, do people prefer Christie's Rameau when he conducts the BPO vs 'les Arts Flos', or is it more a slow, heavy and romantic approach vs a light, fast and exhilariting one ?

Johan van Veen wrote (January 27, 2004):
Matthew Westphal wrote:
< I couldn't help wondering if Sir Colin was angling to get the OAE to invite him to conduct them ... >
That chance is now lost, I suppose ;)

Johan van Veen wrote (January 27, 2004):
Peter Bright wrote (January 25, 2004):
Subject: In music as in life, first loves often endure
< There was a very interesting article in Saturday's Guardian by Michael Berkeley (Composer and presenter of 'Private Passions' on BBC Radio 3). >
"A few years ago Sir Colin Davis conducted a performance of the Bach St Matthew Passion (
BWV 244) in Gloucester Cathedral with musicians hand-picked by the cellist Steven Isserlis as part of his residency at the Cheltenham Festival. The performance was much longer than we have become accustomed to but it was intenselymoving and revealing.
Davis told me he was profoundly grateful to have the opportunity to conduct this towering masterpiece in the autumn of his career, since he had come to the conclusion that he would never get the chance again. I expressed some astonishment at this but he replied that Bach had been "completely hijacked by the early music brigade" and so nobody would think of asking him to conduct it. This didactic approach to music is impoverishing; there is no "right way" because the chance to hear contrasting interpretations is how we gain insight into the music itself and how we find out what we really like. >
Instead of whining about his lack of opportunities he could take the initiative and invite one of the orchestras he conducts to perform the SMP (BWV 244). Perhaps they will say "no, thanks", but can the HIP-movement - if there is such a thing - be blamed for that?

Helmut Rilling once said in an interview that he has played in almost any country in the world, with the exception of the Netherlands. I suppose he has never been invited, but he could organise his own concert tour, couldn't he? If someone believes he has something to offer, he should make an effort instead of waiting until others discover what he has to offer.

The symphony orchestras in the Netherlands don't play Bach - maybe only when a 'HIP-conductor' is invited. That's their own choice. Most musicians in symphony orchestras over here have a positive attitude towards the historical performance practice, and understand that other, more specialized orchestras, are far better suited to perform Bach and other baroque music.

And the orchestras prefer to play music from the classical period with HIP-conductors. No "early music brigade" that forces them to do so. It is their choice.

The last phrases from the quotation provoke some comment as well. The suggestion that within the HIP camp there are no contrasting interpretations is completely off the mark. It shows the author doesn't know his stuff. Just compare the recordings of Bach's SMP (BWV 244) by Leonhardt and McCreesh and you know that there are huge contrasts. And - at least for me - it doesn't matter what we like (or what I like, or whoever likes). The question is which interpretation is best suited to display the true intentions of the composer.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 27, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] Just tests I've run myself, and which you or anyone else could do for yourself. My posting states that the image and reality of what people want differ. You don't have to believe me; test it for yourself.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 27, 2004):
[Yto Johan van Veen, in response to his message to Peter Bright] We've been over this before, but for me the question is what I like. That's what I listen to. Of course the composer could not have intended use of instruments that did not exist in his lifetime.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 27, 2004):
[To Laurent Planchon, in response to his message to Robert Sherman] Don't know, I haven't tested that one. My own tests have concentrated on brasses, where the difference is more dramatic than with strings. The issue is also confounded by the fact that most modern-instrument performances are done with inappropriately large forces.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (January 27, 2004):
Robert Sherman writes:
< Conversely, do a blind test of the best modern-instrument vs the best allegedly-authentic-instrument performances of the same work, and the listeners will prefer the modern instruments by a large margin. >
Bob, where do you get this idea from?

Robert Sherman wrote (January 27, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] My own experience. Try it yourself. To keep the experiment controlled, the number of instruments should be about the same. Strictly confine your description of the recordings to "This is A, and this is B", no more or you will prejudice the case.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (January 27, 2004):
[To Robert Sherman] And how scientific is that? The outcome depends entirely on the existing aesthetic preferences (whether known or unknown to you) of those being "tested".

