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HIP (Historically Informed Performance)

Part 3



Continue from Part 2

Language and HIP / Language and HIP and Germanic Latin in Bach

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 18, 2001):
I saw the documentary and read the book called 'The Story of English'. Standardized and modernized English didn't take place until the early 20th century in England. No one seems to have heard Chaucer and Shakespeare accurately pronunicated (I have, in school...). As a Dowland lover and of Elizabethan music in general, it is interesting that the loudest praises of HIP got towards those works that soften the English pronunication so much that anything hinting of sexuality and other matters is rarified and purified. This was the case of the Anthony Rooley L'Oeseau Lyre sets of Dowland's Books of Songs. They are beautiful, but they're not really HIP. The voices like Kirkby et al are also purified to become quite impersonal. The one true HIP recording that I own as regards Elizabethan songs is on Hyperion sung by Glenda Simpson who sings in constant quick vibrato and gutteral Elizabethan pronunciation. In fact the cover states "Sung in original Elizabethan pronunciation". Take my Leipzig Classics set, for example. Bach's cantatas are sung by the St Thomaschule boys choir as upheld by tradition for centuries, as well as directed in succession by the ThomasKantor. The pronunciations by the vocalists are definitely Germanic and gutteral, not soft and sweet as sung by English madrigalists. So a bit rough and tough applies to HIP, not always the blandness of the worst trends in HIP today. P.S. I'm a HIP lover, sure, but I don't worship it.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 18, 2001):
< Francine Renee Hall stated: Take my Leipzig Classics set, for example. Bach's cantatas are sung by the St Thomaschule boys choir as upheld by tradition for centuries, as well as directed in succession by the ThomasKantor. The pronunciations by the vocalists are definitely Germanic and gutteral, not soft and sweet as sung by English madrigalists. >
You have not heard what one ThomasKantor (1981-82) was able to do with (or is it 'to') the Thomaner Chor. In my discussion of BWV 137, I commented as follows on the feature that you refer to above:

Rotzsch BWV 137

< It is this uncanny 'attackless' sound (without the raising or lowering of pitch) that I hear in the Thomanerchor. Of course, the strong German consonants are also reduced from their normal vigor. They are emasculated and I wonder if they now teach American English (sloppy) vowels that slide effortlessly into sound without any barrier. Did you know that German vowels in the initial position of a word are correctly pronounced with a type of consonant, a glottal stop? [Test case: "Eine alte Eiche" ("an old oak tree") ] English slides gradually into the vowels, but German distinctly inserts the glottal stop before each word. It sounds almost as though the Thomaner have become Americanized in this regard. I will need to listen to more Rotzsch to see if this theory holds up and offers an explanation for the muffled, less precise musical articulation of words. >

Kirk McElhearn wrote (October 18, 2001):
< Francine Renee Hall wrote: I saw the documentary and read the book called 'The Story of English'. Standardized and modernized English didn't take place until the early 20th century in England. No one seems to have heard Chaucer and Shakespeare accurately pronunicated (I have, in school...). >
Well, yes and no... I too have seen the series and read the book, as well as studied linguistics.

First, there were major changes in the 17 and 18th centuries, both in pronunciation and grammar. Lexis changed considerably as well, as a new wave of French words entered the language.

Regarding pronunciation, do you recall the bit in the series where they went and listened to some Appalachians speak? Many linguists believe that this accent (an American accent) is much closer to that of Shakespeare than any other currently spoken. In the same manner, Canadian French is very close to Moliere's French...

