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Thread: Late Romantic HIP: What Are We Waiting For?

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Here is an attempt at Romantic HIP by Roger Norrington which is clearly the work of a late 20th-century musician who's done a bit of reading and thinks that he's now equipped to experiment on Wagner and on us.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooJGsIZhTYI

    Norrington is working from the premise that orchestral string players in Wagner's day didn't use vibrato - a controversial notion - and on the generalized impression that tempi then tended to be faster than they later became, which may be true as a broad generalization but which is subject to much qualification. The results, to my ears, are a perfect illustration of how HIP can substitute dogmatic assumptions for vital music-making and bear no resemblance to what I'd consider Romantic style, much less to Wagner's marking in the score: langsam und schmachtend (slow and yearning). We might contrast this with a deeply felt interpretation from 1928 by Karl Elmendorff:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKvffGm4OsI

    What I notice above all with Elmendorff is the complete absence of rigidity in the tempo, which changes subtly and organically throughout, sometimes almost bar by bar, as the expression dictates. This is exactly the kind of expressive flexibility Wagner describes in his essay "On Conducting," and which seems also to have been a characteristic of Mahler's conducting. If it's indeed true that tempi tended to be quicker on early recordings, I think it's crucial to realize that this refers to the BASIC tempo, which performers would be expected to modify for expressive reasons. We can hear this in the recordings Rachmaninoff made of his piano concertos; the 3rd concerto begins at a tempo as fast as we can hear anywhere on recordings, but the composer as performer is so alert, inventive and sensitive in the application of rubato that even if we resist the tempo initially we become totally convinced as we listen.

    The assumption that tempo is something to be played with freely for expressive purposes is only one aspect of Romantic music-making that distinguishes it from later 20th-century practice, but it's clearly an important one. It's especially remarkable to hear it employed in orchestral music, where it's less easily accomplished than in solo playing and singing.
    Yes a similar thing happened in early music. Some of the earlier informed performances of c17 keyboard music -- people like Scott Ross and Zuzana Ruzickova and Ralph Kirkpatrick and Anthony Newman tended to play with very little rhythmic flexibility, even though there is, as far as I know, no reason to think that in the c17 it was expected to be played like this, quite the contrary, comments by composers on how how read their scores often encourage flexibility.

    My guess is that Ross, Kirkpatrick etc were reacting against the previous performance style, people like Tipo and Landowska etc. Certainly today's performers don't play like that.

    I don't know anything about Wagner performance, maybe the same thing happened there, a reaction against Furtwangler.

    I can say that I've explored HIP Chopin a little, and Schumann and Brahms -- keyboard mainly, but not only keyboard. The performers don't use rigid rhythms at all. Maybe in those works the reaction came earlier, with Rubinstein.

    I don't know if Norrington still plays like that.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-06-2019 at 21:22.

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    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Consider the possibility that composers in earlier eras expected ALL performers to be more "cavalier" than we are now about interpreting a score. Everyone accepts this as true of performers in the Baroque. I'm suggesting that the expectation didn't change in Mozart's, Beethoven's, or even Brahms's time, and that the idea of complete fidelity to what's written on the page is largely a 20th-century notion.
    Is this a topic up for debate? I always thought it was well understood that the 20th century represented a rejection of Romantic performance practice, particularly conductors like Solti and Karajan following in Toscanini's footsteps.

    With pianists, it's a little more of a mixed bag--I think it's true that the critical consensus tended to favor literalist pianists like Pollini but the Russians under the influence of the Godowsky-trained Heinrich Neuhaus never fully abandoned Romantic piano performance practice. And even during the primacy of the literalists, there was a lot of overlap with elder statesmen Romantics like Horowitz and Arrau.

    Many of the most interesting young pianists today seem to be aiming for a combination of the transparency and absolute technical polish of Pollini or Michelangeli with the more echt-Romantic style of performance including loads of rubati and right hand de-sync to highlight the melodic lines.





