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HIP (Historically Informed Performance)

Part 10

Continue from Part 9

Bach in the 21 cent-the 2 performance traditions

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 129 - Discussions

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (May 28, 2003):
Neil Halliday wrote: < The fact that baroque music (Bach's especially) sounds so good on modern instruments using the more straightforward articulation appropriate for such instruments, simply means we will have to accomodate two performance traditions for the forseeable future. >
I find it quite humourous (CDN, British spelling) that we've developed into studying the studying!

Anyway, to study these studies, I earnestly hope that the accomodation of the "two performance traditions" is not in a forseeable future, but a forseeable present. Unfortunately, those that accomodate both HIP and non-HIP seem to be somewhat rare, and those that are one-sided tend to be quite vocal (sound familiar? kinda like North American politics!). I guess it's a matter of where one's artistic inspiration is from, modern perceptions or those of history.

But I can only accomodate one kind of performance: an emotionally stimulating, attention grabbing and ultimately memorable one.

An old Vulcan proverb: "Only Nixon could go to China" (Spock, Star Trek VI-the greatest film there is, and like "fence-breakers" such as myself, it has only a cult following).

Bach in the 21 cent-the *3* performance traditions (at least)

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 28, 2003):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Matthew has said some good things here. I'd like to elucidate them, and suggest that they be taken farther.

First, those two most obvious traditions or camps:

- "HIP": approach the music by looking forward from its own past. Bach's (or whosever) music is firmly of its time, and perhaps a culmination or crystallization of contemporary trends. It still has relevance today, of course. The strength of this approach is to present the music with the vividness it "must have" had when new: this was the modern, or sometimes the mildly conservative (in Bach's case) stuff, fresh, the ink not yet dry, and people doing their darndest to perform it in the traditions they knew. By resurrecting those same traditions, as far as can be determined, we today can experience that similar newness, the music bursting out of whatever came before it.

- "Non-HIP": approach the music from a backward-looking view, reverse history, with an emphasis on its later influence. Bach's (or whosever) music has inspired many people, including ourselves, and we feel it is our own. It is old music, and its chief value (when we resurrect it) is that a chunk of our own culture has been based upon it. It has stood the test of time. This music is in many ways more reserved than the music that has come after it; and the way to present it appropriately is to treat it gently as a harbinger of later traditions. Generic music skills are sufficient to present the music appropriately; one does not have to look into the specific 17th or 18th century techniques that the composers and their contemporaries learned as apprentices; generic 20th century technique gives us something we enjoy.

I suggest there's also (at least) a third distinct group here, neither "HIP" nor "Non-HIP". I know I'm in this third group, and I'd suggest that some others (most obviously, Aryeh and Matthew) also are. That is, as Matthew put it so well, "I can only accommodate one kind of performance: an emotionally stimulating, attention grabbing and ultimately memorable one." For want of a better term, I suggested Gestural Performance, and Brad B. (on the BRML) eagerly embraced it for himself as well. Here are the things I wrote recently about authenticity, and about a gestural performance manner:

(about authenticity, and labeling)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/4948
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/5100

(about what gestural performance is, and practicality)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/5126
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/5122

If I must be saddled with a binary choice (and I HATE binary choices, everywhere--I'm just the kind of guy who will never be limited to binary choices!) between "HIP" and "Non-HIP" I would obviously choose "HIP"--I feel that that avenue of inquiry gets us more "inside the head of the composer" in sparking imagination about how to approach the works. But "Non-HIP"--and general musicality--also have plenty to contribute, especially in the frank acknowledgment that all listeners are modern and will hear music according to long-established habits. (Some of the value of "HIP" is--or was, a decade or two ago--its shock value, forcing people to confront assumptions they thought they knew as true. But we digress.)

All this stuff is summed up well in the book of essays Text and Act by Richard Taruskin. I remember very well my experience of first reading his article "The Crooked Straight and the Rough Places Plain, Alas" in Opus magazine, 1986. (It's reproduced in Text and Act, its title shorn of the word "Alas".) I read it numerous times, along with anything else I could find by Taruskin, and this (in part) inspired me to get to grad school sooner rather than later. (At the time I had already been accepted into the program, but still needed to save up money several more years before going.) Authenticity is not just one group of sounds vs a different group of sounds. And I wanted to find out everything I could about it, first-hand. That's what grad school is for: trying things new to oneself, and learning how to formulate informed and balanced opinions about things.

I went into grad school opposed to Italian music--or what I knew of Italian music, anyway, which was based mainly on bad performances of Vivaldi and his ilk. I even remember telling one of my professors that, up front, that I didn't fancy Italian music. And I thought I knew Bach's very well, especially; I'd already studied it through my entire musical life. Over the next few years, though, as I studied the music of the 16th and 17th and early 18th centuries (Italian, French, Spanish, and German)...I began to see much better where Bach (and indeed Vivaldi et al) were coming from, to recognize those older trends within their music, and I gradually realized that all that older music was a hell of a lot more expressive than I had ever given it credit for. (And so is Vivaldi's.) And Bach's has a lot more in it than I had suspected. The music, and the treatises (from Diruta, Frescobaldi, Muffat, many others, on into the 18th century), and the debates c1600 about _prima prattica_ and _seconda prattica_...all that stuff fell better into place for me, and I found that it really turned me on. I had approached all keyboard music with generic 20th century fingerings and phrasing; now I scrapped that and took the older methods seriously: 16th and 17th century dynamics, tempo fluctuations, fingering, phrasing, declamatory manner, everything. And it works. I worked with many other students of various instruments (and voice), under the tutelage of expert professors, and we all did those same things: going back to the ways those 17th/18th century people themselves learned music (including composition and improvisation), as a craft, and taking the available instructions seriously, not as antiquated or inferior methods. (Believe me, it's hard to undo 20 years of keyboard fingering habits.) I also eventually played with the professors themselves, as colleagues in gigs. And all these things from the various voices and instruments work together, and the music makes sense.