Jim Morrison wrote (October 18, 2001):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Is this Elizabethan disc on Hyperion the only one you know of by Simpson on which she uses period pronunciation? You see, I didn't find this disc online, but I did find a couple of others.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 18, 2001):
[To Jim Morrison] I own several CDs with Glenda Simpson (on Amon Ra: CD-SAR-50, "Now What Is Love? Aspects of Love in the 17th Century" includes works by Purcell, Dowland, Simpson, etc.; on Nonesuch: 9 9029-2, "O Dolce Vita Mia: Italian Music from the High Renaissance", The London Early Music Group", works by Villanesca, Saltrarello; Saga Classics EC3392-2, "Sixteenth Century Music: The Muses' Garden for Delights", The Camerata of London, (countries covered by songs-- Italy, England, Germany and Spain). BUT the only one I know of that uses authentic Elizabethan is Hyperion, CDA66003, "English Ayres and Duets: sung in authentic Elizabethan pronunciation", The Camerata of London, with Glenda Simpson, Paul Hillier, Barry Mason and Rosemary Thorndycraft. The spelling is accurate also. And remember how end rhymes are not actually rhymed in modern English? For example, the words 'love' and 'prove' actually rhyme when one correctly pronounces the word 'love' as "Louvre" (from the Museum). I hope the Hyperion is still in print! It's lovely!

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 18, 20901):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Yes, when William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the English language grew enormously with a new influx of French words. Perhaps English is so popular because the vocabulary base from many different countries is constantly growing. Yes, I've heard about the Appalachian / English connection. The music too is closely related. Just think of all those Baltimore Consort CDs on Dorian which put out 'folk' based American, Canadian and regional music....

(PS Some Beowulf, anyone??!! lol)

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 21, 2002):
So, this discussion of pronunciation leads to the obvious question: any of you have good recordings of the B Minor Mass and Magnificat that use Germanic pronunciation of the Latin and Greek? (For example, the Greek: "Kyrie eleison" with "eleison" as a three-syllable word eh-LYE-zohn rather than four? Or the Latin: "pleni sunt coeli" with "coeli" as TZOEli, and all the "qu" everywhere as "kv"?) It gives a very different sound from the more typical Italianate Latin that people seem to default to in music.

I enjoy the French Latin that Herreweghe's and Christie's groups use in the music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier.


In grad school I spent four or five years singing in Edward Parmentier's "Early Music Ensemble" chorus at the school. He was (is) meticulous with pronunciation, diction, articulation, dynamics, and the meaning of the words the chorus sings...we spent entire terms working on only a small group of pieces, and it was a good experience. His emphasis is on making every individual line as independently expressive as it can be, rather than sculpting large blocks of choral the lines are moving in and out of one another all the time, and every line is changing dynamics every few words according to the musical line and the meaning of the text.

It certainly gives an interesting sound. I like it. But I heard plenty of snide complaints about it from people in other departments: usually along the line, "With all that articulation he's trying to make his chorus sound like a harpsichord!," or "This just sounds like *%@#%!" I think what they were trying to say was that they were surprised and uncomfortable, and therefore couldn't take him seriously. If his way of choral singing in this repertoire is plausible, they fear that their own mainstream way is "wrong."

A more valid complaint was that we didn't attract many of the best singers from the other departments: they weren't willing to put in that much rehearsal time, or curb their vibratos, or try a style of music outside tcomfort zone. Or maybe they were afraid that these "new ideas" would mess up their careers, or something. So, some of our sections were made up of singers long on enthusiasm and short on technical control or projection (I count myself among these)...still, we got some pretty good sounds despite that.


Here's what Frescobaldi had to say in the preface of one of his books of keyboard music, 1637:

"This kind of playing [i.e. toccatas], just as in modern madrigal practice, should not stress the beat. Although these madrigals are difficult, they will be made easier by taking the beat sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, or even pausing, depending on the expression of the sense of the words."

Yes. Just as in 17th-century Italian madrigal practice, i.e. ensemble music to
be sung. Tempo fluctuations according to the sense of the words.

That preface is among the documents that every keyboard player of Bach should get to know, since Bach was a fan of Frescobaldi's music. It suggests some ideas that can be useful in playing Bach, as well:


Also, have any of you seen this book and CD set:
Singing early music : the pronunciation of European languages in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance / edited by Timothy J. McGee with A.G. Rigg and David N. Klausner. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c1996. 299 p. : ill. ; 26 cm. + 1 sound disc (digital ; 4 3/4 in.)

