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HIP (Historically Informed Performance)

Part 15

 

 

Continue from Part 14

Barenboim and Zuckerman knock HIP

Eric Bergerud
wrote (October 8, 2004):
< In a recent post Peter paraphrased the words of Daniel Barenboim:
"Also, in a recent interview on BBC Radio3, he complained that the HIP movement is very important and has produced great insights, but that they are against the forward momentum of musical progress. Progress is always about looking forward. Look at the works of Beethoven through Wagner to Ligeti - they did not see the great advance in terms of trying to copy what had come before but they wanted to bring things forward into the present culture and times.
I can't find a transcript of the above interview on Google, but judging from Barenboim's remarks about the WTK, I don't doubt that Peter has captured the essence of it. Pinchas Zuckerman doesn't seem to have a high opinion of HIP either judging from this interesting article that appeared in the Milwaukee Sentinal in 2000:
http://www.jsonline.com/enter/performingarts/strini/apr00/stricol23042100.asp >
I must say that I do not understand how the concept of "progress" can possibly be used to attack HIP. Quite the contrary in my view. For reasons that I do not understand Western culture has exhausted modes of artistic expression with a speed that has no precedent in other cultures across the world. Although allowing for considerable individual expression, the classic Chinese landscape retained its basic formula for nearly 500 years. It was one of the most nearly perfect formulas in art history and I am sure Chinese art lovers are very glad that it had such tremendous staying power. If nothing else, the world is endowed with a huge number of masterpieces of great beauty. In a similar period of time Western painting went from Leonardo to Warhol. Or music from Palestrina to Cage. The dynamic was powerful: art in the West became equated with innovation rather than refinement. I suppose if a Western artist wished to "play it safe" he might paint or compose something that was in fashion. Those wishing to be king of the hill, however, have always looked push the mold or break it altogether.

It was quite a run for a while. Leonardo was followed by Rembrandt who was followed by David who was followed by Turner who was followed by Monet who was followed by Picasso. Anyone on this trace a similar line in the field of serious music. But it does seem that there may not be an infinite number of artistic forms available to "progress" toward. What does a painter do for an encore if he wants move beyond Jackson Pollack? (Performance art maybe?) Sadly, it does seem that a similar phenomenon took place in music. What's "progress" after Schoenberg or Berg? (Hard core New Music types, as I understand it, view the 20th Century Russian school of Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich as kind of a cultural Custer's Last Stand of musical reactionaries.) For good or ill, since the death of Stravinsky and Picasso it's a rare citizen that can name a single living painter or composer. Of course we can blame the hicks and rubes. Or we can entertain the possibility that Western Art has "hit the wall" and the public has very good reason to treat contemporary artists with dislike or indifference. Although it may brand me forever as a Philistine, I put myself in this category. I don't like contemporary music, despite some serious efforts to train my ear in my salad days. Obviously I am not alone. A pity really. When Brahms or Dvorak premiered a new work, it was an EVENT. Sadly it's a type of event I'll never see. I can understand why music directors want to keep classical music a living art form and exploring ever new territories of beauty. Best of luck, says I, but I doubt the horses are available to do it.

If contemporary composers do not make music that pleases the ear, the artists of the past certainly did. I am indebted to the HIP musicians who performed the "usual suspects." I'll never listen to Bach, Händel or Mozart in the same way again. But the HIP movement did something else. It expanded tremendously the depth and width of the early music repertoire available to today's audiences. Recording technology has, as observed by many for a century now, no doubt had some unfortunate impact on music making. But there's two sides to this. As the great French author and critic Romain Rolland pointed out, recordings allowed the development of a musical memory of unprecedented proportions. (Think about it. Everyone on this list has heard, say, Actus tragicus, far more times than Bach did.) Artistic taste has always been fickle and luck always a factor in the lives of artists. If Bach's choral music could be largely ignored for 70 years, think of how much splendid music was performed once and forgotten. Obviously most of the forgotten music will stay that way. That said, as HIP groups increased in numbers and popularity they were on the look-out for more obscure works by famous composers and rescuing some composers from oblivion. This trend has even had an impact on opera. I don't see that bringing art back from the dead is any less valid than composing something new. The end result is that today we have more wonderful music to listen to than ever before. That's got to be progress of a kind.

Peter Bright wrote (October 8, 2004):
[To Eric Bergerud] Thanks for your interesting thoughts on this Eric. I find it a shame that listeners can't appreciate both the modern and HIP approach to Bach - to me, both types have much to offer. But people are different, and I respect the fact that there are some who simply cannot enjoy Bach played on piano, for example.