The process of all this was very stimulating: it enriched my imagination to think as those musical craftsmen 300 years ago thought...forward in their own tradition, rather than backward from mine. Nobody haa time machine; a backward sense of history is a peculiarity. (But I feel I do understand that backward-looking method, too, as I spent my first 25 years firmly within it.) Among the more important things I learned is that the markings in scores do not AUTOMATICALLY mean anything, whether they are familiar-looking articulation marks or dynamic indications or fermatas or character words (such as "lentement") or whatnot. Everything comes down to individual situations: look at ALL the available clues, and do something intelligent. (Practices imposed later, such as "terraced dynamics", simply put the music into descriptive boxes and ignore its expressive content...it reduces music to rules and patterns, just as any dogmatic approach to anything does. Dogmatism is wrong. ["Dogmatism is wrong" - what a self-defeating sentence! But it is.]

One has to consider all the notational choices available to a composer, in every situation separately, and try to get inside what he/she was thinking. It's a hazardous process, of course, but much more rewarding than simply applying some later rule of thumb. If "forte" is a default, then "piano" is the emphatic contrast that grabs attention...think about it! Anything outside a default is emphasis. Anything outside a default is expressive, and should be brought out. That's how the craft of musical communication works: attention is sustained by the performer's craft of bringing out every new (or surprising) feature in the music that is possible to bring out, every few seconds. A fresh phrase starts, or there is a registral contrast (high/low, or tone color shift), or the harmony gets especially rough or smooth, or we reach a major harmonic milestone in a progression, or a new articulation comes into play, or a sung text has words we haven't heard before...there are hundreds of things it could be. It is the performer's responsibility to notice all these (through analyzing the music and knowing the craft), and to find ways to bring out as many of them as possible. All the time. The performer identifies objectively verifiable events in the music, and then finds some convincing way to emphasize them; this requires both a deeply analytical mind and plenty of creative imagination, a rare combination. It requires an anti-dogmatic approach. It also requires the time to get to know the works more than superficially, more than the good level of sight-reading that passes (in some circles) as professional accomplishment. (And I myself am a very good sight-reader, but have found it necessary to UNTRAIN that skill in myself to get to know the works better!) Sight-reading is merely skimming the surface of the music, delivering an unreflective analysis of the sounds, a generic tour through the most immediately obvious features. The "unreflective" and the "generic" are the problems there.

This brings us back to the third way. The more deeply I got into the things that are frequently referred to as "HIP", the more I noticed that some of the most famous people in this field had embraced only the rudiments, and then rested comfortably on the great commercial success of that (which I think was in part due to its shock value, and as Taruskin has pointed out many times, the marketing hype of 'authenticity'--authentic is good, right?). A large part of the "HIP" field is just a fad, and only a half-assed use of the available information. That is: "HIP" (as commonly practiced by many people today) isn't good enough. It still doesn't communicate the music even half as strongly as can be done, and indeed as the old writers say WAS done. It just changes to a different set of defaults, and a different range of choices, while remaining just as boring as the other way was. It's just as unreflective and generic as "Non-HIP" is.

And that strong communication was still around, that craft of performance, into the first half of the 20th century (as Brookshire on the BRML and others have pointed out...much of this being traceable back to Taruskin). It has not a frippin' thing to do with adherence to "HIP" or "Non-HIP" style: it's about being musically communicative, and bringing out the music with strong character and intensity. Listen to Casals' recording of the Dvorak concerto, or Casals' Bach, or Casals in anything. Listen to Rachmaninoff and Cortot playing anything. These guys knew the craft of playing gesturally. So did Bing Crosby, who (probably unwittingly) followed Geminiani's rules of expression (published mid-18th century) better than just about anybody else in the 20th century. Why did Casals refuse to play the Bach suites in public until he had worked on them for 20 years (or whatever) first? Because he understood the necessity of getting inside the craftsmanship from the correct perspective. Ditto for Rachmaninoff, who had a relatively small performing repertoire (and who turned back to performing at all as a necessary way to earn a living), but
who then got so deeply inside the works that he brought out their features better than anybody. Good work counts.

Geminiani, Quantz, Couperin, plus the older 17th century treatises (about both singing and playing), plus the CPE Bach and Tuerk and Tartini and Leopold Mozart and Czerny etc etc etc after them...they were writing about MUSIC, not about 'galant music' or 'Baroque music' or 'Rococo music' or whatnot. Their relevance is not confined to the music fashionable in the year of their publication; and they were often writing about practices that had already been in place for many years. At one place in Geminiani's text he says that a particular technique of dissonance on the harpsichord is a "delicate and admirable Secret which has been in use above a hundred Years"; and similarly, Quantz' book is a codification of ALL the streams of influence that had informed music for at least a century. These guys knew what was part of the Italian taste, and the French taste, and the German taste, and various mixed tastes; and they synthesized all that into MUSIC. In short, these guys spelled out the art of musical communication, a specific craft. Sure, it evolved and sometimes went into tangents. But at its basis it's one solid craft, not many. It is speech in tones.

And that's what I tried to clarify here recently with that posting about "gestural performance - what is it?"
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/5126
This is not about music from any particular decade; it's about all tonal music, all music that's based on a balance of harmony and melodic lines. Some of it goes back even further than that, into the 16th century (madrigals, and Elizabethan instrumental music, and the mannerist stuff by Gesualdo and di Lasso). And it's valid all the way through Casals playing the Dvorak concerto, and Richard Rodgers' songs, and beyond. Music is music. (Any insinuations against that, any attempts to sequester the sources into tiny pockets of relevance so they can be dismissed out of hand, are just "fightin' words" to me, it really ticks me off; and unfortunately I get sucked into fighting about it, too easily, when I should instead be spending the time perfecting that art of communication in my own work.)

