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HIP (Historically Informed Performance)

Part 5



Continue from Part 4

“Authentic instrument” movement

Donald Satz wrote:
As for the "authentic music movement", it isn't dwindling at all except to those who hate HIP and delude themselves into thinking that it's a fade which will eventually fade out.

Don't think you can get 'blown away' by Parrott's B minor Mass? Just come > to my home and put on my headphones; I'll play Parrott, and you'll feel like > you've been blown into the next county.

And that's in response to Neil, who wrote:
< I note from a previous post that the "authentic music movement" is dwindling. Is this true? Why would this be so? Andrew Parrot wants to reduce the forces required to realise (Bach's) music, even though ordinary music lovers probably come to music such as the Sanctus from the Mass in B minor in order to be blown away, not to sit there thinking "gee, are'nt I lucky being able to hear this music the exact way Bach heard it 300 years ago". >

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 25, 2002):
[To Donald Satz] I agree with Don: "period instruments" are not just a fad that's going to go away.

The point is not to recreate what something sounded like 300 years ago; the point is to help listeners (today) be "blown away" by how great the music is.

I've spent many years and incalculable amounts of money and energy becoming a specialist on period instruments: primarily harpsichord, but also all the other historic keyboards. Why? Because the music moves me, and in response I want to try to play it (as far as I'm able) as well as it can be played. That includes using the tools that are best suited for the job: period instruments or copies, and the playing techniques (fingering, unequal temperaments, improvisation, etc) that go along with them. A look at the original notation (via facsimiles and microfilms) is also useful, as it suggests expression in ways that modern editions sometimes do not. And of course it's vital to consult documents contemporary with the music to learn techniques and expectations that the musical notation does not show directly, and to learn the *effects* that the music had on its listeners and practitioners. All this is to take the music seriously on its own terms, as far as we can, trying to!
get inside the composer's imagination.

Why? Because the goal is to assimilate all this verifiable knowledge, push it into the core of one's being as a background, and *then* play the music. Not living in the background or in the past, but using it to spark the imagination, creating performances for the present and future. Translating the effects from one cultural context to another, as far as one is able. The imagination is the key, but that knowledge (plus the hardware of the instruments) are the metals that make the key. One can fashion some other key out of different materials, say a modern plastic or some new alloy, and get good results, but it's a different key and (to take this maybe too far) will therefore open a different door.

Or let's try a different analogy: say there's a bolt and nut to be adjusted. One can turn the nut or hold the bolt with an adjustable wrench, a modern tool. Or one can chomp the whole thing with a vise grip, another modern tool--but the bolt and nut "will get bitched up" (as they say around here). Or one can find a wrench of exactly the right size, shape, and mass and turn the nut putting less strain on it. It's a choice: what needs to be done, and what's available to do it?

"Historically informed performance" is like "method" acting (so far as I understand method acting): remake oneself into the character, and then act naturally. Perform the expressive gestures that that character would do: not because they're in some book, but because they make the performance alive and real and convincing, a believable character breathing and moving.

Sure, I also play modern piano and electric-action pipe organs when that's the instrument given, and when that's what people are coming to hear. I don't pretend that these modern inventions are pseudo-Baroque instruments to be played in exactly the same manner; the most musical performances are those that use the capabilities of whatever instruments are at hand, fully. At the same time it's deeply useful to know (as far as can be determined) what the notation means, and what the composer expected to hear (as far as can be determined), and *then* translate that into the given situation. The performance has to fit the audience, the hall, and the instruments available: when it's going well, it also varies with the flow of one's own moods and convictions, reacting to the situation and responding to the audience's attention (or lack of attention!). That's a real performance. The more one knows as background, the more flexible one can be in the moment.

If I play, say, a toccata of Froberger on the piano, I use pianistic dynamics and change some of the fingering I would use on harpsichord or organ. Why? To make the best of the situation, taking best advantage of the given tools even when it's not what I'd ideally choose to use! I try to understand Froberger's personality from any available information about him, and from learning as much of his music as possible; then I try to *be* Froberger in performance, as much as my imagination will allow, translating what I understand of his ideas into the expressive possibilities of whatever instrument I'm sitting at, trying to play and improvise like the composer. The point is to allow the music to be as richly expressive as possible, playing for the people who are here to listen to it. The play-acting of walking in the composer's own shoes (in the imagination) helps to focus the task, and then one can react to the music naturally.

