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HIP (Historically Informed Performance)
Part 17

Continue from Part 16

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 18, 2005):
[To John Pike] <>
Since when does pointing out that Leusink supporters have claimed that the performances of Leusink's soloists, choir, and orchestra were at least equal to that which Bach was able to accomplish with his primary choir and orchestra in Leipzig amount to an attack on the quality of a contemporary performances generally?

>>I really think we will never know for certain how satisfied Bach was with his performers at any particular time. The anecdotal evidence we have is really limited to saying that only a small number of the musicians at his disposal were usable, and he rarely if ever praises a particular musician in effusive terms, so I think that speculation that the performances he knew were "flawless" is unsubstantiable.<<
The evidence from the 'Entwurff' is that Bach has placed his emphasis primarily on the 'pool' of pupils at St. Thomas School from which he had to select singers/instrumentalists for performing music at all the churches under his jurisdiction. The pupils skilled and sufficiently talented to actually be chosen by Bach to participate in the Sunday and holiday services in presenting the most difficult, figural music was indeed small, but not simply OVPP nor playing almost every instrument in the orchestra. Being selected personally by Bach for this elite choir meant that these pupils were certainly quite excellent (the other choirs being less so just as Bach had pointed out, but this is to be expected.)

Once again, John's statement reflects the inability to comprehend the fact that the 'supernumerarii' that Bach was able to call upon were indeed excellent and sufficiently numerous. These 'supernumerarii' consisted of all the excellent musicians (singers and instrumentalists) who were not pupil members of the primary choir. As reported recently, Telemann, Heinichen, Hoffmann, and Graupner were a few outstanding examples of so-called amateurs who functioned as 'supernumerarii' under Kuhnau, Bach's immediate predecessor. The list of 'supernumerarii' under Bach's direction is similar, beginning with his own sons after they had graduated from St. Thomas School and had not yet left Leipzig, and including the highest quality musicians from the Leipzig City Pipers such as Gottfried Reiche and extremely talented university students.

My statements are an attempt to correct the confusion caused by just those performers and/or listeners who continue to make statements like the following:
"We had very little time to rehearse these cantatas before performing/recording them. This is comparable to what Bach himself faced every Sunday and special holiday when performing new works. Hence, it is reasonable to assume that our performances of these works were at least as good as those given by Bach in Leipzig."

The unspoken implication inherent in such a statement is that "there really is no need to be dissatisfied with what we have accomplished since we know that we have performed this music as well as Bach could have under the conditions he faced. In any case, no one can prove that Bach's performances were truly excellent. This gives us the excuse not to have to exert ourselves to pursue a level of excellence that simply does not exist."

>>I also suspect that there are very few people today who play as well as or better than Bach himself. I think his playing must have been truly awesome.<<
The next step is to make a reasonable assumption based upon this, that Bach inspired the singers and performers under his direction to reach a similar, very high level of excellence in performance by following his example (there is one report that Bach may have even sung some of his own bass arias, and it appears quite certain that he did 'conduct' by/while playing the violin/viola or harpsichord.)

>>I cannot believe that musicians with today's very high standards make a worse hash of it than those available to Bach, even with limited rehearsal time (then and now).<<
Perhaps the standards were not high enough. Listen to some of the tromba players in the Harnoncourt & Leonhardt Bach Cantata Series as well as those in the Leusink series and it will appear that these are truly players who were still learning to cope with the intricacies of tromba (natural trumpet) reconstructions that deprived them of relatively easier playability afforded by modern modifications to the instrument. The same is true of other historical instrument reproductions as well as the voice techniques used. A new generation of players and singers will certainly attempt to raise the general performance standards set by previous HIP groups. This is as it should be. Objectively we will be able to look back at the past recordings by HIP groups and point to the moments when something 'really clicked' and when a certain vocal or instrumental soloist soared 'above the pack' to give us wonderful moments of moving, truly enjoyable performances of Bach's music. However, there will also be a growing understanding that all these HIP groups were striving toward a goal and that their 'equipment' and 'training/skill/technique' were insufficient in many places where the music begins to sound like a failed experiment. Likewise, the conductors, who bear the burden of extracting from this music a meaningful combination of musical sound and words will come under scrutiny for the choices that they have made. The standard to be usd for judging these performances will have to come from an understanding that Bach not only ascribed to the pursuit of excellence in all types of performances, but that he, in actual practice, was capable of attaining an extremely high level of perfection, a level which, for instance, the Leusink series could not attain despite the protestations to the contrary by those who have made the far-reaching claims detailed above.

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 19, 2005):
[To John Pike] Two points:

1. Congrats to Mr. Braatz for marshalling a strong argument in support of his contention that performance standards in Bach's day were of a very high order. Perhaps he's right. I do find his interpretation of the Birnbaum essay quoted in Wolf to be overly complex. Mr. Braatz argues that the failures in performance alluded to by Birnbaum were those made by other interpreters of Bach's music and not by those conducted by the master himself. The argument is feasible, but barring a more specific reference, I would opt for an "Occum's razor" interpretation: Birnbaum was arguing that Bach's music often received performances that did not do the works justice. As every biographer of Bach attests, we simply don't have much evidence concerning public reaction to Bach's music or conducting skills or the quality of his performers. Thus I think to argue that Bach's presence would have guaranteed a quality performance is an act of faith. It is likewise an act of faith to believe that baroque musicians at any level were the equals, much less the superiors, of today's players. (It could be true, but is utterly unprovable - an act of faith.) One thing I would point out is the very limited talent pool Bach was drawing from. Unless Saxon youth had remarkable lungs and lightning fast fingers, Bach had to cobble together much of his cantata ensemble from a very small number of adolescents whose musical skills varied greatly. Maybe the support coming from the Leipzig University students helped save the day, but here too the talent pool would have been small. Obviously I can't prove it, but if money talked the same language in the 18th Century as it does today, I would rather think that the best musicians in Europe would have been found at the royal courts or in the richest cities. I don't think Leipzig would have qualified.

