What is your favorite period orchestra

June 19, 2017, 1:27 PM · In your opinion, which orchestra that practices period performance is the best in terms of their delivery of the pieces, historical accurateness and overall quality of sound. I want to know your opinion because there are a lot out there such as the OAE, ORR, Anima Eterna, Orchestra of the 18th Century and Philharmonia Baroque. These are the more well known ones.

Replies (89)

June 26, 2017, 3:25 AM · My favourite period orchestra is probably the LSO. They play music from all "periods" but play in the 21st century on instruments that have evolved from their primitive roots. This enables them to play with greater dynamic range and richer tone colours.

Cheers Carlo

June 26, 2017, 3:33 AM · I dont know, if I hear Bach Cantatas on modern instruments I walk away. Last week Vivaldi Gloria in D on modern instruments, meh. Violin e strings from our time simply dont belong to that kind of music imo.
June 26, 2017, 3:56 AM · Marc. I would walk away from Bach Cantatas sung and/or played badly whether on sudo baroque instruments or modern. At best HIP are based on guess work.

Cheers Carlo

June 26, 2017, 4:08 AM · I agree that its some wild guessing on interpretation but the modern e string is a complete killer of this kind of music.
Also I dont see why I need that kind of dynamic range on baroque and earlier music. Ff f m p pp is completly enough for it.
The composer had something in mind that worked usually quite well and there is absolutly no way in getting close to it with a modern violin. At least plain gut on a e is a must have to me. Everything else quite optional.
June 26, 2017, 4:39 AM · Don't get me started on HIP! Doesn't it stand for "Having Intonation Problems?" ;-)

As a corrective I would recommend such chamber orchestras as The Academy of St. Martin In the Fields, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Virtuosi de Roma and I Solisti Veneti.

Edited: June 26, 2017, 7:06 AM · The only one of these I have seen live is the local Philharmonia Baroque and great as they are what impressed me most was the wind instrument, the bass Ophicleide (check it out on Wikipedia a brass instrument valved like a saxophone). It is surely one of the most beautiful sounding brass instruments I have ever heard - invented in the early 19th century and mostly replaced over time by tubas and euphoniums. As I understand it they were tuned for specific keys - which might account for its purity of tone. One of the pieces played at that concert was Mendelssohn's incidental music for Midsummer Night's Dream which is in the proper key for the specific Ophicleide their player owns. In a pre-concert lecture he told us he had bought it in Paris (was it a t a flea market?). Since I had played baritone horn (euphonium) in high school band for 4 years (and our son played trumpet for about 10 years) I still have some interest in the buzzy-lip instruments - especially ones that sound good. (Our HS music director "invited" all the male violinists in the school orchestra to play baritone in the school band - and we all did, except for Zeke, who played Sousaphone/tuba -- or band of 100 was great and won trophies, our orchestra sucked!)

It was also interesting to read in the Philharmonia Baroque concert program about the origin of the string player's instruments - including some of the Guarneri family. It was also interesting to see how many of them "snuggled" up on their bows - holding them away from the frog.

I also like our local "New Century Chamber Orchestra." Although it is makes no claim to HIP, I have had coaching sessions with several of its musicians and it is my impression that since the "Russian influence" has departed American performance of classical and Baroque era music all professional musicians are very well "historically informed" - but I have to agree with Carlo - modern improvements to the instruments are definitely IMPROVEMENTS (except for the Ophicleide) !

Edited: June 26, 2017, 10:52 AM · Someone said (can't think who) that we need HIP replacements. Perhaps he/she meant "replaced by proper players ...") (wink)

Or perhaps HIP = Historically Informed Prostitution?

June 26, 2017, 11:25 AM · I like HIP a great deal, but for live music I'll take modern instruments with HIP-style musicality any day of the week (baroque bows on modern instruments is a nice compromise, and you can go further with gut strings of course). For a recording, sure HIP is great, but it the versatility of modern instruments means they will remain much more common.
June 26, 2017, 11:28 AM · HIP style musicality? That's a new one! What is it?
June 26, 2017, 12:20 PM · Peter. First you play out of tune. Bulge on every note. Then have no sense of line or legato.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: June 29, 2017, 7:27 AM · Re gut E strings, I heard once there was a major German orchestra between the World Wars where it was written into the violinists' contracts that they were required to use gut E strings. This is understandable because of the difference in orchestral tone between a single steel string and the three gut strings. Further, there would have been many musicians in the nineteen-twenties and thirties who would remember hearing, or even playing in, 19th-century orchestras at a time when the steel E was as yet unknown.

There are solutions of course (apart from going all gut). One, the most common today, is to use a steel E in conjunction with modern synthetic lower strings which are designed to work well with steel; another (the Russian) is to have steel E and A with gut D and G, which works surprising well, dividing the tone of the instrument into two distinct voices; or use all steel (as did the Quartetto Italiano), and with the right sort of violin this can work well today.

I live in both worlds: my main orchestral violin is currently steel-strung (mainly because I've the full Verdi Requiem in my calendar for July 15 and we don't have quite as many upper strings as we'd like), and my other, which I use in chamber orchestra, and sometimes in symphony, is all gut (I second Marc's comments about the gut E). I am reasonable about allowing an all-gut instrument time to adjust to the temperature and humidity away from home, and I then expect the E and A to be stable, with only the occasional minor adjustment to the D and G as the venue warms up. Note that even non-gut setups need their little retuning tweaks.

June 26, 2017, 1:11 PM · Clearly you guys still live in the nineteen eighties. Have fun!
Edited: June 26, 2017, 1:50 PM · I remember the nineteen eighties well. I could sense early retirement as a real possibility within the next few years - and it came to pass.
Edited: June 26, 2017, 3:29 PM · If people want to play on "period instruments" for audiences who want to hear that, fine with me. It's kind of like doubling on viola (or didgeridoo) so you can get more gigs. I can even listen to it for a time but please, I don't want to see them "swaying gaily like minstrels of yore."

Aside from that I agree completely with Carlo. Except that if we're really talking about the 21st century then they'd all have gear pegs! LOL!!

