HIP (Historically Informed Performance)
Continue from Part 7
HIP, Modern or Heart
Francine Renee Hall wrote (March 30, 2003):
I went through some of the Cantata discussions at Aryeh's website, and I was kind of disappointed at the 'political correctness' of some HIP lovers, i.e., there must be no vibrato (though surely Julianne Baird has one), concerns for rubato or legato, boys vs. adults, etc. Shouldn't one guage a performance on merits of musical insights that go beyond the norm? If the heart is pierced, isn't that what is truly important. Some wrote that Herreweghe is too 'romantic'?! I love all styles of performance, but if one boxes oneself into a formal type, why don't we all just throw out everything and become unthinking and insensitive listeners?
(PS. the Herreweghe recordings are about $2.99 a piece; received 9 CDs from Berkshire outlet. What I've heard so far is very moving.) To tie oneself to one 'type' is surely dangerous for musical evolution.
Neil Halliday wrote (March 30, 2003):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Francine, some views I have noticed on this site:
1. Music should sound ugly at times.
My comment: Maybe in Wozzeck, but never in the Bach cantatas.
2. Herreweghe has too much legato.
My comment: Herreweghe gave a wonderful performance of the Magnificat last Christmas (on TV) - a period instrument performance I greatly enjoyed. I am looking forward to see what he does with some cantatas which I have on order.
I did not notice the demand for a complete absence of vibrato, but I think most of us want to hear a vibrato that is not overbearing.
I like Tom Braatz' concept of the swinging pendulum regarding the performance styles of Bach's music, and achieving a happy medium between 'ugly', light, and disjointed HIP, and over-large, 'romantic', lush modern instrument performances of the 60's.
I agree with the spirit of your post.
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (March 31, 2003):
[To Francine Renee Hall]
< I agree with the spirit of your post. >
as do I, at least part of that spirit, but I have a disagreements with it.
note: please don't take anything personal (just a disclaimer!)
< i.e., there must be no vibrato (though surely Julianne Baird has one), concerns for rubato or legato, boys vs. adults, etc. >
The problem with this argument is that the things you list may have a direct or indirect effect on the overall impact of a performance. For some, vibrato can be quite distracting (more on my "peace treaty" with vibrato in a bit), and boy trebles certainly have a different quality to their voice than adult females, which inherently changes the overall sound, and questions of tempo and articulation are part of the very process we know as interpretation.
Now, as promised, the story of me and vibrato. I used to always say that vibrato should be eliminated from any music making for music until about 1800. The problem was that I had said it so much that I had convinced myself that I believed it (do you all follow me?). However, I realised that I didn't believe it-I really have no clue why I was saying it, but it really doesn't bother me too much. The only thing in this category that really bothers me now is vibrato so excessive that it sounds as if a soprano is straining to sing the F on the top line of the treble clef, a note that even at A 440 a professional soprano should not be having trouble with. This of course doesn't completely have to do with vibrato (it could be that it's really a contralto trying to get more money!)
anyway, my point is really in the rubuttle to this comment:
< To tie oneself to one 'type' is surely dangerous for musical evolution. >
I understand what you're saying, and you have a bit of a point, but the problem is that IMO you're looking for diversity in the wrong place. I think diversity in musical taste is to be found from person to person much more than from within the individual. It is very likely that a person may have a few similar tastes within her/himself, but I think that everyone is to a quite sizeable extent "tied down" anyway, because everyone will have an opinion of something, especially of art, and that opinion stems from the inherent similar (or uniform) tastes that have been developed in the person. Is this dangerous to musical evolution? On the contrary: debate and discussion with the intention of action is the healthiest thing to do in any situation: give people a platform to voice what they want, and come up with a solution from this discussion. This list and those like it are the very platforms where we, the listeners (and for a few of us as a double role of performers), can voice our inherent opinions of art and more specifically, performance of art.
Francine: I repeat, this was in no way an attempt to attack your character, and if it did so, then I sincerely hope the fact that this was not my intention is sufficient consolation.
Francine Renee Hall wrote (March 31, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday & Matthew Neugebauer] Oh, no, I'm not upset or anything like that!! I enjoy the discussions and differences too. Like you I feel differences make for changes and creation. Personally I've dived into all sorts of musical 'packages' and enjoyed their particular merits. My Bach collection reflects this. On average I own at least two or more versions of a Bach work. When diving into the versions I really appreciate what the artists are accomplishing on their own merits. And it feels good to be in a Bach group where differences are accepted and challenged.
Thanks so much!
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (April 1, 2003):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Good to know there's no hard feelings, but I don't feel that the issue is resolved.