A long time ago now, I included some comments by Suzuki from an interview in the UK Independent - I include them again here because I think they are still pertinent:

-------------
Peter Bright wrote (November 26, 2000):
I find it interesting that Masaaki Suzuki, in my opinion the finest Bach conductor of the moment, also enjoys the older, 'uninformed' conductors such as Richter. In an interview for The Independent newspaper, he gives his own opinions on "authenticity":

"A clear advantage of Suzuki's broad outlook is a non-dogmatic attitude towards authenticity in music that is not always found in baroque specialists. The BCJ plays period instruments and typically has 20 players and 16 in the choir, but later this year Suzuki will conduct Mendelssohn's version of the St Matthew Passion for a much larger ensemble playing modern instruments."

"I think we should define the word authenticity," says Suzuki. "According to one opinion, Helmuth Rilling and Karl Richter were not authentic. Of course they didn't use period instruments, but they were together with the mind and spirit of Bach. I have played with Rilling's orchestra. The way of playing is very different, but it has insight. And when I was at school I listened to the Richter B Minor Mass a thousand times. I have no contradiction in me in enjoying both types.""

The other interesting anomaly between the Bach-recordings subscribers and the general classical music reviewers out there is that the reviewers seem, more often than not, to choose Richter's or Klemperer's recordings of the SMP as the finest out there (at least that is what I found while trawling the web). I very much doubt that this would be the consensus among subscribers here. Perhaps we are generally more educated in Bach work here and therefore appreciate HIP performances of the Passion to a greater extent.

I remember that, at the end of last year, a classical music magazine (not a particularly good one, mind you - possibly "Classical CD") voted Richter's SMP as the single greatest recording of any music of all time. With respect to alternative versions of the SMP, Gramophone Magazine (in the review of Suzuki) declared:

"…with so many releases in the last 10 years, it is frustrating that I must pick out Richter's 1958 version - stylistic warts and all - to find myself overwhelmeand transported to the final resolution."
------------

Gabriel Jackson wrote (October 8, 2004):
Eric Bergerud wrote: "For good or ill, since the death of Stravinsky and Picasso it's a rare citizen that can name a single living painter or composer. Of course we can blame the hicks and rubes. Or we can entertain the possibility that Western Art has "hit the wall" and the public has very good reason to treat contemporary artists with dislike or indifference. Although it may brand me forever as a Philistine, I put myself in this category. I don't like contemporary music, despite some serious efforts to train my ear in my salad days."
I think this is very sad. Do you really not like ANY contempoary music at all?! One of the most exciting things that has happened over the last 20 or 30 years is the hugely increased range and diversity of compositional practice that is avaialable to audiences. Long gone are the days when the only new music that was acceptable to the decision-makers in concert life was the product of the post-war avantgarde (Boulez, Stockhausen, Maderna etc.) and their fellow-travellers. Frankly, it is a little silly to say "I don't like contemporary music", period. What contempoarary music? Pierre Boulez? Harrison Birtwistle? Philip Glass? Steve Reich? John Corigliano? John Tevener? Andrew Lloyd Webber? Stephen Sondheim? Ludovico Einaudi? Karlheinz Stockhausen? Gavin Bryars? John Adams? Brian Eno? Kaaija Saariaho? Einojahani Rautavaara? Arvo Part? Henryk Gorecki? Henri Dutilleix? Poul Ruders? etc. etc. The richness and diversity of contemporary compositional practice is immense and I would be very suprised indeed if there were really no living composers at all whose work you enjoy (or might enjoy if you heard it).

"When Brahms or Dvorak premiered a new work, it was an EVENT."
But the premiere of a new piece by a major composer is still an event, and in all likelihood a much bigger event than any Brahms or Dvorak premiere, die to the vastly increased audiences for classical music and the greater accessibility of information about such events.

Eric Bergerud wrote (October 9, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] I admit that my attitude toward contemporary music is a vicious circle. I never ran into anything I found beautiful so I quit looking. Instead I started expanding my appreciation in areas where I knew beauty was to be found. In theory shame on me. In practice, I'm perfectly happy to learn more about baroque, classical and early romantic music. And even if today's composers are no longer banging toy pianos, I rather doubt that yours truly is a ripe prospect for conversion: I don't listen to Mahler much anymore much less Stravinsky. (I do have a soft spot for Sibelius.) I've heard works from about half the list you provided, and won't be rushing out to buy their latest CD. I am not holding up these attitudes as admirable. But I think they are widespread, even among some decent musicians that I know.

Just for kicks, I checked Archiv to see how many CDs I could buy among a partial list of people you mentioned: here's the tale of the tape:Brian Eno (0 specific, 4 containing excerpts); Einaudi (1 specific, 3 excerpts); Bryars (6 specific, 8 excerpts); Birtwhistle (7 specific, 8 excerpts) Coragliano (12 specific, 29 excerpts) Saariaho (10 specific, 12 excerpts); Rautavaara (32 specific, 32 excerpts). Not staggering numbers but they do indicate that Scandanavia seems to be one place in the world where contemporary music is doing ok. But from my point of view, I see only 116 entries for Buxtehude: I think he needs my support too and I suspect I would like his music better.