I saw it briefly as it came into the University of Michigan library new just before I left; but I didn't have time to read it then. Since then I haven't had access to a library that has it, but I think it would be worth a close look.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 23, 2001):
[To Francine Renee Hall] I was telling my bridge partner about this issue last night as we drove to the game. He (a fair amateur singer) told me about singing with a group a few years ago doing some of William Byrd's liturgical music in purportedly accurate pronunciation.

He said it was a lot of fun, and after studying the pronunciation guides the group pretty much simply said: "Just imagine how a West Virginian would read this Latin aloud, and do it that way." And it came out like "Donna nobbis possum" for "Dona nobis pacem," for example. He said it was an interesting performance, and the conductor made some remarks to prepare the audience.

I then of course made the obligatory joke about West Virginians and possums.

In a little shop in West Virginia I really did find a box of Road Kill Helper, but it was there as a joke, in the tourist section of the shop.

The other classic West Virginia jokes: "What's the state flower? Satellite dish." "What's a grudge? Where you keep yer other stuff, since the car is outside on blocks."

(The Appalachians at the edge of West Virginia are directly in front of me, looking out my office window. It's only about 15 miles over there to the border and the George Washington National Forest. West Virginians come in regularly to shop at our Wal-Mart. Nice folks.)

But we digress.

Point is: if Appalachian English really is close to Elizabethan English, I wouldn't be surprised. Ah reckon it might be purty close. Things don't change all that fast around these here parts. Nor do the West Virginia cars move all that fast when they get onto the Virginia highways.

(Nor CAN one drive very fast on many of the West Virginia's so hilly and the roads wind all over the place. We drove US 250 all the way across West Virginia once to see what it was like, and it took an entire day. Measure straight across the map and it's only 130 miles "as the crow flies" from where US 250 enters and exits. But it's a whole day's drive, and many more than 130 actual miles on the road. We stopped for a meal and to look around in a historic place: a town where the holidays of Mother's Day and Father's Day were invented. That's pretty close to where Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton came from, and there are a bunch of places named after her there.)

That's how dialects get preserved: a landscape and social conditions that don't let people move around much for a couple hundred years. Many settlers here were English and Scots-Irish.

And the next county over from here to the southwest is Highland County, Virginia, and it really does look like the Scottish Highlands in the landscape...I went to both and checked. That's why ours is named Highland County, after all. Little piece of Scotland sitting right here.

Ah wouldn't be surprised at all if they're purty much still talkin' the Queen's English of 1580. (And I do like the sound of that dialect.) Ah reckon it's right over there on the other side a them mountains over there in West Virginia, right in front a me.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 24, 2001):
[To Bradley Lehman] Have you heard m(any) of the Dorian CDs by the Baltimore Consort with Custer LaRue? Lovely Appalachian and Canadian ballads... Francine (I got lots of those free when I was in a CD club a while back)

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 24, 2001):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Yes, I have many of those and am listening to one this morning.

A few years ago I heard Custer in concert with one of the Baltimore members, Mark Cudek. A good show. She's from around here and it was sort of a homecoming. She's from Bath County VA, next to the Highland County I mentioned yesterday (the one that's a mini-Scotland).

Always on the lookout for possible gigs, I asked Cudek if they could use a good harpsichordist (since Baltimore is less than half a day's drive from here). I said I'd noticed they hardly ever have one in their recordings, I like their style, and it would be great fun to play with them. He said they do already have somebody they bring in occasionally for some of the live concerts, and he named a prominent east coast player, but thanks for asking.

“Romantic Bach

Francine Renee Hall wrote (November 15, 2001):
The most 'romantic' un-HIP recording I have is Alfred Brendel on Philips Classics playing Bach's Italian Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue. I still enjoy it somehow. Have others heard Brendel for this work? Am curious about what others think about his interpretation. I've been told that this particular work is very difficult to play!

