Historically informed performance

Edited: April 29, 2022, 5:11 AM · Hi all,
Does anyone have any suggestions for resources (books, YT videos etc.) on historically informed performance? I have no desire to be a HIP specialist, I just want to make sure when I play something that its stylistically appropriate.

Thanks in advance!

Replies (94)

April 29, 2022, 6:41 AM · Can you be specific about what repertoire you are interested in? Baroque? Classical? Bach only?
Edited: April 29, 2022, 7:44 AM · From two experts:
- The Interpretation of Early Music, by Robert Donington, Faber & Faber 1963, 766 pages!
- The Interpretation of Music, by Thurston Dart, Huthchinson University Library 1967, only a pitiful 190 pages..

They're a bit old, but then so am I.

Edited: April 29, 2022, 8:55 AM · And get Manze's Baerenreiter editions of Bach.

There are a lot of methodological problems - the ancients didn't all agree, so HIP is cherry-picked, to some extent.

Also I'd expect books from the 1960s to be in danger of being outdated.

April 29, 2022, 8:42 AM · Susan, anything that falls umbrella. Anything and everything really
Edited: April 29, 2022, 9:59 AM · Seconding Gordon, HIP is cherry-picking. We cannot fully get back to the 18th century fully, nor should we attempt to do so: our hygiene, belief systems and way of life, to name a few impediments, stand in the way.

Listening analytically is a great way of informing yourself about HIP. Listen closely to the Menuhin/Ferras Bach double violin concerto and contrast it with almost any modern recording. What is different? Look out for any of the Brandenburgs as performed in the past by I Musici. What would be different nowadays? (Remind yourself that in the mid-sixties I Musici was the gold standard for baroque performance.) If you can find Sir Thomas Beecham’s recording of Haendel’s “Water Music” and “Royal Fireworks” it will be fun to put it alongside Hervé Niquet’s Proms performances which are available on YouTube.

Edited: April 29, 2022, 9:09 AM · Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Musik als Klangrede: Wege zu einem neuen Musikverständnis. Essays und Vorträge
Baroque Music Today: Music As Speech : Ways to a New Understanding of Music
Sorry, I have read only its Japanese edition.
April 29, 2022, 9:16 AM · I was curious about HIP and I found myself at a music camp last summer so I asked one of the teachers there to give me a few pointers. Within two 15- minute sessions, I think I grasped the basics. He's a violist and I had my viola along so I had my "HIP lesson" focused on the first two movement of the first gamba sonata. I appreciated what I learned, but I'm really not interested in pursuing HIP any further than that.
Edited: April 29, 2022, 10:00 AM · HIP styles evolve.
Landowska's mighty steel-strung Concert Grand harpsichord opened our ears to the new/old sound and allowed us to move towards the more subtle "real thing". As a choral scholar I had the immense privilege of singing in the "knabenchor" of Bach's St Matthew passion under..Otto Klemperer: ponderous, but entrancing! My very first LP was indeed Hamilton Harty's Water and Fireworks Music, beautifully performed.

Then we hear modern performances on period instruments: miserable tone and expression. Then we find how best to play them.

Comparing Casals' Bach with Yo-Yo Ma's I find that purist "HIP" has inspired "modern" players to lighter, bouncier playing, and modern recording transmits more colour and nuance, reducing the need for over-invasive vibrato.

I have "done" some HIP, and genuine baroque trumpets oboes etc are magical.

April 29, 2022, 4:51 PM · Nikolaus Harnoncourt
The Musical Dialogue: Thoughts on Monteverdi, Bach and Mozart
As additional information about Bach and Mozart.
April 29, 2022, 5:34 PM · Thanks all!
Edited: April 29, 2022, 6:06 PM · Actually Landowska's harpsichord was the quiet subtle instrument hence the term whisperchord, modern accurate copies are much louder and fuller in tone.
Edited: April 30, 2022, 5:10 AM · Wanda Landowska's recordings of Domenico Scarlatti achieve that guitar-like quality that evades so many pianists. Her style of harpsichord is also the right (authentic) sound for the Manuel de Falla concerto. Falla attended concerts that she gave in Granada in 1922.
Edited: April 30, 2022, 6:33 AM · Landowska's harpsichord was made by Pleyel, a piano manufacturer, they are horribly inauthentic instruments, but appropriate for de Falla, some orchestras rent them for 1920s harpsichord concertos
April 30, 2022, 12:05 PM · Barthold Kuijken, The Notation Is Not the Music: Reflections on Early Music Practice and Performance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013).