Edited: June 26, 2017, 5:49 PM · Il Giardino Armonico with Enrico Onofri is probably my most favourite.
Then Europa Galante, but not all of their recordings....
English Chamber orchestra under Trevor Pinnock - I got hooked on their Handel Concerti Grossi.
Recently Marc Minkowski with Les Musiciens du Louvre got my attention with their interpretation of Mondonville.
Then, English Baroque Soloists with Gardiner and Bach Cantata Pilgrimage - endless creativity in interpreting Bach from intimate to grandiose.
Chiara Banchini with Ensemble 415.
Les Violons du Roy from Motreal. Their "Christmas concertos" is one of the best CDs ever.
Last, but not the least, our own Tafelmusik from Toronto. Their concerts are sometimes like being in a candy store.
All of them have a period, school or a composer where they excel.

For those who make fun of HIP, I dare you to install pue gut strings, get a baroque bow and give it a try. You will keep laughing, but from completely different reasons. You may even shed a tear of joy in discovering that violin was there before Evah Pirazzi!
June 26, 2017, 4:31 PM · To add to Rocky's list, any Bach from the Kuijken brothers have always been an inspiration and shows their thoughtfulness in their preparation and work.

HIP-bashers reminds me of Suzuki-haters...at the end it's what you take away from it, nothing is all correct or all wrong. Make another thread if you want but let's just share something beautiful you would like others to hear.

June 26, 2017, 4:32 PM · Not an "orchestra" but AWESOME renaissance music on period instruments: the Elm City Consort!


Edited: June 26, 2017, 8:55 PM · Peter and Carlo: you're right, Klemperer sounds like Marriner.
June 26, 2017, 9:27 PM · Nothing wrong with the 80s except perhaps the hairstyles. I studied baroque violin myself in the 90s whilst at university. It was only when I was working professionally that I realised that the HIP program was an attempt at brainwashing based largely on guesswork.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: June 27, 2017, 9:17 AM · "For those who make fun of HIP, I dare you to install pue gut strings, get a baroque bow and give it a try. You will keep laughing, but from completely different reasons. You may even shed a tear of joy in discovering that violin was there before Evah Pirazzi!"

I HAVE tried baroque-n violins and bows. Interesting as a curiosity but no sale with me. If you really want to be historically informed, at the very least be aware of a few basic facts that many HIP-sters are unaware of or ignore:

> There are written records of vibrato on string instruments going back to the 1500's

> Mozart's father, Leopold, complained that there are players who vibrate constantly "as though they had a palsy". (His many sarcastic remarks in his violin method are priceless, btw!) He may not have liked it but if it were not pretty prevalent in his time it would have made no sense to mention it.

> Pitch was extremely variable in the Baroque and Classic eras. In Venice it was HIGHER than today! Think about that the next time you play Vivaldi. Standardization to A=415 is a modern HIP fabrication.

> The bow was also in a constant state of flux before Tourte. Since then, not so much. I wonder why.

> Bach was not only aware of the early pianos - he sold them!

I could go on and on but I have an appointment with an authentic dentist who uses period instruments and a hand-turned drill that goes at no more that 415 rpms, and no novocaine - should be fun!

June 27, 2017, 10:05 AM · Wasn't the A=415 (a half-tone below A=440, btw) chosen so that a piano or harpsichord with the appropriate engineering could move the entire keyboard together with its hammer mechanisms a half-tone sideways relative to the strings, thereby effecting an instantaneous half-tone transposition a la HIP?

Vibrato is a natural consequence of a properly relaxed left hand and arm. The problem lies in controlling it. I've come across one or two experienced players in my time who were unable to stop their vibrato in response to a request by the conductor to the orchestra! Composers sometimes specify "senza vibrato" for a particular passage.

Regarding the Tourte bow, didn't Tourte (or someone he asked nicely) carry out the necessary mathematical analysis to design the "perfect" bow - insofar as one can ever define "perfect"? This having been done and now producing the desired results it would then seem unnecessary over the following two centuries to do much in the way of further design development. However, what we are seeing now is an exploration of different materials for the bow stick, and is it possible that this exploration could result in an observable modification to the bow shape in order to retain the playing characteristics of the now traditional Tourte?

June 27, 2017, 11:21 AM · Mr Klayman, all those facts are of course true and should be considered in every HIP environment.
June 27, 2017, 1:35 PM · Yes, and another important one I forgot to mention:

When funding was available for special occasions, composers like Handel and Mozart were only too happy to assemble very large orchestras, sometimes exceeding our current full symphony orchestras. The violin tally could come to 40!

June 27, 2017, 3:35 PM · People also castrated boys for singing and didn't have indoor plumbing and didn't have pencils.

Obviously we pick what we value from the past. I would definitely choose modern medicine over bloodletting and mercury to treat an illness.

"The violin tally could come to 40!"

One can easily find sources of orchestral forces way more than that for many festive occasions, that's nothing new or controversial. But also take into account that gut strings are softer and you would want more players if the concert are outdoors. I often wonder if Bach might have loved a giant modern day chorus if his bosses in the town council allowed or if Beethoven might prefer metal strings and modern day vibrato...we'll never know and it's fun to think about. All approaches, modern or HP deserves respect.

"Wasn't the A=415 (a half-tone below A=440, btw) chosen so that a piano or harpsichord with the appropriate engineering could move the entire keyboard together with its hammer mechanisms a half-tone sideways relative to the strings, thereby effecting an instantaneous half-tone transposition a la HIP?"

Pitch levels varied all over Europe, and each town would have different pitch for church and court. The half-step transposition on modern harpsichords is a modern thing...don't get confused.

"Regarding the Tourte bow, didn't Tourte (or someone he asked nicely) carry out the necessary mathematical analysis to design the "perfect" bow - insofar as one can ever define "perfect"?"

Tourte bows are great for repertoire of its time, but quite unwieldy on stuff like Uccelini, Marini, or French dance (e.g Lully). It's true with good technique you can make it work. Heck I'm sure Perlman can play a great Tcahikovsky concerto with a short, early baroque bow. But the question is, would he want to?

"Vibrato is a natural consequence of a properly relaxed left hand and arm. The problem lies in controlling it. I've come across one or two experienced players in my time who were unable to stop their vibrato in response to a request by the conductor to the orchestra! Composers sometimes specify "senza vibrato" for a particular passage."

That is definitely false. Ha! If that statement is true many students with a good left arm setup will just naturally vibrate on their own without any purposeful training. People who can't stop their vibrato have deficient technique. When great orchestral players won't stop vibrating or vibrate less upon request, it's because they don't want to, not because they can't. Big difference.

