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Thread: Historically informed performance of Baroque and Classical music

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    Default Historically informed performance of Baroque and Classical music

    Do you believe it's possible to perform pieces of so-called Early music (I'm focused on Baroque and Classical) in authentic way? Can we now for sure how did they perform it then and reproduce it today? I understand there's no taped music from that period, but I'm wondering are sources like pictures, books, letters etc. enough to reconstruct the way of playing that music?
    Also, do you think that musicians and instruments from that period were of lower quality than today? If you try to play on a Baroque instrument, you will see it's more difficult and the sound is quite poor (I mean in volume, I like the timbre). So, is authentic performance degradation of modern musical achievements (in technique, sound quality, coordination of players in orchestra) or is it just a new way of performance, different of traditional method, but same in quality?
    I play cello and have been quite interested in authentic performance, but I'm also wondering do authentic performers do enough in searching and exploring Baroque instrfuments. Recently I found this:
    http://www.baroquemusic.org/barvlnbo.html

    I'm not sure this is correct, but think it is quite possible. There are a lot of evidences to confirm this. I don't believe Baroque players used bows which are today considered as "authentic", on most of contemporary illustrations we can see cello players holding bow just like German double-bass players do today: frog is held hand from the down-side. I believe bows which are used today developed later, in Classical Era. Also, violin players held their thumbs down the frog, not like today.

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    Member periodinstrumentfan's Avatar
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    Hello !

    I've come across that site before. I must tell you that the "Vega" bow supported by Mr. Schweitzer and the BACH.Bow used by the modern cellist Mr. Bach are not baroque bows/not period bows. It's just a new bow designed to play JS Bach's music particularly the Solo Cello Suites using true chords/playing all four strings at once. However, most experts and Historically Informed Performance (HIP) Specialists agree that Baroque Bows cannot normally play all strings at once. But in some recordings of Heinrich Ignaz Frans von Biber's music i do hear triple stops (not played as arpeggios).

    I do not believe that Baroque Instruments are primitive or inferior than todays instruments. They are simply built and designed with a different musical taste in mind.

    Romantic music is for the showman-musician who plays to large crowds in large music halls. Of course they need/want a different sound and to achieve that they had to change the instruments to suite their tastes and needs.

    Baroque music are mostly intended to be played in salons of aristocrats, nobles and kings where sound projection is not an issue. Here's a clip i'd like to share to you ...

    Michel de la Barre http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjKuJNXuwFw

    Jean-Marie LeClair http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3gKmuaPoIY

    played on Period-Instruments in the Palace of Versailles. :->
    Last edited by periodinstrumentfan; Sep-27-2008 at 07:02.

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    Without having early ears, it is impossible to create a really 'authentic' performance. You might be able to play a piece the way it once sounded, but you will be hearing it with twenty-first century ears, and will have a great period of music history behind you, which will make your emotional response totally different from that of the original listeners.

    When I used to play the piano there was one Mozart sonata in which this problem became acute. Parts of the sonata depend on rapid switches of dynamics for humorous effect. If you play it in an 'authentic' manner, because you and your listeners are used to music with much more extreme changing dynamics, the effect that Mozart wanted is no longer there. You have a stark choice: either play the sonata as written, and completely lose the 'surprises' and humour, or exaggerate the dynamics, and play it like Beethoven, in the hope of creating the original effect in your listeners.

    To me this is the essential problem with 'authentic' performances. They cannot ever be really authentic.

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    Member periodinstrumentfan's Avatar
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    The word authentic is very rarely if not used to-day. I believe the proper term is Historically Informed Performance. It may not be authentic, but treatises and period performance practice are employed. And if it no longer sounds "romantic" then i believe the goal is reached. Of course performers' taste evolves too.

    Recordings done in the early 90's and a more recent recording of some German Baroque by the Trio Romanesca are clearly different.

    I believe they (period performers) are rebels in a way. :-)
    FIDEM IN FIDIBVS

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