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HIP (Historically Informed Performance)

Part 2

 

 

Continue from Part 1

Performance Preferences: reply to Donald Satz

Neil Halliday wrote (July 27, 2002):
I acknowledge your point about imposing one's preferences on others. However, from my point of view, all non-HIP activity in the baroque appears to have ceased, which cannot be a good thing when dealing with the visionary genius of creative artists like Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell and others. It's akin to ceasing all performance of Beethoven's late piano sonatas on a Steinway grand in the interests of historical accuracy, despite what Beethoven himself was striving for. And Bach was often disappointed by the musical forces available for his employment. (nor did he ever hear the expressive cantabile of the modern violin!). Okay. Enough of this. Back to the recordings. Thanks for the impressive analysis of each variation of the Goldberg Variations in a couple of postings on this site (78 & 112); the appellation "black pearl" for variation 25 tickled my fancy! To the other members who responded to my diatribe against HIP, I confess possession of, and admiration for, a recording of cantata BWV 115 by Harnoncourt with period instruments. ( note that violins, solo or ensemble, are not the significant players in this work). Perhaps further investigation on my part is waranted.


Solo violin S&P with Ingrid Matthews?

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 27, 2001):
< Bill Kasimer asked: "BTW, would someone please explain exactly what is meant, with respect to solo violin, by "period instrument". Is it the instrument, the strings, or what? For example, the Schmid referenced above is played on a 1707 Stradivarius, but it isn't billed as an "authentic instrument performance" or any such term." >
This never-ending discussion (on this and the other Bach site) should make it evident that there is no clear definition possible, if that is what you want. HIP and 'period instrument performance' are terms that carry an aura of superior musicological knowledge, but the more you try to ascertain the truth, the less certain you will be about the definition of either term. Yes, there are general feelings attached to each term, and even some 'genuine' instruments from that period, or copies thereof, but (particularly in the case of string instruments) speak to a real expert about how genuine that 'Strad' even with its known provenance is, and you will be amazed at the significant changes it has undergone since it was made. Add to that the pitch (usually lower) for which it was built and the all-gut strings, then consider the different type of bow used. Now there are those who claim that they can 'turn back the clock' so that that which you hear is exactly like that which was heard prior to 1800. This is where the difficulty arises. These string instruments have undergone significant, irreversible changes. Then we have those who carefully measure and reproduce a 'Strad' to create a copy exactly like the original. The copy does not sound much like the original (then they say, perhaps it's the varnish, or the wood that is different, etc.) What does this tell you about all the other non-Strads, originals or copies thereof that are being played in an authentic instrument performance? Then consider the incident in Heifitz' life that was shared on this site recently: it does not matter what type (poor or excellent quality) instrument you play, if you are a truly skilled musician.

So now we are left with the style of playing that existed in the Baroque period. Who determines that, if we have no recordings from that period? The few descriptions that have come down to us in writing can only hint at some of the differences that might have existed. This is almost like reading a text in the Bible. There are numerous ways in which something can be interpreted, and how does all this 'play out' in actual performance?

In reality, the extent to which you can push these terms that are only very general in nature is left up to each individual to use as they see fit. A player and perhaps the instrument (the choice of the type of instrument) might sway you to think that this is a little more authentic than, let's say, another player who has made a little less of an effort to understand what the music might have sounded like in Bach's time. I personally try to avoid these terms (which is sometimes almost impossible when trying to describe the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cantata series on Teldec) because I realize how vague they really are. I guess what I am trying to say is, do not get the impression that there is a simple and clear definition, even though on the surface it appears that there might be.

If you, or anyone else has come upon such a clear definition, do by all means share it with the list members. That will be a discussion to be long remembered. We also need this definition to be included in Aryeh's Bach Cantata Site, so that others can be well informed on this matter when they look it up.


About authentic violins

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 28, 2001):
[To Archimedes] Let's begin with points of agreement:

As you had stated:
< But this last is the hardest of all: to agree on the performance practices. In that regard, I believe Tom's conclusion is correct: there is no universally accepted definition. There are varying degrees of agreement on various issues: tempo, phrasing, dynamics, intonation, tuning, ornamentation, repeats, instrumentation (continuo, etc) >
The point that I had been trying to make is that even with a sort of general agreement on the varying degrees performance practices that exist, we now have to contend with the crossover phenomenon (Rilling) which makes the lines even less clear than before.