< Personally I've dived into all sorts of musical 'packages' and enjoyed their particular merits. My Bach collection reflects this. >
let me ask you this then: of the multiple recordings of a work that you own, are the recordings you enjoy the most of a certain work similar in nature? If I need to be clearer, then here's a better way to do it-pull out a recording you really enjoy of a specific work, and pull out one or two more recordings that you really enjoy of the same work as the first recording you pulled out. Would you say that these recordings are similar in nature? are they all/both HIP? modern? OVPP? large forces? quick tempo? etc.
Francine Renee Hall wrote (April 1, 2003):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] I guess I would put my loves and likes from experience, i.e., discoveries from childhood, young adult and adult. For example, I would place Wilhelm Kempff's 2-CD DG set of Bach's WTC and Capriccio on the Departure of His Brother on desert island mode. I heard and bought his work when a young adult. He is considered a romantic, being a student of Busoni, but I don't see the outlandish romanticism as I see it in Brendel. So I call this 'childhood imprinting'. Now I have the WTC's by Gould, Hewitt, Jarrett, and Aldwell. I would call Gould and Hewitt "HIP Piano", without pedalling, rubato and wild dynamics, and they are a source of great love and beauty to me also. I discovered Gould as an adult and Hewitt just recently. I don't care for the WTC on harpsichord, though I do admire Robert Hill intellectually. Believe me, since I've been in the Bach group, I have bought all sorts of harpsichord, clavichord, lute-harpsichord and piano using just intonation out of sheer curiosity. I've played them all but I find myself grabbing the piano WTC's instinctively. (This might be part due to some hearing loss I have; the piano is clearer and easier to hear for me.)
I would say the bulk of my Bach opus is geared towards PP and HIP. I started with Harnoncourt and still find him to be a 'god' to me because, well, he started with the unknown, taking dusty instruments out of museums and trying to figure out how to play them.
And then there are works I love that I know are not accurate intellectually, but I say what the hell, and love them anyway. For example, my childhood purchases of Gabrieli are a case in point. You can bet that my heart will pound really hard when I hear Gabrieli's 'The Glory of Venice' as plaby the Texas Boys Choir and E. Power Biggs, as well as 'The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli" as played by the Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Chicago Brass Ensembles. If I then play "A Venetian Coronation" by Paul McCreesh, I lose interest. Perhaps I'm intellectually restricted, but there is a fun critic who once remarked in his book something to this effect: "I don't care what is the current style or fad; if the music moves me I give it a glowing review; if it bores me, you bet I'll let you know." He strongly states that his book is 'highly opinionated', so the buyer is warned.
With a noose around my neck, I'd say I go for smaller forces, faster tempo...., PP and HIP oriented.
I hope this doesn't sound too confusing?
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (April 1, 2003):
< With a noose around my neck, I'd say I go for smaller forces, faster tempo...., PP and HIP oriented. >
if by "PP" you mean OVPP, then I don't tend to lean that way, but I definitely feel that HIP, and yes, instruments that could have belonged to Caligula (an old hyperbole that was once used on one of the lists to denote authentic instruments) are really the way to go. As well, the heart involved in HIP performances doesn't seem always as evident in non-HIP performances. I actually fell asleep at a TSO concert of a few Brandenburg Ctos! Jacques Israelevich (he was playing-conducting) looked more bored than I was!
I think what really separates it for me is the choral sound-the clear, pure groups like Tafelmusik CC and the Monteverdi Choir, can put larger choirs to shame! (Well, at least choirs from the 60s). As well, I've also said my ultimate dislike-"sopranos" having to strain at the F 2 octaves above middle C!
At least one debate is over-hopefully Tom and Brad can come to an agreement!
Francine Renee Hall wrote (April 1, 2003):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] No, PP means Period Performance before the high-brows decided to call it HIP. PP was in evidence during the 1970's, with David Munrow and Harnoncourt as the new explorers.
Well, as I told Brad, HIP didn't work for me when I heard Hogwood destroy Mozart's 40 and 41. Otto Klemperer got it right. I think we have to be careful with HIP that they don't start sounding all alike and all feeling guilty if they don't follow every single fad. And HIP should pay tribute to the modern greats of the past who, like explorers, discovered wonderful things.
OVPP to me is a fad that got Rifkin noticed and rich but I don't buy it. I own it but I don't agree with it. I don't care what Andrew Parrott has to say about it either. Common sense tells me that for a mass to be performed with some semblance of seamlessness to it, you've got to have more than OVPP. Just listen to it. Notice all the shouting and jaggedness in those poor, overworked voices?