I have nothing against modern technologies; I use them. For example, I make photocopies of the scores and put them into a three-ring binder, rearranging pages (and sometimes cutting/pasting them) so the page turns work best for the flow of the music. And I write on these with pencil rather than pen, so I can continue to refine my analyses or prepare different performances without making a mess. And I use computers to exchange information and to prepare some of my own editions, again as background preparation for performances. I think it would be foolish to insist that a performer work with fountain-pen only, and copy music only by hand, when modern tools give cleaner and more flexible results. But it's a choice. I'll use any modern tools and research methods necessary to prepare the background of a performance; but at performance time it comes down to playing musically and naturally on whatever instrument is at hand.

I feel that (everything else being equal) the period instruments and techniques offer the most natural possibilities of expression, because the music was written with them in mind. Their articulations, dynamic range, tone, and intonation fit the music, and vice versa. In that way a period instrument is the best tool for the job: not because it's old, but because it's an expressive instrument that fits the composer's imagination, as far as can be determined. In the hands of a good imaginative musician such an instrument presents the musical gestures as well as they can be presented, taking everything in the music and its culture seriously as background, then letting the music be delightful and beautiful and meaningful for today.

Sure, there will still be listeners who think the goal here is to recreate the past, and who listen to the music with that preconception. OK, whatever. And some performers have that goal, too. OK, whatever. But I'm much more interested in making a good show for the people are here now, who came to the concert or bought a recording, than in trying to transport anybody into the past. The point is to move real listeners today. When I listen to, say, Strauss' "Metamorphosen" I don't transport myself back to be a fictitious citizen of 1940s Germany; I let the music take hold of whatever current emotions I have, and it doesn't matter so much to me why Strauss wroit. A performance of "Metamorphosen" is great if it rips my heart out and shows it to me on a platter, in a good way. As effective art it causes resonances within the listener. Today.

The Parrott recording of the B Minor Mass that Neil and Don mentioned is a good example. As a listener I enjoy it, especially late at night, because the expression in the performance moves me. I really don't care so much what instruments they're using, or how many singers, as caring about the musical effects they're making, and noticing the resonance they cause inside me. Parrott and his ensemble are focused, communicative musicians doing a great job. Their performance helps me appreciate both the details and the overall effects of this extraordinary composition: something that matters to me today, not really caring how it sounded 300 years ago. I consider it a treat that I can listen to this artistry as many times as I want to, whenever I want to.

Evolution of HIP in the 1960’s ff

Thomas Braatz wrote:
Brad, you stated:
< I wasn't citing any "approved wisdom" of any kind. I was merely trying to draw a clear distinction between HIP (at its best) and modern/mainstream style (at its best). >
I wasn't attempting to 'bash Harnoncourt.' I was merely trying to draw a clear istinction between Kuijken's and Harnoncourt's authentic performance ideals, but the more I try to see a difference, the more both Kuijken and Harnoncourt seem to merge into one.

My question should have been: Is Kuijken the 'original genius' here or is it Harnoncourt? Their views are very similar. I have yet to see a well-documented presentation of just how these ideas were arrived at. These ideas seem to appear almost as if out of nowhere with no original author. I am simply trying to track these elusive ideas back to their origins so that I can consider on what basis the HIP revolution was effected.

<< believe that Kuijken comes to all this with an especial emphasis on the French strands of things: Muffat and Lully. After all, he named his own orchestra "La Petite Bande" after the French court orchestra where the playing styles were described by Muffat's and Lully's principles.... But the essay in his S&P set also goes into the Italians and Leopold Mozart. (Much of the same essay is also in his set of the violin-and-harpsichord sonatas, with Leonhardt.) >>
Did Kuijken's mainly French-style based performance practices influence Harnoncourt or was the influence in the other direction? When did Kuijken make these comments (which year) or when did he publish a book or article in which these ideas were propounded? Was he the first to do so?

I am seriously interested in getting to the bottom of this matter.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 12, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] There was a pretty big pool of players and singers developing the styles together in the 1960s and 1970s, working together in ever-changing combinations. The Kuijken brothers, Frans BrÜggen, Alfred Deller, Max van Egmond, Kurt Equiluz, Mr and Mrs Leonhardt, Mr and Mrs Harnoncourt, David Munrow, young Christopher Hogwood, Jaap Schroeder, young Koopman, the British choral conductors Norrington and Gardiner and Parrott, young Herreweghe, young Savall, young Kenneth Gilbert, young Bob van Asperen, Anner Bylsma, Alan Curtis, Thomas Binkley, Anthony Rooley, and another several dozen. That's just off the top of my head, not deliberately omitting anybody....

Check out The Early Music Revival: A History by Harry Haskell for a survey....