But then I read your contention/opinion that reverse-engineering a violin to make it become what it had once been prior to c. 1800 is a simple process that does not affect the tone of a violin and that violins "are not pathetically delicate things."

This is what I have questioned and still question. However my concern here primarily is not to give you or anyone else the wrong impression simply because I have raised what I consider to be a legitimate question. Let me state clearly that I listen to and enjoy recordings of Bach's music in just about any form as long as it is done reasonably well. I am not criticizing the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cantata series (or any other similar series) for having a 'bogus' baroque sound, because their violins (H/L on Teldec is to my knowledge the only series to have graciously supplied the instrument maker's names for each instrument they used) very likely have not survived without substantial modification during the 'watershed' period around 1800. I also do not go about seeking opportunities to tell or to write to people saying,"Did you know that the violins (Jakobus Stainer) most likely have not survived without modification and that any sound that Alice Harnoncourt or Marie Leonhardt manage to coax out of their instruments is not really genuinely Baroque in sound?" What does it matter, if the end result enhances one's listening pleasure and increases one's understanding of the music played in Bach's day? I hope that you read the post on this site (I think it was Brad Lehman's) from Andre Previn's description of Heifitz' exchange with a young violinist who insinuated that Heifitz sounded better on his personal Strad than she ever could on her less distinguished instrument, whereupon he took her instrument and played the same passage. The sound was identical on both instruments!

If I launch into a long explanation on the subject of Strads or other Baroque violins, their history, what is possible and not possible, it will only focus attention on the instruments, thus excluding the most important element: the musician who is using this instrument to convey Bach's ideas while embuing them with human emotions that appear during the performance.

Santu De Silva (Archimedes) wrote (August 1, 2001):
Tom and I have been having this little discussion about authentic instruments. In spite of willingness on both sidesto look for points of agreement, there are very few; namely that there can be no precise definitions about performance practice (HIP). However, while I say that there certainly can be some agreement about authentic instruments, Tom is of the opinion that there cannot be. In this regard, Tom seems to be more like a scientist than a musician!

"Different instruments sound the same when played by an expert."

< Tom writes: "I hope that you read the post on this site (I think it was Brad Lehman's) from Andre Previn's description of Heifitz' exchange with a young violinist who insinuated that Heifitz sounded better on his personal Strad than she ever could on her less distinguished instrument, whereupon he took her instrument and played the same passage. The sound was identical on both instruments!" >
This story can't be extrapolated to support the idea that the instruments do not matter. In particular, an unmodified Baroque instrument played with gut or synthetic strings will sound *very* different from a high-tension steel-strung modern violin (no matter who plays them in a side-by-side test).

This is a fact that few people will dispute.

< "There are no surviving Baroque instruments." >
Perhaps Tom holds the view that there are in fact no surviving unmodified instruments? Perhaps this is what he means below when he mentions the Jakobus Steiner instruments, etc?

If the existence of such instruments is in doubt, then there is, indeed, reason to doubt that we can ever *know for certain* what Baroque violins sounded like. But I for one don't believe that we have such a hopeless situation.

I am willing to believe that there are unmodified Baroque violins around. We don't need Cremona violins- -Stradivarius, Amati, Guanerius, and so forth. All we need is any old intact violin, to hear what it sounds like. In fact, such violins are played everywhere by non-classical violinists, folk artists, have been handed down unmodified in many old families, particularly poor families who could not afford to have their violins raped. Making such instruments is not difficult either; violin-makers have been making baroque violins for centuries. Of course no one takes them onto the concert stage to play Brahms or Tchaikovsky. They are folk instruments. But they are recognizably structurally identical with Baroque violins.

< "Why is it such a big deal?" >
I do not consider it a big deal whether a violin is truly a 17th or 18th century violin, unmodified, or one that has been made in this century (or the last) to the same exact design. Henceforth I will call such violins "Baroque" violins.