    Last edited by howlingfantods; Oct-06-2019 at 21:32.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Consider the possibility that composers in earlier eras expected ALL performers to be more "cavalier" than we are now about interpreting a score. Everyone accepts this as true of performers in the Baroque. I'm suggesting that the expectation didn't change in Mozart's, Beethoven's, or even Brahms's time, and that the idea of complete fidelity to what's written on the page is largely a 20th-century notion.
    You are probably right. The idea of fidelity to the score as we know it today probably had its genesis with Toscanini et al. Of course, as Toscanini said, all we have today is the score so faithfulness to it is faithfulness to at least the composer's original intentions. But then as Stravinsky once said to Colin Davis, "The score is just the beginning." So probably the answer lies between the two.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Yes a similar thing happened in early music. Some of the earlier informed performances of c17 keyboard music -- people like Scott Ross and Zuzana Ruzickova and Ralph Kirkpatrick and Anthony Newman tended to play with very little rhythmic flexibility, even though there is, as far as I know, no reason to think that in the c17 it was expected to be played like this, quite the contrary, comments by composers on how how read their scores often encourage flexibility.

    My guess is that Ros, Kirkpatrick etc were reacting against the previous performance style, people like Tipo and Landowska etc. Certainly today's performers don't play like that.

    I don't know anything about Wagner performance, maybe the same thing happened there, a reaction against Furtwangler.

    I can say that I've explored HIP Chopin a little, and Schumann and Brahms -- keyboard mainly, but not only keyboard. The performers don't use rigid rhythms at all. Maybe in those works the reaction came earlier, with Rubinstein.

    I don't know if Norrington still plays like that.
    Yes, I've noticed that performances of Baroque music are often more rhythmically flexible now than they were years ago. That seems a good thing; it's just more expressive and, as you say, there's absolutely no reason to think that performers back then felt obligated to maintain a sewing-machine regularity. I think there's been some awareness of the need for more rhythmic flexibility in later music as well, but conductors are understandably more reluctant to face the issue than solo performers. I suspect they live in terror of the possibility that attempts at rubato will compromise the perfection of ensemble that most of us are now accustomed to and expect. The fact is, it will to some extent do just that, and acceptance of rough edges in the name of expressiveness may be too much to ask.

    I've also noticed, VERY occasionally, conductors introducing discreet touches of portamento into string playing in Romantic repertoire; I remember hearing Levine do this in something (it might even have been Tristan), but it struck me as a bit of cosmetology rather than a real immersion in Romantic style.

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    I wonder what the romantics make of this recording.

    B07FPK5WSH.01.L.jpg



    Our present-day ears have become accustomed to the
    fact that in Baroque music everything which is written down vertically does not necessarily sound in a
    uniform, superimposed manner. However, at the latest starting from the Classical era, and especially in
    Romantic music, a return to order can be welcomed,
    one which is in no way “historical”. On the earliest
    recordings this means that the performers do not
    play together in an exact manner. That was certainly
    part of the idea: a free and easy association with
    tempo and notation was self-evident – anyone who
    was incapable of doing this just wasn’t a proper musician! The fact that Brahms had instinctively incorporated this idea into his own thinking, and the point at
    which following him sometimes proved difficult for
    other, appear in many written statements. Allowing
    one’s chamber music partner to develop without the need for intervention demands a great deal of
    courage, practice, independence and tact. Drawing
    close to this goal has been one of the great challenges
    of this, our, version of the Brahms violin sonatas.
    Neat – and thus inaudible –fingering is as unhistorical as a well-ordered interplay between the instruments. We modern violinists attempt to change position as discretely as possible because we feel the
    sounds of sliding to be too affected, too Romantic.
    And there’s the problem: portamento is Romantic and
    forms part of the expressive repertoire of this era. If
    one is going to take ownership of the violinist technique of the period, one has no alternative than to
    make the change of position discernible. Indeed, the
    bow must be held in a position that alters neither the
    pressure nor the speed through a slur. At the same
    time, one must let the fingers of the left hand rest as
    much as possible on the strings being played, even
    when changing position. The combination of constant bow contact in the right hand and finger pressure from the left necessarily entails a portamento, no
    margin being left for concealing what is thought to be
    undesirable. This is why the fingerings are chosen in
    order to highlight the musical sense instead of serving
    the needs of comfort. Even vibrato has always been
    used with economy and in general is so faint that the
    ear merely registers it as animating the sonority.
    “Finger legato” is to the piano what the bow is to
    the violin: the fingers are left in contact with the keys
    until the very last moment in order to produce a continuous, uninterrupted sound. This makes the use of the right pedal unnecessary while maintaining a
    transparent sound. Another characteristic of historical performance is of breaking chords. For one thing
    this renders the sound smoother, for another it
    encourages the independence of the different parts
    and suggests a more generous sound around pianos
    which do not sound so strong by nature.
    We have been assisted enormously by having
    available for our use a marvellous Streicher piano –
    the same model as the one owned by Brahms – as well
    as a copy of a Romantic violin, with three plain gut
    strings and a single wound gut string. The bow is original, from the end of the nineteenth century, and relatively light for modern hands. The sound possibilities
    which all this material has opened up for us have been
    most inspiring and often innovative in the questions
    of balance and playing technique.
    Our meetings with Clive Brown and Neal Peres
    da Costa, whose Bärenreiter edition of the Brahms
    Sonatas provided an additional working basis for us,
    have been stimulating, productive and encouraging.
    Kai Köpp also gave us significant support in matters
    of interpretation. Last, but not least, we wish to think
    the Stiftung Basler Orchester-Gesellschaft for having
    generously supported our work
    I'd be very interested to know if this claim they make is true