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (April 1, 2003):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Its a good thing we're clear about what PP means exactly!
Anyway, I do agree that we have to be careful about accepting every single HIP recording/performance as good, and that there are some rare gems in the modern camp, there's one consistent thing that I've noticed - While excellent recordings of baroque repertoire by modern groups tend to be few and far between, the HIPers are consistently turning out top-quality performances. I think this is an objective observation, as even on lists such as this, the opinions of non-HIP recordings of Bach and Handel are more or less split between good and bad, while the opinions of HIP recordings/performances are about 95% positive. May I offer a possible reason for this? I've discussed this before, that at the TSO concert of Brandenburgs 2, 3 and 4, the performers looked quite bored and uninterested. Israelevich's improv solo for the 2nd mvmt of cto 3 was played with very little care or enjoyment. However, Tafelmusik concerts are always very sprightly, and Lamon consistently has a smile on her face! I think there is a bit of coldness or dreariness towards music in the modern camp, which comes from Romantic and 20th century styles. Even in BWV 244, argueably the most dramatic passion oratorio ever composed, there is still a sense of hope, of joyfulness in the implications of Christ's death: eternal life for all mankind. Coldness and dreariness simply does not fit an era where almost every opera had to have a happy ending, every concerto had to end with a fast movement, and most of all, every note fo music was tied to the dancing drive of the heavens! Hopefully conductors of modern-instrument symphony orchestras will soon learn this!
Francine Renee Hall wrote (April 1, 2003):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Yes, you're right. HIP performances are fun, lively, full of energy. When I saw MAK perform the Brandenburgs at Chicago's Orchestra Hall, I noticed how joyful the group was; and the audience seemed to be younger, overall, and very attentive.
20th-century period instruments
Matthew Westphal wrote (April 1, 2003):
Steven Guy says: >>> I find it sad that the symphony orchestra seems developmentally dead. Surely the instruments of the 20th century will not be held up as 'perfection' for all time? Can we seriously suggest that in 2100 people will still be playing on C20 models of instruments? I hope not! <<<
Well, I hope that in 2100 people are still playing 20th-century music on the 20th -century instruments for which it was written!
Robert Sherman wrote (April 1, 2003):
[To Matthew Westphal] I hope they will play it on whatever sounds best.
Steven Guy wrote (April 1, 2003):
[To Matthew Westphal] Of course.
But I hope that both musical composition and musical instruments continue to develop or should I say 'merely' change? But I would be willing to bet that in 2100 they might take the attitude that if we had the instruments that they have now we would have preferred them! They might argue that 20th composers were hopelessly struggling to get twentieth century instruments to realise their musical ideas - indeed, we could argue even now that if Olivier Messiaen had the kind of keyboards that we have now he wouldn't have bothered with those clunky old Ondes Martenots!
There was an enormous amount of smugness about 20th century instruments in that century. And there was a feeling that 20th century instruments could and should play everything - irrespective of the appropriateness of these instruments - artistically, stylistically or culturally. Many in Western culture were eager to preserve and respect other cultures - we would not argue that Japanese koto music would obviously sound better played on a Steinway or Stratocaster! This would be disrespectful to the music, the people who play the koto and Japanese culture. Yet Western has an 'anything goes' approach to its own culture past and present. We respect freedom more than self discipline. I believe that the cultural and artistic legacies from the past should be respected and allowed to live within their means. I know that I sound like a broken record on this issue but it is something I deeply believe in.
Bach's music was put through an enormous amount of performance permutations in the 20th century - more so than any other Baroque composer. Some of these were interesting and some were exploitative. I can listen to Jacques Loussier but I can never get it out of my head that there is something bogus about it. Shouldn't a Jazz musician be making up his own music instead of raiding the work of a 'sitting duck' composer who has been dead for centuries and is unable to say "NO!"???? I enjoyed the Switched On Bach recordings of Wendy Carlos they entertained me at the time. I've also heard Bach played by enormous symphony orchestras à la Stokowski and these recordings just sound too 'Disney' for me! I respect Bach's music and I am willing to forgo some of the so-called benefits of the 20th century (technology & culture & 'attitude') when I listen to this music on my 20th century CD player.
I am a man in his early forties and I am just happy to live with Bach's music and, indeed, the music of the 17th and 18th centuries without the imperialistic sound of a TwenCen Steinway! Okay, you can all shoot at me n!