Today the number of professional ensembles is far too small to accommodate even a fractioof the young people that yearn to make a career out of playing classical music. Indeed, someone wishing to play for Berlin Philharmonic is setting a goal that is not so different from wishing to play professional soccer. I should think that even a second tier ensemble like Leusink's was able to draw from a pool of extremely talented musicians, people that had received extensive training from childhood. (The boys would necessarily be in a somewhat different category. I would think, however, that Leusink was able to choose from a larger number of young gents that Bach could have. And they would have been healthier, better educated and no doubt well supported by Dutch moms. Of course, Bach's boys wouldn't have had video games ...) As I understand it, Suzuki employs the best musicians in Japan. I don't want to equate the two eras. I should think if anything there were more opportunities to make a living playing music in Bach's time than in ours. But when one considers that today's population in industrial democracies, where most classical music is performed and recorded, pushes a billion people, it strains logic to think that somehow technical musical standards have marched backward in the last 250 years.

Although I don't agree with their conclusions there are musicologists and musicians in our era that believe that Bach's music was likely butchered in his own time and could only come into fruition with modern musicians playing modern instruments. (See the introductory chapter of John Butt's "Playing with History.") In any case, the question makes for fun speculation but it strikes me as defying definitive answer. If one could make a genuinely accurate comparison of today's standards with those found in Leipzig around 1735, one would be very close to being able to answer a larger and more interesting question - what did Bach's music actually sound like? If someone solves that one, please let me know.

2. As a little note to John Pike, I have doubts about the historic authenticity of modern cantata ensembles. But that's the antiquarian in me talking, not the music lover. To my ears Suzuki and company make really spectacular music accompanied by splendid sonics. Suzuki takes a somewhat austere approach to Bach's cantatas, but I consider that a plus: Bach's cantatas don't resemble Offenbach very much after all. I honestly don't know what critics refer to when they describe a top notch band as "dry." Whatever it is, I don't hear it with Suzuki. As for "lacking soul", I think that's silly. If anything, there's an unusual reverence in Suzuki's approach. Although the competition is very stiff, for a contemporary multi-voice ensemble with an adult chorus (ie everyone except the OVPP groups) I'd put Suzuki at the top of the list. Just wish the price tag was a little lower.

John Pike wrote (July 19, 2005):
Comments inserted below.

Thomas Braatz wrote:
<>
"Since when does pointing out that Leusink supporters have claimed that the performances of Leusink's soloists, choir, and orchestra were at least equal to that which Bach was able to accomplish with his primary choir and orchestra in Leipzig amount to an attack on the quality of a contemporary performances generally?"
>>I really think we will never know for certain how satisfied Bach was with his performers at any particular time. The anecdotal evidence we have is really limited to saying that only a small number of the musicians at his disposal were usable, and he rarely if ever praises a particular musician in effusive terms, so I think that speculation that the performances he knew were "flawless" is unsubstantiable.<<
"The evidence from the 'Entwurff' is that Bach has placed his emphasis primarily on the 'pool' of pupils at St. Thomas School from which he had to select singers/instrumentalists for performing music at all the churches under his jurisdiction. The pupils skilled and sufficiently talented to actually be chosen by Bach to participate in the Sunday and holiday services in presenting the most difficult, figural music was indeed small, but not simply OVPP nor playing almost every instrument in the orchestra. Being selected personally by Bach for this elite choir meant that these pupils were certainly quite excellent (the other choirs being less so just as Bach had pointed out, but this is to be expected.)"
It does not mean that they were "quite excellent", still less "flawless", and one cannot imply anything about their qualities compared to contemporary choirs. It means that they were better than the other pupils at his disposal. However, the very difficulty of the music which Bach expected them to perform does indeed suggest that they were very capable. I am not saying they were not excellent, merely that such inferences cannot be made from the facts available.

"Once again, John's statement reflects the inability to comprehend the fact that the 'supernumerarii' that Bach was able to call upon were indeed excellent and sufficiently numerous."
Not at all. I am under no illusions about this. I am well aware of the facts, having read Wolff's book and the Entwurff. However, whether he could routinely call upon these people for all his work in the churches and the Collegium musicum, given finanacial constraints, etc. is debatable.

"These 'supernumerarii' consisted of all the excellent musicians (singers and instrumentalists) who were not pupil members of the primary choir. As reported recently, Telemann, Heinichen, Hoffmann, and Graupner were a few outstanding examples of so-called amateurs who functioned as 'supernumerarii' under Kuhnau, Bach's immediate predecessor. The list of 'supernumerarii' under Bach's direction is similar, beginning with his own sons after they had graduated from St. Thomas School and had not yet left Leipzig, and including the highest quality musicians from the Leipzig City Pipers such as Gottfried Reiche and extremely talented university students.
"My statements are an attempt to correct the confusion caused by just those performers and/or listeners who continue to make statements like the following:
"We had very little time to rehearse these cantatas before performing/recording them. This is comparable to what Bach himself faced every Sunday and special holiday when performing new works. Hence, it is reasonable to assume that our performances of these works were at least as good as those given by Bach in
Leipzig.""
Who made this statement? The statement that little rehearsal time was available both then and now is probably correct, and it is certainly a valid explanation for deficiencies in performance. i am sure no-one finds this desirable, just a fact of life. There is no point in trying to replicate the conditions that faced Bach in every way and no-one will limit rehersal time for this reason. it is simply a fact that time is limited, and siilarities with the conditions that Bach faced in this regard are of no interest to the listener. The only thing that interests me ultimately, is the quality of the performance, and despite the limited rehersal time available, i think a lot of modern professionals put on a very good show. What I took exception to in Thomas' e mail was the unjustified denigration of some modern groups.