Donald Satz wrote (January 27, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote:
< And how scientific is that? The outcome depends entirely on the existing aesthetic preferences (whether known or unknown to you) of those being "tested". >
There's nothing scientific going on here, but the subject is frustrating in that we are still discussing HIP vs. modern when all the evidence clearly reveals that both approaches have great support and can co-exist with all getting what they want. Unfortunately, human fear and territorial ways continue to obstruct a reasonable resolution of the matter. Folks need to accept reality and respect the preferences of others.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 27, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Right. My point is only that if you expose people to the music of the performance while keeping the musicological considerations unknown to them, the result will be very different than if they know which performance is considered trendy. This of course applies to general lovers of "classical" music who are not familiar with the HIP debate. That describes most listeners, although probably few or none on this list.

Donald Satz wrote (January 27, 2004):
Robert Sherman wrote to Donald Satz:
< Agreed, except for the part about "all getting what they want.". The problem that bothers Davis is that he's not invited to conduct Bach, and the corollary problem that bothers me is that there are hardly any world-class modern-instrument new recordings for me to buy and enjoy, or live performances to hear. Of course I respect those with different views than mine. I just wish their hold on the public mind weren't pushing me into cultural starvation. I can hear many great modern-instrument recordings from the 60s through the 80s, but recorded sound quality is so much better now and I have few opportunities to benefit from it.
Anyway, thanks for your many positive and sensible posts. ?
My statement about "getting all we want" is becoming harder for both HIP and Modern fans. Once the Bach Anniversary dried up, the frequency of new Bach recordings took a nosedive for everyone. Yet, there was a recent Hillary Hahn disc with orchestra, a Lara St. James with orchestra, and a Murray Perahia with orchestra. Record companies evidently will record Bach on modern instruments when they feel the artist's marketability is a sure thing - they are so adventurous. Personally, I want new recordings of Bach's organ msuic on historical organs. Yet, my local Borders only carries Bach organ discs made before and during the Bach Anniversary. That's why I was thrilled when MusicWeb sent me a two-disc set of Bach organ music performed by Gillian Weir. Though not on a historical organ, I'll take any Bach organ recording at this point in time - I'm hungry.

Sorry, but I have zero empathy for Colin Davis for two reasons. First, he doesn't need to get invitations to conduct Bach. All he has to do is use his LPO and its label to do so - no invits. necessary. This puts him in a very enviable position. Davis wanted to record again a slew of Berlioz works - he did it. He wanted to record again the last three Dvorak Symphonies - he did it. If he ever really wants to record Bach - he'll do it. Instead of bitching, Davis should consider himself most fortunate. Just because there's a "Sir" in front of his name doesn't mean that all his desires will be granted.

The second reason is that Davis has no reason to expect concert managers or record companies to think of him when they want some Bach. His track record on Bach isn't much, his big reputation being founded on performances of the classical and romantic era works - Haydn, Mozart, Berlioz, etc.For what it's worth, I consider Davis just about supreme when it comes to Haydn and Mozart, but I wouldn't part with one cent to buy a Bach recording of his.

I would bet any amount of money that if Otto Klemperer was still alive and kicking, he would get plenty of offers to conduct Bach. He's got the discography and praise - Davis does not.

Robert Sherman wrote(January 27, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] Fair enough, although consider also that Davis has recorded two outstanding Messiahs. Perhaps somebody should ask him why he doesn't do Bach with his LP).

Gabriel Jackson wrote (January 27, 2004):
Robert Sherman writes:
< My point is only that if you expose people to the music of the performance while keeping the musicological considerations unknown to them, the result will be very different than if they know which performance is considered trendy. This of course applies to general lovers of "classical" music who are not familiar with the HIP debate. That describes most listeners, although probably few or none on this list. >
It is a point entirely without serious foundation though. Playing two recordings, one with modern insruments and one with period instruments, of the same piece to an unspecified number of people, unscientifically selected, demonstrates nothing more than the aesthetic preferences of those individuals (whether they are aware of the "HIP" debate or not). It certainly doesn't support your original conjecture that most people prefer modern instruments in this repertoire.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (January 27, 2004):
Matthew Westphal writes:
< Colin Davis is the chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. If he wants to conduct the LSO in the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), surely he could program it. >
A couple of years or so ago Colin Davis did conduct the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) at the Three Choirs Festival with a "hand-picked" "orchestra" (including people like Steven Isserlis), and the BBC Singers. I can't remember who any of the soloists were. It was bradcast on Radio 3 at the time. I didn't hear it, but I recall it was well received.

