Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Period Performance

The "classical music" market is saturated with CDs and performers--how does one select recordings without resorting to reviews and listening to samples, or depending on word of mouth.

When I was rediscovering classical music I came upon the Academy of Ancient Music. I believe the first AAM recording I heard was a CD of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nacthmusik, which I borrowed from the Saratoga library. Very crisp and impressive. Since then they've become one of my favorite ensembles, and I've made them my first choice for Baroque and early Viennese CDs. Their complete Mozart symphonies was a must-have. Through the AAM I learned about period performance, or "historically informed" performance which is apparently the official term that advocates and performers use. If I had to explain it with my own words, I would say its performing a composition with intstruments from the period, ensemble sizes appropriate to the period and to the text, proper accoustic conditions, and so on--performing the work as the composer originally conceived it. But perhaps these other sources can explain it better: an excerpt from a book on the subject of period performance. Wikipedia entry on historically informed performance.

The AAM was founded in 1973 by Christopher Hogwood. He is an accomplished harpsichord player, and his article "Old Music for New" (and the essays by other performers) at the AAM website are worth reading. "Old Music for New" is an easy-to-understand introduction to period performance and helped me get hooked onto period performance, at least intellectually. Hearing the performances, both recorded and live, got me hooked as a listener.

Mr. Hogwood is also affiliated with the Handel and Haydn Society, located right here in Boston. The H&H Society is the local historically informed performance ensemble, and usually there are rush tickets available for their performances, except the really popular ones--$10 for the unpopular seats, but a good deal nonetheless. I believe he was actually conductor for a while, before stepping down (he remains as conductor laureate). His successor is Grant Llewellyn:

I think Mr. Hogwood was also the artistic director for the H&H Society, but apparently that is true no longer. Sir Roger Norrington is the new artistic director. I have not heard of him before checking the website, but I will try to attend at least one H&H Society performance this season. (Maybe I can get the New Scot to go; or maybe we'll go hear Natalie MacMaster instead.)

(Guild Music page for Mr. Hogwood.)

Andrew Manze is Artistic Director for the English Concert. He also performs as a soloist, and has collaborated with the Academy of Ancient Music--he was also a conductor of the group for a while. Page from his management agency. A review of one of his performances. I had the opportunity to hear him perform a couple of years ago here in Boston for the BEMF--I missed his performance in 2003 unfortunately. He gave some demonstrations for the audience and explained some aspects of music theory.

Ton Koopman is the director of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir. Mr. Manze has collaborated with him, and so has Yo Yo Ma (whom I still listen to, but is by no means into period performance). A bio for Mr. Koopman. (See the Sony Classical bio for a photo of Mr. Koopman with Mr. Ma, taken by Annie Leibovitz no less; more photos at bach-cantatas.org bio.) Goldberg interview.

Boston is a great city for music, especially early music and historically informed performance, due to the various festivals and music schools in the area. The scene in Northern California can't compare, though occasionally Cal will book some one impressive. (I think the AAM has even performed at Cal.)

Misc Links:
Early Music Network
Early Music America
Disucssion at bach-cantata.org on HIP
NYS Baroque essays on HIP
What is early music?
Perdo Persone on HIP
A conversation with Sir Roger Norrington
"The Search for Authenticity"
"Thoughts on Historical Performance"
Leeds University Centre for Historically-Informed Performance
University of Birmingham
USC Thorton School of Music EMP program
Longy School of Music Early Music Department
New England Conservatory Historical Performance program
Steven Lubin's website. New York Baroque Dance Company.
Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburg
San Francisco Early Music Society
a music editor's reaction to period performance
anti-HIP page
HIP and the qin

Hrm, something to remember if I'm ever in Chicago.

From Brad Leissa's Information Pages
Introductory Notes
Period Instrument Performance Ensembles
Period Instrument/Authentic Performance Recording Labels

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