What relevance does all this have to Bach cantatas? To me, all the arguments about "HIP" vs "Non-HIP" are a waste of time, if the net result is a set of boring performances in either style; they're both wrong! Bach learned, and taught, his craft within an apprentice system. And some of the written materials from that system still exist, and I (among many others) have studied them. The craft of composition, improvisation, performance on multiple instruments, singing, theoretical writing, tuning, copying music by hand...it's all THE SAME craft, not whacked apart by the (arguably more scientific) specialization that is more normal today. In my personal arrogance I feel that people who do not do ALL those things (compose, improvise, perform in multiple media, tune, study theory, etc.) are not fully well-rounded musicians! (Not just here othis Internet discussion list, but everywhere.) This, unfortunately, puts me into an extremely small minority. But Bach did all those things, and to understand him (as a role model) I think we should do them all also, and learn it from the perspective of his own background (the 17th century methods) rather than our own. Learn it fresh. Anything less than that "walking in Bach's own shoes" is just the preferential opinions of outsiders looking in, and telling us how to do our jobs. Very frustrating...especially when it's done with a knowingly skewed presentation, omitting portions of a text to make that text appear to support points it does not. (That's just dishonest scholarship, and extremely annoying...but we've been through all this before, too many times, how much I loathe and disagree with the selective "research" presented here; I disagree with both the dogmatism and the methods....)

The opinions of "outsiders" (people who haven't gone through the experience of all of Bach's hands-on experiences with music; that is, just about everybody) have value, of course, especially in reflecting how the work is actually coming across. But the debates all boil down to one preference against another against another, if it doesn't come from INSIDE that craft that Bach was a part of, and that I feel I am also a part of. I'm terribly arrogant about this; I know I'm ticking off just about everybody by claiming to have a more direct insight into the music than most people do. But it's a language and a craft that I have worked very hard to understand, and cultivate, from both sides of its historical context (forward and backward). And I believe I have some role in it, both as a practitioner to develop the principles farther, and as one who can explain (with an uncommon level of clarity) and demonstrate what it's about. Again, what about the Bach cantatas (which is the reason we're here, not to hear me blather)? Frankly I feel that there have been very few (if any!) recordings that come close to the things I find in the music. It's just a sorry state where we're all picking personal preferences among a set of choices, all mediocre choices at best. That's crass. But that's how I feel about it. I do like some recordings better than others, and in my reviews here I've tried to say why, specifically. I hope that's been helpful.

But again, I feel that overall it's a waste of my time to get more deeply into this, to contribute regularly; there are more important things (to me) that I have to go do. And online debates with a certain dilettante are even more a waste of time and energy: mine, his, and everybody else's. Dogmatism is wrong, at its basis, so it's fruitless to debate one dogmatic point against another, especially when the debates turn into dishonest and illogical butchering of the sources.... Back to the cantatas themselves: it's valuable to get to know the Bach cantatas; but I feel the available recordings are misleading...all of them! They are too tempered by a need for commercial success, the need for a record to sell itself through reputation or through pleasing the consumer. Half-assed craftsmanship (whether done deliberately or not) sells better than really fine work does; it's less challenging, and it can stand the wear and tear of daily use without so much fear of breaking it. That's just the way the marketplace works: mediocre stuff is more widely popular than good stuff. (The clerk at K Mart told me last night, when I complained about the poor dishpan I was buying since there weren't any other choices on their shelves: "Sir, this is K Mart." She's right. But we digress.) It's interesting to discuss the work that is available, and to try to sift some value from it; that's the strength of this discussion group. But, since I feel my opinions are misplaced here (this isn't a forum about performance practice, after all, and most members here aren't practitioners; and probably only a few of us here know what "RILM" is), that's why I'm no longer contributing specific opinions about the musical points. It's the wrong forum. And I have no interest in other discussion groups where it would just be debate against dogmatists.

And one other thought about style, which should be obvious but I'll point it out anyway: the Bach cantatas are not prima prattica austere stuff, along the 16th century pattern of Palestrina, with vocal lines (only) and sober counterpoint. They are some of the most colorful seconda prattica (i.e., really Baroque in a 17th century manner) stuff around, with vivid effects and contrasts from moment to moment, always something happening, always something that can be brought to the listener's attention. If they're not performed that way, they're not being presented to their potential; and they can quickly lapse into being boring. Yes, Bach also wrote in that "stile antico" occasionally, but as a special effect to contrast with the more default profile of his own music! Bach knew how to draw a good contrast, as well as anybody...and better than most people. Any performance that irons the music out, making his contrasts too subtle, does a disservice to the music's content....

Once again I'll borrow Matt's words from below: an adequate performance is an "emotionally stimulating, attention grabbing and ultimately memorable one". That's why I think that "HIP" (as usually practiced today) and "Non-HIP" are both wrong; they both don't communicate the music as well as it deserves. There's too much focus on style over substance, while the substance is what really should count. I guess I've made this point here enough times already, and I should now go work on things that bring income and better perfection of this gestural art (a mutually exclusive goal, unfortunately--but both take a lot of time, and the time I shouldn't spend further here for a while). Here I just wasted another day writing this, and I can't keep doing that.