Bruce Haynes, The End of Early Music: A Period Performer’s History of Music for the 21st Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Edited: May 1, 2022, 6:17 AM · HIP is a bit of a moving target. Probably the rallying cry that best sums it up was an exchange between Landowska (full disclosure: a relative of mine) and Casals when disagreeing over how to play a trill in a Bach piece they were rehearsing. After they could not agree, Landowska said: "that's fine, dear. You play Bach your way and I'll play Bach his way." The problem is that "his way" is not easy to summarize, and there is plenty of disagreement among specialists. The instruments were different from modern instruments, e.g., baroque bows and the setup, and that can make a big difference in playing style. There were a number of conventions that seem to have been somewhat widespread, e.g., more use of open strings. Tuning was all over the map. And, that's just the beginning. How far to take HIP, if you are not trying to be what passes for totally authentic, is a fraught question; there is plenty of room for choice. Good luck!
May 1, 2022, 6:47 AM · Tom, round here you could dine out on the connection!

There’s an aspect of HIP that we haven’t mentioned, and that’s the joie de vivre that comes across in so many HIP groups. Anybody who doesn’t hasn’t yet discovered them should check out ARPEGGIATA and APOLLO’S FIRE on YouTube.

May 1, 2022, 10:14 AM · I agree with Richard. When you watch HIP groups perform, the violinists are always very kinetic. Not so much the cellists, of course. I believe they are trying to create kind of a "minstrels of yore" vibe for their audience. I'd wager they don't practice like that, swaying gaily and smiling at each other all the time.
Edited: May 1, 2022, 6:48 PM · Violinists might also be interested in the following:

Reiter, Walter. The Baroque Violin & Viola: A Fifty-Lesson Course, Volume I and II. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020

Ritchie, Stanley. Before the Chinrest: A Violinist’s Guide to the Mysteries of Pre-Chinrest Technique and Style. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012.

Ritchie, Stanley. The Accompaniment in “Unaccompanied” Bach: Interpreting the Sonatas and Partitas for Violin. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016.

Edited: May 1, 2022, 8:56 PM · Back 20-30 years ago, HIP was called ‘period performance.’ It’s hard to know exactly what these composers wanted, so I do think the term ‘historically informed’ is a little presumptuous.

I don’t listen to a whole lot of HIP/period performances, but when I do, I do like the English Concert, directed by Trevor Pinnock. They’ve recorded a few albums for Deutsche Grammophon. Their interpretation of Handel’s Water Music is very good in my opinion.

Edited: May 2, 2022, 2:54 AM · I think "historically informed" is a pretty good term. It means the performers have taken historical information on board but don't necessarily believe that their performance is correct or "authentic" (very bad term!). An actual "period performance" of course is unachievable.

I also love Trevor Pinnock's English Concert recordings on DG but they're getting on for 40 years old now and to my ears sound somewhat "period" (the 1980's!) as compared with current HIP practice.

May 2, 2022, 7:32 AM · When I was 11 I had a house tutor who was a recorder virtuoso, and he told us to pay attention to Bach Goes to Town (or something very much like it was in the charts round about then), as baroque music was meant to swing. That's probably all you need to know about HIP.
(Well, it will do for the fast movements. I've got some slow Corelli with a Geminiani variation on it, and annoyingly it's impossible to replicate bow directions in each, which is partly why I accuse HIP of cherry-picking)
May 2, 2022, 2:23 PM · HIP is 100% cherry picking -- this is a basic tenet within Early Music. Which national style do we pick, from which time period? We don't snip off body parts anymore to create castrati. Hmmm. Is the HIP community broadly performing in a created amalgam of choices that would probably sound foreign to listeners of the past? Very likely.