    On the earliest
    recordings this means that the performers do not
    play together in an exact manner. That was certainly
    part of the idea: a free and easy association with
    tempo and notation was self-evident – anyone who
    was incapable of doing this just wasn’t a proper musician!

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    And there's the Primrose Quartet's Brahms

    The blurb says

    Recorded in the Ehrbar Saal, Vienna on authentic pianos of the period.

    As a culmination of many years of research and in preparation for our recording of the Brahms piano quartets using period pianos and gut strings, we convened a four day symposium in Birmingham to workshop, debate and discuss the latest thinking in the field with Dr. Anna Scott, Claire Holden, Dr. Kate Bennett Wadsworth, Professor Ronald Woodley, Jung Yoon Cho and Job Ter Haar.

    Pianist Dr. Anna Scott made a compelling case for allowing the evidence of how members of the Schumann-Brahms circle played in early recordings to “romanticise” our very conception of Brahms. Stretching and compressing pulse within an overall tempo and free expressive use of asynchronicity, arpeggiation, rhythmic alteration, agogically inflected dynamic shapes and rubato give her own performances a rich expressivity. She is also the living proof that such playing can work on the modern piano, although most keyboard players find it easier and more natural to adopt period practice on period pianos. During the symposium the Primrose used an 1850’s Wilhelm Wieck piano, having previously enjoyed access to an 1890’s Blüthner in Hampshire that was factory selected by Brahms for a student, as well as to an exceptional Erard in the former Finchcocks collection.

    If pianists generally embrace the sheer beauty of early pianos, modern string players have issues with gut strings that include instability of tuning and lack of power. Fortunately these problems are mitigated by the recording process and the use of smaller pianos. Diferent types of gut ofer an opportunity to characterise diferent strings with diferent colours (just as an early piano makes no apology for having diferent colours in diferent registers). String players in the Primrose regularly use gut, and have been taught, like so many in our generation, by teachers with close and direct links back to Brahms. Discussion and experimentation with expressive slides (portamento), extreme (to modern ears) time taking and speeding up, varying colours with varied vibrato, bow speed, and bow pressure was informed by Claire Holden’s work on early recordings of the Vienna Philharmonic, which also revealed that orchestra’s ability to come in and out of pure ensemble in order to make part playing more transparent and lines freer and more expressive where appropriate. We also heard from Dr Kate Bennett Wadsworth about her preparations for her recording of the Brahms cello sonatas, using the Bärenreiter edition that she prepared with Professor Clive Brown, considering how the fingerings and bowings of contemporary cellists had interpretational implications. This informed our own work on editions, aided by observations from friends and students when we undertook additional workshops.
    but I wasn't convinced by this idea. See my next post.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-06-2019 at 22:30.