"The unspoken implication inherent in such a statement is that "there really is no need to be dissatisfied with what we have accomplished since we know that we have performed this music as well as Bach could have under the conditions he faced. In any case, no one can prove that Bach's performances were truly excellent. This gives us the excuse not to have to exert ourselves to pursue a level of excellence that simply does not exist.""
There is no other response to this than "nonsense". No-one makes this sort of statement.

>>I also suspect that there are very few people today who play as well as or better than Bach himself. I think his playing must have been truly awesome.<<
"Tnext step is to make a reasonable assumption based upon this, that Bach inspired the singers and performers under his direction to reach a similar, very high level of excellence in performance by following his example (there is one report that Bach may have even sung some of his own bass arias, and it appears quite certain that he did 'conduct' by/while playing the violin/viola or harpsichord.)"
I agree that Bach's own superhuman skills would have "rubbed off" on those under his direction to a certain extent, but there is a limit to what one can achieve simply by being a genius oneself. This is not to imply that those3 under his direction were not excellent, merely that no such inference can be made from the fact that bach himself was exemplary.

>>I cannot believe that musicians with today's very high standards make a worse hash of it than those available to Bach, even with limited rehearsal time (then and now).<<
"Perhaps the standards were not high enough. Listen to some of the tromba players in the Harnoncourt & Leonhardt Bach Cantata Series as well as those in the Leusink series and it will appear that these are truly players who were still learning to cope with the intricacies of tromba (natural trumpet) reconstructions that deprived them of relatively easier playability afforded by modern modifications to the instrument. The same is true of other historical instrument reproductions as well as the voice techniques used. A new generation of players and singers will certainly attempt to raise the general performance standards set by previous HIP groups. This is as it should be. Objectively we will be able to look back at the past recordings by HIP groups and point to the moments when something 'really clicked' and when a certain vocal or instrumental soloist soared 'above the pack' to give us wonderful moments of moving, truly enjoyable performances of Bach's music. However, there will also be a growing understanding that all these HIP groups were striving toward a goal and that their 'equipment' and 'training/skill/technique' were insufficient in many places where the music begins to sound like a failed experiment. Likewise, the conductors, who bear the burden of extracting from this music a meaningful combination of musical sound and words will come under scrutiny for the choices that they have made. The standard to be used for judging these performances will have to come from an understanding that Bach not only ascribed to the pursuit of excellence in all types of performances, but that he, in actual practice, was capable of attaining an extremely high level of perfection, a level which, for instance, the Leusink series could not attain despite the protestations to the contrary by those who have made the far-reaching claims detailed above."
I agree that when one takes on the performance of music on instruments with which one is not familiar (eg modern best guess recreations of historic instruments), it will take time for new skills to develop and it is quite possible that modern players of such instruments have not yet attained the skill of players in Bach's time who were brought up to play such instruments all the time. However, it is an interesting experiment, and there is so much to be enjoyed in the Leusink and Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series, regardless of some of these deficiencies, that to describe them as "failed" is unwarranted.

John Pike wrote (July 20, 2005):
BWV 22 & BWV 23 Details

[To Thomas Braatz] Thank you. Very interesting, comprehensive and clear.

 

etymology of HIPology

Nils Lid Hjort wrote (December 2, 2005):
< On pp. 193-4 of Butt's "Playing with History", he speaks about this as follows:
"The desire for cleanness, consistency and accuracy has been described as a modernist strain within HIP, and as such is central to Taruskin's critique....The 'European' model of 'distressed' resotration is also common in America, such as at Colonial Williamsburg, and is equally strong within HIP from the earliest years of the movement as a large-scale recording phenomenon. >
I thought that "HIP" was just a little bit to hip an acronym for "historically informed performances" to be used in scholarly texts, but clearly John Butt uses it in his "Playing with History", for example. Which makes me sufficiently curious to ask the list: who coined this word, about when, and in about which forum or fora? And how (relatively) quickly was it picked up for (relatively) common usage? I have in mind the world outside the windows of e.g. this Bach-oriented specialised maillist.

Another discussion is how descriptive and how useful the term is. I am not particularly fond of it, and doubt its general usefulness as a clear discriminant. I optimistically predict that the word will disappear from ordinary and specialist usage in ca. 17 years, since nearly all performances [not to mention nearly all renderings on our CDs / mp3s / mp99s / SACDs / wapniks / bachplugs (TM) / surroundpods / Xboxes / ludwiks / E-implant / BMIs (brain-machine-interfaces) we might care about in 2022] then will be "historically informed".

Eric Bergerud wrote (December 2, 2005):
[To Nils Lid Hjort] A term as clumsy as HIP had to come from American academics - they war ceaselessly on the English language. The idea was to distance the new approach to baroque and classical music pioneered by Leonhardt and others as being "authentic" a condition everyone (including Harnoncourt) agreed was impossible. So if the music isn't "authentic" but it does use period instruments and employs a scholarly and respectful attitude toward the score (more obscurity) then the performance could be described as "historically informed." Naturally we need an acronym, so HIP is born. It's really awful - even the Pentagon would have to work to top it. Considering the fact that nobody ever claimed that one could reproduce the music heard by Vivaldi, Bach or Mozart, I would like to see a return to the original phrase "with original (or authentic) instruments" which was more or less accurate, avoided jargon and made no invalid claims.

Henny van der Groep wrote (December 2, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] Coming indirectly from the school of Leonardt I whole-heartedly agree with your point of view of original instruments and the misused expression or wrong term HIP. You couldn't have explained it better. Thanks. I think this exactly the core of many discussions.