Frankly I think you're fooling yourself about the great decline of public interest in contemporary classical music. Heavens, the Brahms vs Wagner shoot-out was something that was fiercely debated in the public domain. Beethoven was one of the most famous men in Europe. Verdi was a national hero. A concert in the 19th Century would include at least half new music and the audiences liked it that way. A musical director that tried that today would lead an orchestra to utter ruin. Things may differ in Norway or Finland, but I suspect that "mostly Mozart" festivals, or their kin, are required in the US to allow the debut of any large scale new work. (I rather doubt the HIP movement would have started at all if contemporary composers had continued the momentum that characterized Western composition for 300 years. If the present isn't so hot, and the future doesn't look any better, might as well explore the past.) I regret this in theory, but it's true. And the same is true in the traditional visual arts. Leading painters and sculptors have gone from being some of the most famous people in their era (as recently as Picasso) to figures known inside a narrow circle but anonymous to the culture at large. Blame the culture itself if you like. I am not so sure.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (October 9, 2004):
Eric Bergerud wrote: "Just for kicks, I checked Archiv to see how many CDs I could buy among a partial list of people you mentioned: here's the tale of the tape: Brian Eno (0 specific, 4 containing excerpts); Einaudi (1 specific, 3 excerpts); Bryars (6 specific, 8 excerpts); Birtwhistle (7 specific, 8 excerpts) Coragliano (12 specific, 29 excerpts) Saariaho (10 specific, 12 excerpts); Rautavaara (32 specific, 32 excerpts)."
Don't go by Arkiv in that case - there are a lot more recordings of works by many of the above.

"Frankly I think you're fooling yourself about the great decline of public interest in contemporary classical music. Heavens, the Brahms vs Wagner shoot-out was something that was fiercely debated in the public domain."
Was it really?! By whom? A small intelligentsia who interested themselves in such matters, or the public at large? Was this aesthetic war conducted in the pages of the 19th century equivalent of the National Enquirer?

"(I rather doubt the HIP movement would have started at all if contemporary composers had continued the momentum that characterized Western composition for 300 years. If the present isn't so hot, and the future doesn't look any better, might as well explore the past.) I regret this in theory, but it's true."
Is it true? What practioner of period performance has said that s/he began exploring such things because contemporary music was awful?

"Leading painters and sculptors have gone from being some of the most famous people in their era (as recently as Picasso) to figures known inside a narrow circle but anonymous to the culture at large."
I don't know how old you were when Picasso died by unless you were alive during his lifetime and were old enough to be aware of these things (which I wasn't) how can you know how famous he was? In any case, there are plenty of contemporary visual artists who are extremely well known. (I know he's now dead, but wasn't Andy Warhol rather famous?!!).

In any case it sounds as if you are equating fame with quality? In which case you presumably think the music of Michael Jackson to be of greater worth than that of Bach?

Eric Bergerud wrote (October 9, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] For point of historic reference, the artistic debates concerning Wagner and Brahms (both had partisans across the continent) was a very big deal indeed. The first production of the Ring (curse the day <G>) was a major event. The fires were stoked by the writings of Eduard Hanslick who was not only the major music critic in Europe (kind of the Pauline Kael of the day) but also a genuinely great musicologist. The 19th Century, especially the second half, was highlighted by a vast expansion of the middle class. Part of being middle class was living in a civilized manner. So the orchestra halls were filled, millions learned to play at least the piano, and great composers were men of genuine celebrity. It's very striking how many "men of letters" also played the role of musical pundit: Oscar Wilde was a fan and George Bernard Shaw a serious critic just to name a pair. I'm not saying that everyone in the Western World shared in this broader culture, but, unlike the Renaissance or even the Enlightenment, cultural affairs was very ma part of mainstream life. (That explains, of course, why so many symphonies were founded or expanded and halls built during this era.) Music was far from alone. I'd guess that the most famous man in England (perhaps outside the monarch or PM of the day) was Charles Dickens in the mid-19th Century. Tennyson would have been a close second. In France, Balzac probably had more fame than Louis-Philippe. I don't want to sound the pedant, but can you think of a composer today that is remotely a public figure in the sense that Stravinsky was? Or a contemporary painter that has the fame of Picasso? We are not talking about ancient history here. And these two gents were inheritors of a tradition of public fame given to artistic leaders that went back in one form or another to the Renaissance. The divorce between "high art" and the educated public is something very new under the Western sun and is sobering in my view.

As far as HIP and contemporary music goes, I am not suggesting that the musicians were turning their back on today's composers. Hogwood, for one, always kept a very lively interest in the contemporary scene. Harnoncourt has often employed the Arnold Schoenberg Choir. The audience, however, is a different story. Colin Davis dismissed the original HIP movement as a vain attempt to save an aging repertoire. It's success, I would think, should be one of the big suprises in the field of music performance of our generation. The people that were going to HIP concerts and buying CDs were, I suspect, voting with their feet and their dollars in favor of Bach & Mozart as opposed to a 40th Mahler cycle by a big city orchestra much less performances by contemporary composers.