The big deal is that classical musicians are learning how to play them. Sure Heifetz could play one, but his technique would not produce good results on one. Violinists have had to consciously change their technique to use the baroque violins and bows. This in turn has affected how the music is played, the instrumentation, everything. Therefore, yes, it is a big deal. The use of Baroque instruments has been pivotal in the rediscovery of what is believed to be the so-called HIP performance practice.

Rilling, Norrington, Harnoncourt and others have said that once the lessons had been learned, it was possible to, in part, dispense with Baroque instruments. But such statements do not detract from the historical value of having played baroque violins in the middle of the last century, and grappled with the performance issues. Baroque instruments are here to stay, and will gain more ground every year.

< "But Baroque Stradivarius instruments are somehow more baroque than no-name Baroque instruments." >
I hope this thought is not the one that is getting in the way of Tom Braatz agreeing that the idea and the realization of a Baroque instrument makes sense, and therefore that HIP may have a plausible basis, notwithstanding the impossibility to define it.

The tragedy is that the Cremona violins were more susceptible to being "modified" than others, since violinists, being the superstitious people they are, constantly sought for an advantage on the concert stage, and the Cremona violins somehow seemed to offer it.

The same superstition eggs on modern baroque-repertoire violinists to seek out restored Cremona violins over baroque reconstructions offered by modern violin-makers. The cry that "the art of baroque violin-making is lost" is more evidence of this superstition. Yes, you can't make a Baroque violin that sounds like a steel-strung Strad. But who wants it? Baroque violins sound funny to some people, but they're perfect for Baroque music!

< Thomas Braatz wrote: The point that I had been trying to make is that even with a sort of general agreement on the varying degrees performance practices that exist, we now have to contend with the crossover phenomenon (Rilling) which makes the lines even less clear than before.
But then I read your contention/opinion that reverse-engineering a violin to make it become what it had once been prior to c. 1800 is a simple process that does not affect the tone of a violin and that violins "are not pathetically delicate things." >
[Arch: I don't really care about reverse-engineering. I'm perfectly satisfied with modern imitation of a Baroque violin. The differences between baroque violins and modern violins far outweigh the differences between a baroque violin and a modern imitation.]

< This is what I have questioned and still question. However my concern here primarily is not to give you or anyone else the wrong impression simply because I have raised what I consider to be a legitimate question. Let me state clearly that I listen to and enjoy recordings of Bach's music in just about any form as long as it is done reasonably well. >
I am not criticizing the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cantata series (or any other similar series) for having a 'bogus' baroque sound, because their violins (H/L on Teldec is to my knowledge the only series to have graciously supplied the instrument maker's names for each instrument they used) very likely have not survived without substantial modification during the 'watershed' period around 1800.

< I also do not go about seeking opportunities to tell or to write to people saying,"Did you know that the violins (Jakobus Stainer) most likely have not survived without modification and that any sound that Alice Harnoncourt or Marie Leonhardt manage to coax out of their instruments is not really genuinely Baroque in sound?" What does it matter, if the end result enhances one's listening pleasure and increases one's understanding of the music played in Bach's day? >
My response is:
Simple logic indicates that the difference between the sound that these people coax out of their violins and "true" baroque sound is no greater than the difference between the sound of one player and another. Centuries from now, will people say that Heifetz's sound was more truly 20th century than Kreisler's? And surely their sound is vastly different. So when violinists of the future use genuine acoustic imitations of 20th-century violins, how laughable it will be if they argued that they were probably doing it wrong!

< If I launch into a long explanation on the subject of Strads or other Baroque violins, their history, what is possible and not possible, it will only focus attention on the instruments, thus excluding the most important element: the musician who is using this instrument to convey Bach's ideas while embuing them with human emotions that appear during the performance. >

Donald Satz wrote (August 1, 2001):
Although my dad played the violin, I never did and know essentially nothing about the instrument except for what my ears tell me. I've heard thousands of 'baroque' violin recordings; they all have in common a pungent and delectable sound to me. Rilling and others may have adopted some HIP procedures, but those modern violins have a very different sound than the baroque ones. I consider the lines between them to be quite pronounced. Therefore, just because some modern instrument orchestras are trying their best to approximate the HIP sound, that's not going to satisfy my aesthetic preference for the baroque violin for performancof baroque music.