Uri Golomb wrote (January 27, 2004):
Although it is undeniable that there are fewer modern-instrument Bach recordings and concerts around, I still find Colin Davis's statement surprising. The Philharmonia Orchestra has invited Andras Schiff to conduct them in Bach (including the SMP (BWV 244)) not too long ago; Simon Rattle did a highly acclaimed (if controversial) SJP (BWV 245) at the Berlin Philharmonic. I also had the good fortune of hearing Claudio Abbado's often superb performance of the Mass in B minor (BWV 232) (I know the Universal -- the owner of Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and Philips -- owns the rights to that recording, and I'm surprised they don't bother to release it. Surely the extra costs of putting it on international release are negligible, considering the fact that the recording has already been made and mastered, and the limited-issue CD I obtained even contains a full set of liner notes!)

For what it's worth, I've heard Colin Davis's SMP (BWV 244) on the radio; it was a very moving, lyrical perforamnce, but I would have preferred something with more drama -- at times, it seemed too calm. I should also note that several "modern" Bach performances (including the afore-mentioned Schiff and Abbado -- and probalby Rattle too, though I haven't heard it) clearly reveal the influence of HIP practices, something which people like Robert Sherman might not necessarily welcome.

Steven Guy wrote (January 27, 2004):
I have worked in music shops in Adelaide and Melbourne, in Australia since 1986. I have served a large number of people - from aficionados of HIP to those who avoid it. Most of the people I have dealt with are either in the middle or have no strong feelings either way.\

I have noticed that with Baroque and Renaissance music in general, the Aussie public will almost always chose period instruments in recordings over modern instruments if given the choice. I cannot say how many times I have sold recordings of the Academy of Ancient Music, Hespèrion XX, The English Concert, Les Arts Florissants, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and so on, simply because I have been playing them in the shop for myself! (I have even avoided playing these groups at times because I have wanted to keep a recording for myself!)

Take the Brandenburg Concertos, for example. I have always found that among the 'safest' and most 'customer friendly' recordings is the one made by The English Concert directed by Trevor Pinnock. Recently, Il Giardino Armonico's recording has been popular.

As for The Four Seasons of Vivaldi, I have always found that customers prefer lively period instrument recordings rather than the schmaltzy recordings of so many modern chamber orchestras. The current popularity of composers like Jean-Philippe Rameau, Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Jean-Baptiste Lully has been based on period instrument/HIP recordings.

Groups like Concerto Palatino, Musica Fiata and the Gabrieli Consort have made delightful and moving recordings of earlier Baroque and Renaissance music - making imaginative and splendid recording modern brass players have never even dreamt of! If I happen to be playing music by these groups in my shop I am almost guaranteed of a sale.

I cannot speak for American or European consumers but it is very clear to me that HIP/period instrument recordings can fire the imaginations of even novice music lover in Australia - who often, probably subconsciously, suspect that they will get a dull, dry and square interpretation from a modern orchestra. I talk to my customers and ask them to come back and tell me what they thought of a recording they bought. I have never had any negative comments made about a period instrument recording in my life (I only get those here! ;-))

About ten years ago a young and pretty girl who worked in an office in Melbourne came in Discurio (the shop where I worked) looking for some music to play for relaxation at home. I happened to be playing the Vespers of Monteverdi – the Jordi Savall recording - through the shop's sound system. She wandered around and listened to a lot of recordings on the headphones (modern instrument recordings, New Age music, crossover stuff). In the end she came up to me and asked me what was playing in the shop. I told her and she bought the recording. She came back a week later and cleared us out of Jordi Savall CDs.

This is a mere anecdote but it proved to me that HIP/Period Instrument recordings can be appreciated by anyone - with an open mind. I wonder how open our minds are?

Stephen Benson wrote (January 27, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote:
< There's nothing scientific going on here, but the subject is frustrating in that we are still discussing HIP vs. modern when all the evidence clearly reveals that both approaches have great support and can co-exist with all getting what they want. Unfortunately, human fear and territorial ways continue to obstruct a reasonable resolution of the matter. Folks need to accept reality and respect the preferences of others. >
Well said! And might I add that many individuals, for different reasons, appreciate performances from both ends of the HIP/modern continuum. Some things work better in the HIP idiom, some work better in the modern idiom, and many provide equally rewarding, but different, listening experiences in both.

Metthew Westphal wrote (January 27, 2004):
Robert Sherman says:
>>>
Offer people a choice between hearing baroque music on allegedly authentic instruments or on modern instruments -- this applies to concerts and recordings equally -- and a large majority will choose the allegedly authentic instruments.So [period-instrument Bach is] what's performed and recorded, to meet what the public thinks is its taste. This is Matthew's point, and he's right.
<<<
No. That was Bob's point, perhaps, but it was not my point at all.