Although it's painful to date oneself, I have been around to witness the passing of the last generation of genuinely famous artists. I was little when Einstein died - very big news, even got my attention. (Francis Crick just passed: that strictly a page two story in San Francisco.) I remember the death of e.e. cummings (1962), T.S. Eliot (1965), W.H. Auden (1973) (how many poets today are public figures?); Picasso (1973: very big news indeed); Salvador Dali (1989); Evelyn Waugh (1966); Graham Greene (1995); William Faulkner (1962); Ernest Hemmingway (1961: more very big news); Stravinsky (1971); Benjamin Britten 1976 and Shostakovich (1975) among others. I had a bookish mother and with the exception of cummings, I had read something by all of the authors listed prior to their death. I had recordings of all of the musicians. I am not praising the merits of these artists, but only wish to point out that all were major public figures in their own lifetime. I suspect most names remain quite familiar. Who are their successors? That's the real point.

Lastly, I am not equating fame and quality. (No Michael Jackson is not a greater musician than Bach. How the best of the pop composers will look in a century is a more interesting question. Stephen Foster is now considered, as I understand it, as a major influence on the development of American music. Who knows how Bob Dylan will look in 100 years.) All I am saying that with very few exceptions, great artists until our generation have also been important public figures. Some were obviously greater than others. Bach didn't pick the right place to be on top of the charts, although I dare say that Händel was very widely known in England. That said, if Wolf is right, even Bach had achieved a considerable amount of fame among German music lovers as a keyboard composer, enough to assure that his music was not forgotten. But let's not forget, before Bach died he was considered by many bright young gents to be "old fashioned." In the short run, this was perhaps for the better, because Bach's successors paved a road straight to Mozart's door. But because becoming "old fashioned" didn't take long in the West, this road also led to a place where only a very limited audience has been willing to follow in our day.

Ludwig wrote (October 9, 2004):
[To Eric Bergerud] Open your eyes and ears!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Get out and smell the Coffee!!!! YES there are currently many folks who are household names who are composers and painters not to mention great writers. You need to get involved more what is going on in the Arts.

I also remember the deaths and lives of the people you write about who were also my contemporaries including Bartok, Barber, Menotti, Britten, Tennesse Williams, Rodrigo,Truman Capote, etc whom I also knew personally with the exception of Bartok whom I met when I was a child and who died shortly thereafter) but did not know or appreciate that I was in the presence of a great man) when he was writing the famous Concerto for Orchestra. Only snobs poo poo contemporaries who may not fit their conception of the mold as fine art but them their is an anagram in the word snob that desribes why and forgive my expletive and perhaps offensive language but if I may spell it out---snobs are <sons of a bitches who do not know their ass from a hole in the ground>(I will not be more graphic than this) which explains why they do not know fine art when they encounter it but only pretend to or are under the illusion that they do.

To begin with ---we have the recent Noble Prize winner of Kenya--the first Woman and First Black Woman to ever win this prize and the list of notable writers of high art calibre goes on and on.

In Music Lloyd Webber is a household name with Cats, and other works of this genre----and so are remnants of the Beatles who have tried their hand at "classical" music rather unsuccessfully but do very well with what they normally do. Webber has written more than Operas as Broadway Plays--he has several Symphonic works of note not to mention Chamber pieces.

Sean O'Boyle of Australia ( I highly recommend his Concerto for Didgerido), Tobias Green of Germany, Ligetti of Austria, an a number of American composers, including myself, who are known well across the globe if the performance of our music is any indication.

Then there is Jasper Johns one of the great American Painters of the twentieth and late twentieth centuries; Johnathan Green, perhaps the greatest living major Black Artist; and the list goes on and on

LvB (aka William Rowland, composer)

Gabriel Jackson wrote (October 9, 2004):
Eric Bergerud wrote: "I am not praising the merits of these artists, but only wish to point out that all were major public figures in their own lifetime. I suspect most names remain quite familiar. Who are their successors? That's the real point."
There are plenty of famous artists in all media working today. In the visual arts, shows by radical and exciting artists attract large numbers of people, especially in Europe. In the UK the annual Turner prize gets an enormous amount of coverage and comment, even in the tabloids, and the Turner Prize show at Tate Modern gets more visitors than any other show they put on. Artists like Tracy Emin literally are household names in this country. It is ludicrous to argue that figures like Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Arvo Part, John Tavener, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Paul Auster, Umberto Eco, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Yoko Ono, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, David Hockney, Gilbert and George etc. etc. are not extremely well-known.