Santu De Silva wrote (August 1, 2001):
< Donald Satz wrote: Although my dad played the violin, I never did and know essentially nothing about the instrument except for what my ears tell me. I've heard thousands of 'baroque' violin recordings; they all have in common a pungent and delectable sound to me. Rilling and others may have adopted some HIP procedures, but those modern violins have a very different sound than the baroque ones. I consider the lines between them to be quite pronounced. >
I think you've put it very well. I suppose to "uneducated ears" such as yours or mine- -no insult intended- -there is a distinct cohesiveness in the family of sounds produced by these Baroque violins. I attribute it to the instruments; instruments, as many performers will grant, have their way of imposing technique on a sensitive performer. Some may revere the way a performer can dominate the instrument, especially when the performer is Heifetz, and the violin concerned is a lowly instrument owned by a young student. But the other side of the story is that baroque violins are de facto quite different instruments from modern violins, and are played differently and sound different.

< Don Satz: Therefore, just because some modern instrument orchestras are trying their best to approximate the HIP sound, that's not going to satisfy my aesthetic preference for the baroque violin for performances of baroque music. >
Well...it's a matter of degree. The "modern instrument HIP" are neither human nor android; more cyborgs, I suppose. They fall between the other groups, and its a matter of judgement whether they fall closer to Karajan or to Pinnock. In any case, you're still correct; their sound can be easily identified as non-"authentic" instrument.

I'm merely surprised by the insistence of some, such as Tom Braatz, that the idea of a baroque instrument is vague. I believe he confuses the problems with restoring modified instruments with the process of making (modern reproductions of) baroque violins in the first place. To my (admittedly non-expert) mind, satisfactory baroque-style violins can be manufactured today, period. It is these that are called "authentic", for lack of a better word. And they may be superior to restored Stradivarius violins, simply because the latter have been "irreversibly altered."

Famous violinists have been known to scorn any but Cremona instruments. Even a Strad run over by a truck is superior to a perfect instrument by anyone else. For them nothing exists but those. What can I say? Perhaps they know something. I think it's mere superstition!


Semi-HIP (was: BWV 199 – Dawn Upshaw)

Peter Hoogenboom wrote (August 8, 2001):
Hello everyone and sorry for the belated reply:

< Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote: Sometimes this HIP/ Non-HIP/ SEMI-HIP thing becomes problematic. [...] It is HIP? No! It has two grown women and the evangelist and the tenor are one singer and ditto for the bass and Herodes. But are they [...] [and more] >
As I understand it, "Historically Informed Performance" is meant to include perfomance decisions that deviate from the performer's best knowledge of the original performance ideals, as long as the performance benefits from that best knowledge in general. It is intended to be a broader term than "authentic," which is, of course, frought with pitfalls.

However, this definition of "HIP" makes it a relatively useless term, because it could include performances of Bach cantatas with hundreds of singers and modern-style instruments, as long as the artistic leaders of the concert had done their musicological homework.

Is there a better definition of "HIP" out there?


HIP

Jim Morrison wrote (October 10, 2001):
Quick question for those of you who have been listening to classical music longer than I have. Anyone out there know when the phrase 'historically informer performance' or HIP came into use? Is it a 80s phrase used to distinguish period performances from those on modern instruments that had some of the period performance tendencies? Did it come about from a rift in the early music scene with people wanting to distinguish from performances that tried to capture the 'authentic' sound of baroque music and those that wanted to use what they had learned from history to invigorate their modern performances?

Is it used now mainly to distinguish modern recordings from those made before early music practices/instrument became common? Is the term more useful in a negative sense, as in 'that's a non-HIP performance of the Saint Matthew Passion' than in a positive one 'that's Manze sure is a great at giving a HIP.'

Is it more useful when talking about vocal and orchestral music than with solo instrumental or chamber? It seems to me I see it used more often when discussing Bach's vocal works than with any other section of music, but that's my own limited impression.

Do people use it mainly when talking about Bach? or with other composers? Anyone out there ever called Gould's Byrd/Gibbons disc, which I think is a wonderful album, non-HIP?

