Redefining historically informed performance practice—including the 20th century

Posted on: July 6, 2021

“Think of the ‘period’ or historically informed performance movement, and the mind probably turns to Monteverdi, Bach, Handel,” writes David Allen in Thursday’s (6/1) New York Times. “The first advocates for performances on original instruments … concentrated their initial work on the Baroque and then Classical repertories, the music in which their findings were most audibly different compared with then-standard practices. It would take until the 1980s … to push period performance into Beethoven … through Berlioz, Schumann and Brahms in the 1990s. Despite those advances, though, ‘period’ has mostly remained a synonym for ‘early.’ Step forward François-Xavier Roth, 49, a former assistant to [John Eliot] Gardiner whose Parisian ensemble Les Siècles, which he founded in 2003, has released a number of period-instrument recordings on Harmonia Mundi since 2018, all of them excellent…. It is highly unusual to hear period performances, like theirs, of later music, using instruments and approaches fitting for the late 19th or early 20th century. The orchestral works of Ravel? An early version of Mahler’s First? Stravinsky’s … ‘The Rite of Spring,’ reissued recently … Debussy’s ‘Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune.’ … Les Siècles can produce sounds that amply reprise the shock of the new.”