"Lastly, I am not equating fame and quality."
If you are not equating fame and quality, why cite the alleged lack of name-recognition of living composers to support the contention that contemporary music is awful? If a piece is good, it doesn't matter how amny people like it, or have heard of its composer. If a piece is bad, it doesn't matter either. The fact is that vastly more people will have heard, through live performances or recordings, a Philip Glass opera, or even an orchestral piece by Boulez, than would have heard any Bach cantata during his lifetime, or a Brahms symphony in his lifetime. To dismiss all contemporary music when there is an unprecedented range and diversity of practice among composers - I would be very suprised indeed if there weren't some new music out there that you would find interesting - and then to justify that dismissal with the spurious claim that no-one iinterested (and to blame the composers for that supposed lack of interest) is plain foolish.

Santu De Silva wrote (October 9, 2004):
There are two approaches to music appreciation:

1. Context-relative

2. Context-free.

If you belong to the second category, chances are you would appreciate performing the Art of Fuge on trombones or saxophones--or harmonicas, for that matter; and you see the HIP movement as standing in the way of doing really neat things with Bach music. And with good reason, because the HIP movement --by and large!-- is as unrepentant about interfering with non-HIP folk in the enjoyment of music as Right-To-Lifers are with the lives of women. This may raise some hackles, but the HIP movement is the home for some very aggressively repressive people.

If you belong to the first group, you should be delighted with what has emerged from some of the "authentic" orchestras of recent times. I belong to this group, too! However, I stop short of going so far as to hold the kind of view that probably incurs the wrath of such people as Barenboim and Zuckerman. Consider the facts: the HIP movement has effectively taken the Bach repertoire out of the hands of such non-hip Bach lovers as Zuckerman and Perlman. Being political animals, they resent that, naturally!

I don't sympathize completely with Zuckerman, but I sort of see a little of where he's coming from.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (October 9, 2004):
Eric Bergerud wrote: "If you belong to the second category, chances are you would appreciate performing the Art of Fuge on trombones or saxophones--or harmonicas, for that matter; and you see the HIP movement as standing in the way of doing really neat things with Bach music. And with good reason, because the HIP movement --by and large!-- is as unrepentant about interfering with non-HIP folk in the enjoyment of music as Right-To-Lifers are with the lives of women. This may raise some hackles, but the HIP movement is the home for some very aggressively repressive people."
I don't think this true at all. On the contrary, I am ofen struck by the enthusisam and interest that is shown by many 'period' performers in the work of older, less historically-minded performers (as has been remarked upon recently on this list). Proponents of modern-instrument performance (either performers like Barenboim and Zuckerman, and Andras Schiff, or listeners) are far more prone to attacking the hole notion of HIP than the other way round. I'm not aware of Sigiswald Kuijken, or Nikolaus Harnoncourt, or Andrew Parrott, declaring that the likes of Itzaak Perlman or Angela Hewitt shouldn't play Bach.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 9, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < I am ofen struck by the enthusisam and interest that is shown by many 'period' performers in the work of older, less historically-minded performers (as has been remarked upon recently on this list). Proponents of modern-instrument performance (either performers like Barenboim and Zuckerman, and Andras Schiff, or listeners) are far more prone to attacking the hole notion of HIP than the other way round. I'm not aware of Sigiswald Kuijken, or Nikolaus Harnoncourt, or Andrew Parrott, declaring that the likes of Itzaak Perlman or Angela Hewitt shouldn't play Bach. >
Agreed! I too think there's more tendency for

1. "HIP" folks to get banned and otherwise treated as usurpers--i.e. to receive a backlash of criticism that really isn't about them at all but defensiveness about being usurped--than...

2. for [whatever the opposite of "HIP" is] folks to lose out on anything they didn't already have coming to them, challenging them to stay sharp and attentive.

"HIP", at its best, gets the people in that category 2 to take more seriously the need to do their homework. And it gets people in that category 1 to practice and develop artistic personalities that can beat out category 2 straight up, with no apologetics about technique or commitment, no handicapping. (Well, if there's any handicapping, it's that the folks in category 2 tend to use hardware that's not designed for the specific jobs in that older music, and therefore they have to overcome obstacles of their own construction........ [duck] )

This weekend I've been listening with great pleasure to Don Dorsey's "BachBusters" album on synthesizer, and on Bruno Walter's Mozart recordings from the 1930s. Great musicianship is great musicianship. Hardware and style are merely secondary issues, after getting the music to crackle with such commitment and joy, like these guys did. I'd much rather listen to intensely focused performances, whether they're "HIP" or not, than to anything that sounds half-hearted and merely dutiful, or inhibited, or otherwise reined in by "thou shalt not" types of nonsense. Either the music is played really well and it kicks ass, or it's not played well and it fails to kick ass. Walter and Dorsey, in these examples, allow the music to kick ass. There's obviously been thoughtfulness about every moment, while there's also the freedom to let go and just play, letting it sound like play. That balance is of the essence.