I don't even know if the common practice is to spell out HIP so that you say it not as a word but as a set of initials/letter, or to say it as a sounded word, like 'hip' that joint that helps keep my leg hooked up to my pelvis. (By the way, there's a word for words that are spelled out: initialism, which is different from an acronym, which is not spelled out, but said like a regular word. Most people, however, like to use the term acronym to cover both cases.)

So is HIP an acronym or an initialism? Do you spell it or say it?

Did it come from the western side of the Atlantic of the east? Any idea on who uses it more, the Americans or the British? Do other countries, such as Germany or the Netherlands have a comparable word in their languages? What phrases or terms do they use to cover our English HIP?

Thanks for any help,

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 10, 2001):
[To Jim Morrison] I grew up in the 60's and 70's listening to what would be called 'period performance' and it is a term I am actually more comfortable using than the newer HIP term. HIP (Historically Informed Performce) seems to be the slang used for younger listeners in the '90's. What I feel is the danger here is that PP (period performance) might be considered inadequate or inferior to HIP simply because the latter is newer. Newer does not mean better in my book. I feel Harnoncourt's guiding light into this area is still valid today, and some of the bloodless, austere approaches used now is NOT HIP either. And the younger listeners actually feel HIP is only about 10 years old when in fact it is more like 50 years old! Paul Hindemith wrote a commemorative lecture on Bach needing to get away from the Mendelssohn syndrome. Harnoncourt started his Concentus Musicus Wien in the early 50's.

Hart Dowling wrote (October 10, 2001):
[To Francine Renee Hall] The HIP revival started much earlier than 50 years ago. In fact, it is at least 100 years old, if not older.

A lot has been learned naturally, but there have been musical antique collectors since God knows when.

If you are not familiar with it already, you should read Harry Haskell's 1988 book, The Early Music Revival, A History.

Fascinating.

It's a pity that there is no list of recordings, though.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 10, 2001):
[To Hart Dowling] Hi Hart! Wow, I thought 50 years was a good estimate for HIP. Now I learn from you that it was at least 100 years! I learn so very much from everybody on the Bach postings! Thanks for the book recommendation-- can you give me some examples of HIP from 100 years ago?

Jim Morrison wrote (October 10, 2001):
[To Hart Dowling]
I second the recommendation of Haskell's book Early Music Revival. It's the first place I turned to answer my questions, but I didn't really find what I was looking for. I looked in the Grove on-line as well (I have access to it at my work place) but came in with snake-eyes there as well. Also along similar lines I recommend the book Harpsichord in America by Larry Palmer which discusses the history of the harpsichord in the USA in the 20th century.

PS: Haskell touchesupon Hindemith's writing.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 10, 2001):
HIP = Historically Informed Performance

The OED (modern edition of the Oxford English Dictionary) does not include this abbreviation or acronym)

The MGG uses the word "Aufführungspraxis" ("performance practice") to describe what HIP probably means. In this article another phrase is used that might be considered a closer equivalent to HIP: "die stilgerechte Wiedergabe" ("the rendering of a piece of music that is performed in such a way that it is faithful to the style of playing appropriate to a given period/style of music") The author of the article in the MGG, Hans Hoffmann, sees two opposing possibilities in the realization of this ideal:

1) "die Wiederbelebung älterer Musik mit modernen Mitteln" ("the revival of music from earlier periods but still using modern instruments and/or playing styles more appropriate for music from later periods") Here the author notes "die Verzerrung älterer Musik durch die Ansprüche der eigenen Zeit" ("the distortion of music from earlier periods made by the demands of the present") Writing 50 years ago, he observes: "die meisten ausübenden Musiker sind dem romantischen Klangbild verhaftet" ("most musicians performing presently are still playing old music in a way more appropriate to the Romantic period").

2) "Eine historisch möglichst getreuen Wiedergabe" (a rendition of the music which is for the most part historically faithful") The caveat that I would add fifty years later would be: "die Verzerrung älterer Musik durch die Übertreibungen mancher nicht bewiesenen Aufführungspraxis" ("the distortion of music from earlier periods caused by the exaggerations of some unproven performance practices" Some of you will no doubt guess what I am referring to here.