My point was only what I said. If Davis complains that Bach has been "completely hijacked by the early music brigade" and that no one would think of asking him to conduct it, it sounds to me like he's angling for someone -- possibly the Orchestra of the Age of E, as it's the major period-instrument orchestra in London that invites prominent mainstream conductors to its podium -- to ask him to conduct Bach.

(It's worth remembering, by the way, that the "nobody would think of asking him to conduct it" is Michael Berkeley's paraphrase -- presumably accurate, but not a direct quote from Davis.)

Colin Davis is the chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. If he wants to conduct the LSO in the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), surely he could program it.

Personally, I'd like to see the OAE invite Davis to conduct some Berlioz -- and then compare the result with his Berlioz with the LSO.

William D. Kasimer wrote (January 28, 2004):
< My point is only that if you expose people to the music of the performance while keeping the musicological considerations unknown to them, the result will be very different than if they know which performance is considered trendy. >
You're suggesting, of course, that people who are aware of those "musicological considerations" might prefer HIP for no other reason beyond the fact that it's "trendy. Do you think that it's unlikely that someone might actually prefer the sounds and choices made by HIP performers? If so, I can assure you that this isn't the case, based on my own observations.

Johan van Veen wrote (January 28, 2004):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< Agreed, except for the part about "all getting what they want.". The problem that bothers Davis is that he's not invited to conduct Bach, and the corollary problem that bothers me is that there are hardly any world-class modern-instrument new recordings for me to buy and enjoy, or live performances to hear. >
I can understand you feelings, but what I can't understand is that some people - not necessarily you - are blaming the wrong people for that situation. Whose 'fault' is it that there are no recordings anymore of the kind you prefer?

In the end it is the law of supply and demand which decides what kind of recordings are made. I can imagine that concert organisers believe non-HIP performances don't attract large enough audiences. Maybe you and people like you have to make your preferences more clear to them. How else will they know what you prefer?

William D. Kasimer wrote (January 28, 2004):
< There's nothing scientific going on here, but the subject is frustrating in that we are still discussing HIP vs. modern when all the evidence clearly reveals that both approaches have great support and can co-exist with all getting what they want. >
This discussion also suggests that too many people, both performers and fans, are quick to blame something about "the system" for their own lack of accomplishments and missed opportunities. To my ears, Davis' problem isn't that he's not "HIP" - his problem is that he's not a very interesting conductor (that's only my opinion, of course - others may certainly hear him differently), and really doesn't have much of a track record in Baroque music outside of "Messiah".

The same applies to HIP performers. I've read complaints by particular HIP performers or their fans that people are critical of them because they're "HIP", when the reason for criticism is actually that they're not very accomplished performers, regardless of their HIPness. Incompetent, unimaginative singing and playing is unpleasant to hear, regardless of the label that one puts on it.

< Unfortunately, human fear and territorial ways continue to obstruct a reasonable resolution of the matter. Folks need to accept reality and respect the preferences of others. >
Amen...

Gabriel Jackson wrote (January 28, 2004):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< Of course I respect those with different views than mine. I just wish their hold on the public mind weren't pushing me into cultural starvation. I can hear many great modern-instrument recordings from the 60s through the 80s, but recorded sound quality is so much better now and I have few opportunities to benefit from it. >
Bob, I think the true situation is that most listeners nowadays do want "period" performances of Bach both on record and in concert. (And what richness and diversity of aproach exists within the "period" movement!) It sounds as if you think there is some conspiracy to foist such performances on a reluctant public, which is odd. Surely, listeners' tastes have changed over the last 20 years - which would not be particularly surprising. I think you are assuming your own (perfectly legitimate) preference for performances of this repertoire on modern instruments would be shared by most other people, if they were given the chance, but there is no real evidence for that.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 28, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote:
< I can understand you feelings, but what I can't understand is that some people - not necessarily you - are blaming the wrong people for that situation. Whose 'fault' is it that there are no recordings anymore of the kind you prefer?
In the end it is the law of supply and demand which decides what kind of recordings are made. I can imagine that concert organisers believe non-HIP performances don't attract large enough audiences. Maybe you and people like you have to make your preferences more clear to them. How else will they know what you prefer?
Fair enough. I do everything I can to make my preferences clear, including through this list. But I am, I admit, in the minority. >
Fair enough. I do everything I can to make my preferences clear, including through this list. But I am, I admit, in the minority.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 28, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb] Thanks, Uri, I wish I had heard those performances.

