Creamy modern instruments vs meat and two veg period

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Creamy modern instruments vs meat and two veg period

After decades of listening to period instruments are modern instruments just to creamy. Initially I thought period instruments less expressive but now I find it the other way around. Most of the interprètations pre 1980 just have to go, they are like drinking sweet wine.

If I had to choose a single

If I had to choose a single "Desert Island Disc", I would probably plump for a period performance - I love the raspiness of period strings, and don't think that period performances lack expression.

But, I also like hearing great musicians play. Angela Hewitt or Murray Perahia playing Bach are both wonderful and offer alternative realisations of the music I love. I'm glad that I don't have to choose.

small is not always beautiful

Period instruments are fine with me but I wish that modern orchestras would play Bach, Handel and Mozart et al without constraint. As Charles Rosen pointed out ensembles in their day were small entirely for economic, not aesthetic, reasons. They welcomed larger forces whenever they were available. Bach, Handel and Mozart would no doubt be extremely gratified, not to say astonished, to know that their music is still popular today, given that in their own time hardly any old music was played - and "old" wouldn't have extended much beyond one generation. They would at the same time be rather puzzled at our insistence on playing their music as it might have been heard in their time, given our much greater resources. In fact I'd wager they'd think us utterly mad.

Modern orchestras vs period instruments

Good point. It would be interesting to speculate what Handel, Beethoven, etc. would have made of hearing their works performed by the BPO, LSO, NYPO et al. I suspect they would be impressed.

 

bhg

bhg wrote:

bhg wrote:

Good point. It would be interesting to speculate what Handel, Beethoven, etc. would have made of hearing their works performed by the BPO, LSO, NYPO et al. I suspect they would be impressed.

 

How very true! As much as one can applaud attempts to recreate the sounds as originally performed, I find it astounding that many who like this approach frequently decry the use of "modern" instruments. Do they really imagine that Bach, Haydn, Beethoven etc would not gladly embrace the opportunity to hear their works on instruments and/or orchestras of today? 

 

I concede there are exceptions. My favourite recording of the Bach sonatas & partitas for unaccompanied violin is played by Sergiu Luca on a baroque gut-stringed violin 

AlanL

Modern and (not versus) period instruments.

I don't know how a pure speculatiuon can be "very true" (!) since we will never have the chance to find out what could actually be...true. 

In any case, it is interesting to hear or read what some great players/soloists have stated for the period instruments. In particular, how Andras Schiff defended the use of Fortepiano instead of modern Grand Piano in performing works by Beethoven and Schubert in his recordings on ECM. Likewise, the great Paul Badura-Skoda, Ronald Brautigam, Nikolai Demidenko a.o.

I have to admit that, from the moment I managed to listen carefully the period instruments, particularly the Fortepiano or the gut-strings, whenever I hear modern instruments play the same repertory they sound like a..."transcription" (as Demidenko has claimed when he performed Scarlatti and Mozart on modern Piano). 

In any case, I believe both ways, period or modern instruments, can work, in its own way, if the conductor and the orchestra or, in chamber music the soloists involved, are fully committed to the work and the composer in question. Even the most defiant performers of the period instruments never claimed that they simply care about recreating the works they play as they were performed at the time of the composer, but rather, through this "recreation", they try to reach the closest meaning of the composition in question.

Parla

 

Modern instruments but period performance practice

I prefer a combination of both. Modern instruments but historically informed practice. Like, for instance, Chailly's set of the Beethoven symphonies, using brisk tempi and the characterful playing of the Gewandhaus orchestra.

 

I find that sometimes period violins sound too screechy on their own. I've heard most HIP accounts of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and the solo violin in the Benedictus rarely sounds beautiful using a period insrument.

T. A. Konsgaard

The High Arts Review

Modern instruments but...or vice versa.

It is interesting that in your review, T.A., you found the violin part in Suzuki's Benedictus, in his recent SACD recording of Missa Solemnis by Beethoven, beautiful enough for period instrument and the whole HIP performance quite satisfactory. Actually, I can mention a good number of recordings by fine period violinists, such as Elizabeth Wallfisch (e.g. Locatelli's L'Arte del Violino, on Hyperion, Beethoven Sonatas, on Nimbus), Monica Hugget (Mozart's Piano Trios, on Hyperion, Rameau's Pieces de Clavecin en concerts, on Virgin), Rachel Podger (Mozart's Violin Sonatas and Vivaldi's series of Concertos on Channel), let alone some of the well-recorded rare recordings of Alice Harnoncourt (Bach's Violin Concertos, on Teldec), where the violin sounds quite "beautiful".

Your suggestion of "modern instruments but period performance practice" sounds as a convenient compromise, but, as all compromises, cannot be but a choice based on particular circumstances and not to achieve the best possible result. In Chamber Music at least, where often one can find out the instruments used by any not declared HIP instrumental group, one can notice that almost always the violins used are old enough to be called even period instruments. However, the "practice" followed is not often that faithful to the composer's time.

Finally, some of the strange (to put it mildly) side-effects of a modern instrument used following period performance practice is the ECM recording of Andras Schiff of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, where the use of pedals is excluded troughout the otherwise fine performance.

Parla

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