QUOTE(rovikered @ Mar 24 2012, 03:51 PM)
I think Sir Colin Davis's 'outburst' is refreshing.
The 'Authentic' Performance with Period Instruments Brigade is increasingly dominating classical music concerts and in some cases is taking a dogmatic stance with an almost 'evangelical' fervour. The impression is often given that any other than so-called authentic performances are at best second-rate and at worst beyond the pale.The fact is that no one, not even the most erudite of scholars, knows how the music of the Renaissance/Tudor/Baroque,etc. composers sounded when it was performed in their lifetime. It is probably as well that we do not know, for we might find much of it excruciating !
I am not convinced that a present day authentic performance(so-called) of a Bach cantata by John Elliot Gardner and his 'band' bears much resemblance to that heard at a normal Sunday service at St Thomas's Church conducted by the composer himself. I agree with Sir Colin when he says their playing of Baroque music is 'entirely theoretical' .
However, having agreed with Sir Colin Davis's viewpoint, I still think there is a place for 'authentic' performances if only for the sake of comparison. We can at least be reminded of how we do not like to hear Bach, Haydn, Mozart, et al, or, on the other hand, we may grow to like such interpretations with repeated hearings.
For me, variety in interpretation is a joy in music-making whether it is a supposed historically accurate one or one of many varied contemporary interpretations.
Sorry, but can't agree with some of your comments
It is fair to say that until the arrival of recorded sound c.1900 we have absolutely no idea what performances sounded like prior to that. Musicology is a fairly modern invention: writers in earlier ages were not writing from a musicological/academic perspecitve, and in many cases we have no idea how relevant/accurate/informed their writings are.
The "authentic" school grew from several perspectives. One was a new interest in music from a then unknown period (and apart from Handel and Bach anything pre-1750 was just about unknown pre-1950 - including Vivaldis' Four Seasons). The second was a desire to hear the instrumentation it was written for. The third element was to try to get to a performance style that was probably a bit nearer than the then current style.
Any stance taken to extremes is probably not a good place to be in. There is nothing wrong with modern instrument performances of Mozart or Handel and it is probably going too far to apply Baroque styles to mid C19th.
However, the excesses that grew up in the C19th and C20th in the performance of particularly Baroque music had gone too far and the music had got buried. Performances of Messiah with a choir of 300 and a full symphony orchestra (e.g. Hamilton Harty arrangement) were commonplace until post-war.
I also think it patronising to assume that musicians of an earlier period were less capable. The musicians of the Royal chapels and the Colleges were professionial musicians. There is adequate testimony from reputable foreign visitors to England during the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth to be fairly sure that the standard of musicianship was very high. Would those performances have sounded like our modern perofrmances? Probably not, not least because our pronunciation of language has changed so much.
I'm not a fan of "absolutisms". I like modern instrument performances of Mozart (e.g. ASMF) but I also like that extra bite you get with period wind instruments and the better balance with narrow bore, softer, brass instruments.
A simple more modern example. In Elgar's scores, he often asks the trombones to play FFF. Just about every conductor asks the trombones to tame that down to FF. Why, was Elgar wrong? No. The modern trombone has a significantly larger bore and bell compared with an instrument from 1900. Modern instruments are much louder.
Music is always evolving.