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    Pianist Dr. Anna Scott made a compelling case for allowing the evidence of how members of the Schumann-Brahms circle played in early recordings to “romanticise” our very conception of Brahms. Stretching and compressing pulse within an overall tempo and free expressive use of asynchronicity, arpeggiation, rhythmic alteration, agogically inflected dynamic shapes and rubato give her own performances a rich expressivity.
    I'm having a problem making sense of this.

    It looks like Anna Scott's thesis is based on the performance style of people who'd studied with Clara Schumann.

    https://challengingperformance.com/i...gs/anna-scott/

    Schumann's pupils include Fanny Davies, Ilona Eibenschutz, Adelina de Lara, Natalie Janotha, and Carl Friedberg.

    Here's Fanny Davies playing Schumann, it does not seem specially romantic to me, on the contrary. I can't find any recording of her playing Brahms



    Neither does this recording of Ilona Eibenschutz playing a Brahms ballade




    Nor this recording of a Brahms intermezzo by Carl Friedberg


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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    And there's The Primrose Quartet's Brahms



    The blurb says



    but I wasn't convinced by this idea. See my next post.
    Sorry that's the wrong image, and I can't delete it, this is what it should have been.

    16455_1.jpg
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-06-2019 at 22:31.

  9. #24
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howlingfantods View Post
    Is this a topic up for debate? I always thought it was well understood that the 20th century represented a rejection of Romantic performance practice, particularly conductors like Solti and Karajan following in Toscanini's footsteps.
    I agree that that's well understood.

    With pianists, it's a little more of a mixed bag--I think it's true that the critical consensus tended to favor literalist pianists like Pollini but the Russians under the influence of the Godowsky-trained Heinrich Neuhaus never fully abandoned Romantic piano performance practice. And even during the primacy of the literalists, there was a lot of overlap with elder statesmen Romantics like Horowitz and Arrau.

    Many of the most interesting young pianists today seem to be aiming for a combination of the transparency and absolute technical polish of Pollini or Michelangeli with the more echt-Romantic style of performance including loads of rubati and right hand de-sync to highlight the melodic lines.
    My feeling is that it's in Romantic solo piano music, from Chopin to Scriabin, that 19th-century performance concepts have survived most intact, although, as you point out, to varying degrees. Orchestral performance is another matter: the creative freedom we hear in such vivid and distinctive musical personalities as Mengelberg, Stokowski and Furtwangler is unlike anything heard today, and I doubt whether modern audiences would even accept it.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    I wonder what the romantics make of this recording.

    B07FPK5WSH.01.L.jpg





    I'd be very interested to know if this claim they make is true
    Although I've never been fond of the sound of the violin played with little or no vibrato, and I do wonder whether Leila Schayegh might profitably have applied a little more here and there, I'm very impressed with this performance, and on the basis of what we can hear on the internet (YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5IyaPKzHsk ) I'm tempted to buy the recording. Schayegh and Schultsz really are attempting to apply 19th-century ideas about articulation and sonority - rolled chords, portamento, impulsive phrasing, flexible tempi - and it all has a nice improvisatory feeling and makes for a stimulating listen. Zukerman and Barenboim sound just a bit staid and literal by comparison.

    I'm inclined to agree with that last statement you quote: "On the earliest recordings this means that the performers do not play together in an exact manner. That was certainly part of the idea: a free and easy association with tempo and notation was self-evident – anyone who was incapable of doing this just wasn’t a proper musician!"

    I think a feeling of spontaneity was highly valued - of something being created in the moment - as it is in jazz. That statement could describe good jazz performance exactly.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Oct-07-2019 at 01:11.