A growing number of musicians are already shifting from the Historical Informed Performance label towards Historically Inspired Performance or Cultural Informed Performance.

Nate is right in that "‘historically informed’ is a little presumptuous" -- it implies that non-HIP folks are uninformed (which may be true in many case, but that's for another discussion), but this problem has already been addressed Taruskin and othes some three decades ago.

But kudos to the OP for seeking out different perspectives -- that's how our artform stays alive and grow.

May 2, 2022, 3:46 PM · Sure, Dorian, but a well-timed kick can help with some of those high notes.
May 2, 2022, 3:59 PM · Dorian, I like your thinking!

I tend toward the PIP approach (Personally Inspired Performance). It reminds me of the early 1980s when I first discovered the piano playing of Ivan Morovec (Czech pianist) whose performance of Beethoven's 4th piano concerto was so idiosyncratic that I could not recognize it no mater how many times I listened to (even though all the notes were still there). But I loved his playing (great Chopin!).

It's the approach I took when studying the Bach Cello Suites in my early 70s. I played them the way they felt right to me and then I listened to recordings of great cellists to see who agreed with me. Some did and some did not. I have just checked and find 16 recordings of the Suites in iTunes library (guess I checked out more performers than I remembered). I confess - I never even tried the 6th Suite!

May 2, 2022, 4:24 PM · I may be wrong about the composer and the violinist, but I vaguely recall an anecdote about (I think) Brahms, who was in the audience for a performance by a famous violinist (Sorry, I don't remember who) of the Concerto. After the performance he said to the violinist: "So, it can be played that way, too."

Well, whether true or not, I'm sure that that's what the reaction might be by any composer.

Edited: May 3, 2022, 1:27 AM · It's telling that the HIP movement has so far paid little attention to the earliest period for which actual acoustic evidence exists, e.g.
Wonderfully skilful as it is, it appears nobody wants to play like that any more. If we could hear some of the great performers of the 19th century we'd probably LOL.
May 3, 2022, 4:32 AM · hi Steve, I don't think that playing sounds so anachronistic, except for the slides? there is a continuous vibrato, for example. and a very full tone.
May 3, 2022, 5:11 AM · @Jean - it's the slides that nobody would dare do today. I can see why because they aren't convincingly "vocal" and don't seem to have any musical justification when applied so liberally. Surely there must be a HIP violinist out there who's not afraid to camp it up in the name of "authenticity"?
May 3, 2022, 5:39 AM · I am surprised there has been no mention of primary sources.

Autographs of composers. Historical treatises on performance practice

Leopold Mozart’s
Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule

HIP comes from these sources, other accounts, and surviving instruments.

Edited: May 4, 2022, 7:13 AM · Michael - the primary sources are important but limited in many ways, in particular, the problem of variation in practices depending on location. I think the term "cherry-picking" captures the issue nicely. Leopold Mozart did write a book about violin practice, but who knows how well it captures general trends. It is certainly his view of violin playing during that era, but what did they do in Paris, London or Rome? For that matter, what did others in Salzburg do? There is certainly some evidence, and it is fair for HIP musicians to rely on that evidence, but there has to be some humility in the process, a recognition of the limitations.
Edited: May 3, 2022, 11:25 AM · From the late 19th century into the early years of the 20th Jan Kubelik, along with Ysaye, Joachim, Sarasate, and Kreisler, was one of the outstanding virtuosi of his day. He was a pupil of Sevcik at the Prague Conservatory, practicing 10 hours a day (hint!). On his recordings, several of which are on YouTube, he played his Guaneri or one of his two Stradivari, which in those days would have been more accessible than they are today. He was the father of the conductor Rafael Kubelik.

Slides, to some degree, come through on these recordings, one of which is his own cadenza to Paganini 1, and it can be reasonably concluded it was a common practice in his day, and does not necessarily reflect the styles of preceding eras, for which, of course, we have no acoustic evidence.

Jan Kubelik composed six violin concertos and a handful of salon pieces. Two of his salon pieces, together with Concerto no.1 in C, are available on IMSLP (scores only and no modern recordings on IMSLP).