Not that it matters that much what I welcome, but I like most HIP performance practices quite a bit. It's the wind instruments I don't like.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (January 28, 2004):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< I do everything I can to make my preferences clear, including through this list. But I am, I admit, in the minority. >
....which is not, Bob, what your original post asserted!

Donald Satz wrote (January 28, 2004):
[To Steven Guy] Considering Steven a most reasonable and fair-minded man, I am surprised that he wrote that last paragraph below. I think that comments like that can't possibly help achieve any positive results. On the contrary, they can lead to hurt feelings, the opening of old wounds, and nasty postings.

I don't know to what degree open or closed minds have to do with dislike of HIP anymore than I do the degree that a closed mind has concerning dislike of modernist music. Further, very few folks are entirely closed or open minded. Most of us have our closed and open areas - we're just people.

I'm entirely closed when it comes to trying new foods, and I sure don't want anybody giving me grief about it. Take me as I am or don't bother at all.

Bob Henderson wrote (January 28, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] The law of supply and demand might in the short term determine what recordings are made and marketed. But:

1. In the long term the music which survives and which is played is determined not by audience or even record companies. Musicians have been the repository and the advocate of the music they enjoy playing and they in the long term determine what we shall hear and enjoy. Think of Mendelsohn and Bach.

2. The HIP "movement" came about because musicians enjoyed the music and determined that in their education and ongoing experience that this is how they wanted to play this music. There was no audience for HIP before HIP. The various ensembles, chamber players, in the various and international music school students created HIP because they wanted to play early music this way. The audience followed.

3. Those who look to the pre HIP as a kind of Golden Age might recall how few recordings of early music were available at that time to most of us. However good or not. The HIP "movement" has meant a huge increase in the number and various kind of early music available to the listener. We do indeed live in a time of riches. The catalogue circa 1970 simply does not compare with that of 2004.

4. A star such as Colin Davis could conduct Bach .

Johan van Veen wrote (Ja28, 2004):
Bob Henderson wrote:
< The law of supply and demand might in the short term determine what recordings are made and marketed. But:
1. In the long term the music which survives and which is played is determined not by audience or even record companies. Musicians have been the repository and the advocate of the music they enjoy playing and they in the long term determine what we shall hear and enjoy. Think of Mendelsohn and Bach. >
You are right, but that wasn't the point. That wasn't about the music, but about the style of performance. Whether a certain approach is surviving or not depends to a large extent to the interest of the market, meaning: the audience. If the audience doesn't like 'traditional' performances, that kind of performances will die down. And if the audience hadn't shown any interest in HIP-performances, those wouldn't have been as successfull as they are now.

And in our time record companies play an important role. When a company like Telefunken - as it was called in those days - hadn't had the courage to start the series 'Das Alte Werk', the historical performance practice would have remained a marginal phenomenon for some time, and maybe even - who knows - for ever.

But musicians who really believe in their approach shouldn't knuckle under. Although most people around Mendelssohn who admired Bach didn't see any realistic chance of performing his SMP (BWV 244), Mendelssohn didn't give up. That is why I wrote that if Rilling isn't invited, for example here in the Netherlands, he should take the initiative and book the Concertgebouw and play. Only then we will see how many - or few - people will be interested in what he has to offer.

< 2. The HIP "movement" came about because musicians enjoyed the music and determined that in their education and ongoing experience that this is how they wanted to play this music. There was no audience for HIP before HIP. The various ensembles, chamber players, in the various and international music school students created HIP because they wanted to play early music this way. The audience followed. >
How can you prove that? Don't you think some people will have listened to performances of Bach which were fashionable before the HIP-era and returned home unsatisfied, because they believed there had to be more than was offered?

When the first HIP performance were taking place over here, very few people had any experience with it, and most of them may have heard something about it, without actually having heard it. Nevertheless such concerts were sold out. People travelled from the whole country to the first live appearance of Concentus musicus in the 1960's.

There was definitely a breeding ground for HIP performances.

And I know from my own experience that I never liked music of the 19th century before representatives of the historical performance practice started to take care of that music as well. If that kind of performances didn't exist I would never listen to Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn etc.