"Mozart's father, Leopold, complained that there are players who vibrate constantly "as though they had a palsy". (His many sarcastic remarks in his violin method are priceless, btw!) He may not have liked it but if it were not pretty prevalent in his time it would have made no sense to mention it."

Yep! It's a lot of fun to read the old treatises' sarcasm, pride, and exasperation compared to neutral modern day text books. I'm surprised you didn't mention Geminiani who said one should employ the close shake or vibrato as frequently as possible. But what doesn't surprise me are HP-critics who have a weird warped/partial view of what HP is about. I've never encountered an HP musician who said vibrato is not allowed. Because as you said, it was used, but definitely not in the modern 20th way of continuous vibrato like Kreisler and onwards.

"Bach was not only aware of the early pianos - he sold them!"

From his transcriptions of works to different instruments, I think he embraced the possibilities of all instruments that he came across. I also wonder if he time traveled and played a Steinway and wrote a partita for it, how would it be different than his works written for harpsichord. But your logic is like if a calligraphy master said he likes using felt-tip pen, then by that reasoning we have no need for old fashioned brush or nib to do calligraphy. Different tools gives you different results, and it's a bit of a pity to not find out the possibilities of both new and old...one just limits oneself that way in the end.

June 27, 2017, 5:12 PM · Boston Baroque is an excellent group. Washington Bach Consort is also very good.
Edited: June 27, 2017, 6:42 PM · OPs topic:
"What is your favorite period orchestra"

In the context of this thread, the only reasonable answer HIP haters can give is, "none." Anything beyond that is trolling plain and simple. I know haters gotta hate... but enough already! As Dorian suggested, go start your own thread.

I can't claim to have any favourites, though for different reasons than the above haters. I think it's more performance dependent. Tafelmusik have done some amazing Beethoven with Bruno Weil.

June 27, 2017, 7:22 PM · Bach did not sell early pianos, in fact he only had brief exposure to Silbermann's fortepianos on two occasions, at first he criticized them, SIlbermann made some modifications and on his second visit Bach supposedly saw promise in them, mind you they had more in common with the contemporary harpsichord than the modern piano.
June 28, 2017, 12:44 AM · In general I would endorse Raphael's comments, particularly in relation to a 'big' sound for Mozart. Mozart's main complaint about orchestras seems to have been that they were usually too small.
Baroque - ASMF in its early, conductor-free days - outstanding Handel, Bach and Vivaldi
Classical - the 1970s/80s English Chamber Orchestra. Wonderful Mozart with Barenboim, Davis, Tate and Perahia.
General - the 1960's Czech Philharmonic - particularly the characteristic wind sound and style.
1990's Dresden Staatskapelle (sp?). I've never heard orchestral string playing like it.
I once heard the opening of the Hammerklavier sonata on a 'period' piano at something close to the (very fast) metronome mark - I though it was a joke. Like looking at Everest through the wrong end of a telescope. Would Beethoven have preferred a modern Steinway? We'll never know...
In general I try to avoid HIP for all the reasons Raphael has articulated in this thread and others. Though I will seek out recordings of Bach with baroque or transitional bows, which some top players seem to favour. Any recommendations, anyone?
June 28, 2017, 1:10 AM · I personally think that "hate" is far too strong a word to use when describing preferences away from HIP. A lot of what has been said was somewhat tongue in cheek.

I have personally known and worked with one or two extremely good HIP violinists and many others have been friends and colleagues. Having said that, I am disinclined to attend HIP performances, or buy CD's or listen to HIP generally. Some friends and colleagues have been highly trained in HIP methods but have rejected it and are now fairly vocal in their disapproval.

I think a lot of people in the UK reacted unfavourably when a certain English conductor took over a good German orchestra and forced them to play without vibrato, with disastrous consequences, whilst claiming all sorts of inaccurate data about the 19C and vibrato.

The comment about some orchestral players not being able to play without vibrato is somewhat false, and ridiculous. No properly trained orchestral musician is so hooked on vibrato that they are unable to turn it off.

June 28, 2017, 1:12 AM · Modern classical interpretations of Bach on modern instruments are like muzak versions of the Beatles, sounds similar but definitely not authentic.
June 28, 2017, 3:29 AM · Raphael,

First, thanks for citing me!

There is no point to argue about one's taste in music - it is as pointless as arguing about our favourite vine or how to brew the best coffee.
I have stated before that whenever one starts to interpret printed material from bygone era, strange things happen. Music is not far from religion in that matter, and, being human, we will sooner or later meet a reformer (protestant or fundamentalist if you wish), a counter-reformer, mystic and just about everything in between - meaning your garden variety of interpreters and followers.
Yes, HIP movement is sometimes paradoxical; for example, there are many lady performers today and it is well-known that playing a fiddle was considered not appropriate for a woman during Baroque era. Viol, or da gamba was more in line with customs of the day.
HIP has also become its own nemesis - from a "revolutionary" movement, not unlike a bunch of others in the 60's, they are now an institution with rules of engagement and interpretation, schools and universities. There is a lineage, masters and followers. There is a belief in chin-less violin hold. Shoulder rest is an anathema. This is, in my opinion, a loss, especially because originally HIP invited people to experiment and look for new ways to interpret an old era.
Having said that, there is a treasury of recorded music one can enjoy - again, if one is inclined toward a different sound. Not all recordings are worth listening, but that is no different from "modern" violin music. There is also a lot of joy in playing Baroque music among amateurs - it is often less technically challenging and leaves more room for interpretation and creativity.


June 28, 2017, 3:53 AM · Rocky, quite a thoughtful post, and interesting views.

I grew up on Oistrakh playing Mozart sonatas and Milstein playing Bach, all on modern instruments (or converted old ones). Personally I still prefer these versions to HIP, but it's all very personal, and each to his own.

Edited: June 28, 2017, 3:48 PM · From an excellent online article by Linda Gleason, PhD in musicology, called "Did Bach hate the Piano?" I'll just excerpt this much and invite anyone interested to look for it:

"Even more damning against the “Bach hated pianos” claim is the fact that Bach went on to become an agent for Silbermann, selling his pianos in Leipzig. There’s even a receipt signed by Bach on May 9, 1749, selling a “Piano et Forte” to a Polish count, Jan Casimir von Branitzky."