As far as the appearance of period instruments, the MGG indicates that the period after WW1 in Germany brought about a strong interest in the discovery and construction of instruments of the Renaissance and Baroque as well as performances that were historically accurate. This pertains mainly to various forms of chamber music. There were major revivals made possible by major printing projects that made music available that had existed only in manuscript form or rare printed editions before that time.

How much HIP is too much?

When the attempt to achieve authenticity goes to extremes, disregarding the need for accurate scholarship as well as the need for that elusive, almost indefinable quality: good taste.

"Taste, in fact, is the other side of the coin on which authenticity is stamped, and the student of performing practice will do well to recall how often writers of treatises on the subject through the ages have tempered their maxims with appeals to 'le bon goût.'" [Article entitled "Performing Practice" by Howard Mayer Brown in the New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians]

In my recent endeavor to translate pertinent parts of Mattheson's "Der vollkommene Capellmeister", I became aware of Mattheson's effort to keep reminding the reader who was being confronted with myriad rules concerning the composition and performance of music, that good musical taste is a quality that is required of a good musician, but that its definition eludes almost every writer. In essence this means that the resulting performance of music must be aesthetically pleasing to a cultured listener.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 10, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] Great posting, Thomas! Thanks!

Over the lunch hour today I gave a 40-minute organ recital in a local serie= s. The program and notes are here:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/Oct10Concert.htm

This performance was surely a mixture of HIP and whatever non-HIP is called. I did as much as I could to make it HIP within the bounds of good taste, and the audience said they enjoyed it.

For example, the organ was in equal temperament, so right away the music sounded much more bland than it would have in historically accurate temperaments. Also, the key action and stop action were electrically controlled, reducing some of my control of note attacks and releases. (I much prefer mechanical-action organs.) And the keys were plastic, and the wind was furnished by an electric blower, and we had electric lights on, and the church was heated. The pedalboard was curved and radiating, and I wore modern organ shoes. Combination pistons and memories were available. The church was carpeted.

On top of those uncontrollable circumstances, what did I do to make it HIP-ish?

- I used "a la carte" registrations (no pistons or memories)...mostly because I prefer it that way, though, not from a need to be artifically restricted. There is plenty that one can do musically without a bunch of fancy registration changes during pieces, and there is almost always a hand free to do them without pistons anyway.

- My fingerings were almost all old-style without much use of thumbs. And I didn't need heels for any of the pedal parts.

- I improvised many details.

- More than half the pieces I played work equally well on harpsichord or clavichord, and one adapts them to whatever instrument is at hand, in this case organ. That "on-the-fly" rearrangement procedure is actually *more* HIP than playing things on only the single instrument one usually hears them on. Keyboard players 300-400 years ago studied *all* the instruments, not just a specialty.

- I played many of the notes much shorter than they were notated; I also played some of the notes much longer than they were notated. That's not something that a literal-minded modern player of only one instrument would typically think to do. It's an older way of approaching the notation and figuringout what it means. That's from reading the historical treatises and examining a wide range of music and then trying to play what simply sounds best, by good taste, in the given situation. That's the goal, anyway.

- I didn't use either of the swell boxes or the crescendo pedal. Just left them open as if they didn't exist. Again, the music doesn't need it.

- One of the pipes on the 8-foot principal was very bad, so I avoided using that stop in any piece where that note would be conspicuous. It's a very historical and practical thing to do, dodging mechanical problems!

In what ways was the concert definitely non-HIP?

- I used the electric couplers to transfer a few of the stops to a more conveniently placed low manual instead of tiring my shoulders by reaching up to the highest one.

- I photocopied my music and put it into a ring binder to put the page turns into better places. I also used 20th-century cellophane tape in assembling this.

- I used a celeste stop and the tremulant together(!) on the Bach piece because it sounded good on that organ for the effect I wanted the piece to have, today. I don't care whether Bach would have done that or not, or whether he had both those available or not. I also registered some of the pieces with 4-foot alone or even 2-foot alone; sounded good to me for the points in the program where they were. There's no need to have big loud sounds or low pitches all the time.

- The program and notes were done on computers. And I'd never met the presenter in person until 15 minutes before the show; only by e-mail.

- The presenter spoke to the audience in English.

- I took a sip of bottled water.