May 3, 2022, 10:43 AM · Jan Kubelik's slides tell us that performance practices that were accepted, even admired in one era may be considered ridiculous in another. Unfortunately to my ears it seems that some present day HIP specialists are happy to sound grotesque. I came across an example on BBC Radio 3 just a few hours ago. Many may disagree, but it shows there's only a short hop from the beautiful (in the estimation of listeners as well as performers) to the hideous.
May 3, 2022, 11:39 AM · It occurs to me that there is the possibility that slides in the old days could have been a result of the absence of our modern add-ons, specifically
chinrests (from 1820 onwards) and shoulder rests (post WW2). I say "possibility" because it is quite practicable, and comfortable, to play the violin without the add-ons, and without slides.
May 3, 2022, 11:52 AM · Steve - can you give some detail about the Radio 3 grotesqueries? No need for names, a description of the HIP practice that offended you would be interesting.
Edited: May 3, 2022, 12:07 PM · Steve, can you give me the approximate time of broadcast of the Radio 3 example to which you referred, please? With that information I should be able to listen to it on the BBC's playback feature "BBC Sounds".
Edited: May 3, 2022, 12:43 PM · I don't think I can answer both questions without disclosing crucial clues as to the identity of the performers! Richard - turning on the radio in the midst of a performance by a piano trio I really thought I was listening to some parody concerning a cat. The wailing violin sound (of course without a trace of vibrato) started with an exaggerated attack and continued with a huge bulge towards the end of every long note. After a minute or so it dawned on me - this is Beethoven!

So Trevor, to remove any possible uncertainty the time was about 1.15pm...

May 3, 2022, 12:57 PM · Thanks for the vivid description Steve. Yes, it sounds somewhere between horrific and comic. The vibrato issue is an interesting one, and it sounds as though your 'Katze Trio' should not (yet?) have mounted that bandwagon. By way of pleasant contrast though, I recently heard the Cuarteto Cosmos in Schubert, Ravel and Othmar Schoeck, and they seemed to use a light, judicious vibrato that highlighted their impeccable tuning. In all honesty, if I practise without vibrato, I am much more in the school of your piano trio.
May 3, 2022, 1:47 PM · Fire away, Steve. If they're pros they don't care about our opinions anyway.
May 3, 2022, 4:01 PM · Re: Steve Jones, who said, "Jan Kubelik's slides tell us that performance practices that were accepted, even admired in one era may be considered ridiculous in another. Unfortunately to my ears it seems that some present day HIP specialists are happy to sound grotesque. Unfortunately to my ears it seems that some present day HIP specialists are happy to sound grotesque ..."

For those who don't know what Jan Kubelik sounds like:


The mainstream performance tradition has lost a lot of timbral variety favoring cleanliness and splice-able takes. We can all learn a lot from Kubelik, Marie Soldat, and all those great violinists of another era. They don't sound grotesque to me. Our ears just has another set of aesthetics (one that is often rather predictable for me of often times...)

May 3, 2022, 4:17 PM · Like it or not, nobody slides like that today! I see a marketing niche for someone.
Edited: May 4, 2022, 1:14 AM · It's a very interesting discussion.
I prefer a modern bow(holding it short as appropriate) to a baroque bow in combination with a modern instrument.
May 4, 2022, 11:23 AM · Ritchie's "Before the Chinrest" is less useful as a summary of what is known about period performance practice than it is as a documentation of the personal approach of an individual who has been highly influential on HIP bowed strings in the US.
May 4, 2022, 5:50 PM · Singers and instrumentalists in the past centuries didn't vibrate as constantly with wide amplitude as we do today — the father and son Mozarts would probably be bewildered listening to Itzhak Perlman, perhaps saying, "Nobody uses vibrato like that in our time!" just like Steve saying about Kubelik et al., "Nobody slides like that today!"

We are all conditioned by what we are used to hearing, no? Perhaps the spirit of HIP is opening up our ears to appreciate other possibilities of bygone eras. Marketing niche? Absolutely -- that has always been the lifeblood of the Early Music Revival movement.