Eric Bergerud wrote (October 10, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < If you are not equating fame and quality, why cite the alleged lack of name-recognition of living composers to support the contention that contemporary music is awful? If a piece is good, it doesn't matter how amny people like it, or have heard of its composer. If a piece is bad, it doesn't matter either. The fact is that vastly more people will have heard, through live performances or recordings, a Philip Glass opera, or even an orchestral piece by Boulez, than would have heard any Bach cantata during his lifetime, or a Brahms symphony in his lifetime. To dismiss all contemporary music when there is an unprecedented range and diversity of practice among composers - I would be very suprised indeed if there weren't some new music out there that you would find interesting - and then to justify that dismissal with the spurious claim that no-one is interested (and to blame the composers for that supposed lack of interest) is plain foolish. >
There is a difference between observation and advocacy. When I observed that Western civilization has shown a unique ability to wear out its art forms this was not meant as an attack. As I noted, this obvious reality, however difficult to explain, has led to an extraordinarily innovative culture. However, I am surely not the first to observe that in our era "high art", particularly in the visual and musical idioms, has lost it's formerly deep connection with the broader culture in the past generation or two. Some pundits think this is a good thing - something necessary to achieve some sort of vital world culture. We shall see.

So more people listen to Boulez than they did to Bach in Bach's lifetime. No doubt true when you consider the small world Bach inhabited. It's also no doubt true that more people listen to Bach (both live and recorded) than Boulez in Boulez's lifetime. Ponder that please. (Again, if there was no trouble in River City, how does one explain the success of the HIP movement which, by definition, looks backward.) In every city I've ever lived in there is an article in the Arts section of the newspaper whenever the local symphony or opera announces it's upcoming season. The professional smart person decries the absence of new music, and warns that reactionary attitudes of the musical management will doom classical music. The management, usually sheepishly, counters that they have to pay the bills and that the audience will come out for Mozart but not (fill in the blank) or Verdi and not (fill in the blank) and note that they have included some newer works even though they incur financial cost doing so. (I should note that I'm stuck in the USA and government support of the arts is pretty thin - bad place for the avant garde.) The message of the critic is always the same: the management is pandering to a debased culture. I am suggesting that the problem, or part of it, lay elsewhere. This is an observation, not a statement of revealed truth.

As for my own taste, I've already admitted to being a Philist. I'm also getting older. When I was young I couldn't get enough of the big sound, whether it was Beethoven or Mahler. I even liked Wagner. But one's ear changes, or at least mine has. The subtle order of the baroque or the refined beauty of the classical hits home with greater power than it did when my world was younger. So I am more interested in exploring Berwald than Boulez. I have no interest in checking out a cross-over Broadway musical when there's a new Bach cantata to explore. I've just ordered my first Teleman opera - I can't see exchanging it for Nixon in China. And time is finite: a serious investigation of one work means a different remains unexplored. This doesn't make me smart. It doesn't make me right. It is simply an admission of taste. Nothing more. No fool like an old fool is there?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (October 10, 2004):
Eric Bergerud wrote: "However, I am surely not the first to observe that in our era "high art", particularly in the visual and musical idioms, has lost it's formerly deep connection with the broader culture in the past generation or two."
I'm not at all sure that it has.

"So more people listen to Boulez than they did to Bach in Bach's lifetime. No doubt true when you consider the small world Bach inhabited."
Indeed it's not at all suprising, as you say, but it does rather give the lie to the notion that there is less interest in new music today than there was in the 19th, or the 18th centuries (or whenever).

"It's also no doubt true that more people listen to Bach (both live and recorded) than Boulez in Boulez's lifetime."
Of course it's true. But so what?

"(Again, if there was no trouble in River City, how does one explain the success of the HIP movement which, by definition, looks backward.)"
It is also very much a product of our own time, in that sense it is a very modern phenomenon.

" So I am more interested in exploring Berwald than Boulez. I have no interest in checking out a cross-over Broadway musical when there's a new Bach cantata to explore. I've just ordered my first Teleman opera - I can't see exchanging it for Nixon in China. And time is finite: a serious investigation of one work means a different
remains unexplored."
But be it unfamiliar Berwald or unfamiliar Boulez the impulse is the same, and a vital one - to experience that which is not known, and be enriched theeby, rather than sticking to that which is known.

Johan van Veen wrote (October 11, 2004):
Santu De Silva wrote: < Consider the facts: the HIP movement has effectively taken the Bach repertoire out of the hands of such non-hip Bach lovers as Zuckerman and Perlman. Being political animals, they resent that, naturally! >
Sure. But why do they blame the HIP performers? They only do their job as well as they can according to their own artistic principles. If there is anyone to 'blame' it is the audiences who over the years have shown an increasing preference for HIP performances. Aren't they entitled to show those preferences by attending concerts and buying recordings by HIP performers?

Helmut Rilling once said in an interview that he has performed in almost every country in the world (at least those where there is any interest in Western classical music) except the Netherlands. To his credit he didn't complain about it, but took it as a fact of life that his kind of performance probably doesn't attract as much attention in our country to be invited to perform or to organise concerts himself. I don't know if he is right, but he could well be.