- Afterward I went out with a buddy from the audience and we had a gyro and fries; something that couldn't happen 300 years ago.

Overall, the point was not to be HIP or non-HIP. The point was to do a good enjoyable concert for the people who showed up, regardless of what they expected. The point was to play the music with conviction and focus. As far as I'm concerned, that is authenticity.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 11, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Your post on HIP was so superb that I've printed it out! Thanks so much!

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 11, 2002):
Bradley Lehman stated:
< Overall, the point was not to be HIP or non-HIP. The point was to do a good enjoyable concert for the people who showed up, regardless of what they expected. The point to play the music with conviction and focus. As far as I'm concerned, that is authenticity. >
Thanks for your compliment and your extensive, but very interesting comments + your program notes that I found to be very informative. It's always good to know occasionally that my postings are being read despite the recommendation by some that my comments should be skipped because they bother some readers on these lists.

[BTW, with your busy schedule, have you read my comment addressed to you at the end of my discussion of BWV 47?]

Many casual listeners, and perhaps most of those that heard your concert, are, for the most part oblivious to all the challenges and considerations that are necessary for such a concert, nor will they know of many last-minute changes and adjustments that have to be made prior to the concert and perhaps even during one.

Two phrases come to mind immediately: "Do it with what you've got" (and what you had was anything but an ideal vehicle for this music) and finally "If it sounds good, it is good."

I was reminded of a Baroque concert that a friend attended in the Chicago area during the past year. The performers were Rachel Barton, violin, David Schrader, harpsichordist and another performer, whose name I have forgotten, on the viola da gamba. The last two instruments were relatively brand-new, but Rachel Barton played a very famous Stradivarius violin that was on loan to her. The instruments used equal temperament at the standard pitch. Bach and Händel were also included in the varied program that was presented. The Strad was a modified/modernized instrument as all of them are. She played using a normal bow, but this was her only physical concession toward HIP: during the intermission she removed the regular metal and wire-wound strings and replaced them with gut strings. All those present enjoyed the performance thoroughly, so she along with the other players must have communicated the music successfully. Had she also changed bows as well, using a curved bow, I am certain that more people would have said: "Now that is even more HIP!"

Without getting into the near impossibility of undoing all the major modifications that violins were subjected to around 1800, I would, as a rabid HIP purist also want to hear what an 'authentic' violin sounded like, contingent on other factors that can not be reliably recreated. Among other things, the fingerboard would be shorter and the violin held in a different position. Some violinists have mastered the use of the curved bow, but it would take quite some time to adjust to the shorter fingerboard length. And the list goes on.

Would it be of interest to hear such a performance if it were technically possible? Yes. Would such a performance, based on all the requirements of absolute authenticity (if there even is such a thing) necessarily be aesthetically pleasing to the ear? Probably not, unless the performer had the necessary musical resources and talent to overcome the difficulties and present a truly convincing and moving performance.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 11, 2002):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Thanks for your kind comment. I've read all your postings.


Hip and dots over notes

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 11, 2002):
< Thomas Braatz wrote: [BTW, with your busy schedule, have you read my comment addressed to you at the end of my discussion of BWV 47?] >
Thomas, I've thought some more about your question of distinctions between Bach's keyboard music and other music (e.g. cantatas)...whether the dots might mean one thing in music for one instrument but a different thing for a different instrument. I haven't come to any conclusions about that. Obviously it means pay some type of special attention to those notes.

But anyway, I'm sufficiently convinced about the dots over the notes in his keyboard music (both for stringed keyboards and for organ)...sufficiently convinced they mean "be sure these are played clearly and accurately on the beat with nothing fancy happening to them." Sufficiently convinced to play them that way, and noticing that it consistently works well.

They don't have to be played short; they have to be played forthrightly with no audible emphasis that would draw attention to them being "artsy." That is, make them un-special, bland. That is, it's the opposite of the aggressively "hot" staccato way that Keith Jarrett (for example) plays them in var 16 of the Goldbergs.

(To refresh the thread: we're talking about a series of similar notes, each of which has a dot over it...as opposed to notes with wedges, or notes separated by explicit rests. I maintain that these dots do not mean modern staccato in Bach's keyboard music. And they certainly crop up a lot more often in Bach's published music than in the manuscript-only music.)

