This opens up a whole grocery store of worm cans.
Classical music differs from all other western musics in that the
play-from-the-notes highway, however many lanes wide, is still a fixed
distance of interpretive latitude.
The gearing-down of rhythmic freedom, the complete loss of the implied
appoggiatura and the emergence of crisp rhythmic ensemble attack occurs in
the 1920s. Rubato and the Strauss family "hiccough" do a slow fade. Many
important surviving recorded documents of the older performance practices
were acoustically made with all the performance compromises they required
(see my article, "Strohs in the Wind" in the new Classic Record Collector.)
In addition, the emergence and strong influence of the "literalists,"
Toscanini (with some understanding of the past that faded over time) and his
followers (many of whom lacked that understanding) reshaped orchestral
practice and abandoned the lanes that lead to immediately preceding ways of
performing music. They narrowed the highway.
I think it clear that the authentic paths toward playing the music of
Brahms, Schumann, Wagner and their contemporaries is best captured by those
older ensembles. That of Berlioz and others who flourished from 1840 back
is less well documented through recordings. Ways of performing classical
vocal music and the teaching of its techniques, however, seem to have been
better preserved into a more distant past, to Mozart through the Garcia
chain. See Hermann's Klein's essay on performing Mozart, probably the best
brief exposition of this tradition in English.
During the early electrical era, vestiges of the older ways of ensemble
playing are most readily found in chamber music, the Capet Quartet foremost
among them. The Flonzaley begins to reduce portamento, both in the number
of times it is used and in its intensity. The personnel of both groups were
trained in the Ysaye school.
A discussion of pianistic interpretation would require a visit to the
warehouse where there are many more cans of worms.
Performances using older interpretive styles may not be the way you enjoy
hearing your favorite pieces. It nonetheless is as much a part of the
ancestry of music as a family tree is to contemporary individuals. In
addition, the underlying philosophical spine of classical music is to
communicate following the composer's intentions. Readings by those with a
valid connection to the composer's thoughts on these matters and the
executive competence to express them are valid messengers from a living
----- Original Message -----
From: "Karl Miller" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, April 03, 2006 8:57 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] The waltz (was Which U.S. orchestra recorded first
and Arthur Fiedler)
On Fri, 31 Mar 2006, Lani Spahr wrote:
> disposal. In fact, last evening a colleague and I spent an hours
> listening to oboists from 1903-1953 (a 2 CD set that I engineered) and
> marvelled and lamented at the playing styles that have been lost in the
> last 50 years. We also were discussing recordings of the 20s by the
> Rosť Quartet and how wonderful they were.
Based upon the musicology papers and articles I read, you are in the
> Well, you might say, why don't you play like that? Well that's another
> can of worms to be opened at a later time but it basically has to do
> with the instruments we play - essentially, you CAN'T play like that.
> The instruments won't let you.
What about rubato? From my experience and training as a musician, I was
taught to be a slave to the metronome...however, for whatever the reason,
I fought it. I believe that the older recordings, and the playing styles
they evince, should be part of the musician's training. While this is more
about music than recordings...it seems to me that the sterility of the
"interpretive aesthetic" of more modern thinking, has brought about some
of the deline of interest in live performance of classical music. If it
sounds the same way as it does on the record...why not stay at home and
listen to the record.
> > musicological
> > musician will dismiss the rubato of those performances as
> Musicological musician?? :-) An oxymoron?? :-)
Well I guess I did mean it as a bit of an oxymoron...but it is a pity that
many, including myself, might see it as such.
I am reminded of Ardoin's first book on Callas. As far as I know it was
the first book to trace a musician's career through recorded performances.
John was not a musicologist...he didn't need the footnotes...he knew the
subject matter...but his book demonstrated the value of the recording as a
While I have seen changes in the last few years, it still seems to me that
recording is still not given the credit it deserves in musicological
study. Ethnomusicologists find the value...but then I think of all of that
time they take transcribing...a bit like the oral history folks who do
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