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 12, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks for your suggestion:

< Check out The Early Music Revival: A History by Harry Haskell for a survey.... > indicates that this book is out of print. There is, among other things, a copy available for $248.00! Is this a reflection of the 'wealth' of information contained therein? Seriously, concerning the HIP mvt. as applied more narrowly to the Baroque, does this book with its long catalogue of names give the detailed information that I am looking for? Does Haskell explain, for instance, who was the first or the primary mover in the direction of certain, specific features such as reducing note values from those indicated in a Bach score, placing extremely strong accents on the beat and allowing unaccented notes to become almost inaudible, etc. Does the book answer in detail, for instance, on what musicological research these unusual performance practices are based? If I had this book in my hand in a book store (where it is no longer available) I would immediately check how Haskell explains Harnoncourt's (as far as I know, he was the first to do this) reduction of Bach's note values in Bach's recitatives from, let's say, 12 beats or so to only one . Does Haskell give the evidence that Harnoncourt bases his performance practice on, or does Haskell simply say that with this performer such and such a practice begins without documenting the evidence and the reasoning that led to such a practice?

Just curious.

Pierce Drew wrote (March 12, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Barnes & Noble online <> has a available copies for around $12 (paperback) -- I was looking for a copy myself. In addition, if you buy two or more items, you get free shipping. Not bad.

HIP and Hindemith

Francine Renee Hall wrote (March 12, 2002):
Paul Hindemith gave a lecture on 20 September 1950 'at the Bach commemoration of the city of Hamburg, Germany', which has been printed as a small book called "Johann Sebastian Bach: Heritage and Obligation" (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1952). Hindemith played an important part in orientating Bach musical practice towards HIP. For example (out of many examples), he states: [Bach] would have delighted to use great choirs, so one believes, if only they had been available: Beethoven's and Wagner's orchestras would have been his ideal, and he would have discarded the chirping harpsichord in favor of a modern Steinway. *Nothing supports this opinion*. If one is not persuaded that only small groups of performers can convincingly show the lucidity of Bach's polyphonic choral style . . . one needs but to study carefully the orchestral scores of the four Ouertures (Suites) and the six Brandenburg Concertos."

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 12, 2002):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Yes: Harry Haskell (The Early Music Revival: A History) cites as some of the major figures Hindemith, Stravinsky, Toscanini, Schoenberg, Theodor Adorno, Erwin Bodky, Dolmetsch, Landowska....

Most of his book takes us through the journey from Mendelssohn through Fetis, Brahms, Chrysander, Saint-Saens, various societies, and into the above-named musicians and writers: notions of preserving, editing, resurrecting music of the past, blending traditions with modernity, etc. Most of the book is finished before he gets to Leonhardt, Harnoncourt, the Kuijkens, et al.

Larry Palmer covers the same era well in his Harpsichord in America which is by no means only about harpsichord or America. Essential book.

PP and HIP

Francine Renee Hall wrote (March 19, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz & Robert Sherman] PP means 'period performance' which is an older term for HIP (historically informed performance). PP is still used in books, on the web, and in CD booklets. "The Gramophone Classical Good CD Guide" uses the letter 'P' to refer to period performance. And their 'H' refers to old recordings of historical interest, such as Bruno Walter. And, again, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Not asking is a shame. I consider stupidity to mean when someone shows disrespect or lack of empathy between humans. warm wishes, Francine

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 20, 2002):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Thanks for the clarification of the acronym, PP (Period Performance.) The problem with both acronyms is that they lack specificity. Are they meant to distinguish HIP (Historically Informed Practice) with the implication that any attempt at applying some knowledge of the Baroque period is acceptable (even with modern instruments and playing techniques) from PP (Period Performance) where the actual instruments are attempts at a reconstruction of the instruments that Bach supposedlyhad as his disposal, and where there is an attempt to play these instruments accordingly? Does PP imply a greater amount of authenticity than HIP? Does Harnoncourt claim PP for himself or for any other conductor who does it his way? What about other PP performances which do not carry the Harnoncourt imprint and do not sound like Harnoncourt? Should they not have an acronym for themselves to distinguish them from his style?

Is a Rilling cantata performance HIP since he has incorporated some of the recent results of Bach scholarship, albeit with mainly modern instruments and some modern playing (and singing) techniques?

Can Harnoncourt claim a PP when some of his research is based on post-Bach musical traditions? Does PP mean a period performance from any period other than late Romanticism or the 20th century, or one that is true to the specific period in which the work was composed?

