Friday, May 22, 2009

Old made new

Stephen Pettitt, writing for Britain's Spectator, reviews the shortish history of the period instruments and performance-practice (aka historically informed) movement, and observes its growing influence on modern conductors and instrumentalists.

Authentic? Maybe. An "entirely fresh approach to very familiar music?" Definitely:

I would add that because of the vagaries of pitch and sonority these instruments are prone to in live performances, historically informed music-making is likely to be at its best (and most listener-friendly) on recordings.

That said, it's still an ear-opening experience to hear these instruments pushed to their technical and expressive limits, as violinist Florian Deuter did last month during James Wilson's Richmond Festival of Music, or as groups such as William Christie's Les Arts Florissants and Jordi Savall's Les Concert des Nations have done at the University of Richmond's Modlin Center. The Modlin Center's Camp Concert Hall puts a resonant bloom on period-instrument sound, and is small enough that even a solo lute projects to all parts of the room.