As far as my logic supposedly implying that we should ignore calligrapher's tools because one of them endorsed a modern pen - no, I'm not saying that. I'm saying that it's no sin to use a modern pen and that it's not necessarily a great thing to use traditional tools. The latter certainly won't make us great calligraphers, though it might give us certain insights and experiences. But it's far more important what we DO with these tools, what results we achieve, what artistic vision we have.

I feel that with Bach, particularly, the medium is NOT the message, which is why it works so well in different media. Couperin, for example, is a different story. His harpsichord music on a modern piano would sound rather heavy-handed to me. I happen to like solo Bach on the modern piano and continuo Bach on the harpsichord. And keep in mind how free Bach was in transcribing his own music and that of Vivaldi from one medium to another. Far more important than period Bach is Bach, period!

I mentioned elsewhere that in my next recital I hope to do the Vivaldi Four Seasons. For that I'm thinking a decent electric keyboard mimicking a harpsichord most of the time but maybe also the organ here and there. I don't feel that it is a must but for me, the texture of that sound would be preferable. It's no sin either way.

So if nothing else, I'm not an enemy of the harpsichord. But I am very opposed to the many UN- historical practices done over and over in the name of "historically informed". And I can't stand the sound that often results. When I have the radio on in the car and I hear one of these groups come on - my collective term for them is "collegium mosquitum" ;-) - I feel the musical equivalent of "the Emperor's Clothes".

What I am also very much opposed to is how a marginal approach has just taken over the mainstream of classical music - like the Burmese pythons in South Florida. What started out as very legitimate approach to research and experimentation just took over. It went from "let's try this" to "this is how you MUST play Baroque music in the late 20th and early 21st centuries." I know that some HIP-sters will deny this but for all intents and purposes this what has happened. People have been increasingly misled. mis-informed and intimidated. Many mainstream groups have just ceded ground to a very specious approach. This kind of coercive pressure is not unlike that of "political correctness". But how interesting that you don't see that in most Shakespeare productions. Most folks don't seem to decry women - and not boys - actually playing women's parts - unlike what was done in Shakespeare's time. In the introduction to one of Shakespeare's plays the actor actually apologizes to the audience for the limitations of the Round Theatre and asks the audience to use their imaginations. But how odd that in the field of classical music it's politically correct to be reactionary!

Edited: June 28, 2017, 5:44 AM · Rocky, I'd surely like to try to play a gut-strung violin with a baroque bow. I think that would be fun for an hour or so and possibly quite enlightening. But for someone like me who is still struggling just to learn how to play one sort of violin properly, trying also to learn to manage a different bow and different strings so that I can play Bach "authentically" (even though it might not be entirely or even mostly in tune) seems like a futile dilution of my available effort. When I hear fully trained violinists who can effortlessly play such things as the Bach S&P saying that we should be playing baroque with different bows and strings, I detect a whiff of "Let them eat cake."

As for the piano, I bet if Bach's "piano" had had a serviceable damper pedal, he would have made frequent and effective use of it.

And as for the accusations of "hate" and "bashing" and such, that runs in both directions rather evenly.

Edited: June 28, 2017, 7:02 AM · Getting back to answering the original question, "What is your favourite period orchestra?" My answer is simply "from the 21st century", when I live.

The violin and bow have EVOLVED and IMPROVED over time. Why turn the clock back? And why make up a set of rules based on guesswork on how to play outdated and backward instruments? The violin is still evolving. In my lifetime I have seen the adoption of the SR and the introduction, and nearly universal use, of synthetic strings. Where is the clamoring for music of the 1970's to be played on covered gut strings?

Talk to a luthier that undoes modernisations and does baroque setups. They spend their time reconverting instruments that "don't work with a modern setup" ie ones that are not very good, but good enough to play "pseudo-authentically". This is a modern idea of how early violins sounded.

I don't hate HIP playing, just like I don't hate dogs that are taught to walk on their hind legs, I don't however see the point. Maybe there is a little charm about it, like riding on a traction engine at a country fair, but I doubt many people use one day-to-day even though they too, are "authentic" modes of transport.

Playing well should be the point, not fabricating a set of rules based on modern ideas of how we thought people in the past may have played. Modern conjecture could be so far from what was actually done, that the composers might have been in fits of laughter, were they able to hear it.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: June 28, 2017, 1:29 PM · Getting back to the actual topic, I like the Dunedin Consort. I purchased their Mozart Requiem a while back and just downloaded their Brandenburg concerti.

Mozart Requiem from Dunedin Consort on Vimeo.

Bach Violin concertos with Cecilia Bernardini from Dunedin Consort on Vimeo.


"played badly"? "Having Intonation Problems?" Lacking in style? "play out of tune"? "Bulge on every note. Then have no sense of line or legato"? I don't see how any of that applies to the above.

I think rediscovering older instruments adds to the colour palette available to us, those which have been lost in the name of progress. Whether 'primitive' is a pejorative depends on one's values. How much diversity and culture have we already lost in the name of progress?

Carlo commits a naturalistic and teleological fallacy in his belief that evolution is about improvement. Improvement according to what criteria? Evolution is adaptation (and other non-adaptive happenstances, but trying to keep it simple here,) and I'd say HIPPers have adapted better than most of the classical music scene. But I digress...

These are Raphael's correctives for HIPPers "intonation problems":

The I Solisti Veneti at the bottom are particularly precious, but overall, really? You're joking right?

Edit 2: The Dunedin on Brandenburg 3

Brandenburg Cantata Series I from Dunedin Consort on Vimeo.

June 28, 2017, 12:08 PM · "The violin and bow have EVOLVED and IMPROVED over time. Why turn the clock back? And why make up a set of rules based on guesswork on how to play outdated and backward instruments?"

This mindset is what HP and musicologists have been fighting against for more than half-century now. I highly recommend Wanda Landowska's beautiful essays on the mindset of our modern style is "better" than the past. It's just different. Styles change, and instruments change with it, but it's not better. The Tourte bow makes sustaining phrase easier and playing at the tip easier, but you probably won't prefer those traits if you're playing Monteverdi. The baroque oboe sounds different than modern oboe. It's just different, and neither one is "better" than other. One might be easier to play on certain things, but again, it's just different. Again, old nib vs. modern ballpoint pen.

"So if nothing else, I'm not an enemy of the harpsichord. But I am very opposed to the many UN- historical practices done over and over in the name of "historically informed"."