"HIP" in music of Bach's predecessor, Georg Bohm...and in general

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 15, 2003):
< Bradley Lehman wrote: When as an organist I play a secular composition at some important liturgical moment in a church service, does it become a sacred piece? The character of the performance, and the selection of the music, has to suit the needs of the occasion.... For example, last Sunday I played part of Georg Bohm's Capriccio for an offertory, but the occasion didn't allow enough time for the whole piece, so I (on the spur of the moment) recomposed the ending (various cuts), and differently in the two services the same morning. And I chose different registrations for this Bohm piece than I might have done, had it been at a different point in the service or in a secular concert. >
And was it a "HIP" styled performance, either or both times? Does it matter? Who can say? I used 17th-century styles of fingering where it mattered, and a rhetorical approach to all the rhythms. And a large part of my training is in "historically informed" methods. But on the other hand, this was an organ built in 1997 and has all kinds of MIDI and other gadgetry on it (which I didn't use), and in equal temperament (something the composer and his contemporaries never would have heard), and has electronic circuitry transmitting the key movements to the pipes. Without that direct tactile control of the pallets, the interpretation and the fingering change somewhat; they have to, to make the best of the situation. (Like the differences between driving cars that have power steering and those that don't.) And the organ had a steady wind supply from an electric blower, not the more flexible and temperamental sound from hand-pumped bellows and a variable-wind design. All these modern technological "conveniences" made the instrument (and the piece) more regularized than it would have been for Bohm. And I didn't play the whole piece--that practical approach, in some sense, is more authentic than insisting on playing all of it as one would expect on a CD or in a concert. "Authentic" (to me) is making a performance fit the occasion as much as possible. Is it still HIP due to my training and attitudes, despite the differences in the instr? Does it matter? If the people who were there were moved in some way, isn't that what counts?

If Philippe Herreweghe conducts an a cappella piece, for example a motet by Byrd or Josquin, is it HIP? Why or why not? There isn't any instrumental hardware, so what makes it HIP or not? How do we know? If somebody else (say, Helmut Rilling or Richard Hickox) would conduct the same choir in the same piece, would it be more or less HIP than Herreweghe's? Why or why not? What would make the difference, if any? How about Norrington in the early part of his career, with the Schütz Choir and modern instruments in Bruckner? HIP or not? Was Elmer Iseler's work more HIP than Robert Shaw or Gregg Smith, but less HIP than Herreweghe or Norrington? Is Erwin Ortner a "HIP conductor" due to his collaborations with Harnoncourt? His singers did a beautiful job differentiating strong and weak notes in the secular choruses of Brahms, Teldec 92058....http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000000SL7

Johan van Veen wrote (July 15, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I think there is a fundamental difference between playing a piece of music during service abd in the concert hall. In service is has to fulfill a role as part of the liturgy. Performing a Bach cantata in the way it would have been performed at the beginning of the 20th century is certainly not 'HIP', but in a way 'authentic' in that it restores the old practice of Bach's time in which the cantata was a 'sermon on music'.

At the same time it is possible to argue that a very 'HIP'-performance of a Bach cantata in the concert hall is not very 'authenctic', since the sacred cantatas were not composed for performances on the concert platform.

As far as your example is concerned, your performance of Böhm's Capriccio was certainly noy 'HIP' - although 'HIP'-influenced as much as possible under the circumstances, but probably - I wasn't there, so I can't be sure - quite 'authentic'.

< If Philippe Herreweghe conducts an a cappella piece, for example a motet by Byrd or Josquin, is it HIP? Why or why not? There isn't any instrumental hardware, so what makes it HIP or not? How do we know? If somebody else (say, Helmut Rilling or Richard Hickox) would conduct the same choir in the same piece, would it be more or less HIP than Herreweghe's? Why or why not? What would make the difference, if any? How about Norrington in the early part of his career, with the Schütz Choir and modern instruments in Bruckner? HIP or not? Was Elmer Iseler's work more HIP than Robert Shaw or Gregg Smith, but less HIP than Herreweghe or Norrington? Is Erwin Ortner a "HIP conductor" due to his collaborations with Harnoncourt? His singers did a beautiful job differentiating strong and weak notes in the secular choruses of Brahms, Teldec 92058....http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000000SL7 >
I don't see why it would be impossible to assess whether a performance of a-cappella-works is 'HIP' or not. There are certain 'rules' as far as the performance is concerned, like tempo, the use of vibrato, articulation, accentuation of certain words etc.

I am sure that Herreweghe and Rilling would interpret an a-cappella-work quite differently.

And in renaissance music the 'real' 'HIP'-ensembles try to perform masses and motets differently, dependent on the country where the piece was originally performed and the style of singing used there (influenced by the language spoken). An ensemble like the Cappella Pratensis gives that a lot of thought, whereas Peter Phillips honestly says he is not interested in that kind of things, and therefore the performances of his Tallis Scholars more or less does sound identical, independent of composer, time or country.

For that reason I consider the Cappella Pratensis 'HIP', and the Tallis Scholars 'non-HIP' (only 'HIP'-influenced in some ways).

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (July 15, 2003):
< Johan van Veen wrote: And in renaissance music the 'real' 'HIP'-ensembles try to perform masses and motets differently, >dependent on the country where the piece was originally performed and the style of singing used >there (influenced by the language spoken). An ensemble like the Cappella Pratensis gives that a lot of thought >
I think that may be the real divider here-how much research has been done. In early music, it has been shown quite consistently that a performance where the performers haven't hit the books in preparation for the performance (and/or have not referred to those who have) is going to have quite a different result than those who have. For a broad example, either the documentation hadn't been discovered yet or none had been consulted to tell Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Orchestra to use notes inegales in the Sinfonia to Messiah in the vinyl recording I have (can't find the year). However, much documentation has been recovered on the distinct French style, and notes inegales has become standard.