Robert Sherman wrote (April 20, 2003):
[T o Steven Guy] If I wrote a piece for trumpet this year, and over the next century trumpet technology improved as much as it has in the last century, and somebody in the year 2103 argued that my piece needed to be played on a 2003 trumpet instead of the better 2103 trumpet, I hope I would be around to point out that because defective instruments were what I had in hand but that doesn't mean what I had in mind -- and that even if it was, that's no reason for people in 2103 to be bound by my then-limited experience
Santu De Silva wrote (April 2, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] This is a naive (but in some ways perfectly logical) statement. Here's why it's naive.
Suppose, a couple of centuries from now music has evolved into a chamber activity. New, better trumpets are invented that are capable of soft nuances that 210th century instrument players can only dream of, to be played with chamber ensembles. Pieces written for modern trumpet and orchestra would sound crazy if played on a 23 century trumpet and orchestra. The only thing that would be worse, is of course to play it on a period 20th C. trumpet and a 23rd C. orchestra, or a 23rd C. trumpet with a 20th C. orchestra.
Some "advances" are "good" only relative to those who made them.
The point of HIP
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2003):
What do you (anyone) think about the following Credo from a practitioner of Historically Informed Performance (HIP)?
"Great performance is a creative and imaginative act of communication, speaking directly to the audience in the language of musical speech and gesture. It is not an attempt to articulate another person's intentions exactly, which is impossible. Nor is it a slavish adherence to instructions, a supposedly selfless attempt to reproduce some platonically perfect work according to a set of rules. A performer must bring the music to life today, with exactly the right expression relevant to the actual moment.
"Historical knowledge is helpful insofar as it encourages performers to be more insightful, expressive, and communicative: recognizing the music's character and its native language, identifying its unique features, taking all of that to heart, and finding some way to bring it out. It can free performers from the deadly habit of not thinking--as long as it does not simply replace that with some different habit of not thinking! At its best, historical techniques of expression enlarge a performer's imagination and command of the musical language (vocabulary, syntax, and usage patterns). It sparks him to approach the music in a vital and creative manner, today, thinking and feeling like a composer or improvisor in the moment of inspiration: coming to the performance with fluent language and something to say. Such is the type of performance that allows the music to live and breathe, as natural communication among living souls."
Bart Stolzel wrote (April 12, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I think that if he really has a clear, meaningful credo, he ought to be able to express it in far fewer, more concrete words. Since he can't I don't think he has.
Bart [newcomer to the group, by the way]
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 13, 2003):
[To Bart Stolzel] Maybe something like this?
- A museum mentality is wrong; the music has to move us today, not conjure up the past.
- Collect all the background knowledge and experience you can.
- Value your own imagination, train it and stretch it.
- Learn the composer's musical language to get inside his creative head.
- Learn the piece in as many ways as possible, concentrating on its unique character. Assimilate it until it becomes your own intentions.
- Play as if YOU'RE making it up on the spot, soulfully, having made that composer's language your own natural expression.
(As one guess at interpretation...but it looks like it loses some things!)
Doesn't the Credo of the Mass have 160-something words in it? The above quote looks like it has about 80 and 150 words in the two paragraphs.
The above reminds me of these stylistic and performance goals from CPE Bach's book:
"The best style of performance is that which succeeds in uniting the neatness and brilliance of the French style with the seductiveness of the Italian manner of singing. (...) Though one style may on the whole be better than another, there is nevertheless something of particular value in each, and no style is so perfect that it will not suffer any additions. (...) We must utilize all that is good, no matter where we may find it. (...) What constitutes a good performance? Just this: the ability, by means of singing or playing, to make musical ideas perceptible to the ear in accordance with their true content and affection. (...) We must play from the soul, not like trained birds."
Alex Riedlmayer wrote (April 13, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < - Learn the composer's musical language to get inside his creative head. >
This point is still described in meaningless terms. Even if it were stated more precisely, it would likely remain a bizarre fantasy.
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 13, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] But isn't that what the first writer said? That it's impossible to articulate someone ELSE's intentions exactly, so have to focus instead on something that IS possible, which is being creative now?
HIP Credo criterion
Bart Stolzel wrote (April 13, 2003):
Hey! I like this group. Intelligent discussion.
If somebody offers a credo - about performing Bach, making brass rubbings, baking bread, or anything else - it ought to be sufficiently clear to decide or help decide some specific issues. If it doesn't meet that criterion, then it's a waste of time.
So I'd say that the criterion for any worthwhile credo about performing Bach is that it should be clear enough to decide - or at least help to decide - some fundamental issues, such as:
· Should you try to make the violins sound as much as possible as you think they would have sounded in Bach's church?
· How many singers per part should you have in the choruses?
· When should you use boys' voices and when sopranos?
