Thinking back to when I first began to hear HIP/authentic performances,
I think it was a long while before I began to understand the *real*
Back in the early 20th Century, The big 'Modern' Symphony Orchestra
was regarded as the greatest invention since sliced bread, and it was
naturally assumed that they could play*anything* in the orchestral
repertoire better than anything that had gone before. The first move
was to get away from these large ensembles. That was accomplished by
several medium-sized ensembles, e.g. Academy of St Martins ITF, Leppard,
Menuhin, Ristenpart/Saar, etc etc. Already, at this point, I was very
pleased and surprised at the improvement in performance quality: more
agile, better ensemble, cleaner lines, better balance between strings
and the rest of the orchestra. Obviously, it is easier for a smaller
orchestra to play Baroque dances faster than a big orchestra can.
(Whether they *should* be played faster --let's not get into that.)
The authentic instruments trend was fascinating. It was wonderful to
hear them, when they first came out, and even today. Baroque and earlier
music sounds better, generally speaking, with them. (I love the sound
of a double of a polonaise, with only a baroque bassoon in the bass!) A
large part of the attraction is, possibly, the sense of being transported
to an earlier time. Still, when Menuhin, with his modern orchestra,
plays the Bach Orchestral Suites, I get a wonderful feeling of being
present in the past, even if quite different from a true 'period'
performance. So, I have to say that I like both authentic/period
instruments, as well as modern instruments, provided we omit really
anachronistic things such as tubas.
[A brief note to confess that I like totally anachronistic performances
also, e.g. Bach played by the German Brass, or on a quartet of saxophones.
So take whatever I write with suitable pinches of salt.]
Finally, the question of what works with voices. Vibrato-less string
tone works with boy's choirs; practically anything works with boy's
choirs, I notice. A performance with viols sounds good with even adult
voices, if the singers make an effort to minimize vibrato, e.g. Schutz
with the Bernius Ensemble. A viol consort sounds all right with a singer
with *moderate vibrato*, e.g. renaissance specialists who only vibrato
on long, sustained notes, or as an expressive device, used sparingly.
The Baltimore Consort's Custer LaRue is one example, as is Red Byrd.
Vibrato is present, but at nowhere near Bel Canto levels. (I must beg
to differ with the gentleman who said that the Bernoulli effect caused
vibrato, and that it was better to submit to the 'pressure' from this
natural effect. Even assuming he was right --which I do not concede--
it appears that to sing without vibrato is as unnatural as to defy gravity
and get out of bed in the morning!)
Perhaps it is my imagination, but I seem to notice that even big symphony
orchestras seem to be using less vibrato these days, except in 'espressivo'
passages. (Espressivo seems almost a code word for 'vibratissimo', or
Arch, out of breath
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