Historical performance goes mainstream

Posted on: June 9, 2011

In Thursday’s (6/9) Wall Street Journal, Heidi Waleson writes, “The biennial Boston Early Music Festival, which begins on Sunday, is best known for its lavish period productions of rare operas (this year, it will be Agostino Steffani’s ‘Niobe, Regina di Tebe’ of 1688), visiting early-music luminaries like Jordi Savall, and its exhibition full of harpsichords, recorders and viols for sale. This year’s event also looks to the future, with more than 150 student musicians arriving for the Young Performers Festival presented by Early Music America. … This could never have happened in the early 1970s, when an American like Arthur Haas couldn’t major in harpsichord in the U.S. Today, Mr. Haas teaches at SUNY Stony Brook, one of 25 institutions of higher education in North America that offer degrees in historical performance from the undergraduate through the doctorate level. … The principles that inform historical performance have also begun to find their way into mainstream performing organizations, making the training valuable. Hank Knox, who heads the large early-music program at McGill University, points out: ‘Kent Nagano, music director of the Montreal Symphony, is asking players to use less bow and less vibrato, and following Beethoven’s metronome markings. Modern soloists play ‘The Four Seasons’ with freshly composed embellishments in slow movements. This would have been unheard of 10 years ago.’ ”

Posted June 9, 2011