Now, that would be an interesting and worthwhile discussion! Every movement has its pros and cons, even back in the baroque days people discussed and argued about it just as passionately. Your L. Mozart example on vibrato sounding like palsy is a great example: clearly it showed there were big disagreements on use of vibrato. It's a legit criticism to point out people who make unsubstantiated claims based on the name of "early music", which is a shame.

Perhaps we need to be more careful about people who just owns a second fiddle with gut strings and claim to be an HP musician — heck don't even listen to me, go read the sources and treatises and decide for yourself what you would like to keep and what not.

Go read your Quantz, CPE Bach, L Mozart, Geminiani treatises. Do the basic homework and come back, and then we can have a discussion on what the modern HP musicians are doing and not doing. Now that would be a fun and useful discussion.

June 28, 2017, 3:46 PM · Jeewon - I believe that I had also recommended I Solisti Veneti, although I'm not too crazy about this particular performance - not on HIP vs non-HIP grounds, just as such.
June 28, 2017, 7:09 PM · FYI historical players don't use a chin rest or shoulder rest because they didn't exist in the 1700s and before. Neither did modern strings, neither did the modern piano. Some people here seem to be unaware of this.
Edited: June 29, 2017, 6:58 AM · Yes Raphael, I know I Solisti Veneti was on your list. But I personally would not recommend the other three groups on your list as examples of good intonation either, or ensemble.


The thing about period performers (at least the ones I know, members of Tafelmusik, Handel and Haydn Society, Eybler Quartet, I FURIOSI, etc.) is that they are obsessed with intonation and key contexts and voicing and voice leading, ensemble, etc., because they have to be. They are some of the finest and most dedicated musicians I know. Period performance is their highest vocation, most definitely not just another way to make some extra cash. Other than those who also perform chamber music, I don't know any symphony players who are that obsessed with the quality of their work ('cause they think they can get away with it.)

I'm not trying to persuade anyone here--frankly I don't really care whether you like it or not. But can anyone here honestly say this (e.g. the Dunedin) is bad playing, in any way shape or form? Is there really no point to making music at such a high level? Can anyone seriously be comparing this to dog tricks?

Edited: June 29, 2017, 4:49 AM · " I don't know any symphony players who are that obsessed with the quality of their work ('cause they think they can get away with it.)"

Well, I don't know where you live and perform, and what your professional credentials are, Jeewon. But having worked for decades as a professional violinist as a soloist, orchestral and chamber musician, playing pop concerts with top names, etc., mostly in the New York and New Jersey areas, as well as a year in Boston, national and international tours, etc. as well as observing innumerable top orchestras, etc. that's not my experience at all.

I, for one, have never compared HIP playing to dog tricks. If you or anyone else is at all inclined, please re-read my posts so far. In fact I know that many are very sincere. But as I've said, and trying not to repeat myself too much, they are often misled and mis-informed and if they are as aware as I am about certain historical realities, then so many of them are highly selective about which ones they implement. That's OK. But they shouldn't call it "historically informed", let alone, more scandalously, "Authentic" which I know most of them have backed off from.

And of course I was joking about my acronym "Having Intonation Problems". For the very passionate nature of this debate it doesn't hurt to try to lighten up here and there. NO one is immune to intonation challenges. The price of good intonation is eternal vigilance.

June 29, 2017, 4:51 AM · You probably get real bent out of shape when period movies have horse and buggies instead of modern cars, too. To each his own.
Edited: June 29, 2017, 6:04 AM · Yes, real bent. Especially I wouldn't want to use a horse and buggy when I'm in a hurry to catch a period performance concert!

But seriously, Lyndon, I'm glad you brought up movies as it helps me make this point: In a movie about 18th cent. music, or even one that features it just here and there, that is where it would make sense to me to get more historically accurate. Ditto for a wonderful place (which I've visited) called Colonial Williamsburg. What I object to is it becoming the new normal in mainstream music making. "Well, of course, in my double case, I have a Baroque bow and one of my violins is a Baroque violin. I mean, that's just what you do."

In fact it's gone well beyond the Baroque period. There are period zealots who are on a mission to trim the fat off of Romantic music as well. I really did get bent out of shape some years back when I heard a recording on the radio of Schumann 4. I wish I could remember exactly but I think it was Christopher Hogwash - sorry, Hogwood! In the wonderfully expressive and moving 3rd mvt. - the first violinists' reward for surviving the 2nd mvt.! - it had the familiar Baroque period-performance vibrato-light, tapered phrasing and thin, whiny sound - even to to the climax! This was SCHUMANN for God's sake!!

It's interesting to me that many mainstream performers today eschew the use of almost any slides, glissandos, etc. in any music. They seem too "old fashioned". I agree that overdone, they can sound mawkish, but tastefully and thoughtfully applied they can add wonderful expressiveness and color. Debussy specifically indicated them here and there in his violin sonata. That's an interpretive prerogative and nothing stays the same. OK. Yet many of those same performers - even if they don't do it themsleves, are full of admiration for HIP! I mean, we have recordings of Kreisler. It's not speculation. But to play Kreisler with similar slides that he used is "old fashioned" but to try to replicate Bach as closely as possible - supposedly - is cool! I call the latter reactionary.

BTW, did you notice my documentation about Bach having indeed sold Silberman pianos?

June 29, 2017, 6:32 AM · So you're perfectly happy to mangle Bach with your modern performance practices, spare me having to listen to it!!
June 29, 2017, 7:09 AM · Cleaned up above post for clarification.

But even in its original form, Raphael, I asked can anyone say HIP performances at their best are of poor quality, the two follow up questions being rhetorical.

But you still want to debate the validity of the HIP movement here in this thread and I say again, there is no debate here... in this thread. Start your own thread, "What is the value of the HIP movement" or something like that, throw down and have at it for all I care. I have charged you with the highest netiquette offence, with trolling. How do you plea!? Don't wait for the translation! Answer me now! (We really need Judge John Hodgman here to adjudicate.)

On a more serious note, your form of "levity" does not serve your argument. At best it's disrespectful, at worst verges on bullying.

June 29, 2017, 7:50 AM · Voices of Music. Listen to their Vivaldi!
Edited: June 29, 2017, 11:59 AM · Jeewon, In my opinion, your attitude as a site policeman, could also be described as trolling. Please stick to the subject at hand, and please don't point the finger at others. Raphael's contribution to this site is invaluable and his comments are refreshing coming, as they do for a change, from a serious professional musician.