Just wondering,

Anthony Olszowy wrote (March 20, 2002):
I have an imperfect memory, but my recollection is that HIP was the acronym/nomenclature instituted by Andrew What's his Name of the Atlantic Monthly/New Yorker a few years ago to give a less epistemologically presumptive name to what used to be called "period performance" The gravamen of his argument is that, as we have no actual recordings to help us reconstruct performances of the era(s) in question (I have to say eras, given that we're now doing HIP Brahms!), the best we can do is guess on the basis of "historical information" captured in literature, painting and the other non-musical arts.about past practice. We cannot actually KNOW period performance we can only have an historically informed guess. This unusual humility has caught on in the academic world (and among the less presumptive). Hence, PP has become HIP.

I understand now that academic commentary has begun to make distinctions not unlike those that Tom Braatz has queried. I suppose this is a logical step in the development of an idea. However, the genesis of the the term was rather simple.

Anyway, does anyone have more specific information?

Francine Renee Hall wrote (March 19, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] I'm going to see if I can find something more concrete in my musical library. In the meantime, PP or period performance is the older term, used while I was taking music history classes in the 1970's. I get the feeling that research was done to make a performance more authentic with the composer in mind. But it also seemed that many questions went unanswered. For example, our class studied Machaut's 'Notre Dame' Mass using lots of instruments (it was on a Nonesuch LP, by Noah Greenberg). Questions remained whether the instruments were warranted or not. Today the same mass is sung without instruments or very little instruments (as with the Hilliard Ensemble). HIP or Historically Informed Practice is the more recent term and more closely reflects the kind of recordings we are getting now, i.e., Christie, Gardiner, where the scholarship and playing is much more accurate to the composer's ideas.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (March 19, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] I went through my Harvard music dictionary. There was nothing on HIP but there was an entry for PP. It seems that the gist of things is in the notation and the interpretation of notation. This interpretation is based on a hopefully informed choice, so there is a 'gap' between what is written and how it is performed. PP tries to close this gap with whatever scholarship and musicianship can do. When I mentioned to you that Machaut's Mass now uses little instrumentation, there is now a HIP controversy written by Christopher Page called 'The English a cappella heresy' (from "The Companion to Medieval & Renaissance Music"edited by Knighton and Fallows) where Page rather derisively tears down Noah Greenberg's use of instruments. Harnoncourt, as I remember stated that instruments and voices were easily interchangeable during the Medieval and Renaissance eras. So the battle rages on. In the Baroque period, focus by scholars and musicians is on 'ornamentation', 'improvisation', authentic instruments, tuning and temperament, 'tempo', 'articulation', 'dynamics', 'voice production', and 'singing styles'. Wow, I hope this helps somewhat! warmest wishes to you, Francine

Francine Renee Hall wrote (March 19, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] You are right; the terms PP and HIP can be vague. I've known HIP fanatics who state that there is no such thing as PP. I've also known those who claim that modern instruments played with sensitivity to the composer's wishes is considered HIP. And yes, HIP is moving ahead of the Baroque to the Classical and Romantic musical eras as well: Beethoven on his original pianoforte; Gardiner's Beethoven Symphony cycle; Gardiner's Verdi's Requiem; bits of Mahler on gut strings, etc., and lots more. I'm so tired right now; I'm gonna try to get to sleep! Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

Craig Schweickert wrote (March 20, 2002):
Andrew Porter on HIP

For BRML members' information, while attempting to discover whether former The New Yorker music critic Andrew Porter did in fact coin the term "historically informed performance," I came across the following quote (which will probably press several members' buttons, although probably not always in the same way):

In 1981, the eminent music critic Andrew Porter eloquently described the movement's rationale and rewards. "Let me start with an assertion," said Porter, "that has underlain much of what I've written in The New Yorker during the past eight years: 'Music sounds best the way its composer wrote it,' and by 'best' I mean most expressive, most beautiful, most enjoyable ... My contention - and not only mine, but that of once hundreds and now of thousands of people the world over - is that music can only be made accurately, truly, fully, on the instruments and by the techniques for which it was composed. And techniques and instruments cannot be separated...

"Let me try an analogy," Porter continued. "Imagine that fifty years ago there were no paintings by the Old Masters to be seen - no Leonardos, no Rembrandts, no Raphaels in our museums and art galleries, but only reproductions of them executed in water colors, poster paints, or even acrylics. All would not have been lost; you would still have been able to appreciate form and composition; and if the copies were faithful, there would still be much beauty to admire. Well, that's how it was in the world of music once. But now, thanks to the loving revival of old instruments and the loving revival of old techniques, we are brought face to face, ear to ear with the originals once again.

"One important thing must be said," Porter concluded. "This movement does not represent a retreat into an ivory tower, a turning of one's back on modern life and all that it has to offer. Rather, it represents a living of modern life in the fullest and richest possible way, by experiencing the great heritage of our past as something fresh and alive within us, so that it tunes and tempers our perceptions of the way we look at, listen to, and thing about the present."

