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Is HIP A Kind Of Musical Religion ?

   HIP stands for "Historically informed performance " , that is, using  the musical instruments of the past , or replicas of them , to perform  the music of such great composers as Bach , Handel , Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven , and now even the composers of the 19th and early 20 th century . And music of earlier composers such as Henry Purcell , Claudio Monteverdi and others , who lived before the 18th century .  

   Not only using the old instruments , but  carefully studying the differences in playing technique  style of interpretation , and dutifully following what musicologists and other scholars believe to be "  correct performance practi , that is not just playng the notes as written , but inflecting them in a style considered to be "authentic ". For example,  embellishing melodic lines with all sorts of unwritten ornaments .  Merely to play the notes as written written is to completely misunderstand the composer's intentions . This is just the tip of the iceberg  when it comes to learmnng  the ropes of  the period instrument movement .     

   A number of  composers form the past have left treatises on how they felt music should be interpreted , and these are extremely valuable .  But we still don't know exactly what the music sounded like or exactly how musicians interpreted it , or what long dead composers would or would not have approved of   when it comes to performing their music .   A time machine has yet to be invented . If only we had one !

    Among the differences between the old instruments and the familiar modern ones are the use of  strings wound from animal guts instead of the steel ones  which became standard in the 20th century .  These sound mrkedly different from steel strings . Also, string players on old instruments use little or no  vibrato , although we know that some vibrato was used in the past . Some HIP musicians and conductors have become overzealous and musically pridush and avoid vibrato altogether .

   Flutes were made out of wood , making them sound somewhat  more like recorders than the metal ones used by 20th century flutists .  They, plus the oboes, bassoons nd clarinetsw, are much simpler and have fewer  keys to press .  

    Horns and trumpets are natural, that is, lacking in valves . This means that every time you play in a different key, you have to use a different crook , or  length of tubing , to change the key in which the instrument plays .  Composers were limited in the melodic lines they could write because of this .  The tympny, or kettle drums, have  leather rather than metal  sufaces for the tympanist to strike with the mallet, making them sound somewhat different .  

    Harpsichords are more commonly used than before, as well as early pianos , which sound quite different and less   aggressive than the modern concert grand .  Orchestras and solo pperfomers an  chamber ensembles tune to a somewhat lower pitch , usually about a quarter to a half tone lower .  If you are blessed or cursed, with perfect pitch , a piece in C major may sound to you like one in B major !

   So why do I ask whther the movement ot perform music on period instruments is a kind of musical religion ?   The reason is that many HIP musicians  aare convinced that THEY are performing the music the right way , and are recreating the music exactly as it sounded in the past . Not all of them . Some have the humility to admit they can't be sure .  Some prominent  music critics and distinguished musicologists have a similar kind of arrogance .    

    Many of thes  HIP tend to look down on musicians who use modern instruments as "uninformed " about correct performance practice and   the whole HIP   movement, which is not necessarily the case .  You might look on the HIP musicians as the true believers who  think they have the  one true musical religion .  

    There are some musicians who look down on the whole HIP movement and dismiss it as nothing but musical pedantry and dismiss it as worthless .  Among these are such   world famous violinists as  Itzhak Perlman and  Pinchas Zukerman , and the late conductor Lorin Maazel ,who past away less than a year ago . You might call these the musical atheists .  

    Then there are those like myself, who find the movement very interesting  and  have liked SOME but not all  HIP performances I have heard .  WE don't know how authentic the performances are . WE are the agnostics .  

     Some of the leading  conductors of period instrument orchestras are  the Austrian Nikolaus Harnoncourt , the Englishmen Sir Roger Norrington ,  Christoher Hogwood , who also passed away last year ,  the Dutchman Frans Bruggen, , also deceased last year , , the Englishman Sir John Eliot Gardiner ,   and the Englishman Nicholas McGegan .  They also conduct prestigious mainstream modern instrument orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw orchesta   of Amsterdam ,  and others , generally trying to come as close as possible to imitating the old style of playing  as possible .  The Englishman Sir Simon Rattle, music director of the great Berlin Philharmonic , sometimes conducts period instrument orchestras .   

     Some of thes perido inswtrument orchestras have colorful names as "  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment," the Orchestre Revolutionaire & Romantique ",   " The Academy of Ancient Music " etc . 

    There are also instrumental virtuosos of period instruments who are active  as soloists , such as violinist Andrew Manze aof England and Surch cellist Anner Bylsma , to name only a couple .  

   More recently, the HP movement has been applied to later composers such   Wagner, Berlioz, Schumann ,  Brahms ,  and even Bruckner and Mahler .  It has now moved up to Debussy, Ravel,  and Stravisnky, believe it or not !   But the later you go, the less difference there is between period and modern instruments .  

     if you're not familiar with period intruments , there are an enormous number of recordings on them by the musicians I mentioned and many others .  Listen , and decide for yourself whether you like them or not !    At least no one has ever killed other people over the kind of instruments  they use !
Posted: Jan 26 2015, 10:22 PM by the horn | with no comments
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