Marshall Abrams wrote (November 16, 2001):
[To Francine Renee Hall] I have a lot of fondness for Brendel's Bach disk, both the completely romantic parts and the not especially romantic parts.

The Italian Concerto is one of those performances which is in a certain sense close to "perfect": not that there couldn't be better performances, or other equally good ones, but I feel that it succeeds perfectly at what it was trying to do. That said, in the last couple of months when I've listened to this recording, I've felt that while Brendel's Italian Concerto is very good music, it doesn't have as much emotional depth as I want from this piece--as I hear Brendel's performance.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (November 15, 2001):
[To Marshall Abrams] Isn't it strange how we, or just I, enjoy HIP, unHIP, period performance, big and small forces, in our Bach collections?! For me, I love the ones I own, logic or no logic, as to let's say KdF must be HIP, but I don't mind Bach on piano, or larger forces with Rilling, and OVPP with Rifkin! Crazy for Bach as ever!

Marshall Abrams wrote (November 16, 2001):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Well, you know how it is, Francine: There's no accounting for taste. I like piano, and I like harpsichord, and HIP OVPP strings, but not non-HIP strings. I mean, I just am not a big fan of orchestras, whether they're what the composer composed for or not. I turn on the radio and hear some romantic or classical piano, and it's great, and then all of the sudden the orchestra kicks in and I realize it's a piano concerto and the orchestra repeatedly detracts from my enjoyment. Really. I keep waiting for the solo piano parts. Or more likely, I just put on a Bach CD or a cassette (if I'm in the car). I'm really not a mainstream classical fan. It would be nicer in some ways if I was. there would be classical radio stations around here that I routinely enjoyed. I don't hate orchestral music, but even when I like it, my attention wanders quickly. (I keep wondering about why I don't like orchestras. Sometimes I wonder if it's because I didn't grow up listening to classical music very actively, and when I hear a romantic orchestra, I expect to see a movie for which the music is the score. :-)

(Anyway, maybe there is some accounting for taste....)

HIP Tuning

Sybrand Bakker wrote (November 22, 2002):
< Ludwig wrote: [snip] e get into the problem that of equal temperment >which Bach was once thought to have invented (he did >not---the Chineese did more than 2000 years before Bach) and unequal temperment. We know that Bach >preferred equal temperment. However, many works >written for the age of Bach were written for unequal temperment and when played with equal temperment have >harmony and contrapuntal violations of the rules which >were not suppose to be violated by anyone claiming to >be a composer or music theorist for the age. However, >when these works are played in unequal temperment; >the "wolf" disappears and the music obeys the laws of music of the age. (Oh I am so glad that if we wish >today we have the freedom to use or ignore these rules >as suits our fancy!) >
There is no proof whatsoever 'wohltemperiert' is identical to equally tempered. In fact it is possible to play in all 12 keys without using ET. It is most likely Bach didn't know ET at all (It was IIRC first described by Rameau).

< JS Bach never ever heard of a Piano until he was a very old man and near death and at this point in life his composing had just about come to an end because of his health. He was just about blind also and he never heard the Piano until he was at the COurt of Frederick the Great which he would not have visited had his son not been in the employ of Frederick. Shortly after meeting Frederick; Bach died (probally as the result of long term effects of his eye surgery---I would have been terrified to have had any kind of surgery done back then because Western medicine was a crude affair at best and infections resulting in death were the norm. Doctors never washed their hands and were very unsterile in their proceedures. Surgeons were little more than what we call Barbers today). >
Please try to read an adequate biography of Bach. The above is so much utter nonsense that I'm not going to refute it point by point.

< Now if you want to talk about Bach's son WF and the other sons--that is different because in their time the Piano was on the way in and the Harpsichord on the way out ---killed almost by the French Revolution and had it not been for the Spanish Court--the harpsichord would have died in 1796. (see Gilbert Rowland's Soler series (on Naxos)) You will hear little protest from me about WF and siblings when it comes to the Piano. >
Beethoven still included 'harpsichord' in the term 'Clavier', and it is very much uncertain whether his opus 2 was definitely intended for piano alone.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (November 22, 2001):
[To Ludwig] I was just thinking how Gould's Byrd, Gibbons and Sweelinck would have sounded like if he had his piano tuned the way these composers would have wanted. I'm not suggesting that piano is HIP at all. Sorry for any confusion here.