Note. The credo itself shouldn't pronounce on these issues. The credo should contain principles that are sufficiently clear that they decide or help to decide these and similar issues.
I don't think the original statement meets that criterion. The restatement by Brad is much better of course, but I still don't think it quite cuts the mustard.
That's my contribution for the moment.
Instruments of different ages
Thomas Radleff wrote (April 16, 2003):
< Matthew Westphal wrote: Gosh if an oboe da caccia sounded like a bass clarinet, I don't want to know where HIPers would be in the music world! >
It always depends on the context, and how any instrument fits to the rest of the band.
I remember a performance of Monteverdi´s Vespro della Beata Vergine in Innsbruck, in a large church with muddy reverberation - the whole ensemble quite compact, with no audible alterations "at first sight". But after the introducing tutti passages, some parts sounding somehow strange, though organic, so I asked for my neighbour´s program: actually they had saxophones instead of cornets, and a marimba instead of a lute !! It worked!
Karajan about original instruments...
Hugo Sladias wrote (April 22, 2003):
Taken form the book:Conversations with Von Karajan by Richard Osborne
from page 53:
Mr Osborne asked:
I know that like a lot of ordinary concert-goers and record collectors, you are not very much impressed by the slimmed-down sound of the present generation of period-instruments performers;
It was necessary to get away from the beer-hall style of singing these works.The problem with the period instruments performances is a technical one: they do not play in tune... There can be problems with something like the QUONIAM of the b minor mass with the horn part... I heard a performance conducted by Schreier which I liked very much.And there is a performance by Rifkin with just eight solo voices...I am planning performances with 2 sopranos and 2 basses sharing the soprano and bass arias so that the voices are really suited to the divocal ranges.
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 22, 2003):
< Karajan asnwered:
The problem with the period instruments performances is a technical one: they do not play in tune... >
(1) Instruments don't make music; people do.
(2) Did Karajan have working knowledge of any other temperaments other than 12-tone equal temperament? Every style of temperament has some advantages and other disadvantages....
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 22, 2003):
<can of worms>
See, for example, a direct three-way comparison of a regular meantone temperament, a "well" temperament, and equal temperament: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/temper-examples.html
And that's the page of illustrations for this more general introduction, and spreadsheet: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/temper.html
In a gross oversimplification, temperament is the art of handling fifths and major thirds, balancing their intonation. It includes decisions about which major and minor keys (if any) should be as "in tune" as possible, or slightly out (for colorful interest), while other keys are allowed to be bad (and how bad?). There are all sorts of questions of taste, and appropriateness to the music being played, and variety (if any) when the music modulates.
And equal temperament didn't become a "standard" method of tuning until the 20th century!...along with atonal/pantonal music, and Debussy's and Scriabin's music....
Johan van Veen wrote (April 22, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Jos Van Immerseel, who is working regularly with modern instrument orchestras, once stated that, if the players in modern symphony orchestras would play without vibrato, everyone would immediately notice they never play in tune. Vibrato is a way to hide the truth.
And a respected Dutch soprano - not exactly an advocate of HIP performances or vibrato-less singing - once said in a radio programme she had never heard a soprano sing the Pie Jesu from Faure's Requiem being sung strictly in tune. So modern/traditional singers and instrumentalists are mainly keeping up appearances.
Robert Sherman wrote (Aspril 22, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] In theory, a brass instrument doesn't play any temperament; it plays a non-tempered perfect harmonic-series scale in whatever key its fundamental tone is. One trouble with valveless brasses, particularly if they lack modern finger holes, is that they don't follow the theory. They have very significant departures from the theoretical harmonic series. They play a scale that is neither true nor tempered, just wrong.
I expect this is what Karajan had in mind.
Hugo Saldias wrote (April 22, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] Good BOB !
Robert Sherman wrote (April 22, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] In a modern symphony orchestra the horns and clarinets, and generally the trombones, play without vibrato and, in the top orchestras, do not sound out of tune. Some modern trumpeters -- notably, the Lauben brothers -- also play without vibrato and sound quite well in tune.
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 22, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] Did Karajan ever conduct Vaughan Williams' third symphony ("Pastoral") where the second movement explicitly calls for natural trumpet and natural horn, for the musical virtues of this intonation?
Or was Karajan perhaps thinking of unequally tempered woodwinds? Some of my favorite examples are the meantone-based flute and recorder in this recording by Brüggen and friends: http://shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=product&id=1921559161
Those instruments are very well IN TUNE (according to the temperament they're designed with, and when played by a sensitive musician such as FB), but would not be heard as such by anyone expecting equal temperament. Low sharps, high flats to begin with...and Bruggen sometimes uses pitch fluctuations during notes deliberately, as a device of musical expression. How awful this must seem to anyone who's not expecting it!
