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CLASSICAL  March 2001

CLASSICAL March 2001

Subject:

Re: Wanted - Tips for HIPs

From:

Frank Fogliati <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 5 Mar 2001 17:30:22 +1100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (138 lines)

Satoshi Akima <[log in to unmask]>

>Frank Fogliati writes:
>
>>Bach
>>Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin
>>van Dael (Naxos)/Grumiaux (Philips)
>>
>>Gamba sonata
>>Savall & Koopman (Alia Vox)/Maisky & Argerich (DG)
>>
>>Goldberg Variations
>>Hantai (Opus 111)/Schiff (Decca)
>
>And Roberto Strappafelci suggests:
>
>>Bach's Mass in B minor - Karajan vs.  Koopman (Oh, I really
>>wish all wars were fought this way!)
>
>I think we need to tread carefully here.  This choices here have not
>been selected to show the pre-musicologically guided lot in the best
>light.

Au contraire.  I think these represent a very fair and typical selection.
These non-HIP recordings are often the first CDs to bombard the unwary upon
their entry into a music store.  The CD companies are happy to continue
pressing them- so let them stand on their own merit.

>I like both old and new approaches.  I don't think that these 'HIP'
>lot supercede the older generation of musicians automatically.  I like
>listening to Menuhin's later recording of the Sonatas and Partitas but I
>also like listening to Kuijken.  I wouldn't pretend that either sounded
>like what a contemporary like Pisendel sounded.  Nonetheless they are good
>performances with interesting things to say, and that's what counts.

Old? New? I don't believe it's a question of the age of the recording,
artist, instrument, or recording technology.  HIP means historically
informed performance.  In the year 2001 there are HIP performances,
just as there were in JSB's time.  ;-)

>I remember an interview with Baroque violinist Andrew Manze in Gramophone
>who said he refused to be snobbish at all in these matters, and just
>loved listening to ancient recordings of the likes of Busch, Kreisler and
>Huberman play Bach.  All of them play Bach with a portamento-laden old
>world string playing style which would be laughed at if anyone tried it
>today, but in its own way it is really fascinating.  These recordings bring
>home just how much music playing style evolve with time, and force you to
>look at things in a new light.

Fine words.  No argument here.  There is something to be learnt from
*every* recording.  Manze demonstrates that like nearly all HIP performers
he is neither rigid nor blinkered.  I wish the same could be said for the
ignorant anti-HIP forces who defy what is clearly written about baroque
music performance.  How often do we hear the argument "Bach left us no
instructions." Absolutely rubbish!  With the exception of tempi (and you
don't have to be a musicologist to work these out), Bach and nearly all
composers from the baroque era left ample information about current general
practices, and also specifics on their compositions.  There are any amount
of textbooks with direct quotes from these composers, as well as purpose
written books, studies, treatises etc.  Just one example- Francois
Couperin, L'art de toucher le clavecin, Paris 1716.

So this begs the question....who knows the most about the music of Francois
Couperin and its performance? Is it:

A) Herbert von Karajan
B) Brittany Spears
C) Someone on this list
D) Francois Couperin

>One thing I always like to keep in mind is what Harnoncourt, widely
>regarded as the father of the HIP movement, stated in an interview:
>"authenticism is stupid!  (sic)".  He went on to say that he doesn't waste
>his time pretending for one moment that the sound he makes sounds anything
>like the one they made in the composer's day, and that the only way to have
>'authentic' music making would be to dig up the old musicians out of their
>graves to play their old instruments again.

A frequently misunderstood and mis-quoted assertion about HIP performances.
It is not about old musicians, instruments or anything else old.  As I said
above HIP means historically informed performance.  It is a principle that
is applied to most music today, but with double-standards.  For example,
Kodaly in 1915 wrote a magnificent sonata for solo cello (Opus 8).  When
this is performed on a modern steel-strung cello, with stopped harmonics,
vibrato, long slurred bow strokes etc.  etc.  it is faithful to the
composer's score and accepted practices.  I am not aware of any non-HIP
recordings of this work.

Now if I were to take the stage (heaven forbid!) with my gut-strung viola
da gamba, pitched a semi-tone lower, and ignore the stopped harmonics,
rewrite chords to suit the different tuning, replace vibrato with trills
etc.  etc.  the result would be less than satisfactory.  No-one attending
this concert could truly say that they heard this work at its optimum,
and ceratinly not in the vision of Zoltan Kodaly.  Perhaps if my ego was
exceeded only by my ignorance than I would start to tell the world that
this was what old Zoltan really intended.  "He didn't leave enough
information", I would argue as I continued to denigrate currently accepted
performances of this work.  "He was confused and he really meant to write
for a different instrument", I would plead and justify in the face of
common sense and hard evidence.  Sound familiar? It should.  This is the
nonsense constantly thrown around about how to perform baroque music.  Come
back in 500 years and a HIP version of Kodaly's Opus 8 will *still* be as
it is today, as it was in 1915.  Come back in 500 years and a HIP recital
of Bach's solo cello suites will be on a barque cello.  Unless you are a
time traveller you can't re-write history.  This is something von Karajan
could never quite grasp or accept.  Maybe where he is now he doesn't have
to be bothered by nasty baroque instruments anymore.

>So to correct this we would have to dig the old audiences out of their
>graves as well, who with ears unadulterated by Bartok etc would appreciate
>the music in a fully historically informed manner.  Then there you would
>have it:  'authentic' music making.

Again you demonstrate a lack of understanding of the HIP concept.  Remember
most of the music that you listen to is actually HIP, it's just that a
double-standard applies.  Does your Ravel piano trio in A minor have a
piano, violin, and cello? Mine does...it's HIP.  Is your Moonlight sonata
on piano (HIP) or the Elizabethan retro-version for virginal and optional
sackbut?

Why is it okay to perform Kodaly's cello sonata on the instrument that the
composer intened, but it is 'old', 'childish', 'quaint' to do the same for
Bach's suites? Double-standard.

>The bottom line is to enjoy performances for their own intrinsic virtues,
>irrespective of whether the musicians are historically informed or not.
>To set the one up against the other - that is a game meant for fools.

We agree in more ways than you imagine.  It is not about taking sides.
I like to hear compositions, especially for the first time, on their
intended instrument.  To do otherwise is a disservice to both yourself and
the composer.  One can pretend to be an ostrich with its head stuck in the
sand, but there will always be baroque cellos for Bach's suites, modern
cellos (20 th C) for Kodaly's sonata, and electric cellos for compositions
yet to be written over the next several centuries.

Frank

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