Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Historically informed performance

The historical performance is a great thing. It is quite obvious that a historically informed performance is often more enjoyable than a performance that applies twentieth century techniques to a historical work. One would think that, at least in respect to instrumentation, the work would just work better, because the performers are playing the instruments that would have been played at the time. This may also speak to the “all powerful composer”. You are playing his/her work as he/she intended right down to how many buttons the oboe would have had at the time. However, I think we can say, for any composer, they did write for the instruments of their time not the ones of the twentieth century.

The problem I see with promoting historical performance, which I’ve already told you I think are great, is that, could it not lead to more specialization in musical performance: ensembles specializing in musical performance. It is no doubt important to understand the music of the past in order to understand that of the present. Yet this is the present, and as artist we must not lose touch with the world of our time. That said the idea of a historically informed musical performance is certainly attractive. It may even be compared to musical authenticity. Cook subjects that an ensemble would gain authenticity by being historically accurate. This is perhaps the most obvious way that music is used to create a perception of the world. In this case the performers are creating a perception of the past. They, in doing so, may even present something about the world today.

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