Generally rather than specifically, I feel contributions from members on this site would carry more weight if they had the confidence to write in their profile their position in the profession as a luthier or musician, or their amateur status. Very often there are comments written by beginners, playing on their modern Chinese VSOs, who make pronouncements as if in authority when in reality, they are based in ignorance.

One of the things I love about violinist.com is the ability for the violin community to debate openly. In my opinion, there is space for levity and opposing opinions.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: June 29, 2017, 12:27 PM · Carlo you're one of many trolling this thread, The OP asked what were you're favourite HIP performers, since you don't have any I suggest you and Raphael etc etc stay out of the discussion, ridiculing HIP is definitely trolling with regard the OPs intent.

And no the LSO is not a period performance orchestra, you of all people should be brilliant enough to know that.

Edited: June 29, 2017, 1:45 PM · You're not going to have a thread on period orchestras without HIP vs anti-HIP, SR vs restless, etc. What we really should be debating is rosin or e-strings.

But I do like Trevor Pinhead. (Sorry! Pinnock!)

I saw Raphael's humor about what "HIP" stands for, for exactly what it was, immediately. It's just funny, and that's the end of it. But, then, it does tend to underscore my approach as an amateur, which is that I'd much rather spend my effort learning to play in tune than shopping for a violin with a shorter fingerboard.

Edited: June 29, 2017, 4:38 PM · Lyndon, the LSO is a period orchestra, the period in question being the 21st century. My favourite!

Cheers Carlo

June 29, 2017, 4:57 PM · To get back to the original question, here are my favorites:

Il Giardino Armonico

Europa Galante

English Chamber Orchestra


Venice Baroque Orquestra

Edited: June 29, 2017, 5:34 PM · Carlo, really? You are telling me to stick to the subject?! I only wish I could... Infact I would even beg you to just let us stick to the subject, but I fear the OP has fled and it's too late. J'accuse! I also charge you with the highest netiquette offence: trolling. How do you plea!? Don't wait for the translation! Answer me now! I guess you don't get my humour, and I certainly don't understand yours.

I'm a freelancer like you and Raphael. But what weight do you need for this thread? What credentials must I possess to illustrate how the groups on Raphael's list of "correctives" play out of tune, far more prominently than the Dunedin live recordings. Should I list every prominent orchestra I've played with and say that I play 1st violin in those groups? Is that the kind of confidence you'd like me to display?

Paul, this is not a vs. thread. It was hijacked by anti-HIPPers. Let's keep that straight please.

Edit: thanks Micheal. This was the last off-topic post from me.

June 29, 2017, 6:33 PM · Ignoring the debate above:

I've always enjoyed the Academy of Ancient Music. Their recordings of the Bach violin duets and Brandenburg Concertos are my favorites.

Edited: June 29, 2017, 7:33 PM · Jeewan, I forced myself to listen to the recording of the Bach violin concerto you recommended in your post. Awful! Thin tone lacking in line, and yes, no legato and plenty of bulges. The intonation was reasonable but the vegan tone produced by the sock and sandal wearers was intolerable.

I no longer free-lance, but when I did in London, it included playing with early music groups. The more I experienced, the less I believed in the revolution. It was almost like religious righteousness, but the misplaced zeal was based, in my opinion, on guesswork.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: June 29, 2017, 8:47 PM · Ignorance of HIP is bliss!!
June 29, 2017, 8:15 PM · All orchestras, even those using evolved instruments, have a strong awareness of period style. Please give me an example of a 21st century orchestra that plays Bach in a similar fashion to schostakovich. You can't! We are all HIP players in a sense but those who use evolved instruments have all the advantages in tone and colour.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: June 30, 2017, 2:19 PM · My, my! I take a break for about a day or so and... Where to start and where to end?

Well@ Jeewon - to the charge of going off-topic I'll plead a conditional "guilty as charged"! But how many threads stay ON topic for long? Not many! Find almost any thread, wait for some time and visit and you'll wonder how it came to this. With a controversial topic like this it's just not realistic not to expect the response it got. If a new thread comes on, asking for SR recommendations, does anyone not expect someone to say that it's better not to use one? If someone asks for a recommendation for a Suzuki school near to them...etc. It's just in the nature of certain topics.

As to any other charges, they are too absurd to merit a reply. But if you want to hang me for my crimes, all I ask is that you do so with an authentic gut string! (That was humor, btw - gallows humor!)

@ Lyndon - I see that you couldn't bring yourself to admit that I was right in proving that Bach did sell Silberman pianos. But that's OK; I'd expect nothing less from you. So, I mangle Bach, do I? Have you heard me play Bach? Everyone is entitled to like or not this or that interpretation of anything. But it's interesting to note that there is an internationally acclaimed pianist that I've worked with in some performances and both of my CD's. She also happens to be equally acclaimed as a HARPSICHORDIST. She holds post-graduate degrees in the latter subject from Julliard. Chances are that she's done more research into early music than most of us here put together. Well, once we shared a program that included me playing solo Bach. I was pleasantly surprised when she later particularly complimented me on my Bach. I didn't think it would be to her taste. Folks, you'll just have to trust me on this - or not - she's a very honest person, no apple-polisher and a woman of few words. If she said it she meant it. Go figure. As I've said before, more important than period Bach is Bach, period. To be continued...

June 30, 2017, 2:53 PM · Now, drum roll please... I think I'll express a few more thoughts and then end my contributions here. I'm tiring of this thread and maybe this thread is tiring of me! (A bit more humor. Apparently I need to hold up a sign. I really do get lots of laughs in person!) But seriously...

A basic way to look at this issue could start like this: We can ask a basic question - can we know exactly how people played music in Bach's time (or any time prior to recordings)? I would say that up to a point we can and beyond that point we can't. I'm reminded of the subject of the Big Bang in astrophysics. Apparently, scientists at this point feel confident that they know what the early universe was like in the minutest fraction of a second after the Bang - but know nothing before that, let alone before the Bang. And it seems that this is very significant. I'm reminded of one of those paradoxes of the ancient Greek philosopher, Zeno: you can seemingly sub-divide the space you want to go to the point that motion, itself seems impossible! Well, back to early music - we have a number of documents, yes. And they are very interesting. But they, too are subject to interpretation. Frederick Newmann, in his excellent book, "Performance Practices of the 17th and 18th Centuries" goes into that. Heck, some of the things I've posted here in the last few days have been misinterpreted! There's just a limit to how many documents will yet be found and what they will yield.