Andres, I agree very much with your assessment on Ritchie's tome.

Edited: May 4, 2022, 6:48 PM · I think the evidence from the baroque period is that vibrato was used as an ornament, not on every note, also there's plenty of historical evidence for how the ornaments were meant to be played, and it is quite different from the modern interpretation. The other thing is that the music was quite free on the beat, not a strict every note equal length but rather notes delayed and speeded up to add a beat to the music, baroque music is very rhythmic oriented and influenced by dance movements, to ignore all this and interpret say Bach by modern standards is the epitome of ignorance and stupidity.
May 4, 2022, 8:11 PM · I feel curious discontinuities between 18th and 19th century.
Edited: May 5, 2022, 10:00 AM · Jean-Jacques Rousseau's 18th century writings on music, including his Dictionary of Music, are available for download on IMSLP. In the dictionary, I looked for a mention of violin vibrato, but I couldn't find one. He included an entry for "Tremblement", a tremolo effect where the same note would be beated several times with the same stroke of the bow, creating a sound that would imitate the tremulant of an organ. But he indicated that the technique was no longer in use in his time.
May 4, 2022, 11:22 PM · https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEGilsfGTXM&t=229s
I have seen these performances. But I apply vibrato for unbroken turning into the following trill.
Edited: May 5, 2022, 2:52 AM · Groveling apology - somewhere up above I said terrible things about a broadcast of a HIP performance of Beethoven. Today, listening from the start rather than tuning in at a random moment, it sounds fine!
Edited: May 5, 2022, 3:21 AM · This is a series of three books by the ABRSM. 1. Baroque; 2. Classical; 3.Romantic. I recommend them.
May 5, 2022, 7:18 AM · Raymond - I’m wondering whether your “tremblement” is a violinistic imitation of the “gorgia” effect in renaissance singing. I can’t find anything about this ornament in books I have here, and no mention in my music dictionary, so I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ve dreamt the whole thing. Additionally, I have a question about whether baroque organs have a tremulant. I rather think that’s introduced with the mechanical blower system, much later, sort of César Franck era.

Steve - glad to hear that the trio made a better impression subsequently!

May 5, 2022, 7:24 AM · To rectify an element of exaggeration in the above...I have myself employed a gorgia in Caccini’s “Amarilli mia bella”.
Edited: May 7, 2022, 6:35 PM · In the Harnoncourt's two books that I mentioned above, there are brief descriptions about tremblement as a bow technique within the context of baroque and classical era. It looks like related to the organ register. Sorry again, I have only these Japanese editions.
May 5, 2022, 9:26 AM · Sounds like a nervous bow-arm affliction known here as "the purlies".
Edited: May 5, 2022, 11:35 AM · I've just remembered I have a copy of de Candé's Nouveau Dictionnaire de la Musique. Tremblement isn't in it.
The Oxford Companion to Music says tremblant is French for the tremulant of an organ. De Candé doesn't have that either. Harraps says tremblement is a tremolo. Le Petit Robert just describes tremblement in general physical/emotional terms, not in musical ones.

Larousse Pour Tous 1910 describes a tremblement as "Une cadence précipitée."
Your guess is as good as mine as to what that could mean.
"Tremblé" means played with an insecure hand. But left or right? It contains "vibration" but not "vibrato". Vibrato isn't in de Candé either.

The problem with many historical decriptions of intangibles is, they can be ambiguous.

The problem is, most things are described with reference to a baseline, and that is often undefined because taken for granted, and then the baseline shifts from one culture to another (or from one era to another) leaving the descriptions useless.

May 8, 2022, 3:51 AM · My recommendations to start to get into it would be:

1) The ABRSM books that Gordon Shumway mentioned above
2) "Baroque string playing for Ingenious Learners" by Judy Tarling
3) "Before the Chinrest" Ritchie

They're all quite accessible and the 2nd and 3rd are violin-focused and practical. I see Ritchie's come in for some criticism in this thread - I think Tarling's book is better but Ritchie is probably still worth having if you get into it.