John Pike wrote (December 2, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] I agree. It's a dreadful acronym. I was on this list for over a year before I worked out what the letters stood for. It also seems to make a serious musical movement sound silly.

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 2, 2005):
Nils Lid Hjort wrote:
< I thought that "HIP" was just a little bit to hip an acronym for "historically informed performances" to be used in scholarly texts, but clearly John Butt uses it in his "Playing with History", for example. >
I saw a fun acronym this week reading a review published in November/December Fanfare. The reviewer contrasted this established acronym HIP with his own, SQUARE: "Some Quaint Unstylish Anachronisms Rendered Eloquently" in praise of a favorite Ristenpart recording.

Nils Lid Hjort wrote (December 2, 2005):
Thanks for various interesting and informative comments to my "etymology of HIPology" posting. But these all pertain to my 2nd paragraph (more or less all agreeing that HIP is a silly acronym for something only vaguely defined), so to speak, not to the etymology part.

Who coined the word (or "word"), when did it start its life, making it even to scholarly publications like the book of John Butt? I suppose Butt must make some comments on the term when he first uses it in the "Playing with History"?

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 2, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< I saw a fun acronym this week reading a review published in November/December Fanfare. The reviewer contrasted this established acronym HIP with his own, SQUARE: "Some Quaint Unstylish Anachronisms Rendered Eloquently" in praise of a favorite Ristenpart recording. >
Reminds me of the time my college established a new task force, the Faculty Utilization Committee. The name was quickly changed.

 

Authenticity in Bach and Händel, etc, once again

Santu de Silva wrote (March 2, 2006):
I have reluctantly come to realize, once again (yes, I know) that I am not one who particularly favors HIP performances, or authentic instruments - - for the right reasons.

When I first heard these, I simply liked the sound of them, and I mistakenly believed that I liked them for philosophical reasons. I like the transparency, the way the inner voices emerge, the agility of the smaller forces, the greater rhythmic --- what's the word? --- bounce.

I like the sound of boy's choirs, having sung in them. I know it is possible for mixed choirs to sound as smooth (use your own word here) as boy's choirs when the sopranos and the altos are persuaded to sing like boys. However, there is not the *edge* in the sound of the S and A lines that is present in boy's choirs. This is not entirely objectionable to me, since (as I say again) it isn't on philosophical grounds entirely that I'm a fan of boy's voices. In Gardiner's SMP, he uses mixed boys and girls (I believe) for the ripieno trebles. See how you like the result. (I do.)

[Note: I believe both Gardiner and Koopmann use a mixed team of altos, both men and women. For choral pieces this works well for me.]

[Another note: to hear both male altos and boy altos, listen to Harnoncourt's early St Matthew Passion, recorded with King's College Cambridge and some German/Austrian boy's choir.]

I do like the sound of authentic instruments, though I am now less tolerant of the roughness in early Harnoncourt performances. Either instrumentalists who use authentic instruments (or reproductions--let us not quibble) have learned their art better, or there is some compromise in the instrumentation. (I hope this is not the case; but here I would be yielding to the romance of Authentic Instrumentation for its own sake, which I'm trying to purge myself of.) Compromises may include such things as a key or two in the transverse flutes (in contrast to authentic keyless flutes), etc.

In addition, I have been polluted by all the English and British music I listen to, Purcell, Händel, Byrd and Dowland. Lovers of that repertoire are far less rigid about their preferences concerning the authenticity of performances. In Händel, for instance, there is never a concern that performances were intended to be one singer per part. At first I found it difficult to believe that Bach followed a practice so completely different from those followed elsewhere in Europe. But of course it is possible, since travel was difficult, and performance styles could vary geographically. (I mean that Bach had not the means to travel to England, say, and be impressed --or otherwise--by Händel's choirs.) Given my ignorance of historical matters, take this with suitable skepticism: I believe it was the French court that might have had the greatest influence on how Bach chose his performing forces, perhaps trumped by economic conditions, and administrative obstructionism.

Finally, I have enjoyed both women contraltos (Kathleen Ferrier, Janet Baker) and sopranos (Ruth Holton, Magdalena Kozena) as well as boy sopranos soloists and alto soloists in Bach's vocal music. I like male adult altos / countertenors much less in Bach. Perhaps I have not listened to the best of them. On the other hand, one of my favorite pieces is Gibbon's "The Record of John", a verse-anthem traditionally sung by counter-tenor + SATB, and it is beautiful. I wonder how well it would sound if sung by a contralto? I really do; I suspect that the audible effort when a countertenor sings contributes to the emotional effect. (Feel free to disagree!) In summary, I dislike countertenors singing Bach not because I dislike them in the first instance.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 2, 2006):
Santu de Silva wrote:
< In addition, I have been polluted by all the English and British music I listen to, Purcell, Händel, Byrd and Dowland. Lovers of that repertoire are far less rigid about their preferences concerning the authenticity of performances. >
Actually, there is as much controversory about performance practice in English Renaissance and Baroque music as there is with Bach.

David Wulstan ignited a fire-storm a few years ago when he suggested that much Tudor music should be performed in upward transposition which regularly feature high B flats and C's. This took the repertoire beyond the capabilties of most mixed and boys choirs, and the Clerkes of Oxendord and thew Sixteen were formed specifically to sing this repertoire at authentic pitches.

On the other end of the spectrum, many scholars now argue that Byrd's three masses as well as the motets of the Gradualia were sung by male choirs without trebles, and that even such a famous piece as the Mass for Four Voices was intended for an ATTB OVP performance.

Händel always used choral forces in the oratorios, although some of the early Chandos Anthems may have been OVP.

The resistance of church musicians to scholarly advances is legendary.

Santu de Silva wrote (March 2, 2006):
Good heavens.

Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>> Actually, there is as much controversory about performance practice in English Renaissance and Baroque music as there is with Bach.
David Wulstan ignited a fire-storm a few years ago when he suggested that much Tudor music should be performed in upward transposition which regularly feature high B flats and C's. This took the repertoire beyond the capabilties of most mixed and boys choirs, and the Clerkes of Oxendord and the Sixteen were formed specifically to sing this repertoire at authentic pitches. <<<
Hmm. I suspect that it takes less persuasion to convince the slightly smaller community of interested persons of such extreme positions in the world of English Church Music than it takes to sway the world of Bach performance. (That sounds as if I'm suggesting that kooks have it easier in England, so I'd better quit while I'm ahead...)

>>> On the other end of the spectrum, many scholars now argue that Byrd's three masses as well as the motets of the Gradualia were sung by male choirs without trebles, and that even such a famous piece as the Mass for Four Voices was intended for an ATTB OVP performance.
Händel always used choral forces in the oratorios, although some of the early Chandos Anthems may have been OVP. <<<
This turns my world on its head.

Still, coming back to the "I like what I like" theme, I'm not quite as dismayed as I would have been if I had been under the misguided belief that what I liked about the way things were done is that it was "correct".

Audio opportunist that I am, though, I'm delighted at the prospect of hearing ATTB performances as you describe.

>>> The resistance of church musicians to scholarly advances is legendary. <<<
That's neither here nor there AFAIAC; I'm not a church musician by any stretch of the imagination. (Perhaps you mean that there's difficulty having these works performed according to the new discoveries/theories.)

Finally, I think the general quality of performance (or the general quality of my personal satisfaction with performances) has steadily improved through the years, even though I often deplore that modern recording performers pursue a too-perfect sound. I don't quite know why that seems a problem, so I'll leave it alone!

Thanks for the information!

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (March 2, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The resistance of church musicians to scholarly advances is legendary. >
Perhaps this is because the reason for church music is different than the reason for scholarly advances in music.

In church we use music to praise God. Also, most of us have volunteer choirs.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 2, 2006):
[To Nessie Russell] This is taking us rather off topic, but I don't believe volunteer or amateur choirs are somehow exempt from scholarship. I have a small volunteer choir but I always try to fight against the bloated Romantic style which passes for Bach in many church choirs. Questions of tempi, articulation and dynamics can be accomodated sensitively by amateurs. In fact, some amateur ensembles are less intransigent than the professionals. God gave us brains, and scholarship is one of the gifts we are given to praise him.

Eric Bergerud wrote (March 3, 2006):
[To Santu de Silva] The whole issue of historic authenticity is not a "zero-sum" game thankfully. There are enough groups and enough recordings that much ground has been open to interpretation of all types. However, I get very impatient with the idea that because it's impossible to recreate music as it was actually heard that there's no reason for some musicians to make exactly that attempt. Art, among other things, is a window into the past. I have very strong antiquarian interest in music and consider the period performance movement overall a wonderful thing. Dismissing the pursuit of "authenticity" in music is about the same argument made by those who opposed cleaning the Sistine Chapel or the stained glass in gothic cathedrals. And there's no danger in putting musical performance into some kind of straight jacket because of the opinion of historically minded thought police.

Julian Mincham wrote (March 3, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< I get very impatient with the idea that because it's impossible to recreate music as it was actually heard that there's no reason for some musicians to make exactly that attempt. Art, among other things, is a window into the past. >
Absolutely right.

I always try to fight against the bloated Romantic style which passes for Bach in many church choirs.

John Pike wrote (March 3, 2006):
Santu de Silva wrote:
< On the other hand, one of my favorite pieces is Gibbon's "The Record of John", a verse-anthem traditionally sung by counter-tenor + SATB, and it is beautiful. >
I agree. This is a quite exceptionally beautiful piece. Small wonder that Orlando Gibbons was Glenn Gould's favourite composer when one hears music like this.

Santu de Silva wrote (March 3, 2006):
Eric Bergerud writes:
>>> The whole issue of historic authenticity is not a "zero-sum" game thankfully. There are enough groups and enough recordings that much ground has been open to interpretation of all types. However, I get very impatient with the idea that because it's impossible to recreate music as it was actually heard that there's no reason for some musicians to make exactly that attempt. Art, among other things, is a window into the past. I have very strong antiquarian interest in music and consider the period performance movement overall a wonderful thing. Dismissing the pursuit of "authenticity" in music is about the same argument made by those who opposed cleaning the Sistine Chapel or the stained glass in gothic cathedrals. And there's no danger in putting musical performance into some kind of straight jacket because of the opinion of historically minded thought police. <<<
Well put; I've tried to say the same thing (on other occasions) much less articulately.

Tom Hens wrote (March 4, 2006):
Santu de Silva wrote:
< I have reluctantly come to realize, once again (yes, I know) that I am not one who particularly favors HIP performances, or authentic instruments - - for the right reasons.
When I first heard these, I simply liked the sound of them, and I mistakenly believed that I liked them for philosophical reasons. I like the transparency, the way the inner voices emerge, the agility of the smaller forces, the greater rhythmic --- what's the word? --- bounce. >
Why aren't those right reasons?

I experienced exactly the same thing. I had no family background of listening to classical music except in the most superficial way. The thing that initially got me interested in Bach, when I was about 14/15, and subsequently in other "early" music, was quite simply the sound of the harpsichord. It sounded so much nicer than any other classical instrument I'd ever heard. As I started exploring further, I very quickly realized that so-called "authentic" or "historic" performances (the word HIP wasn't around yet) always sounded more interesting / exciting / whatever, and most "traditional" performances just sounded boring and like bad nineteenth-century pastiches. It wasn't until I got into the subject more that I found out what the "philosophical" reasons behind HIP were, and they seemed so self-evident to me that to this day I can't really comprehend why anyone would dispute the basic principle. Namely, that music from the past always sounds better when performed in the way and on the instruments the composer had in mind. I've taught myself enough since then to be able to explain in much greater detail, using more specific jargon, just what aspects of some performance I like or don't like. But basically, what it boils down to is still: I like how it sounds better.