The next question would be - can we possibly know how Bach and others would have wanted their music to be played for all time? Of course not! Particularly when it comes to the media used, one very reasonable inference that we can draw from Bach selling Silberman pianos - if we are to grant him musical integrity beyond his composing - is that he was open to change. Yes, he criticized Silberman's pianos at first - NOT on the grounds that those sounds were not what he heard when he wrote his keyboard music up to that point, but because the treble was too weak. Silberman was hurt at first but then decided that Bach was right. He made improvements, asked Bach to come again and this time the Master approved.

more to come...

Edited: July 1, 2017, 4:25 AM · The next important question to consider is what was the overall attitude to music in the 18th century? It's a broad question, but my research has shown me that they wanted the next new thing. This is a major aspect of why Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn, and Mozart were so prolific. What, Haydn's symphony no. 43 again? That was so 5 minutes ago! The idea of going back to the past and trying to reproduce it as closely as possible was absolutely foreign in the 18th century! Mozart thought nothing of adding clarinets to the score of Handel's "Messiah". I don't happen to like it - not on "authenticity" grounds but as a matter of personal taste. But that's just me. So if we are concerned to a reactionary degree to reproduce 18th cent. music to the last possible degree, we are actually foisting a late 20th and early 21st cent. sensibility onto 18th cent. music!

Another important point to make is this: We can never completely put ourselves into 18th cent. shoes. (I think those heels would have hurt me, anyway!) Like it or not, we are of our time and place. We can't pretend that we haven't heard or played the tons of music that we have, which was written since then, seen the art, read the books watched the tv shows and movies, used the technology, experienced the social mores of our time, etc. etc. Which is why certain gestures, nuances etc. - even if we got them right - had a certain effect on folks of that time that they can't have on us. And to try to do so beyond a certain point is very artificial.

I will say again that I know that many of the folks that like to play or listen to music in a "period style" are very sincere. But as I have demonstrated, many have been misled by fake information. If you want to be historically informed, then really BE historically informed. And many leaders of the trend are part of a real movement. And movements have agendas. Some will say that they are just doing their thing. And some are. With others, that claim is very disingenuous. And too many mainstreamers have been cowed. I refuse to be one of them.

Well, this has been some good, clean polemical fun! As I take my leave I'm reminded of something that crusty old Brahms once said when leaving a party: "If there's anyone I haven't insulted, I apologize!" (More humor, btw, or more of a push to the gallows!)

But before I go, some counter, counter correctives next:

Edited: July 1, 2017, 4:26 AM · https://youtu.be/JmxPvtvgtY

especially for this discussion the Vivaldi on trk 8 but almost everything G, touches is gold



Is this playing "authentic? If playing deeply and beautifully in a way that transcends time and place is authentic, then performances like these are beyond authentic

If anyone can listen to selections like these and their heart doesn't (to borrow from Hamlet) melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew - then they are made of sterner stuff than I am - or would want to be.

June 30, 2017, 6:53 PM · I don't believe Bach sold pianos, no. Your source is presumably suspect as is most of your opinion on early music. The idea that we don't know exactly how they played then so we shouldn't even try is ludicrous. Plus period performances just tend to sound better. Maybe you should stick to 20th century literature, and leave the rest to experts on their era.
Edited: June 30, 2017, 7:41 PM · If you're still around William, thanks for starting this thread. I've discovered some groups I'd not heard before.

Just discovered this too: Ensemble Mattheus

They're part of an interesting staged Messiah:

June 30, 2017, 9:06 PM · To return to the original topic: I like Herreweghe's Bach the best out of them all; the St Matthew Passion discs may be my favorite album period. And, I think violin solo stuff is quite good.
July 1, 2017, 5:36 AM · @Jeewon, my turn to go off topic a bit, LOL

@Raphael, you made very good points about the limits of historically informed performances. We can't really know what music sounded like 200 to 400 years ago. I give for example modern performances of Vivaldi's sacred music written for the girls of the Pieta. While there have been some very good performances in recent years we have no idea what the originals sounded like because the very building the originals were held in is no longer in existence.

So I agree with you, we can get close maybe but not all the way, baring possession of a time machine.

Edited: July 1, 2017, 7:43 AM · We know what Bach didn't do, he didn't use modern violins, he didn't use modern instruments, he didn't use pianos, he didn't use chinrests, shoulder rests or steel strings, he didn't use as much vibrato, his trills didn't start on the lower note, his orchestras weren't as big, he didn't use as much vibrato etc etc etc. To think none of this is important is the epitome of ignorance.
July 1, 2017, 8:20 AM · Mr Taylor - a simple question: Do you only sell violins/violas etc that are set up as Baroque instruments?
July 1, 2017, 8:33 AM · no, I cater to players of all eras, including modern, baroque and transitional.
Edited: July 1, 2017, 8:57 AM · I've restored quite a few baroque and transitional set up violins, although I've mostly wholesaled them to a top dealer in LA that has more customers for them than I do.
July 1, 2017, 9:22 AM · So you sell modern set up violins even though you hate the sound they make and the modern way of playing them. Is this not double standards?
Edited: July 1, 2017, 11:31 AM · I never said I hate modern violin music, I happen to love Stravinsky, but for baroque and renaissance music I prefer original instruments, I also like to hear classical era music on transitional instruments, no double standard, except perhaps by you.
July 1, 2017, 10:39 AM · Only perhaps?
July 1, 2017, 2:11 PM ·
Edited: July 1, 2017, 8:31 PM · I have no objection to people trying to discern how music was played in the distant past by means of scholarship and then to trying to replicate that. I only object when they insist I should do the same otherwise I'm playing it "incorrectly." Inauthentic is not automatically incorrect.

Wendy Carlos proved Bach transcends instrumentation. Perhaps hers is a bit of an extreme demonstration, but I think you would be hard pressed to determine the length of the fingerboard used in a recording with only the audio. And you may even find it difficult to hear what kind of bow they're using. I bet Hilary Hahn can do everything with her bow that anyone else can do with a baroque bow.

As for me, I think I'll ask my luthier to make the last few cm of my fingerboard detachable so that do both ...