A glance through Porter's The New Yorker columns from 1981 as collected in his book Musical Events, A Chronicle: 1980-1983 turned up neither the quoted passage nor an answer to my query. (The passage may well come from another publication - Porter didn't have an exclusive contract with The New Yorker - or a speech.)

Pete Blue wrote (March 20, 2002):
[To Francine Renee Hall & Thomas Braatz] It appears to me that PP and HIP are interchangeable acronyms. Tom Braatz writes: "The problem with both acronyms is that they lack specificity." I don't see lack of specificity as a problem, but rather as the reason the acronyms are so useful. "HIP" encompasses attempts at period re-creation as vastly different as the B'burgs of Early Harnoncourt (Francine, I share your enthusiasm for these) and those of La Stravaganza and IGA. At the same time it excludes hybrids like Rilling. Eventually, I believe, we will coin new acronyms to subcategories of "HIP" as the need arises, and HIP and PP will become less useful. Tom Braatz's last question is especially pregnant in this regard, as that time may have already arrived; we seem to have more and more examples of the view of the Baroque from other perspectives, like the 19th century.

John Grant wrote (March 20, 2002):
Great question.

Like all words in the English language, "pp" and "hip" have multiple meanings and usages, many of which are miles apart, depending on the context of usage and the ideas one is attempting to express.

One must always keep in mind that there is no privileged "definition" of the words "hip" or "pp." Yes, there are established usages, but ultimately words can be defined any way one chooses! The important point is to be CLEAR about the usage(s) one wishes to employ!

Many disputes about "hip" could be avoided if only the various sides would define their terms! There are real issues to be argued, but only once key terms are defined.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 20, 2002):
Many thanks to all of you who have responded to my query (Francine, Tony, Craig, Pete, and John)!

It appears from some of your comments that there originally was a bit of hybris involved in coining the term PP which was then tempered somewhat by the term HIP. I think the unanswered questions about PP are gradually coming to the fore as much reexamination of the presuppositions on which PP and HIP are based is taking place. It is easy at first to get swept up by Andrew Porter’s enthusiastic description that almost resembles a revolutionary manifesto in which certain ideals are overstated (the claim to authenticity and that a faithful reproduction of the composer's intentions has been achieved by guessing at which performance practices were actually used and by creating a mythology regarding the original instruments or their reproductions that are used in such a performance.) We seem now to be in a subsequent phase in which a separation of the wheat from the chaff is taking place, or at least an attempt to distinguish between the new varieties of performance practice that have arisen since the early sixties. Some of these varieties are definite improvements over the initial attempts at PP, while others fall below the mark established by Harnoncourt.

It appears to me that these terms (PP and HIP) have been overworked or have meanings that have become either too narrow (applied only to Harnoncourt’s style and innovations) or too wide (when we have to argue, repeatedly redefine, and reconsider whether Rilling’s cantatas belong to the HIP category in any way or not.)

Francine Renee Hall wrote (Maarch 20, 2002):
Hi Tom, Anthony, Craig, Pete and John--

Thanks for the interesting posts! You guys are helping me from becoming completely brain dead! It seems categories can be misleading and an easy way out!

Donald Satz wrote (March 20, 2002):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Categories can be misleading, but some terms of reference have to be used in order communicate performance style. Personally, I never liked the term "HIP". To what degree is the performance historically informed? Some say that Rilling's Bach is historically informed, and that would be a correct statement. However, he doesn't use period instruments, and that's the term I think is best to use. It tells me something specific - instruments of that time or copies are used.

Anthony J. Olszowy wrote (March 20, 2002):
Andrew Porter on HIP

[To Craig Schweickert] Ah, PORTER! Thank you, Craig. My memory is not what it used to be. If I am not mistaken, the phrase "historically informed performance" was attributed to him sometime in the mid nineties; there have also been harrumphed of doubt as to whether he was the originator. You're also correct not to assume it was necessarily in one of his New Yorker columns that the phrase was to have come up. I believe it may have done so in one of his guest columns in one of the other East Coast literary magazines.

By the way, in anticipation of tomorrow, happy 317th to fellow Bachistas!

Continue on Part 6

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

General Topics: Main Page | About the Bach Cantatas Website | Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Scores & Composition, Parodies, Reconstructions, Transcriptions | Texts, Translations, Languages | Instruments, Voices, Choirs | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings | Life of Bach, Bach & Other Composers | Mailing Lists, Members, Contributors | Various Topics


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