Archive for December, 2008

the end of what?

December 20, 2008

I am still fighting with Bruce Haynes’s The End of Early Music. For me, the book turned out to be even more depressing than its pessimistic title suggested. It is truly the end of a lot of things when the art of text editing is being addressed in such a nonchalant manner as here (would you, in a scholarly book, expect a pallet-palate blooper?), and when the author’s promise to present the reader with “merely personal reflections on the present state of the historically informed performance movement” (p. viii) clearly serves as a free ticket for abandoning great thoughts (of which there are quite a few in this book as well) whenever their proper development becomes a little tricky. This is the opposite of a page-turner: one of those books where, right from the first page onward, the reader keeps mumbling “uh huh, this makes sense, but what was the point again?” And I am not even addressing the issues where I disagree with Haynes; these do exist, too. (more…)



December 19, 2008

To anyone who occasionally plays organ continuo (not the most audible of activities unless one pulls out all the stops, which people tend to dislike), the typical agonies of a baroque band’s double bass – or violone – player will sound familiar: the 16-foot player’s possibilities to influence the course of musical events seem heavily restricted (unless s/he resorts to playing wrong notes on purpose). The high parts do all the shaping and the only thing you can do is follow and not despair.

This is not really true (more…)

recitatives (dry)

December 19, 2008

Most choir directors (if they are into oratorios or passions at all) conduct perhaps two bigger works each year (I’m thinking of those who also have church services to attend to, and a restricted budget). An average choir conductor can only go so far with the preparations of these concerts – there is so much to see to. Initiatives from the musicians are generally welcome, even expected. You hire a baroque orchestra – you expect that they know their stuff. Many arias go un-conducted at these events.

The cellists and organists offer a special recitative service to suit the situation. A very large percentage of our conductors rely happily and benevolently on that service: the continuo players and the singers get time for getting used to each-other’s style and for testing all the recitatives once, and that’s usually it. (more…)


December 17, 2008

In September, I participated in a program that was called Music of the 18th century at European Courts. This all-embracing title reminds me a bit of a flimsy book in my possession called Chinese cooking, or the yet to be written twenty-page ‘Guide to Western Philosophy’, not to mention the greatly anticipated fifty-page (because of the photos) ‘ history of the automobile in the 20th and 21st centuries’. (Nicholas Cook’s Music: A Very Short Introduction, on the other hand, is quite readable in spite of its mere 137 pages sans notes.)

We teased the leader-planner of our orchestra a lot about this – especially since about half of the program consisted of music from Bach’s cantatas. (more…)