Hart wrote (November 22, 2001):
[To Francine] When it comes to that wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Byrd and Gibbons record that Glenn Gould made, one of my "desert island" records, who gives a DAMN about either tuning or HIP?

That Byrd/Gibbons record, which I first got on LP when I was in college, is one of the greatest records of all time, and a damn sight better than almost all of Gould's Bach records, most of which are pretentious posturings that belong in the city dump!

’The Biology of perfect pitch’

Francine Renee Hall wrote (November 22, 2001):
I found an interesting article on the subject of pitch....

200 years of HIP

Boyd Pehrson wrote (January 9, 2002):
The "Historically Informed Performance" movement, as it is now called, has been around since the early 1800's. For about 200 years there has been a continued and ever growing interest in re-creations of original performance practices on historical instruments.

Our current era of historical performance practice has been most notably championed by conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Before Harnoncourt and his band of merry musician-historians radically reformed the romanticized performances of Baroque music, many other musician-historians laid the groundwork for putting historical practices into the mainstream. This effort to reform performance practices was not achieved by musicians alone. Instrument makers shared the vision to make historical performances a mainstream reality through revived production of antique instruments.

We trace the history of "historical concerts" that is, those concerts that strive to come close to the composer's original conditions, from Mr. Harnoncourt's efforts through people like Adam Carse, who in 1940 wrote, inter alia, his classic work on "The Orchestra in the XVIIIth Century." Robert Haas, in 1931 coined the term "Performance Practice." His book "Aufführungspraxis der Musik" catalogued antique instruments and performance practices. Before Robert Haas, Arnold Dolmetsch published his work on the subject in 1916. The book is titled "The Interpretation of the Music of the 17th and 18th Centuries." Dolmetsch casually remarks that the instruments of the period of the 17th and 18th Centuries can tell us much about the music of that time. Before Dolmetsch, we have Albert Schwietzer arguing in his classic 1905 work on J.S. Bach that sensitivity to the intentions of Bach's performance practices are the necessary key to understanding the sometimes mysterious portions of Bach's compositions. About the same time in 1904 famed harpsichordist Wanda Landowska issued her tome on "Musique Ancienne" and encouraged musicians to revive harpsichord playing for those compositions that historically call for it.

Two societies dedicated to the performance of concerts on historic instruments were founded in at the turn of the twentieth century. Camile Saint-Saëns and Henri Casadesus founded the Société des Instruments Anciens in 1901, and before that Charles Bordes and Vincent d'Indy founded the Schola Cantorum of Paris in 1894.

In 1885 Albert Hall in London, and South Kensington were treated to Bach's B Minor Mass and other concerts all performed on historical instruments, specially reconstructed for the concert series. Writer George Bernard Shaw was so thrilled with the results that he purchased season tickets in order to enjoy all the "historical concerts" which he dutifully and glowingly reviewed in The Dramatic Review Magazine, and other publications. In 1874 the Science and Art Dept. of the South Kensington Museum had issued a detailed catalogue of historical musical instruments, "proceeded by an essay on the history of musical instruments." The essay spells out how the construction of antique instruments enlightens us about the scales, intervals, modulations and other "noteworthy facts" of the music of historical times. The essay goes on to plead that it is the hope of the museum that children would be educated on these facts.

Thirty seven years earlier in 1837, a Journal titled "The Musical World, A Weekly Record of Musical Science Literature and Intelligence" reports on some "historical concerts" that took place at Hague. The programme featured music "from Palestrina to Mendelssohn." A few years earlier in 1834 Robert Schumann reports, in his music periodical "Neue Zeitschrift für Musik," on some concerts of Bach's music performed on an original instrument. This places historical performance practices within 34 years of the end of the 18th century, a mere 46 years after the death of Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel whose essays on keyboard playing were published and widely used.