Santu De Silva wrote (April 22, 2003):
Johan Van Veen has said something I have not dared to express, but which I suspect is true:
< Jos Van Immerseel, who is working regularly with modern instrument orchestras, once stated that, if the players in modern symphony orchestras would play without vibrato, everyone would immediately notice they never play in tune. Vibrato is a way to hide the truth.
And a respected Dutch soprano - not exactly an advocate of HIP performances or vibrato-less singing - once said in a radio programme she had never heard a soprano sing the Pie Jesu from Faure's Requiem being sung strictly in tune. So modern/traditional singers and instrumentalists are mainly keeping up appearances. >
P.S. This does not take away the fact that vibrato (both pitch variation and volume variation) can be expressive devices when used deliberately and sparingly.
Hugo Saldias wrote (April 22, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] The information of discography I have from Herr Von Karajan is that from V. Williams he recorded the Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallisin 1953 with the Philarmonia Orchestra.I do not know about the Pastoral.
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 22, 2003):
< Santu De Silva wrote: P.S. This does not take away the fact that vibrato (both pitch variation and volume variation) can be expressive devices when used deliberately and sparingly. >
Of course, this seems not to have occurred to some reviewers here who regularly lambast Harnoncourt's and Leonhardt's oboists for being "out of tune" or "shaky in intonation" or whatever...a consideration of the possibility that the player is actually playing skillfully in some temperament other than equal temperament, and using expressive bending of pitch within that. Such dismissals as "those instruments are out of tune" say as much about the listener's expectation (colored by the 20th century evils of equal temperament) than about the performance....
[By the way, volume modulation of this type is technically called "tremolo", not vibrato. But the point itself is a good one.]
Vibrato, tremolo, notes inegales, variable dotting, agogic accent, differentiation of "good and bad" notes, and other variations of pitch/volume/timing can all be WONDERFUL expressive devices when used intelligently and with control. But it's the 20th century expectations of "precision" and regularity that kill us here. Evidently, anything unequal or irrational is thought of automatically as "wrong" by some people; or if not outright "wrong," at least inappropriate to the music, or uncomfortable. Even vibrato itself has turned into a regular thing, applied to all notes with equal opportunity (and thereby meaningless).
Sigh. There go the main 17th/18th century techniques of expression, an infinite repertoire of irregularities, right out the window as unusable because (to some listeners) they're not valid. "Gardyloo!" Instead, we're treated to the unremittingly dull factory-produced notes of K.R. and his clones, to please the people who expect that's what the music has to offer.
Robert Sherman wrote (April 23, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I'm not familiar with VW's Pastorale, but if he wanted something that sounded like some hick playing a homemade horn, then sure, use a natural trumpet and horn, or whatever.
I don't think it's plausible, though, to presume that VW was seeking a specific intonation unless he was misinformed. With fully natural horns and trumpets, it's not that they are tuned to a different temperament or a specific intonation. They are all different, each out of tune in its own way.
The only exception might be if VW wanted to use the 7th harmonic (a flat Bb on a C trumpet). Since it does make a 7/6 consonant interval (less consonant than a 6/5 minor third, more consonant than a 9/8 major whole tone) with the fifth, I suppose you might make interesting music with it, although I don't know what notation you would use to indicate it. If you want it, this note is also available on a valved brass instrument, but since it's not in the Western scale, it's not normally used -except when the player intends to play the 8th harmonic (high C) and falls short. Like all brass players, I have very unpleasant memories of that happening, and in our ideal world harmonics based on prime numbers higher than 5 would not be there.
Again, in baroque music, where the parts don't have more than one sharp or one flat relative to the major key, brasses don't play tempered. They try to play true intervals and chords.
Alex Riedlmayer wrote (April 23, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] You have brought up censorious questions of appropriateness and subjective matters of taste in the context of musicological inquiry on temperaments. You revealed a little too much, though, when you qualified the existence of variety with a parenthetical "if any". When answers are dictated under a musicological cover, there will not be any variety, because it won't be essential.
You have presented equal temperament as a thing of the baneful 20th century, but extolled the apparently timeless wonders of earlier systems. Why not have Bach's sonatas in equal temperament, but Stravinsky's in mean-tone? That the latter hasn't been done doesn't mean it couldn't be done.
You attacked those who criticised Harnoncourt's performances as being influenced by "20th century expectations". Already the 20th century is already a thing of your past, and your invocation of its "evils" barely conceals that it was when this sort of argument originated.