So-called authencity

Francine Renee Hall wrote (July 22, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] You say that non-HIP is second-best, like having a translation of a novel instead of the original language. You also said a while back that you would not listen to Mahler unless gut strings are used, that you would get bored or perhaps even 'sick' if you heard modern strings. I find this strange because you heard Harnoncourt conduct Haydn's Creation on modern instruments through Amsterdam Radio (while I was there a few years back), and you didn't seem to complain. (This broadcast advertised that H. used "HIP sensibilities".) And Harnoncourt himself has said that we can only approximate what the original sounds might have been like. We can never know for sure. And to be frank, lots of HIP recordings are not HIP as they use adult voices instead of children's in many cantata interpretations (again, with HIP 'sensibilities'), as well as instrumental variety that Bach might find strange, such as is found in many HIP- oriented recordings of the Die Kunst der Fuge, for example.

I would be surprised if you responded. I know I am a far cry from a scholar; I'm merely a lover of music who does not have much as far as academics are concerned. I do my best, and I feel such great love and sensitivity to Bach's music.

Johan van Veen wrote (July 22, 2003):
[To Francine Renee Hall] I don't see any inconsitencies here. The performance by Harnoncourt you refer to is certainly not ideal - if there exists something 'ideal' in the performance of music. For me it is second best in comparison with performances on period instruments. But modern symphony orchestras will continue to play 18th and 19th century music - and that is understandable. Given that fact I prefer someone like Harnoncourt to conduct them in Haydn than a traditional conductor who is opposed to HIP.

And I certainly don't like modern instruments, but my appreciation is influenced by the way they are played. If modern instruments are played HIP-style as much as possible I can accept it - not as ideal, but as something better than the 'traditional' way. I make a clear exception for the piano - the modern concert grand is just a horrible instrument to my ears.

It is all a matter of perspective. Any performance and recording gives a random indication of the knowledge regarding the interpretation of music of the past. I have strong peferences for the use of all male ensembles in most pre-romantic sacred music, but I know that - for different reasons - it is not always going to happen. There are very few recordings I am completely satisfied with, but I don't think that should hold me back from enjoying the positive things they have to offer.

So, returning to Harnoncourt: the disappointing aspects of some of his performances are the use of modern instruments and the soloists (which are often too 'traditional') but on the other hand his interpretation is often interesting, challenging and sometimes even provocative. I don't always like his performances, but they are *never* boring or uninteresting.

BTW, I don't see why you thinI won't bother to answer. I'm no scholar either, just a listener like you.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] Thanks for your reply. I understand your position more clearly now. It is often difficult to find our ideal musical interpretations. As I said a while back, we are all searching for our 'Holy Grails' !


Hollywood HIP

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 23, 2003):
< Thomas Radleff wrote: Thank you, Robert, for your classification of "natural" trumpets. Of course I cannot tell if the instruments on the mentioned recordings are Hollywood-HIP or not; The sound is "baroque", not as glossy as the modern ones, and I guess none of them has valves. >
Yes, an interesting classification by the conveniences in the instrument and technique! How much does it matter if the player is using a pedigreed original instrument with zero "improvements", or an exact copy, or a looser copy, or something altogether different?

It got me thinking last night: what would be the analogous comparison of harpsichords and harpsichord-playing? It could be a fun little game. Pick one from each category to mix and match, and then assign the proper designation at the end.

1. (a) an original hpsi from 200+ years ago restored to decent playing condition, or (b) a hpsi by a reputable professional builder, or (c) a kit assembled by an amateur, or (d) a German-factory beast replete with heavy rigid frame and acoustically incorrect dimensions.

2. (a) real bird quills from an appropriate species (but with a modern oil for their maintenance), or (b) the convenient Delrin plectra available in either white or black, or (c) stiff chunks of leather.

3. (a) harpsichord fingering styles appropriate to the period and location of composition, or (b) generic slick piano fingering, or (c) a random approach to fingering.

4. (a) understanding of the composer's notational style and expectations for improvisation, or (b) mild formulaic embellishment, or (c) a literal delivery out of "respect" for the composer, based on later methods of notation.

Results:
- Hardcore HIP
- Hollywood HIP
- Des Moines HIP
- Versailles HIP
- Pragmatic HIP
- I Can't Believe It's Not HIP
- HIP Lite
- Diet HIP with Splenda
- HIP Enough To Fool Most of the People Most of the Time
- BLUP (blissfully uninformed performance, just doing whatever feels right by instinct)
- ARAP (arrogantly anachronistic performance, having decided that all lessons from the past are worthless)
- Cafeteria Style HIP
- Almost HIP Enough
- add your own!

Robert Sherman wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Great fun, Brad. You left out "Prosthetic HIP."

I wonder about your 2(a). If Bach had to put up with real bird quills that were usually deteriorated because they didn't have modern oil, if we are to now hear Ultra HIP aren't we obligated to do the same? Or was he able to replace the quills so frequently that this wasn't a factor?

Francine Renee Hall wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] LOL, FOFL ! I never thought I'd enjoy Hollywood HIP and all those other HIP categories you came up with so much! And Bob's too!

Francine
(chuckle....)
:)

Bob Henderson wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman]
hip HIP
HIP hop
hipper than thou HIP
hip (as in a body part) HIP

the mind boggles.

Pete Blue wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Bob Henderson] Basta! I've had it with HIPhype! Could we go back to bashing Harnoncourt?


HIP

Thomas Radleff wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Pete Blue] My answer is:

NO! Thereīs still many things to do.

Robert & Brad, youīve really done a great pioneer work with your classifications. The world of music will not be the same as it has been before, and I am proud that I have been a witness to the birth of your system.