Then, if you're feeling brave enough, you can look at the original documents by L. Mozart, Geminiani, Tartini and so on.


May 8, 2022, 10:40 PM · Tarling is a must-have book if you're going to dive deep into this. Hard to say whether it's a good choice in the OP's situation.
May 9, 2022, 7:01 AM · At the moment I'm reading Sheila M Nelson's The Violin and Viola. It's a Dover re-edition of a 1972 book with an update by the author in 2003. It's pretty dry, but it's fine and cheap.
Edited: May 13, 2022, 12:47 PM · I hope it’s not too late to reanimate the discussion on slides. I looked up Olive Fremstad on YouTube to follow up her name being mentioned in Alex Ross’s “Wagnerism”. Ross is not discussing her from the point of view of style, but I realized I had no idea what she sounded like. Among other things, I found a recording dating (according to the notes) from 1911, of Puccini’s Vissi d’arte, and was immediately struck by how cleanly, almost ecclesiastically, she sang the entire aria. I couldn’t find a modern soprano who sang the opening phrase without some sliding/scooping. This led me to listen again to Alessandro Moreschi’s version of the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria, which is I guess from the same era, where huge and alarming slides only serve to increase the whole tragic effect that the Moreschi recordings symbolize. I am wondering how such a wide variety of stylistic choice comes about, and whether there were violinists from early in the C20 who eschewed sliding.
May 13, 2022, 11:47 AM · If you want to play in a historically informed manner, get a baroque bow.

It will practically force you to change your bowings and articulations. For example, you will be less likely to hook--you won't need to. You will be less likely to play with the kind of frog-to-tip sustain we use in today.
You may try to emulate a modern bow in the beginning, but will eventually change as it becomes evident that it won't work.

Edited: May 13, 2022, 9:09 PM · Exactly. A baroque bow works very well by itself.
May 14, 2022, 10:25 AM · Hajiime - as you have previously indicated, holding a regular bow somewhat above the frog (shortening it, in effect) allows one to approximate the effect of a baroque bow. Obviously, not perfect or authentic, but it is fairly close.
May 14, 2022, 10:53 AM · Alessandro Moreschi -- yes! Fascinating case of last castrato on recording.

"...holding a regular bow somewhat above the frog (shortening it, in effect) allows one to approximate the effect of a baroque bow."

It may be a fun short exercise, but I respectfully discourage people do that for the long haul. You get the worst of both worlds. Hold any bow the way it's designed to be held. If one is genuinely interested in Baroque bow strokes, get the right equipment.

Edited: May 14, 2022, 5:48 PM · Dorian - if you are going to become a baroque nerd, you obviously want a baroque bow. If you are playing in a community orch, and you have a baroque piece such as the Messiah, using a regular bow in the manner suggested works fine.

Last night, at the Library of Congress, we saw a concert by a violinist named Johnny Gandelsman. He is recording the Bach Cello Suites on violin (transcribed, obviously), and he played one of them for us using the technique I described. He did a wonderful job, and he was able to get the effect quite well, even giving the suites a spin I had never heard. So, you can be a pro, and use the technique.

Edited: May 14, 2022, 12:52 PM · I remember very well a performance in Berkeley by the Philharmonia Baroque orchestra earlier this century where some of the violinists held their bows further from the frog (in the manner described above).

What I remember most about that concert (besides some of the bow holds), however, was the "ophicleide", an early 19th century precursor of the tuba, that had stops similar to those on today's saxophone instruments - and the way it sounded in Mendelssohn's "Midsummer Night's Dream Incidental Music". Really gorgeous deep bass sound - like nothing I ever heard before.

Edited: May 14, 2022, 2:52 PM · @Hajime Eda "I feel curious discontinuities between 18th and 19th century."
I wonder if this could have due in part to the advent of the Tourte bow at that time?

Dorian, I would suggest, following on from Tom Holzman's advice, that you also learn to play without a shoulder rest. Further, I would add playing without a chinrest. This can be more challenging and probably requires some face-to-face help in the early stages, but the end result is a relaxed playing style that pays dividends across all violin playing.