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    The HIP movement has already progressed (is this the right term ?) to late 19th and even 20th century music . There are orchestras such as "Les Siecles " ( the centuries ) , Anima Aeterna of Belgium, and the New Queen's Hall orchestra ( which is no longer active), for example .
    Jos Van Immerseel with the Animal Eterna orchestra , has recorded "authentic" versions of Carmina Burana ! and even Gershwin works such as the rhapsody in Blue .
    But just how "authentic " these performance are is debatable . The French conductor Francois Xavier Roth , now music director of the city of Cologne, has done an HIP version of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring with Les Siecles , using among other thing,s the old fashioned French model horns, which are narrow bore piston valved horns unlike the usual rotary valved instrument . This performance can be seen on youtube anduis also on CD . Roth has also done HIP Debussy, Ravel, Dukas and even an HIP Also Sprach Zarathustra id Richard Strauss .
    Roger Zorrington has recorded an HIP Bruckner 3rd in the much longer original version for EMI with the London Classical player,s which is no longer active . Philippe Herreweghe and Orchestre De Champs Elysees has recorded HIP version of the bruckner, 4th and 7th .
    Herreweghe has even done an HIP Mahler 4th with the same orchestra . Ive heard the Herreweghe Bruckner 4 and 7 plus the Mahler 4 . There is almost no difference in sound I can detect between mainstream orchestras except for a somewhat thinner sound from the strings .
    Just how far the HIP movement will go is anyone's guess . But the classic DG recording of Carmina Burana with Eugen Jochum and the chorus and orchestra of the Berlin Deutsche oper was supervised by Orff and has his stamp of approval . Is the Immerseel recording "more authentic "? It uses what are suppose dot the instruments used in the 1930s when the work was premiered .

  13. #27
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    ^^^ People have been using period-style instruments for quite a while. I have, and enjoy, John Eliot Gardiner's recording of the Symphonie Fantastique, which not only uses period instruments but was recorded in the very hall where the work was premiered. To me, though, the instruments are generally the least interesting and the least important part of performance practice. Whether your strings are metal or gut is much less critical than the way you play the music. Of course this isn't even a consideration with singing; as far as we can tell, the human voice hasn't changed.

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    Here’s some Brahms symphonies which I enjoyed, played in a way which takes into account Brahms’s intentions



    https://www.claves.ch/products/brahm...omas-zehetmair
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-07-2019 at 05:50.

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  17. #29
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    ^ Those are really good! I have no idea whether or not they are authentic but they certainly do give us an approach to Brahms that is strikingly new (to me, anyway) and that does not in any way sell Brahms short. They do this to an almost miraculous extent. I wonder how they will seem when I know them well so that the sense of novelty has subsided (so far I've only played to whole set once and the 3rd symphony twice).

    As you all know, I am no scholar and do not aspire to be, but I suppose what I like about the application of HIP thinking (in all its various guises) is its generation and exploration of new interpretive approaches. I, also, was never convinced by the idea that Romantic composers eschewed vibrato but I have never been wholly convinced by the claims made by HIP practitioners for their Baroque interpretations, either. At the same time, though, I do feel that the best Baroque recordings we have had over the last 50 years have all been ostensibly HIP ... and overall these may be getting better and better. The desire to be true to the original style seems still to be a potent driving force in the development of modern approaches to realising Baroque music.

    The HIP approach to Romantic music has been far less successful to my ear but has still resulted in some strikingly good recordings - Herreweghe's Franck symphony is a case in point - as well as many (often from Gardiner!) that leave me cold or tell me nothing that is compellingly new. I like Gardiner's Schumann, for example, but don't feel it tells me much that I can't get from Sawallisch. Interpretive styles are fashions (they change) and HIP (in all its various guises) is one source of interesting ideas for how to play the Romantics. It can only be for the good that more recent developments are in themselves critical of earlier HIP attempts. At the end of the day, though, for me the whole thing comes down to my subjective feel for whether I am hearing something a little new but just as true (as musically convincing) in its way as earlier great recordings. And in this I am finding that I prefer some some interpreters to others - just as I always did - and tend not to divide my Romantic interpreters into HIP and non-HIP camps.
    Last edited by Enthusiast; Oct-07-2019 at 10:27.

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    Studying authentic practice just gives performers some new ideas to try out. They still have to make it into music! Brahms seems to have done very well from HIP, and so has Chopin IMO. Liszt and Schumann I've explored much less. Or rather the Schumann on original instruments seemed less exciting and fresh and revealing of new things. There is a fortepiano recording of the Transcendental Etudes which I thought was thought provoking, I'll try to remember the details later.

    I've never explored romantic concertos. I think that there's a HIP recording of the Chopin concertos (there's more than one isn't there?) which has a good reputation, I've never heard it.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-07-2019 at 11:38.

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