I believe the development of performance practice is two-way traffic: musicians do influence the perception of the audience, but the preferences of the audiences also influence the musicians. The HIP movement would never have been so successfull if the audiences hadn't encouraged the musicians to play that way.

< 3. Those who look to the pre HIP as a kind of Golden Age might recall how few recordings of early music were available at that time to most of us. However good or not. The HIP "movement" has meant a huge increase in the number and various kind of early music available to the listener. We do indeed live in a time of riches. The catalogue circa 1970 simply does not compare with that of 2004. >
Exactly. The representatives of the 'old school' have never been very creative in regard to repertoire. Don't you think they may have had less trouble in keeping their approach alive if they had been more adventurous in their programming and had digged out unknown works from the archives instead of playing Bach, Handel and Vivaldi over and over again?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (January 28, 2004):
Johan van Veen writes:
< Don't you think some people will have listened to performances of Bach which were fashionable before the HIP-era and returned home unsatisfied, because they believed there had to be more than was offered? >
That is precisely my experience Johan. As a child in early 1970s, I found the kind of "big-band" - modern instruments, overly large numbers of strings, stodgy tempi, little articulation etc. - performances of Baroque music that were still very prevalent then indescribably turgid and tedious and assumed it was the fault of the music. It wasn't till my father acquired Harnoncourt's early 70s recording of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) that my ears were opened and Bach suddenly made sense for the first time.

Steven Guy wrote (January 28, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote:
< Considering Steven a most reasonable and fair-minded man, I am surprised that he wrote that last paragraph below. I think that comments like that can't possibly help achieve any positive results. On the contrary, they can lead to hurt feelings, the opening of old wounds, and nasty postings. >
Maybe people's minds here are very open minded? The 'our' includes me - I might be closed-minded one? Perhaps I framed the question a little wrongly? Maybe I should have said that we all have the benefit of a lot of experience with Bach and Baroque music in general. In the light of this, it is hard for us to hear the the music as a layman would. Everyone has prejudices about music. I know I have mine!

< I don't know to what degree open or closed minds have to do with dislike of HIP anymore than I do the degree that a closed mind has concerning dislike of modernist music. >
Some people on this group seem to dislike the concept of HIP very much. I am not interested in participating in debating this issue anymore (it doesn't bother me if others do). There is a feeling held by some people - perhaps not by any members of this group - that there is no such thing as objective truth in music and that everything is relative. I can only speak for myself in saying that I do not believe in relativism - especially in regards to pre-Classical music and I do feel that there are some things our contemporary society tends to impose, either consciously or subconsciously, which are not appropriate for Baroque music.

The only real point I wished to make is that novice music lovers often choose HIP recordings if they are given the opportunity to hear them. People who have no idea about the debates concerning these issues will quite happily buy recordings of music which are played at in way that we strongly suspect Bach would recognise and accept. I work in a shop that sells recordings of music of everything from Machaut to Messiaen and I don't have the time or inclination to lecture my customers on the pros and cons of HIP - but I notice what people buy.

< Further, very few folks are entirely closed or open minded. Most of us have our closed and open areas - we're just people. >
Of course, but we're all fairly well aware of all the issues. I didn't mean to suggest that we are all closed minded. Maybe some of us are and some aren't? I cannot even speak for myself in this regard - it is hard to be objective about oneself. Sorry if I offended anyone!

< I'm entirely closed when it comes to trying new foods, and I sure don't want anybody giving me grief about it. Take me as I am or don't bother at all. >
I am not a fan of French cuisine but I love champagne, wine and Rameau. Is it authentic or, indeed, 'HIP', to eat sushi, drink champagne and listen to Les Indes Galantes - all at the same time? ;-)

I do try to understand other points of view and incorporate them into my world view if I can understand or accept them. I am afraid to admit that I often fail at this task. A few years ago I started buying a lot of avant-garde 20th century music - not because I 'love it' or anything like that, because I had ignored it for so long and I was curious and I didn't want my young son to get the impression that music ended with Beethoven (I am trying to give him a more universal view of music than me). I have found that I like certain 'modern' composers now very much. The Second Viennese school (Berg, Webern and Schoenberg) are among my favourites - and this is the music my parents warned me about! ;-)) I also like Ives, Stockhausen, Messiaen, Boulez, Poulenc, Bartók and Shostakovich - okay, I know that they aren't really 'contemporary' any more! I don't mind and often love the music of Glass, Reich, Schnittke, Adams, Lou Harrison, Sculthorpe, Górecki, Pärt and Hovhaness - and at least most of these blokes are still alive! If you asked me what I thought of this stuff in the late 1980s I would have probably told you that I don't go in for all that 'crazy modern music'!

