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Historically informed performance (also referred to as period performance, authentic performance, or (HIP)) is an approach, or movement, in the performance of classical music and theater. Members of this movement usually play on period instruments, deploy older types of acting and scenery, and consult historical treatises, as well as additional historical evidence, to gain insight into the performance practice (the stylistic and technical aspects of performance) of a historic era. Historically informed performance might have originated in the performance of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music, but has come to encompass music from the Classical and Romantic eras as well. Quite recently, the phenomenon has begun to affect the theatrical stage, for instance in the production of Baroque opera.
Traditional musical practice
Gradual changes in the construction of instruments and in the training of musicians have produced sounds and styles different from those used before (roughly) the mid-19th century.
Among keyboard instruments, the most dramatic disappearance was that of the Harpsichord, which gradually went out of style during the second half of the 18th century. The Fortepiano became more popular by such a degree that harpsichords were destroyed; indeed, the Paris Conservatory is notorious for having used harpsichords for firewood during the French Revolution and Napoleonic times. Composers such as François Couperin, Girolamo Frescobaldi, and Johann Sebastian Bach wrote for the harpsichord, clavichord, and organ, or sometimes for a generic "keyboard" (German Klavier), but not for the Fortepiano, which was invented around 1700, but only widely adopted at about 1765. The music by these composers sounds very different, and requires a different interpretive approach, when played on the harpsichord rather than on the piano. Notably, since every note on a harpsichord is equally loud, subtle variations of timing and articulation, as well as a judicious use of ornamentation, are employed to achieve an expressive harpsichord performance.
The harpsichord was reintroduced to the concert-going public in the first half of the 20th century by Wanda Landowska. Since most knowledge of harpsichord construction had been lost by that time, Landowska needed to use a harpsichord made for her by the Pleyel company of Paris, and based on the modern grand piano. From the 1950s on, harpsichord builders such as Frank Hubbard, William Dowd, and Martin Skowroneck began to follow the procedures of the early harpsichord builders. Today, harpsichords in the style of the old makers are produced in workshops around the world.
The bass viol roughly resembles a six-stringed, fretted cello.
A vast quantity of music for viols, for both ensemble and solo performance, was written by composers of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, including Diego Ortiz, Claudio Monteverdi, William Byrd, William Lawes, Henry Purcell, Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe, J.S. Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, Marin Marais, Antoine Forqueray, and Carl Frederick Abel. However, viols were largely abandoned by the end of the 18th century, having been overtaken by the violin family.
From largest to smallest, the viol family consists of:
Among the foremost modern players of the viols are Paolo Pandolfo, Wieland Kuijken, Jordi Savall, John Hsu, Vittorio Ghielmi, and Guido Balestracci. There are many modern viol consorts including Fretwork.
Recorders in multiple sizes (contra-bass, bass, tenor, alto, soprano, the sopranino, and the even smaller kleine sopranino or garklein) are often played today in consorts of mixed size. Handel and Telemann, among others, wrote solo works for the recorder. Arnold Dolmetsch did much to revive the recorder as a serious concert instrument, reconstructing a "consort of recorders (descant, treble, tenor and bass) all at low pitch and based on historical originals." For a number of important modern exponents of the recorder, see Recorder player.
Other instruments that declined in use around the same time as the harpsichord, viol, and recorder include the lute, the viola d'amore, and the baryton. Instruments that lost currency rather earlier include the cornett, the shawm, the rackett, the crumhorn, the theorbo, and the hurdy-gurdy.
(See baroque violin)
From the heavy rigging of the early to mid 1800s, the tendency shifted to using lighter strings for an easier playing technique and more soloistic brilliance. From around 1900 until our times, the average string tension has been lighter than in most Baroque traditions except for 18th century France, but the longer strings and the more compact material (including, in our days, steel E strings) has led to a more brilliant and short-range penetrating tone with a greater acoustical emphasis on the even overtones.
The flute of the 18th century was typically made of wood rather than metal.
Early brass instruments did not incorporate keys or valves until the late 18th century.
The human voice is a biological given, but can be trained in different ways. Singers in historically informed performances typically aim at a less loud tone, usually with less vibrato. Singing more quietly is feasible because accompanying instruments are generally also softer. A few of the singers who have contributed to the historically informed performance movement are Emma Kirkby, Julianne Baird, Nigel Rogers, and David Thomas.
Historically informed performances sometimes use male singers, called countertenors, to sing alto parts. Although it is often a vexed question how often this was done in early performance, a number of countertenors have won acclaim for their purity of tone, vocal agility, and interpretive skill. Modern countertenor singing was pioneered by Alfred Deller, and leading contemporary performers include David Daniels, Derek Lee Ragin, Andreas Scholl, Michael Chance, Drew Minter, Daniel Taylor, and Brian Asawa.