As we can see, there is a relatively unbrokenchain of information and performances of music under historical circumstances over the past two hundred years. This ongoing emphasis on historic performance practices makes it clear that, then, as now, people find interest and musical enlightenment in these historical instruments, music and practices.

Douglas Neslund wrote (Jaanuary 9, 2002):
[To Boyd Pehrson] Thanks so much for your essay, Boyd

Now comes the question: if historical performances were presented in more or less uninterrupted sequence through the years since the death of the great Bach, when did the bloated, over-emoting, nonhistorical performances that continue to this very day begin? What sort of performances of Bach's work did Mendelssohn, who is credited with reviving performances of Bach's works, present?

That would be interesting to know.

Boyd Pehrson wrote (January 9, 2002):
[To Douglas Neslund] Hi Douglas, There certainly was a consistent interest in historical performance practices over the last two hundred years. How popular these concerts were with general audiences is certain as well, and unfortunately these performances appear to be left to the amusement of scientist-musicians, and intellectuals of the age. As you pointed out,it is Mendelssohn who is credited with reviving performances of Bach's works. Professor Friedrich Blume (Kiel University) wrote a marvelous work in 1950 titled "Two Centuries of Bach." My own review on 200 years of HIP provides a brief historical sketch on some historical concert highlights over the last 200 years, but Blume's (must-have)work covers everything I have not. In it he notes that Carl Friedrich Zelter had been rehearsing Bach's B Minor Mass in 1811 and 1813; and 14 years before Mendelssohn, Zelter had rehearsed Bach's St. Matthew's Passion. It is interesting to note that Zelter and other early Bach enthusiasts believed that Bach's sacred works were not presentable to the public. This was most probably due to the fact Zelter and company were sticking to Bach's "old styles" of playing. Mendelssohn changed that situation. Mendelssohn's 1827 public performance of the St.Matthew's Passion was different from what Bach had intended. Mendelssohn virtually rewrote the work with his contemporary audience in mind, and he used contemporary music forces. (Interestingly, we would these days have to provide an HIP performance on Mendelssohn's 1827 concert.) Bach was still a big hit in spite of the performance standards, and it sparked a revival of Bach's music that has yet to subside. Professor Blume also points out that Bach as a figure of musical genius over the centuries has been absorbed into the various genres and performance styles that have sprung up in the last two hundred years. This absorption into the musical culture of the world is one of the supreme compliments Bach could receive. Blume goes on to detail how Bach's Music had a very profound influence on Mozart and Beethoven. Essentially, Blume asserts that Beethoven's Missa Solemnis is inconceivable without the influence of Bach's B Minor Mass.

You asked about the over-emoted and bloated UN-historical performances that dominate the last two hundred years. I tend to agree that the romantic and modern performance practices do not at this point tend to compliment Bach's works. Why, because we are at a point where now we understand better Bach's contextual situation. The musicians of the 19th century were basically victims of their own time. The philosophy of the 19th century was that of the type of Marx and Hegel. Philosophers were telling everyone that everything was coming up progress, and indeed it seemed so. Fabulous new machines and inventions were continually being churned out to the public. 'Individual rights' were being granted in great new democracies. People just didn't want to look backward to Bach's time. The ever-increasing novelty and hope that people were experiencing seemed limitless. The reality is, that the philosophy of the those times set the world up for the gruesome horror of the wars of the twentieth century (over 100,000,000 dead just from Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot alone!). But people in the 19th century had no idea this was going to happen. They happily went about their daily lives just knowing that things will always be better tomorrow. The enthusiasm for "new and better" didn't always work out. One man entered his invention into the World's Fair in the mid-nineteenth century: a train that laid its own tracks! Of course the invention flopped since the advantage of a train is its fixed rail. But this invention is an excellent example of the attitude of the average 19th century person, who though in terms of "it's always going to get better." Musical invention was not immune to this approach, and bigger was thought of as "always better." Ease of instrument use and virtuosity was "always better" than old instruments with fewer notes providing "darker tones." Bach to these people was either a great technician, or great teacher of fugues; and unflatteringly, Bach was viewed as a dogmatic and narrow-minded Christian.