Ludwig wrote (March 6, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
<< The resistance of church musicians to scholarly advances is legendary. >>
Tom Hens wrote:
< It definitely isn't just church musicians. There is still a great deal of disdain for musical scholarship, barely and sometimes not at all concealed, among many musicians. Even down to the barest level of simply trying to make sure they've got a reliable edition of the work they're performing. Perhaps it is slighly more prevalent among church musicians. After all, churches and historical scholarschip have always had a somewhat troublesome relationship. >
There is a good reason for this. Music is not normally taught, at least in the US, as a scholarly pursuit. One learns one's scales and other theory and performs end of subject.

On the other hand things like English Literature is taught in a scholarly manner and with the plays of Shakespeare music enters the realm of language.

Which reminds me---does anyone knnow what the original music was used in some of Shakespeare' Plays was or isand where if any survives??

Chris Rowson wrote (March 6, 2006):
Ludwig wrote:
< Which reminds me---does anyone knnow what the original music was used in some of Shakespeare' Plays was or isand where if any survives?? . >
I don´t have a scholarly answer for this, but I do have an anecdotal one. I was once doing the music and sound effects for a play called "The Tragedy of Ophelia" being staged in London, for which the director asked me to help with some songs. She told me that in most cases that actual music for the Shakespeare plays is not known, but there is an exception in the case of Hamlet in that the music for the "old lays" which Ophelia sings while drowning is known.

She gave me printed music for three such songs. I may still have this, but if so it is in store and not immediately accessible. I do however have the recordings I made. They are not pretty, as they are just mockups I made to help her to practice the songs so she could hum/ding/chant them on stage. But I could provide you with .mp3s of them if you like.

Yang JF wrote (March 7, 2006):
Tom Hens wrote:
< It (the harpsichord) sounded so much nicer than any other classical instrument I'd ever heard. >
Really. It's so glad to see the statement like this. I always doubt my music tastement is too odd. And also I must confess that HIP just sounds right to me, especially the H & L cantatas series. I feel that Harnoncourt might have caught some vital aspects of the music in many of his cantata recordings, despite the lack of fluency and somehow strange treatment (the oddity even made me laughon occasion) in several pieces.

 

Change Topic
HIP or hip?

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 5, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote (December 2, 2005):
[To Nils Lid Hjort] A term as clumsy as HIP had to come from American academics - they war ceaselessly on the English language.
No, Eric. Perhaps via France?

Raymond Joly wrote (April 5, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] None of that, please.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 5, 2006):
[To Raymond Joly] Sorry, no offense intended. Simply a riposte. I was (and still am) thinking about:
(1) The Greek palindrome from St. Sophia's, via France (when?)
(2) About half (50%) of the words in English are via France, ca. 1066 AD and subsequent.
(3) No need to offend American (presumably North American, including Quebec?)academics.
(4) Trying to stay within the guidelines of humor, without insult, in response to an insult.
(5) Change the subject , we have driven chiasm into a chasm.
(6) Find the origin of HIP. Is it hip or is it square?

I only ran across the HIP comment (insulting to American academics, which does not include me) while searching through Thomas Braatz previous comments on Harnoncourt (possibly insulting to H., certainly not to me).

I am aware that national references are sensitive, easily misunderstood, and sometimes even made inadvertently. I will take your comment seriously, and be careful. Although this post is a bit personal, I trust it is not improper (litotes, Peter?) on list. I will be watching for the earliest opportunity to post a zeugma.

Ton ami has a nice ring to it, I hope not overly familiar, and genuinely intended. I can avoid it, if you prefer.

Raymond Joly wrote (April 5, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] Yes, dear emysko, let us be careful.

By the way, HIP as a grammatical structure is about as natural to a French speaker as baking pizzas to an Eskimo.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 5, 2006):
Change Topic (HIP)

Raymond Joly wrote:
< By the way, HIP as a grammatical structure is about as natural to a French speaker as baking pizzas to an Eskimo. >

John Pike wrote (December 2, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] I agree. It's a dreadful acronym. I was on this list for over a year before I worked out what the letters stood for.

Apparently not very natural to at least one English speaker, either. This comment is from page 17 (!) of the HIP Topic discussions, at the bottom of which page is the promise: To be continued. And after 17 pages, the etymology remains unknown. What can I say?

Well, I can say, a little more carefully than the first time: if the etymology is unknown, why use it as an opportunity to take a cheap shot at American academics? Perhaps it was just a frustrated graduate student? I mean who invented HIP, not who took the cheap shot.

Eric Bergerud wrote (April 5, 2006):
[To Raymond Joly] Unless proven otherwise I must assume HIP is another term inflicted upon smart people by other smart people in American academia. Scholars in other nations can certainly be obscure, and when a French philosopher's time has run its course in Europe, it's about time for him to become vogue in America (see Jacques Derrida or literary criticism's most famous former fascist Paul de Man). Yet I think only an American prof could cook up a term as clumsy as "Historically Informed Performance." Mind you, American dons in literature, sociology, anthropology and a few other choice fields have done a better job of creating pointless jargon than "HIP" but it the essential characteristic that identifies the Red-White&Blue gobbledegook is present: several words that say basically nothing. (Can we imagine, for instance, a good orchestra performing Mozart without being "historically informed" if they are employing a score? Where does one seek Historically Uninformed Performances?) When I bought my first "HIP" LP years ago it simply said "with authentic instruments." As a term it was much too accurate and clear. Obviously it was inadequate and had to be replaced.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 6, 2006):
HIP or hip?