July 1, 2017, 8:50 PM · Hillary Hahn can't play 4 note chords with her modern bow.
July 1, 2017, 11:44 PM · I would be interested to hear a modern instrument with full gut and a baroque bow played side by side with a period instrument, by the same person. How much of a difference would there be? And really, same but with a modern bow on first instrument as well. I wonder how much of the tonal difference is mostly the strings and then the bow as well.
July 2, 2017, 12:47 AM · Modern bows DO play 4 note chords but in a different way to the old antique bows. We need to establish facts rather than just argue for arguments sake.
July 2, 2017, 1:04 AM · An arpeggio is not the same as a chord, peter.

As to the differences between baroque violin and modern about 50% of the difference has to do with the strings, the other 50% has to do with the construction differences between the two, shorter bass bar, shorter scale, flatter arch to the bridge, wedged fingerboard etc, make the baroque violin respond differently as does the baroque bow.

July 2, 2017, 1:05 AM · How? I cant bow all 4 strings at the same time. You can of course hit the base than play the 3 higher, but thats not the same as playing a 4 note chord.
July 2, 2017, 1:24 AM · On a baroque violin the bridge curvature is usually less than the modern violin, though many hipsters ignore this when setting up their "baroque" violins. Then the bow bows slightly outwards but under hard pressure the bow bows out even more, effectively loosening the tension on the bow hair, (not tightening it like the modern violin) this allows the bow hairs to curve over the lower curve of the strings playing all four or three notes at once, a chord, not an arpeggio.

Unfortunately many people have the mistaken idea of baroque bows from Chinese products which bow inwards like a modern bow, not outwards like a proper baroque bow.

Edited: July 2, 2017, 5:34 AM · Reverting to the OP's original post I would mention the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra as being high on my list, based on their video of the 6 Brandenburgs. Also Il Giardino Armonico (mentioned before). Two different approaches, one Germanic, the other Italian, but both valid. I wouldn't forget Amandine Beyer (French), either.

Performed Brandenburg 4 last night in concert. I think mine was the only concession to a non-modern approach, and that inconspicuously in the seconds - no SR, a couple of gut strings, and a snakewood replica late 18th century bow, all standard for me.

Edited: July 2, 2017, 4:24 AM · Whilst I do agree about the bows and chords, of course playing two notes and then the top two in quick succession is not much different from a pianist rolling chords where they are too difficult, or too many notes to fit the hand, or people who have to do that because of small hands and lack of stretch.

Then there are people who prefer the chords to be played in that way. It is not so completely black and white. Fast music is also easy on a baroque fiddle, whereas slow music provides problems such as sustaining power as well as lack of legato and of course ugly pear shaped notes and thin sound.

But each to their own. No one is saying (I hope) that both cannot exist side by side. I have a preference, others may have different preferences - and that is all to the good.

I come bearing gifts of friendship. We have to exist and co-exist in some sort of chordal harmony.

July 2, 2017, 6:33 AM · Pray tell what possible reason would there be for a baroque violin to be deficient for legato and sustain, sustain of the notes after you stop bowing is not considered a plus for the violin.
July 2, 2017, 6:44 AM · Lyndon, of course I was talking about modern bows. Some theories even think of bows that get tension control by thumb to lessen the tension for chords with many strings.
Legato sustain is hard, bowing close to the bridge is not the same, the violinn needs a bit more bow and it is a shorter bow. Of course this is one of the baroque violin "issues".
I own both, baroque and modern equipment, I do prefer the modern equip in general, but there is music where I heavily favour the baroque violin.
Edited: July 2, 2017, 1:28 PM · For solo Bach I'll concede you the 4-note chords. But there are a lot of works that do not have any. You should, on the other hand, concede that Hilary Hahn does not need to saw off the last bit of the fingerboard on her Vuillaume play Corelli Sonatas passably.
Edited: July 2, 2017, 3:16 PM · I think this debate, while fascinating and going in multiple directions (and off the original topic) is simply not capable of resolution. My relative, Wanda Landowska, who was pretty much the popularizer of period performance/HIP, was at one end of the spectrum, telling Casals during a discussion of how to play a passage in Bach: "that's fine dear. You play Bach your way, and I'll play Bach his way." One the other end is my teacher who said once, "I have a hard time imagining Bach objecting to his music being played in any way that makes it sound beautiful."

All that said, I understand there are certain things that were written to be played in a particular way on the pianoforte but cannot be played in the same way on a modern Steinway. In addition, I have noticed that almost all violinists, and even a violinist as un-HIP as David Oistrakh, recorded/record the Bach Sonatas for violin and continuo with a harpsichordist, presumably in part because the harpsichord is able to give a very precise articulation of the notes which I do not find really available with the piano.

So, ....

July 2, 2017, 5:27 PM · @Tom Holtzman,
"One the other end is my teacher who said once, 'I have a hard time imagining Bach objecting to his music being played in any way that makes it sound beautiful.'"

Words of wisdom and possibly the same for the other Baroque composers.

July 2, 2017, 6:02 PM · Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.... or in this case in the ear(s) of the listener.
We learn what is beautiful and what is not. Therefore, if we stop learning , we are deprived of more beauty in our life!
I am still surprised by vitriol of some posters here, despite efforts to calm the discussion and bring it back to the subject. I look forward to post # 100 so we can move on.
Edited: July 3, 2017, 12:05 AM · I am still surprised by vitriol of some posters here, despite efforts to calm the discussion and bring it back to the subject. I look forward to post # 100 so we can move on.

Rocky, I do not often disagree with you, but on this occasion I think "vitriol" has not happened (unless you are referring to only one poster). I would say that the posts have been passionate, although we have gone off topic quite a lot, I would agree.

I've tried to defuse the situation somewhat (which may be unusual for me!) but to no avail.

I do think we need a specific thread that discusses HIP versus MODERN in a civilised way, that does not denigrate posters because they have opposing views. Making blanket statements and saying people are crazy for not loving or hating something gets us nowhere.

(I'm not aiming this at you, by the way).

July 3, 2017, 9:59 AM · Instead of going to all this trouble to justify your behaviour, why not just stop trolling in the first place, then we wouldn't have all these problems, you've been way off topic, and incendiary to those that are on topic, that's the definition of trolling, maybe you need to move over to Maestronet or something, they seem to love trolls.

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