Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for John Eliot Gardiner

Dr. Bob Prescribes: John Eliot Gardiner

In the course of answering a question last week, I invoked my affection for certain period instrument recordings, particularly those of John Eliot Gardiner. I’d like to flesh that answer out and in doing so say why. The debate over “historically informed performances” (HIP) (or “authentic performances” or “period instrument performances”) is not a new one, but it’s worth revisiting, if only to allow me to add my point of view which, as you will soon enough realize, is not just the correct point but the one that matters most. (Yes, I have just spread my legs and said, “kick me”; keep reading, please.) The debate began during the second half of the twentieth century, when a movement emerged bent on performing music as it presumably had been performed at the time it was composed. To varying degrees, this meant using original instruments (or new instruments constructed on the lines of period instruments); proper numbers of instruments; using historically “correct” concert pitch (for example, A=415 for Baroque music rather than the modern A=440); and stripping away centuries of accumulated practice regarding everything from tempo and dynamics to bowings and phrasing.  As recording technology didn’t exist until the very late nineteenth […]

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