My main evidence here is from the performance side, not the scholarly side: it sounds good. Good taste. That is, it's the side that I care about more. If there were a gun to my head or something I could probably also come up with some hard evidence from treatises, but at the moment I have more important things to do.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 11, 2002):
< Bradley Lehman wrote: My main evidence here is from the performance side, not the scholarly side: it sounds good. Good taste. That is, it's the side that I care about more. If there were a gun to my head or something I could probably also come up with some hard evidence from treatises, but at the moment I have more important things to do. >
...I guess you could say my bias is toward the the Historically Informed PERFORMANCE angle of all this, rather than any sort of Performance-Informed HISTORY. I'll take as much from historical facts as I need to to make the music sound wonderful (with as much character as possible), but I'm not into recreating what it might have sounded like hundreds of years ago. This attitude of mine didn't sit all that well with the historical musicology department I encountered in grad school, but that's my story and I'm sticking with it. In the heat of performance I will always fall back to making the music sound good, intuitively.

That said, I do really enjoy all the investigative processes on the historical side, as a treasure hunt. The more one can know, the better. It gives one a broader range of possibilities, and a better chance of understanding what the composer may have been thinking...in terms of effects, not facts to be followed slavishly. The composer who really changed things toward the "play all my markings exactly, and nothing else" side was Igor Stravinsky. And Stravinksy and Bach are worlds apart.

Donald Satz wrote (October 11, 2001):
[To Bradley Lehman] Concerning Jarrett's "aggressively hot staccato way" with the dots in variation 16 of his Goldbergs recording, I can't say I find anything particularly aggressive about the performance. I love his beautifully proportioned first section, and the fugue is a noble one in his hands. It's one of his best performances in the set, and there aren't a wealth of them either from the man.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 12, 2002):
[To Donald Satz] Anybody curious about the exact passage I'm talking about: it's only bars 8-9 of variation 16. That's 0'23" to 0'26" and 1'20" to 1'24" in track 17 of the Jarrett recording.

The notes in question are first in the left hand (8 notes), then 8 in the right, then 8 more in the left. Bach has dots over all of them, which I believe means: "Yo! You've been swinging the whole movement up till now. Notice that these by contrast are in straight rhythm instead!" ...without implying any articulative emphasis; indeed, they should probably be cooler than the surrounding material rather than hotter. De-emphasize them in contrast to everything else that is either swung or crisply snappy.

But Jarrett reads them as if this were 20th-century notation by Stravinsky or Shostakovich, and he takes the dot to mean hot staccato. And the effect he gets here both times is a bunch of notes suddenly sticking out loudly, peck peck peck peck peck peck peck peck...! Definitely sounds wrong to me.

As for the rest of tvariation, it seems Don and I are born to disagree. I think the whole things sounds awfully lumpy because Jarrett is reading all the rhythms with literal stiffness, instead of gracefully. Again, he's treating the music as if the notation is 20th century rather than 18th. He rushes some of it, too, along with sounding cautious and tense rather than free. And then in the fugato section in 3/8 time he uses ploddy articulation, smears details, and then noticeably rushes his tempo on the repeat. It's pretty much the opposite of "noble" to me: heavy and dull. Yecch.

The man doesn't really have harpsichord technique to begin with; it sounds like a pianist on harpsichord, which of course is what this is. Despite this he gets some good musical effects in some of the other variations, but not in a typically harpsichordistic manner. Variation 16 is where it especially shows up that he's really not a harpsichordist. Good musician, and I love some of his solo piano discs where he plays his own stuff, but on harpsichord his lack of harpsichord awareness is, um, telling.

Anyway, to each his/her own opinion.

John Grant wrote (October 12, 2002):
Brad Lehman writes of Keith Jarrett on harpsichord:
< "Good musician, and I love some of his solo piano discs where he plays his own stuff, but on harpsichord his lack of harpsichord awareness is, um, telling." >
His Bach Well-tempered, that part of which he records on the piano, Book 1, is not good. But he certainly does excel in some Baroque. His Handel Suites, which he records on the piano, are glorious.



Continue on Part 3


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

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