People like Zuckerman and Perlman are well advised to ask themselves why so much people prefer HIP performances over their's instead of whining and complaining. Their attitude is rather sad and pathetic.

John Pike wrote (October 27, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] When it comes to the violin solo sonatas and partitas of Bach, for example, it may sometimes be technically more demanding for amateurs to play them with "original" hardware. I find it hard enough to make them sound beautiful with the best modern strings. Playing them with gut strings must be all the more demanding, but that is something that top players like Rachel Podger and Andrew Manze seem to manage with ease and still make them sound beautiful.


'original instruments'

Alfonso Anso Rojo wrote (January 25, 2005):
Bart O'Brien wrote: "What does the expression 'original instruments' mean? Is an instrument either 'original' or 'not original' or are there variants?"
With 'original instruments' I mean that the work is played with Baroque instruments. This is not played with instruments made by luthiers in the 20th century, or at present day.

In the 17th century, the orchestra was smaller than today. Most of all were string instruments. (So the best violins are the originals, as the one mades by Antoni Stradivari). But later, in the 19th and 20th. centuries, there were new instruments (metal instruments, wind instruments), so with 'original instruments' I also mean that the wind instruments (Flute, etc.) are Baroque instruments.

I thought it was unnecessary to specify "Original instruments"= "Baroque instruments", i.e. not made in the 20th century or in the 21th century.

Anyway, you can read this in: http://slate.msn.com/id/3081/

"The original instrument movement is several decades old, and has moved so far beyond mere novelty that in some repertoires, it might even be considered the new orthodoxy. Bach performance in the style of those old Grand Teutons--conductors like Furtwängler, Klemperer, and von Karajan--has fallen out of fashion and favor, and massed Victorian armies raising the rafters as they belt out The Messiah now seem quaintly anachronistic."

"In music of the 19th century, though, the use of original instruments is still controversial. Do they reveal the composer's intentions, or merely demonstrate the practical limitations against which he struggled? Keyboard music poses the question in its starkest terms: Was the 19th-century concert grand developed in response to the music being composed by Beethoven and his contemporaries, in order to realize its potential more fully, or was the Romantic style of keyboard writing itself a response to the sound of these new instruments?"

[Of course, this text is a comment to a keyboard concert; so it is concerning only the use of the keyboard. But there are some generalities on "The original instrument movement"]


HIP with large forces(!) -- was: Double-dotting

Continue of discussion from: Double-Dotting [General Topics].

Jason Marnaras wrote (March 30, 2005):

There are no 'HIP' groups or recordings with large forces, are there? No huge baroque orchestras playing the Messiah? That would be quite HIP, no?

PS: Aryeh, I press being myself pressed by my desire :-) ; what is become of the BGA?

Tom Dent wrote (March 31, 2005):
[To Jason Marmaras] Funnily enough, it is precisely Händel who has had the large 'HIP' forces: I can't remember who made it, but the first recording of the Royal Fireworks Music with the original instrumentation had something like twelve oboes and eight bassoons. Of course such a large orchestra would be needed for an outdoor firework display.

... anyone with more precise details is welcome to supply them.

Dale Gedcke wrote (March 31, 2005):
Thomas Dent wrote: "Funnily enough, it is precisely Händel who has had the large 'HIP' forces: I can't remember who made it, but the first recording of the Royal Fireworks Music with the original instrumentation had something like twelve oboes and eight bassoons. Of course such a large orchestra would be needed for an outdoor firework display.
... anyone with more precise details is welcome to supply them."
MY COMMENTS:

I quote from the liner notes for "Händel Fireworks Music, Water Music; Capella Istropolitana and Bohdan Warchal and the Slovak Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra". Here are excerpts from those notes:

"[Water Music].... It is clear, from a number of contemporary accounts, that Baron Kielmansegge, whose wife was reputedly the King's mistress, paid for a band of 50 musicians to play music newly commissionfrom Händel to entertain the King during an evening party on the Thames on 17th July, 1717. ...

[Royal Fireworks of 1749].... Händel was able to offer a public rehearsal of his Royal Fireworks music at Vauxhall Gardens, a commercial venture in which he had been involved since 1732. A hundred musicians were involved, playing to an audience of more than 12,000. .... A week later the music was performed in Hyde Park, a prelude to the event [fireworks]... The fireworks themselves were disappointing, and during the evening the pavilion to the right of the main structure caught fire. ...."

Those appear to be larger forces than J. S. Bach was accustomed to employing, and I don't think Bach's performance ever resulted in the burning of a building.