Eric Bergerud wrote:
< only an American prof could cook up a term as clumsy as "Historically Informed Performance." >
I stand by my original suggestion. A frustrated graduate student from anywhere in the world could do as well, maybe better. Incidentally, I don't believe I own any Bach recordings specifically designated as HIP, but perhaps I am just now getting around to reading the fine print (or CAPS). I do own many jazz records where the liner notes call the performances hip, sometimes accurately, sometimes wishfully. I only play the ones that are accurate, or that I enjoy for other reasons, as suggested succinctly by Brad Lehman (American Prof).

Apologies to French speakers, but as acknowledged, this is not exactly easy for English speakers either. (Alliteration, Peter?)

Santu de Silva wrote (April 6, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Unless proven otherwise I must assume HIP is another term inflicted upon smart people by other smart people in American academia.. . . When I bought my first "HIP" LP years ago it simply said "with authentic instruments." As a term it was much too accurate and clear. Obviously it was inadequate and had to be replaced. >
NO one has said that the term "HIP" was invented on this list --yet-- but it is coming dangerously close to it. One reason HIP is going to be around for a long time is that it is useful, at least for the moment!

I do not know this for certain, but I suspect that the reason "authentic" and "authentic instruments" may have been discredited is that many of the instruments being used for early music were in fact reproductions, made in the 20th century. Yet others were restorations of ancient instruments that detractors claim to have been ruined beyond salvage (by 19th century "improvements"). At any rate, the word "authentic" is objectionable because of its implication that all other performances are somehow INauthentic, and so inferior.

HIP is actually, despite its wishy-washiness, rather neutral. To be 'historically informed' is, to my understanding, to be knowledgeable about the ways in which the music had been performed in the composer's lifetime, to the extent that it is possible to know, of course. (Everyone knows the epistemological problems we routinely delight in on this list!) A HIP performer says: I care about how this music was originally played. In the 19th century, I suppose, and even later, players may have looked at the notes, say, in a Bach prelude, and played them exactly as they might have played them if they were the notes of a Chopin prelude. I personally think this is a valid way to do it, even though I enjoy HIP performances also.

ONe thing both the Authentic movement and the HIP movement attract are doctrinaire individuals who like to condemn those who continue to ignore these principles. (They also give birth to people at the opposite extreme, who have an almost violent dislike of HIP and Authentic performance, e.g. Pinchas Zukerman. BTW, I admire Zukerman's work, and I mention him in regard to the HIP business only as a matter of curiosity.)

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 6, 2006):
Santu de Silva wrote:
< NO one has said that the term "HIP" was invented on this list --yet-- but it is coming dangerously close to it. >
From a University of Indiana site. Google "historically informed performance":

What is historically-informed performance? [...] or <snip>
This page and all contents copyright 1995 by Altramar medieval music ensemble.

The snipped portion is large, but you can recover it if interested. The important point is the date: 1995. Pre BCW.

Blame (or credit) someone else. Start from Indiana. Don't ask any questions about why their state is called that, unless you want many pages of discussion on a different topic.

Just this once, the way Edward "Duke" Ellington signed off.

Love you madly, Ed Myskowski

Raymond Joly wrote (April 5, 2006):
[To Eric Bergerud] Yes, please change the topic. That kind of prose is depressing.

Ludwig wrote (April 6, 2006):
Change Topic and one last word

[To Raymond Joly] I do not know where the term phrase "Historically Informed Performance" came from but I would be very surprised if it originated in Academia. More than likely it came in existence on one of the Bach lists or other music lists on the net which is where I first encountered it. Such inventive idiocies are common among computer geeks and those who seem to have a limited command of language semantics---among other such terms are "African-Americans"= someone who is of the negro race. However, it is idiotic because white people also are from Africa and it sounds like someone was born there and then became an American which is not the case for native born American Blacks. There should be no shame in being Negro or Black. The Great late Louis Armstrong proudly said that he was of the black race and so have many others of his race. The proper term be limited to black or Negro which is Spafor Black or simply American. I am an American but not an Anglo-Franco American. I am an American and if you ask my race I am either Caucasian or white which just as if I were Black should be irrelevant.

I would admit that HIP makes somewhat more sense than African American does. It tells us that someone is either following their scholastic research or someone else's research in their performances. Some of the great proponents of this performance style are Harnoncourt, E. Power Biggs and perhaps (although I have my doubts) Wanda Landowska (I suspect her affectations of playing the Harpsichord was more caused by stiff action of her Pleyel than real HIP performance) among others. To these we may add Romain Rolland, Albert Schweitzer whose suppose HIP was more romantic than Baroque.