Compositions intended to be sung by castrati present a problem. The 1994 movie Farinelli: Il Castrato, about an 18th-century castrato, used digital effects to create the voice by mixing the sound of a countertenor with a soprano singer.
Boy sopranos in choirs are not uncommon, even in traditional performances, but the use of boy sopranos as soloists is rare. Most notably, much of the music of Bach that Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt recorded made use of boy sopranos even for the solo parts.
Historic pictures , layout sketches and sources are giving information about the layout of singers and instruments. Three main layouts are documented:
Recovering early performance practices
Interpreting musical notation
Some familiar difficult items are as follows:
Some information about how music sounded in the past can be obtained from contemporary mechanical instruments. For instance, the Dutch museum Van Speelklok tot Pierement owns an 18th century mechanical organ of which the music programme was composed and supervised by Joseph Haydn.
Issues of pronunciation even carry over to church Latin, the language in which a huge amount of early music was written. The reason is that Latin was customarily pronounced using the speech sounds and patterns of the local vernacular language; see Latin regional pronunciation.
Tuning and pitch
The baroque oboist Bruce Haynes has extensively investigated surviving wind instruments and even documented a case of violinists having to retune by a minor third to play at neighboring churches.[page needed]
The perceived aesthetic benefits of historically informed performance vary with what kind of music is being played. In rough terms, they can be characterized as follows.
Variety of opinion
Opinions on the historically informed performance movement vary.
Though championing the need (for example in his editorship of Scarlatti sonatas) for a thoroughly-informed approach, not least in understanding as fully as possible a composer's actual wishes and intentions in their historical context, Ralph Kirkpatrick found it necessary to write "too often historical authenticity can be used as a means of escape from any potentially disquieting observance of esthetic values, and from the assumption of any genuine artistic responsibility. The abdication of esthetic values and artistic responsibilities can confer a certain illusion of simplicity on what the passage of history has presented to us, bleached as white as bones on the sands of time."[page needed]
Virgil Fox was more blunt: "There is current in our land (and several European countries) at this moment a kind of nitpicking worship of historic impotence. They say that Bach must not be interpreted and that he must have no emotion, that his notes speak for themselves. You want to know what that is? Pure unadulterated rot! Bach has the red blood. He has the communion with the people. He has all of this amazing spirit. And imagine that you could put all the music on one side of the agenda with his great interpretation and great feeling and put the greatest man of all right up on top of a dusty shelf underneath some glass case in a museum and say that he must not be interpreted! They're full of you-know-what and they're so untalented that they have to hide behind this thing because they couldn't get in the house of music any other way!"
American musicologist and Renaissance choral music conductor Richard Taruskin also discusses flaws in the case for historically informed performance in his 1995 collection of articles, Text and Act.
Regarding "authentic" Baroque music performance, classical recording producer Michael Sartorius writes: "While the debate on authenticity in baroque performance will continue, certain essential characteristics should be present, if the performance is to reflect the true baroque spirit. ... if the tempo is too slow the piece drags; too fast and vital detail is lost as the musicians scramble to grapple with unnecessary challenges of physical dexterity... Many 'authentic' performances of Bach's cantatas adopt a fast, almost racy tempo which would never have been considered or tolerated in the staid atmosphere of a Lutheran church service in 1730. ... Balance is vital too, so that everything can be heard... It is not always easy to find recordings of Bach's harpsichord concertos in which the harpsichord is given correct prominence; and as for the poor Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, often (and rightly) billed as the world's first Triple Concerto, it seems impossible to find one recording from the zillions available in which the harpsichord is given the same prominence as the violin and flute, the other two solo instruments." Sartorius also criticizes "the almost total absence of vibrato" in today's "authentic" performances, resulting in a "flat, plaintive and lifeless tone. It seems quite unclear as to where this aspect of 'authenticity' derived from, since much evidence supports quite the contrary view. A star pupil of Corelli, Geminiani moved from Naples to London in 1714 and was to become the most important Italian violin virtuoso resident in Britain... Geminiani provided ornaments for both slow and fast movements as well as cadenzas in his treatise; he advocated the use of vibrato 'as often as possible', and the expressiveness of his playing was much admired by both Hawkins and Burney."
Also, some listeners who have absolute pitch are disturbed by the fact that historically informed performances often use a lower pitch than traditional performances (415 Hz vs 440 Hz). And some players and ensembles adopt yet another pitch, for example 392 Hz for early baroque music (particularly for French wind instruments) or 430 Hz to play Mozart's or Beethoven's music, which makes the whole situation even more confusing for those people.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Authentic performance". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.