You have insinuated those who have different tastes and denounce your preferred performers with bias, saying that they "automatically" expect something else. As Richard Taruskin wrote, "the last thing a performer ought to be is impartial."
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 23, 2003):
Equal opportunity notes
[To Alex Riedlmayer] Well put, all the points above. And I'm definitely not impartial. If I hadn't tipped my hand here, I wouldn't be a performer, would I? :)
As for Stravinsky in meantone, maybe that hasn't been done, but I've done a good bit of Bartok in various unequal temperaments.... And there is Ligeti's "Passacaglia ungherese" explicitly for harpsichord in 1/4 comma meantone: he uses the pure major thirds and minor sixths as a shadowing effect on every beat, marvelously. (That was one of the pieces on one of my doctoral recitals: a concert entirely in meantone, entirely of pieces built on repeating patterns. Ligeti, Purcell, L Couperin, Hassler.)
Here's a cross-posting of something I put on the "BachRecordings" list...some further thinking about the things I put here yesterday in that Karajan thread:
While mowing my 10,000 dandelions last night I was thinking some more about this stuff, too. The mainstream conservatory approach (and the expectations of audiences for "classical" music) emphasizes smooth precision and slick preparation. [Ever spend an hour walking up and down the practice room halls at a music school, listening to people beat the pieces into themselves, getting everything "perfect"?!#@%%#@*&%*!!] The expectation is equality and uniformity of so many factors: equal temperament, equal spacing of notes, equal emphasis of notes within a phrase, equal articulation of notes within a phrase, equal contour of a theme wherever it appears in a piece, equal tempo throughout a movement, etc. It's all so democratic: every note is created equal, and they're put out there with as much precision as the performer can muster, leaving it to the listener to reorganize them all back into the piece. The listener is handed a huge pile of beautifully delivered round notes, instead of a jumbly and extremely interesting collection of variegated shapes. This can be summed up: all that equality (a dubious goal) reduces the music to a featureless gray porridge.
The most skilled performers who are harnessed to this approach are at least able to give it some overall shape, preserving some interest and keeping the listener at least halfway engaged. Exciting drive, or a large-scale dynamic scheme (like Anderszewski's Bach on piano), or artificially inflected articulations from section to section...for variety. That's something, and better than nothing. But it's still gray porridge.
The porridge approach ITSELF is wrong. It's wrong not because any treatise says so, but because it's #%*&#*%& boring. A baby knows it's boring. Instead, the 17th and 18th century techniques of rhetorical expression are tied to INequalities: the infinitely rich variety of all those things that should not be smoothed out and equalized (see above). When THAT is allowed to be the basic approach, the listener is already grabbed. And then, when the most imaginative performers are also shaping the pieces as a whole, with tempo and phrasing and accent above that basic sound, wheeeeeooooo! the music is so strong it takes the listener's mind and body on a wonderful trip. That's what music is for, not to bore people into incontinence.
And as BB points out here, a performer who tries this (a basic sound that is the opposite of porridge) is labeled as "mannered" or incompetent or worse.
A few years ago I did an Amazon.Com review of Enrico Baiano's CD of Scarlatti sonatas. I tried to look it up just now, to include the link here...but it's gone. It's as if the CD itself never existed. Typical: when somebody plays this well, it drops out of the catalog because the audience thinks it's too "mannered" or whatever. At least it's still up at http://www.jpc.de/ , search on "baiano scarlatti", click on "cembalosonaten" and listen to this guy! Yowsa. Holy Frijoles, Batman!
To the point of #3 below [message of Brad B.], about vertical alignment, I'd give anyone the advice from CPE Bach: "Go listen to good singers." In this case, Bing Crosby, Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra: the type of singers who know how to drape their line all over the beat (ahead/behind it) according to the Affekt of what they're singing. Wonderful integrity as a line, and not at all straitjacketed into meter.
Brad B. wrote:
Yes, I acknowledge the general nature of my complaint. The hard-hitting >specifics can be found in the critical works of Richard Taruskin, most >especially in "Text and Act."