Eric Bergerud wrote (April 5, 2006):
[To Santu de Silva] No offense Arch but this is exacting the kind of parsing that leads to jargon like HIP. A phrase like "with authentic instruments" is like "historically informed performance" in only one way - it tries to say a lot in a few words. It's a type of code and can serve a useful purpose. When I read "authentic instruments" it meant to me that the instruments used were either old (possible) or more likely very good replicas. As I'm sure you know, many early instrument recordings list the players and the specific instrument used, where and when it was made etc. At the time the term was used it meant the sound was going to be different than if done with modern instruments: the instruments were different, the forces usually smaller and the tempos usually faster as a reflection of what was considered appropriate according to the musicology of the 1950s-60's. (To the best of my knowledge, this idea is still held. Looks like Toscanini was right.) Also implied was that the performance would sound more like the composer intended than something done with larger forces using modern instruments. (Let's remember recordings like Munchinger's - lovely stuff in its own way, but exactly what Collegium Aureum or some of the other pioneer ensembles were trying to avoid. I'll never forget my first "HIP" album: Collegium Aureum's Brandenburg's. The delicacy of the sound almost laid me flat and made me a convert on the spot. As luck would have it a couple of weeks ago I found a cantata done in the late 60's by Collegium Aureum - Actus Tragicus (BWV 106) paired with Telemann's terrific "Du aber Daniel gehe hin" with the Aachener Domchor which includes a splendid boy chorus. Terrific performance, btw, but slower in tempo than I would have expected. Quite un-Harononcourt and un-Richter. Wish they would have made more.) So my baroque collecting of period performance began then - a long time ago. The other common term was "with original instruments." Now I'm sure the reason you don't see these terms anymore is that some modernist profs starting nitpicking. I'd guess strongly that the objection was not on the issue of "authentic instruments." We know enough about baroque instruments for good contemporary craftsmen to do a fine job of reproducing them (better than my WWI fighter buddies) and they certainly do sound different than modern equivalents. Rather I suspect someone in some department recoiled at the term "authentic" or "original" because it implied that these performances reproduced the experience Bach's or Vivaldi's music evoked at the time first played. Far be it for me to beleaguer deconstructionists (or modernists, or post-modernists or .... pick the jargon of your choice) as Alan Sokol did that better than anyone else could. Suffice it to say at the heart of this scholarly python is that literature or art cannot be considered as literature or art: instead it's a "construction" that reflects class, economic, racial and gender hierarchies. Furthermore no "narrative" (this could be history, a novel or a cantata) is ever "true" - it's always the subjective reflection its construction. Got that? (If it isn't obvious this line of argument gets literature profs away from literature real quick - hence the often catastrophic spill-over of this
notion into other fields like history. It's absolutely amazing how many nutty ideas have infiltrated broader academia from literature departments. Edward Said's inane "Orientalism", a hugely influential book, is a perfect example. Well, if the deconstructionists wanted to prove that truth was unobtainable, Said proved it for them. Oh yes, this is personal.)

Anyway, pretty quick you've got people saying you can't reproduce the experience because you can't reproduce the "context." What kind of impact did a Leipzig cantata have on a self-righteous urban Burger who thought it a sin for women to sing or even sit by him and probably believed that hell was coming for everyone except the Leipzig Burgers? Whether these gents knew it or not they were all part of the elite and they were, almost by definition, white males. (I am overstating the case - a little. Or maybe not. No joke it's very easy to produce hideous history when one approaches a subject like this.) Well, we can't know, so purge the term "authentic" or "original." But the approach still does sound different and does represent a new approach to some of the classical repertoire, so you need some term, but one that meets the political and academic requirements outlined above. So, let's see.... "Historically" works as long as you don't pair it with anything implying objective truth because young Harnoncourt and Hogwood are indeed slaving away studying the scores and any evidence that can guide musicians in developing a style closer to what would have been "aural reality" (my own jargon) than that what was being produced by Munchinger and company. "Informed" works because it makes no claim to "truth" (that's
the real naughty word). And "Performance" works because the musicians are performing. So there you go: historically informed performance. Pretty lame really as noted previously. Why is "period performance" or "period instrument" better? Because it evokes a style of performance - nothing more. Indeed I never read a single period instrument artist claim that their music "reproduced" what was played in the past. If anything claims were quite modest and were based on the not unreasonable claim that baroque and classical music sounded better when played on appropriate instruments and in a style appropriate to the period as inspired by "objective" musicology. (Young Leonhardt etc didn't know they were committing a sin in that regard. It wasn't the 70's yet and scholarship was still in it's dark age.) The composers after all knew what their musicians were playing, probably had a good idea how many players they were composing for and what type of venue it would be played in. (Now we can get some real sticky logic. If Bach would have valved trumpets he would have used them. If Bach had female sopranos and an adult chorus he would have used them. OK. But would it also not follow if Bach had modern instruments and a modern chorus he would have composed different music altogether? Or if he had lived in a different world he might have played jazz, joined the Marines or worked for Enron?) But for all that "period performance" actually says more than "historically informed performance" which says nothing. Of course thanks to common usage the phrase has picked up a meaning. But what meaning? I would argue that for most classical music fans it means music played on "authentic instruments." Progress.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 6, 2006):
From a relative newcomer, I will not make this mistake again. Chiasm is looking better by the minute.

 

HIP or hip?

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 29, 2006):
The following quotation was not posted when I first found it, months ago. I intended to flesh it out. I no longer intend to bother, but a bit too good to trash.

On the Historically Informed Performance
Peter Kivy1

1 Department of Philosophy, Rutgers University, 26 Nichol Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-2882, USA

After the publication of my book Authenticities in 1995 I began to receive cof it based on the growing currency of the phrase ‘the historically informed performance’, which was supposed to be describing a kind of musical performance that differed significantly from the kind that had been known previously as the ‘historically authentic performance’ and which had been the object of my critique in the book.

The points:
(1) The American Academic, Peter Kivyl, in 1995, was not aware of the phrase, let alone the acronym, HIP.
(2) He was criticized for not being aware of the phrase, in academic circles. This is where I stopped. It was implied, but not absolutely clear, that the criticism came from England, of all places. The bastion of linguistic purity. No?

 

HIP AND aethetics (was: John Butt SMP (OVPP)

Terejia wrote (June 22, 2008):
Terejia wrote:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/28453

PS : I said, HIP value and aethetic value are two separated independent issues but I never ever would assert historical/academic approach is valueless...although I think it IS clear, I add this post -just in case.

I DO think academic/historical approach is of much value. Only that it is ONE OF the many elements /factors in music and some musicians may place their priority on some other elements than historical/academic issues.

 

Continue on Part 18

HIP (Historically Informed Performance): Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18

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