But it is terribly incomplete. How could you forget about the musicians? It is the HUMAN factor which counts. Of course it always depends to which extend the players are informed or not. How historic are their fingers? Is their breath authentic? These questions should be answered as well.

In addition to your instrumental categories, my suggestions are as follows:
For keyboarders, lutenists etc., we should judge whether their fingers are informed or uninformed, so they could be divided in HIF and HUF.
Wind players who are used to use their lips more than anything else, are HIL or HUL, those who are mainly working with their tongue, HIT or HUT.
Since lips + tongue = mouth, we should permit a simplification for beginners: HIM or HUM.

strict regards,

Uri Golomb wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] I assuem this was meant in jest, but actually there is a serious point there. You cannot have authentic fingers, for instance, but historically-informed FINGERING is certainly an issue, and it could affect how the music sounds (certain fingerings would make certain types of phrasing and articulation easier and more likely than others). Same applies for breathing and other issues of direct relevance to singers, and players of woodwind and brass. I am sure that the way brass players activate their lips has a great deal to do with how the sound comes out.

Then you can also have another category altogether: historically-informed ideas. To what extent did the performer study the aesthetic ideals of the composer and his/her milieu? These things could teach us something about why the performance techniques they favoured were the way they were. It cuts both ways, of course: performance techniques can teach us something about the "old" musicians' aesthetic ideals.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] I wonder if the world knows that history is being made here? Will somebody volunteer to call CNN?

Robert Sherman wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] This raises a heck of a disturbing idea:

It is now universally recognized that breathing from the diaphragm is the most effective way to play any wind instrument or to sing. The diaphragm muscle is much larger and stronger than the intercostal (between-rib) muscles.

We know that the Arban cornet method, written in late 19c, calls for breathing by expanding the chest. The rationale appears to have been that this was the manly thing to do, better than sticking out your stomach. Was it also the practice in Bach's time? If so, does that mean that Ultra HIP playing means you have to breathe from the chest? That would be a disaster for the upper range.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 23, 2003):
< Thomas Radleff wrote: For keyboarders, lutenists etc., we should judge whether their fingers are informed or uninformed, so they could be divided in HIF and HUF. >
Indeed. Many of the period fingerings on keyboards give a sound that is like the differentiated downbow and upbow in period string treatises; or the differentiated "Tu-ru" or "Ti-ri" or "Did'll" articulations in period wind treatises; or the differentiated syllables in speech and song. Instead of trying to even everything out, in the modern quest for uniformity, the differences among the fingers (and the varied articulations on the other instruments) are relished and put to musical advantage. There are subtle differences of attack, timing, accent, release within groups of notes. It affects the conception of phrasing, too. The "good and bad" fingers can coincide with the "good and bad" notes within the meter, bringing out the hierarchy easily.

Compare that with the machine-gun "precision" of piano fingering, or "Ti-ki" double-tongueing on winds....the un-bumpy delivery of the line (suppression of natural differences) being a goal for later music.

But about 75% of the battle is getting the variegated sound into the player's (and listener's) ear, sweeping out the cobwebbed expectations of uniformity. Articulative silences (and variety among the notes and silences) give life to the music: there can be many levels of interest going on simultaneously in a well-articulated musical line, as all the notes have different functions. It's a different way of thinking about the music.

That is, the musicians and teachers hundreds of years ago DID know what they were doing in prescribing practices that seem strange to us; those weren't primitive or clueless or inferior methods. Thmethods deliver the imagined sounds. And the imagined sounds (in the creative minds of composers and improvisers and performers), in turn, are shaped by the instruments and playing techniques the people were already hearing. A fingering is chosen because of the sound it gives, and not always for the greatest convenience.

[For example, often in working out my fingering for a composition I'll force myself to use the same finger on two successive notes, to make sure I will give an appropriate amount of "breath" silence between them for the musical content. That's especially useful where an old phrase is ending and a new one is beginning. And in long melodic passages, almost all the notes are played by fingers 2, 3, and 4. The human hand is not a democracy. Fingers 1 and 5 can play evenly in music that needs them, but on the harpsichord those fingers are needed much less than pianists expect they are.]

This (the principle of choosing the fingering for the sound) was still happening in the 1935 publication of Beethoven's piano sonatas, edited by Artur Schnabel. Schnabel's fingerings encourage the student to think about the sound in a different way, to re-examine the function of every note, more than one would do in sight-reading with more convenient or intuitive fingering.

...And, modern string and wind players can deliver variegated sound without changing their hardware to old instruments. It's not the hardware that makes the music, but the people and the technique. As I said above, about 75% of the battle is getting the variegated sound into the player's (and listener's) ear, sweeping out the cobwebbed expectations of uniformity. Articulative silences (and variety among the notes and silences) give life to the music: there can be many levels of interest going on simultaneously in a well-articulated musical line, as all the notes have different functions. It's a different way of thinking about the music.

< Wind players who are used to use their lips more than anything else, are HIL or HUL, those who are mainly working with their tongue, HIT or HUT. Since lips + tongue = mouth, we should permit a simplification for beginners: HIM or HUM. >
Good point. There could also be a category for wind players who have stopped brushing their teeth and visiting the dentist....


HIP and corsets and breathing

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] What's the history of corsets for both sexes?

Last year I watched the movie "Topsy-Turvy" about the work of Gilbert and Sullivan. A delightful piece about the behind-the-scenes stuff in the late 19th century. One of the (male) characters in there, a singer/actor, refused to go onstage without his corset. Argument ensued.

At another point in the story, they're working on a production of "Mikado" and the actresses are not at all convincing; so, Gilbert goes out and recruits some very shy Japanese women, and makes the company watch how they actually walk.