The very word "Christian" had taken on a new meaning since Bach's time. Nationalistic and romantic ideas about Christianity were more popular in the 19th century. Bach's Christianity looked old fashioned, and fuddy duddy to the 19th century audience. All those ponderous Christian dogmas in Bach's texts were too much for the romantic, and "enlightened" positivistic mind of the time. Like the inventor at that world's fair, people took Bach away from his foundational principles, and made of him a train that lays its own tracks. The superb advantage of Bach was removed. Bach's spiky notes depicting a thorny crown for Christ were changed into pastoral notes of the princely vision of Jesus. Bach's musical expressions of pain, and brusings and blood were changed into tepid movements of a presupposed sacredness. Bach's music was conveniently transformed into the mind of the 19th century person, and these people fully believed that Bach would have agreed with this. Those that did object to this approach to Bach were considered to be merely musical scientists of a sort, whose job it was to look into "old things."

The 19th century wasn't birthed from a vacuum tube, and the 18th century was the mother of the philosophical ideas of the 19th.As early as 1737, Bach was being openly criticized and seemingly dismissed as old fashioned by his youthful contemporaries. The young folk were in the midst of a revolution in thinking - it was the dawn of the "Age of Enlightenment." Mankind had unashamedly usurped the Throne of God and they loved it. God had fashioned Man to rule the earth and Man was coming into his glory. Man as the ideal humanist, teacher, scientist, doctor, philosopher and musician was becoming the perspective. Musicians and composers began to explore their own personal genius and virtuosity, and creed oriented Christianity was dead a weight to them. Bach's emphasis on text was viewed by his succeeding generation as irrational and overly studious. Bach's pointed, realistic and dramatic text ornamentations were seen as merely florid and turgid foreign styles. The Age of the power of human reason was here to make certain that music should conform to rationality and aestheticism. As Professor Blume so profoundly points out about the 18th century Enlightenment generation: "The 'Jesu Juva' and 'Soli Deo Gloria' which Bach was in the habit of putting at the end of his works meant nothing at all to them: first, because they had broken away from religion and the Church, secondly because these formulae expressed an attitude to music diametrically opposed to their own. Not a metaphysical world of divine order, but now man with his reason and his heart were now to be the standard of musical value. In [the] writings of Scheibe the foundations were laid on which the whole structure of modern music is based, from the age of sentimental 'galanterie' to the age of the Vienna classics, from the Romantic movement in all its various stages right up to the music of our own time." (Blume, pg.15)

If such is the case, I submit that a subversion of the vision and of Bach has taken place through classicism, romanticism and modernism. Therefore we must undergo the hard tasks of performing Bach with a renewed spirit of honest objective understanding and sensitivity to the world and mind of Bach. I believe only this will enlighten us to the true intentions of the composer. I am not necessarily opposed to Classical/Romantic/Modern interpretations of Bach's music. They are their own tribute to the great man. But they should always be clearly identified to the public as the Classical/Romantic/Modern style interpretation performances of Bach that they are. The historically sensitive approaches should be presented as confidently as possible, and presented always as among the closest to the composer's intentions.

Douglas Neslund wrote (Jaanuary 9, 2002):
[To Boyd Pehrson] The music of Bach is indestructible; I wonder if the master knew that, though I think he would be incredulous that his music was still performed, in whatever manner, down through the decades (with apparent gaps in terms of popularity perhaps). The fact that virtually all graduate music students, at one point or another in their required classwork, must study 18th century theory, and that Bach's chorales, etc. are used universally as exemplars, is proof of his continuing impact and greatness. This is true no matter whether his Inventions are played on harpsichord or Casio (ouch!).

Continue on Part 4

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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