My complaints are made from the point of view of a performer who has to >contend with listeners and critics who repeatedly raise specious objections. They have learned from the HIP movement that 1) rubato isn't viable or necessary for the performance of Baroque music 2) articulations of themes should be consistent from beginning to end of a given piece (i.e., no "evolution" is possible or desirable) 3) perfect vertical alignment of voices in a polyphonic texture is more professional and more desirable than one or more voices being played out of vertical alignment for expressive reasons 4) the choice of ornaments should be limited to those we can find on ornament tables directly associated with the composer in question 5) improvisation and selective re-writing of the composer's holy writ is a sin never to be committed to CD 6) rhythm is adequately represented by the simple ratios of conventional notation and there is usually no need to modify the printed rhythms, unless you play French music, in which case you should adopt a simplistic viewpoint of notes inegales that never takes harmonic rhythm or melodic profile into account 7) if you become sufficiently embarassed by the ideological distance between the above six ideas and those of the Baroque treatise writers, you may modify your approach, but only to such a limited extent as to render your interpretation effectively imperceptible (the British solution). If you employ the interpretive ideas of the Baroque treatis writers in such as was as to render them perceptible, you will be decried as "mannered."
Now, I won't go so far as to say that all HIP performers think and act this way. But many, if not most, do. And early music critics are, as a lot, even more radical and hostile to free thinking performers than HIP performers. I would abjure you, as a young performer, not to be swayed by them.
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 23, 2003):
<< You have brought up censorious questionsof appropriateness and subjective matters of taste in the context of musicological inquiry on temperaments. You revealed a little too much, though, when you qualified the existence of variety with a parenthetical "if any". When answers are dictated under a musicological cover, there will not be any variety, because it won't be essential. >>
< The expectation is equality and uniformity of so many factors: equal temperament, equal spacing of notes, equal emphasis of notes within a phrase, equal articulation of notes within a phrase, equal contour of a theme wherever it appears in a piece, equal tempo throughout a movement, etc. It's all so democratic: every note is created equal, and they're put out there with as much precision as the performer can muster, leaving it to the listener to reorganize them all back into the piece. The listener is handed a huge pile of beautifully delivered round notes, instead of a jumbly and extremely interesting collection of variegated shapes. This can be summed up: all that equality (a dubious goal) reduces the music to a featureless gray porridge. >
See, a musicologist can't get away with calling the *@#*#W%*&#y sound of equal temperament "featureless gray porridge." It's the province of performers to say that type of stuff. :)
My instruments here at home are in various unequal temperaments. The clavichord's in a well temperament, not much to do about that without bending the tangents. The virginal is in regular 1/4 comma meantone, usually, or sometimes I sweeten it up a bit to 1/5 or so. The harpsichord is usually in various modified meantone temperaments of my own concoction, to taste...often somewhat resembling the 17th century French (and as I recently learned, also Italian) "ordinaire" manner...but for the past few weeks I've been exploring what things sound like in regular 1/6 comma meantone, as that's the way some of Bach's organs were tempered (by Silbermann &c). I've occasionally set up equal temperament on it, but can't stand it: everything sounds so frippin' boring that way.
(In my opinion, of course.)
And for something like the Bach cantatas, I think it's questionable to stick in a Valotti or a Young or a Kirnberger or a Werckmeister or any of the other "standard" well temperaments (although I know it's automatic for some "HIP" performers to do so, especially if they use electronic tuning devices that have those temperaments pre-programmed). Here's why: well temperaments have up to a dozen DIFFERENT sizes of half steps in them. This is wonderful for keyboard solo repertoire, key colors and so on, but creates a minefield for other instrumentalists in the band who must try to match those (or else be out of tune with the keyboard). In the regular meantone temperaments there are only two sizes of half step: chromatic and diatonic. Easier target practice there. 1/6 comma regular meantone seems to be a "best of all worlds" here in this repertoire...not surprisingly. (And the advantage over equal temperament is that the tonality is much stronger everywhere; triads are more consonant and stable than they are in ET.) The 'wrong' enharmonic notes such as A# and D# are not too bad in 1/6th, and the wolf is more like a border collie.
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 23, 2003):
1/6 meantone and the Art of Fugue
< The 'wrong' enharmonic notes such as A# and D# are not too bad in 1/6th, and the wolf is more like a border collie. >
Here's a delightful climactic moment on the planet of 1/6 comma meantone: Art of Fugue, Contrapunctus 11, bar 163. Climactic in several ways: it's in the episode between two presentations of the subject in simultaneous contrary motion (158 and 164), which is already spectacular; and at 163 the following four notes are all sounding (bottom to top): D-flat, A-flat, F, C. Because those flats are really tuned as C# and G#, and the spacing among the four voices is wide, it's nicely spicy there in the middle of the bar. Delicious, IMO.
The intonation effect of this spot is, of course, nothing in equal temperament; and it's too outlandish (IMO) in any meantone tighter than 1/6; and it's still pretty interesting (but tamer than this) in the well temperaments.
Continue on Part 9
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