Did the Arban cornet method expect the player to be wearing a corset, or any other type of restrictive clothing?

Info about the movie: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0151568

Robert Sherman wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] It's silent on that subject. Somehow I expect, though, that the answer is a resounding negative

Thomas Radleff wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Mike Leighīs "Topsy Turvey" is a wonderful movie about theatre life, and though the costumes appear to be historic, all these human aspects still are valid. (Gilbertīs & Sullivanīs Savoy was the first theatre with electric lighting, and the film is full of these big or little signs of a new era.)

But back to our topic: for me as an actor of my generation, diaphragm breathig is everything and your chest is worth nothing. These stiff actors pacing the stage like the Stone Guest are nothing more like caricatures, nowadays. But of course we canīt compare drama with singing or wind instrument necessities; the main reason why you need a strong AND relaxed diaphragm for recitation is, because it will do breathing for you by reflex, so you can concentrate on anything else, even maybe playing "breathless". My best breathing teacher was an old lady who in fact was a fencing trainer; as a girl she had been at the Olympics in Berlin 1936. She had us sitting on an imaginary chair for hours, even walking around, the spine strictly vertical, neck as relyxed as possible, and talking, talking, talking...

For singing (and probably playing wind instruments), everything must be different. You have to decide how long you want to take a phrase, and you have to work with much more economics. I guess even if you have the abilities for circular breathing.

Now, for historical research, and for attempting to approach a "historical" performance, Iīm sure it is useful to study all physical methods that seem to be old-fashioned now - thatīs actually what "historical information" is, isnīt it? To find out how they did it. I think ANY historic technique can tell us something abot the time and the music - in rehearsal. If you keep it or not, or parts of it, that is the question. Itīd be ridiculous to do something strictly as it has been written down 200 years ago, BECAUSE it has been written down. The result will tell: the sound, the architecture of a piece, if some sense is audible or not.


Bach, HIP and Me, a Musical Biography

Santu De Silva (Archimedes) wrote (July 31, 2003):
Reading some of the recent mail, I felt once more the need to say something about the vagueness of the term HIP.

I began writing a kind of biography that got so long I decided to put it on our webserver (It is at www.Lycoming.edu/~desilva/Cecilia)

However, it never gets down to addressing what HIP is, or should mean. In the end, I seem to be saying that whatever I like is HIP, and I proceed to describe what I like. I conclude that the term is unhelpful at best, and downright misleading at worst. It is better to state what particular HIP-related criteria are satisfied. To this end, we should all become acquainted with the particulars of what constutes HIP, and proceed to describe our favorite (or unfavorite) recording in terms of those criteria.

This is a little like designating some foods as "lite." It is far better to simply state on the label how many calories are in the thing (per serving). Of course, lazy shoppers would prefer the government took a hand with their food choices. But it is impossible (for the Goverment) to be anything but arbitrary in such situations.

Arch, having said his say.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 31, 2003):
< Santu De Silva wrote: (It is at www.Lycoming.edu/~desilva/Cecilia) >
Arch, that Newman set of the Brandenburgs you mentioned: was that his c1972 set with the Kavafians and Fred Sherry (pre-Tashi!), and Vera Beths, and a bunch of other east coast freelancers? Trampler in #6!

Or his remake?

=====

I like your example of Fischer-Dieskau as a gestural musician. Right on. When he's really on, the meaning and Affekt of every moment are so immediate and distinctive. Schwarzkopf, too. Every little rhythmic and pitch and articulative nuance is there for some analytical reason, presenting the composition with maximum clarity. The exquisite detail is fitted into an overall flow that still seems spontaneous (a tough balance to achieve). And it's all in service of the music, directing the listener's attention to the richness of the composition, not stuck on the performer's delivery or personality. There's nothing generic. Every piece of music is given its own profile. All these remarks go ditto for Gerald Moore and Rachmaninoff and Casals....

What do you think of this Glenn Gould quote:
"Like Schwarzkopf, Streisand is one of the great italicizers; no phrase is left solely to its own devices, and the range and diversity of her expressive gift is such that one is simply unable to chart an a priori stylistic course on her behalf. Much of the _Affekt_of intimacy--indeed, the sensation of eavesdropping on a private moment not yet wholly committed to its eventual public profile--is a direct result of our inability to anticipate her intentions."

IMO that's a pretty decent exposition of "gestural" right there. The gestural performer is a chameleon, and able to focus exactly what each piece needs to come across with immediate clarity. There's the projected illusion that the music is making itself up as it goes along.

Santu De Silva wrote (August 4, 2003):
< Bradley Lehman asks: Arch, that Newman set of the Brandenburgs you mentioned: was that his c1972 set with the Kavafians and Fred Sherry (pre-Tashi!), and Vera Beths, and a bunch of other east coast freelancers? Trampler in #6!
Or his remake? >
Ouch. I had assumed both versions--the LPs I listened to in the library and the CD I bought later were the same. The LP was definitely the 1972. I go now to check whether the CD is the same ...

Well. Unfortunately, there is no mention of the recording date in the documentation, or at least, the date is confusing.

There is a date of 1994, and a violinist, Lisa Rautenberg. But there are also some fillers, to make up for the extra capacity of the double-disc format, some concertos by Vivaldi and Ernst. Does the 1994 date apply only to the fillers, or is it as you say a remake?

For what it's worth, it's SBK2 62472.

One name I remember with the old group was Mary Springfels, whose name is most definitely absent in the liner notes.

Bradley Brookshire is named as a performer in one of the fillers--the Ernst. Maybe he can shed light on the thing. The performance documentation is very poor, perhaps because of problems with royalties, etc?

