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Introducing The Christopher Hogwash Awards

  I've coined a new term for the fatuous rhetoric of musicians, critics and others who sing the praises of period instruments and  are forever belittling and dismissing  performances which do not use them .  It's
"Christopher Hogwash " - a pun on the name of the well-known English conductor and harpsichordist
Christopher Hogwood (1941 -)  , who specializes in the music of  Bach,Handel ,  Mozart,Haydn and Beethoven
using period instruments , but not exclusively .

  He also conducts mainstream orchestras and has even conducted music by 20th century composers .
Hogwood  is most closely associated with the London period instrument orchestra The Academy Of Ancient Music
and has recorded the complete symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven with them , and music by Bach,Handel ,Haydn
and other great composers of the 18th century with them .

   This term is not meant to offend  Hogwood , who is certainly   a fine and erudite musician .  But like so
many other  musicians of the Historically Informed Performance (HIP) movement , he has made his share of
invidious comparisons between period and modern instruments .

   The movement began with attempts to recreate  the sound and style of composers such as Bach,Handel, Vivaldi etc , and moved on to Mozart ,Haydn and Beethoven , extending  period
instruments further into the 19th century with  Schubert,Schumann , Mendelssohn and even Brahms ,
who died in 1897 .  Now the New Queen's Hall orchestra in London , named after an orchestra which
existed there in the past , has gone as far as  performing the music of  Mahler, Wagner,  Elgar,
and Vaughan Williams etc  "authentically ". Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in  1872 and died as recently as  1954 .

   The orchestra's artistic director John Boyden , who held  a similar position years ago with the London symphony orchestra , is deserving of the first Christopher Hogwash award because of his ludicrous
claims about his orchestra , and  they way he  belittles and dismisses all other mainstream orchestras of today .  Here is a sample of what is said about the orchestra on its website :

   "The New Queen's Hall orchestra was revived in 1992 for very specific reasons . Before recording
standardized orchestra sound ,playing style and playing habits worldwide , every orchestra and most
solo artists used the instruments of their particular region and offered an individual playing style .
In this more uniform age , the NQHO  stands alone in its willingness to risk spontaneity  and
individuality by going back to the appropriate instruments for the music it plays by giving back to
its players the joy of music making ,real expression and  communication with its audience ."
"That all important  and transitory constituent of a really great concert ".

   Mainstream orchestras have "almost complete uniformity" according to the NQHO  management.
Their orchestra "captures the colors, balances and tonal integrity which stirred the imagination of the composers ".  The NQHO "restores the "colorful , expressive sounds of  an era once thought lost ".

   Holy smokes !  Sheesh !  Gadzooks !   The sheer arrogance and presumption of these claims
are unbelievable !   Jaw-dropping .  Mpdern orchestra performances lack  all these  virtues of spontaneity  and
inspiration merely because they don't use the "right" instruments ? All or most orchestras sound alike ? 
Recording "standardized "orchestra sound ?   The NQHo orchestra is the only right way to perform the music ?   Modern orchestras lack "color " and "expressiivity ?"   And what the heck is
"tonal integrity "?   The London symphony orchestra's playing "lacks integrity "? 

    Consider these great orchestras : The Berlin Philharmonic , the Vienna Philharmonic,
the Royal Concertgebouw of Amsterdam , the New York Philharmonic,  the London symphony,
the Czech Philharmonic , the Boston symphony ,  the Chicago symphony , the Cleveland orchestra,
the Philadelphia orchestra ,  Staatskapelle Dresden , the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra ,
the St. Petersburg Philharmonic of Russia ,  and others .  

   None of these orchestras sound alike .  The Christopher Hogwash awards  will continue here .
Actually , I have no objection to the use of period instruments per se .  It has certainly been interesting hearing what the music of the past MIGHT have sounded like .   But they are NOT the only way !


Posted: Dec 03 2011, 10:55 AM by the horn | with no comments
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