Baroque Music Today: Music As Speech: Ways to a New by Nikolaus Harnoncourt

By Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Love him or hate him, name him a pioneering genius or dusty and mannered, Nikolaus Harnoncourt merits loads of credits. not just did he lead the period-instrument circulation into its first significant successes (both inventive and advertisement) yet his rules approximately the best way to play Baroque- and Classical-era track (and why to play it that approach) have had huge, immense impact even on traditional symphony orchestras and their conductors. This quantity is a suite of essays and lectures Harnoncourt has given through the years laying out these very principles. The identify, Baroque track at the present time, is whatever of a misnomer at this element: the most recent essay within the booklet dates from 1980, and the second one essay, "The Interpretation of ancient Music," is successfully the founding challenge assertion (from 1954) of Harnoncourt's period-instrument orchestra, the Concentus Musicus of Vienna. whereas the occasional remark turns out dated or arguable, and likely issues are repeated from bankruptcy to bankruptcy (the chapters have been initially separate lectures), such a lot of what Harnoncourt has to assert continues to be either instructive and persuasive.

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43. , p. 47. " 24 A more orthodox and purist revival of the older musical conventions would demand reestablishing all aspects of the old institution. Besides the use of authentic instruments it would have to involve a return to the historical locations of performance and even a resuscitation of the historical listener - a listener whose mind has been bleached of nineteenth- and twentieth-century music. Yet, no matter how much we listen to authentic performances or, for that matter, how enthusiastically we respond to Harnoncourt's book, our listening to Rameau and Bach is conditioned by the experience of Beethoven, Wagner, and Stravinsky, the sound of the modern orchestra, and the modern instruments.

Authentic performance practices destabilize the text by privileging the performer and blurring the line that separates him from the author. 26 The enfranchisement of literary readers, which parallels the "emancipation" of performers in music, may be indicated by a shift in the musical metaphor applied to reading. If readers were formerly enjoined to "listen" to the author's "voice," they are now encouraged to "perform" acts of reading. How similar is a reading "performance" to a musical one? Creative reading and listening may be called performance inasmuch as they bring to life what exists only on paper.

22 Why this should be so is not quite clear from Harnoncourt's argument. At times he says that performance instructions were less needed earlier because the performance conventions were shared by composer and performer alike; at other times he suggests that earlier scores dispensed with performance indications in order to grant greater freedom to the performer. Similarly, the advent of Romanticism signifies to him both a cult of genius and a pedantic standardization of training, and of playing and recording music standardizations he associates with the egalitarian spirit that dominated the Parisian Conservatoire during the revolution.

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