Eric Bergerud wrote (March 31, 2005):
[To Jason Marmaras] Hogwood's wonderful Messiah is done with quite large forces indeed: wouldn't fill the Mormon Tabernacle but it isn't chamber music. I think some of Hogwood's late Mozart symphonies are done with good sized bands - around 50. (He's used less than 20 for some early Haydn and it works wonderfully.) Spering's SMP done with Das Neue Orchester is supposed to emulate the 1841 Medelssohn version: it doesn't sound like a big modern performance but it's got more heft than a performance like that from McCreesh. I'm not sure how large the ORR or Orchestra or the Age of Enlightenment are, but either can make real noise. (I would have guessed the ORR at 50 when I saw them a while back. Should have kept the notes.) Anyway I don't think HIP means small.

(Heavens I dislike the term HIP. What was wrong with "original instruments?" It was pretty accurate and made no cosmic claims.)

Uri Golomb wrote (March 31, 2005):
Jason Marmaras asked: < There are no 'HIP' groups or recordings with large forces, are there? No huge baroque orchestras playing the Messiah? That would be quite HIP, no? >
Here's a quote from Paul McCreesh on this issue:

"It's interesting that I'm always fighting for bigger and bigger forces for Händel, and smaller and smaller forces for Bach, and maybe that's part of the difference-that Bach's music is always going to be chamber music. Conversely, there is nothing more fantastic than hearing Händel played by an 80-piece orchestra, which he would have used on occasions" (from an interview in Goldberg 29: http://www.goldbergweb.com/en/magazine/interviews/2004/08/23341_5.php).

And, in answer to Tom Dent's question:
< Funnily enough, it is precisely Händel who has had the large 'HIP' forces: I can't remember who made it, but the first recording of the Royal Fireworks Music with the original instrumentation had something like twelve oboes and eight bassoons. Of course such a large orchestra would be needed for an outdoor firework display. >
Perhaps you're referring to the King's Consort recording (http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/details/66350.asp)? I don't think that was the first period-instrument version, but it was advertised as the "First ever recording on period instrument of the oriignal 1749 scoring: 24 oboes, 12 bassoons, 9 trumpets, 9 horns and 4 sets of timpani" -- but no strings at all. Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert also used this version in their second recording of the work.

Dale Gedcke wrote (March 31, 2005):
[Continue of his previous message]
And here is more specific detail on the forces Händel used in his Royal Fireworks Music.

This is an excerpt from the jacket notes on my 1957 vinyl recording of "George Frederick Händel (arr. Harty) Water Music Suite and Music for the Royal Fireworks; Anatal Dorati conducting the London Symphony Orchestra (Mercury Records)". The original April 21, 1749 rehearsal with an audience of 12,000, each of which paid 2 shillings and sixpence for the priviledge, was in preparation for the April 27th performance with fireworks. The latter was a celebration for the end of the Austrian Succession War on Oct. 7, 1748.

"... The orchestra of twenty-four oboes, twelve bassoons, nine trumpets, nine horns, one contrabassoon, three pairs of kettledrums, and one serpent* led off with the Overture. As it concluded, 101 brass cannons blazed forth the royal salute. The fireworks-structure was outlined in fiery light, and the entire orchestra - which, with strings, numbered about one hundred players - performed the Largo Alla Siciliana of Händel's music while a set pyro-technical display represented "Peace". .....

*ORIGINAL FOOTNOTE: The serpent was a bass cornet almost eight feet long folded back on itself three times and ending in an almost complete circle. Its compass stretched upward for two octaves from the B-flat or C below the bass staff. 'What the Devil be that?' Händel is reported to have asked when he first saw it. He was told that it was a serpent. 'Oh! the serpent!' Händel replied. 'Aye, but it not be the serpent what seduced Eve!'"

The notes go on to describe exactly what the orchestra was playing as the 410-ft. long x 114-ft. high fireworks building began to burn down.

Certainly Händel had a penchant for large and drammatic forces in his compositions, whereas Bach was oriented more toward chamber music sizes.

Doug Cowling wrote (April 1, 2005):
Uri Golomb wrote: < Perhaps you're referring to the King's Consort recording (http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/details/66350.asp)? I don't think that was the first period-instrument version, but it was advertised as the "First ever recording on period instrument of the oriignal 1749 scoring: 24 oboes, 12 bassoons, 9 trumpets, 9 horns and 4 sets of timpani" -- but no strings at all. Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert also used this version in their second recording of the work. >
I heard the King's Consort play RFM with a huge Baroque band at a Proms concert in the Albert Hall. The sound of 14 period oboes tuning was worth the price of admission alone!

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 2, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] We did the Bach 4-hpsi concerto last night (rehearsal). Tuned all four harpsichords first (starting from a single A fork), then the concertmaster's open strings to the main harpsichord, then he had all the other string players tune individually to him...except for the viola da gamba player who took all six of his strings from the main harpsichord, and then had the cello tune to him. Took us approximately 80 minutes for all this, including moving all four of the hpsis into the hall and figuring out a positioning plan for all the instruments and musicians. I wonder how long it took at Zimmermann's coffee house. Really fun piece once it gets going. Rock and roll. And a couple of measures in the middle movement sound sort of like Philip Glass.



Continue on Part 16


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