Around ten years ago I also discovered that I'd neglected French Baroque music in my CD collection. I am now a big fan of this music.

Maybe we don't change very much over the years but I think we are all more than capable of trying new flavours - if we want to. I still don't like French cooking and in that respect, people will have to put up with me as I am. I'm a bit of a jerk, really, Don. I sometimes think I understand something and then I discover I have missed the point. My friends at work think of me as 'scatter-brained'.

Donald Satz wrote (January 29, 2004):
[To Steven Guy] My wife doesn't think I'm scatter-brained, but she does feel that I'm a poor visual observer. Her prime evidence is a large church I go by every day to work. The only problem is that more than ten years went by before I realized there was any building there at all, and the structure takes up most of a block. I concentrate on driving.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 29, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote:
< That is precisely my experience Johan. As a child in early 1970s, I found the kind of "big-band" - modern instruments, overly large numbers of strings, stodgy tempi, little articulation etc. - performances of Baroque music that were still very prevalent then indescribably turgid and tedious and assumed it was the fault of the music. It wasn't till my father acquired Harnoncourt's early 70s recording of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) that my ears were opened and Bach suddenly made sense for the first time. >
IMO Gabriel's point of view is widely shared - Steven said more or less the same thing - but only half correct.

It is certainly true that most pre-HIP baroque performances generally used excessively large numbers of players, used playing practices better suited that treated Bach as pseudo-Brahms, and had no feeling for what baroque can be. It is good that we are putting all that behind us.

But that's an entirely different issue from the choice of instruments. We can regain and illuminate the essence of baroque without burdening ourselves with the limitations of Bach's instruments.

OK, I've done enough talking about this. I will post examples to illustrate my point.

Donald Satz wrote (January 29, 2004):
[To Robert Sherman] To people who enjoy period instrument performances, there are no net burdens or limitations. Just as modern instruments have things to offer that period instruments do not, it's reasonable to remember that it's a vice-versa situation.

Johan van Veen wrote (January 29, 2004):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< But that's an entirely different issue from the choice of instruments. We can regain and illuminate the essence of baroque without burdening ourselves with the limitations of Bach's instruments. >
What 'limitations' do you mean? There is no reason to believe Bach felt 'limited' by the instruments of his time. So why should we when we perform his music? Unless you want to get something from his music Bach himself didn't put into it.

And as far as the use of modern instruments is concerned: there are ensembles which use modern instruments and try to play - as far as possible - according to the principles of the historical performance practice, sometimes quite convincingly.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 29, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote:
"there are ensembles which use modern instruments and try to play - as far as possible - according to the principles of the historical performance practice, sometimes quite convincingly."
The success or otherwise depends on the HIP principles they are employing.

I am always disappointed when when they try to imitate the "meowing" strings of period ensembles, or use excessive contrasts of articulation, all of which are foreign to modern instruments.

Bach's music responds so well to modern cantabile, and legato articulation that is sensitively phrased.

Other HIP principles, such as appropriately-sized ensembles (not too large), brightness and transparency (clarity), are of course desirable.

I'm surprised that Sir Colin Davis can't do anything he wants to, in the music world. If I were him I would be doing a complete traversal of Bach's cantatas, building on the finest realisations from the recordings of Richter and Rilling, and remedying their faults.

Recently, the Sydney S.O. gave an electrifying non-HIP performance of the 3rd Brandenburg, enthusiastically received by the audience; I can see no reason why anyone in charge of a modern ensemble, including Sir Colin, ought to feel comstrained by HIP considerations, judging by the reaction of this audience in the Sydney Opera House.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (January 29, 2004):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< We can regain and illuminate the essence of baroque without burdening ourselves with the limitations of Bach's instruments. >
But thy're not a burden to an awful lot of peformers and listeners.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (January 29, 2004):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< It is certainly true that most pre-HIP baroque performances generally used excessively large numbers of players, used playing practices better suited that treated Bach as pseudo-Brahms, and had no feeling for what baroque can be. It is good that we are putting all that behind us.
But that's an entirely different issue from the choice of instruments >
It's a different issue, but very closely related, in that an inapproprate playing style and modern instruments almost always went hand in hand.

 

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