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 4, 2003):
[To Santu De Silva] Full cast lists of the two recordings are at
http://pseudo-poseidonios.net/portraits/newman/notes02.htm
There are some names misspelled in both lists, but at least it answers what you asked about your CD set: you have the remake. I've heard only the LP set.

Santu De Silva wrote (August 4, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Oh man; I am so disappointed. Unfortunately, the LPs belonged to the University library (or possibly the Carnegie Library), and I don't have much hope of comparing the things.

I'm listening to the "remake" right now, and it sounds all right. I can't tell whether it is one instrument per part or not.

I'm interested, however, in the fact that he uses two harpsichords in B#V. My understanding was that the concertato hpschd and the continuo hspchd were one and the same. I guess I'm thinking this from notes about Mozart piano concertos where the piano was thought to have functioned as a continuo instrument while the Solo part was silent.

There is also the famous anecdote about there being only one violin part in Brandenburg 5, written to celebrate a new harpsichord. It was necessitated because Bach played the new harpsichord, and the second-violin had to play viola (which Bach normally played). If there had been a second harpsichordist ... oh, I guess I answered that myself, didn't I? He played the second harpsichord. (Pity; if he could only have played second violin ...)

BTW, I'm liking this recording very much. It is OVPP; there seem to be just two violins in the tuttis.

You know, I can't tell whether there is a cello doubling the bass in the middle movement. Either that, or the harpsichord has a really powerful bass (or old Bradley is playing along whenever all three soloists are playing togethyer, thickening the bass line. Or these people have gotten really clever at miking harpsichords. I'm favoring the theory that both harpsichords play together in the louder bits; it really sounds like it. I don't know whether that's really kosher.)

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 4, 2003):
< Santu De Silva wrote: Oh man; I am so disappointed. Unfortunately, the LPs belonged to the University library (or possibly the Carnegie Library), and I don't have much hope of comparing the things.
I'm listening to the "remake" right now, and it sounds all right. I can't tell whether it is one instrument per part or not. >
All but in #1 and #2 where they have 2 violins on the ripieno parts; check the cast list....

< I'm interested, however, in the fact that he uses two harpsichords in B#V. My understanding was that the concertato hpschd and the continuo hspchd were one and the same.(...)
You know, I can't tell whether there is a cello doubling the bass in the middle movement. Either that, or the harpsichord has a really powerful bass (or old Bradley is playing along whenever all three soloists are playing togethyer, thickening the bass line. Or these people have gotten really clever at miking harpsichords. I'm favoring the theory that both harpsichords play together in the louder bits; it really sounds like it. I don't know whether that's really kosher.) >
Your understanding is correct that the concertato hpsi & continuo hpsi are usually one and the same in this piece. (Ditto in the hpsi solo concertos...but some people, most famously Igor Kipnis, have played those with a second player helping out on continuo. And in Egarr's set of those, the added theorbo sounds terrific.) And in Pickett's set of the Brandenburgs, they have an organ playing along in the continuo of #5...lovely. The score just calls for the single harpsichord. But "the more, the merrier" and "if it sounds good, it IS good" and other such practical slogans can apply. This is music, and doesn't have to be certifiably kosher according to such and such a documented occasion led by Bach himself.

I'll ask Brookshire what he played for Newman.

(p.s. I've played the Brandenburg 5 without string bass, as we didn't have a bass player handy: I simply rewrote a few of the cello notes and added some things to the harpsichord left hand, and we went with it. The most obvious place needing such surgery is measures 135-136 of the first movement, where the bass has that dramatic sustained A...the cello has to play that. Whatever works in the gig, to get the job done! As you said yourself, "I rather deplore the way people are pedantic about such things as not allowing an extra lute in the continuo group....")

You mentioned in your Annees de Pelerinage last week that you haven't heard Musica Antiqua Koeln yet. Their set of the Bach orchestral suites has two harpsichordists (Andreas Staier and Robert Hill) both going bonzo in suites #1, 3, and 4, improvising all sorts of stuff. It definitely adds to the dynamic flow of the music.

Brad Lehman

"Beethoven, like many other composers, made changes in his scores even
after publication, and then he was deaf. So why can't the conductor, who
often knows much better than the composer, make changes as well?" - Willem
Mengelberg.


Are these HIP characteristics?

Neil Halliday wrote (September 26, 2003):
Back in May, Hugo Saldias wrote, in response to an assertion on my part that Richter's organ part, in the 2nd movement of BWV 78, was too prominent:

"Dear Neil
1. The Richter version does not have a loud organ part. The organ NEVER covers the two ladies singing. This was a Leipzig tradition:to add an organ line with an independant melody. If you hear Kantor Mauersberger version you will note the same
improvisation
2. Rifkin has another focus that I like too..."

Today, I have received volume four of Richter's Archiv cantata set which contains BWV 78 (I purchased this set to supplement Rilling's overly energetic BWV 78 opening chorus and duet), and I feel impelled to say that indeed Hugo's observation is correct, and that my impression, based on a poor quality internet sample, was incorrect. The organ plays an independent and attractive treble part in the ritornellos, but the continuo appears to consist mostly of cello and bassoon, plus the pizzicato double bass; it is this continuo rendthat perhaps is a little 'plodding' or prominent; but overall this is a pleasing rendition from Richter, with soprano Ursula Buckel, and alto Hertha Toepper singing elegantly together. (1961! Yet this recording is excellent; the opening chorus is glorious, and the secco recitative rendition (movement #3) shows how it should be done - soft, yet clear organ registration holding legato chords, and a sensitive cello playing the notes as written).

It's in the following cantata BWV 17 that the criticism of a shrill and unnecessary organ part, playing in the vast opening chorus at the entry of the choir, can legitimately be made. I will be sticking with Rilling for this one.



Continue on Part 11


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