Edited: May 15, 2022, 9:26 AM · Trevor, thanks for your mention of my previous post. I want to add the names of the two composers, Beethoven and Paganini.
I don't feel a kind of necessity of "almost no vibrato" and "holding a bow short" with their pieces.
May 15, 2022, 9:24 AM · To my mind, the 'discontinuity' between 18th and 19th centuries is probably less than people think it is.

In the mid-18th century composers (particularly Italians) are writing violin music in a vocal, sostenuto style. Tartini often that isn't that different to Viotti, Viotti isn't that different to Mozart, Mozart isn't that different to Beethoven, Mendelssohn isn't that different to Beethoven - at least in terms of how the violin is used. You can hear the gradual evolution of style between them.

I also find it quite possible to play much classical and early-Romantic repertoire with a Baroque bow. That is not to say that one should. You can't do true spiccato, and staccato is virtually impossible. But you can actually sustain fine with a Baroque bow, as well as using sautille bowing.

To me all this suggests a gradual shift in tastes, a gradual shift in equipment, a gradual shift in technique - and certainly not a scenario where the miraculous arrival of the Tourte bow heralded an everlasting change (which is the way some people seem to talk about it).

May 15, 2022, 10:27 AM · Thank you Chris. It's a cogent comment. I want to study more.
May 15, 2022, 1:29 PM · I disagree that playing without a shoulder rest does anything, especially if someone is used to using it. In that case, it will make them tense, not relaxed.

The idea that a shoulder rest is "too modern" and somehow "verboten" is less a productive thing and more of a mannerism that period players have copied from each other as part of their schtick.

I'm not anti-period performance and have spent plenty of time doing it. I just think forcing oneself to play without a shoulder rest often has more to do with conformism than music making.

May 15, 2022, 2:04 PM · Scott, I agree. And if not using a shoulder rest is a requirement, that shuts out those of us who must use one.
May 15, 2022, 4:12 PM · @Scott @Ann - Amen! I would hope that HIP is more than about having equipment that precisely conforms to that used during the Early Music/Baroque period. What I know of as the main elements of the period, e.g., use of a baroque bow, use of gut strings, use of open strings, performance of ornaments in certain ways, has very little to do with the instrument itself.
May 15, 2022, 7:56 PM · And then don't forget also to saw off the last couple of inches of your fingerboard.
May 15, 2022, 7:57 PM · Tom, I would think that the important things would be ones that affect the sound such as bow and strings. I don't think my leaving off my shoulder rest would affect my sound other than making the instrument unplayable (though some of my neighbors might think that's a good thing, ha ha).
May 15, 2022, 7:57 PM · Paul, Ow! Short scale Hildie screams!
May 15, 2022, 7:59 PM · Trevor — yes! I do play without a chin rest or shoulder rest as a baroque violinist. In fact I often perform with the violin below the collarbone or on the arm for late-Renaissance or early-Seicento music. It's remarkably freeing and one hears differently.
Edited: May 16, 2022, 4:25 AM · I like to use no shoulder rest and use a stuff around a tailpiece(e.g. chinrests or tied cloth) for the stability of downward shifts and vibratos. But I guess it depends on body types to some degree.
May 16, 2022, 1:48 PM · Re. vibrato, it's hard to really say what 18th Century ears would think of Itzhak Perlman's style (nor does it really matter since many 20th and 21st Century ears are quite pleased with it)... but worth mentioning that I remember reading Geminiani advocated continuous vibrato, and Leopold Mozart complained about people who used it (suggesting that there were some in his area also playing that way). 'Cherry picking' is the right term!
May 17, 2022, 2:52 AM · Yeah, a lot is said about vibrato (on both 'sides' of the debate) that isn't that interesting or helpful.

I think the verifiable facts about vibrato are roughly as follows:

1) The modern approach of 'everyone should do continuous vibrato on everything' dates from roughly the 1920s, and was probably brought about by early broadcast and recording technology
2) By the 1980s, continuous vibrato was so deeply ingrained that when period performance researchers said "hey let's try it without vibrato" this was such a radical departure that vibrato was seen as the defining issue of the whole thing
3) From about 1650 to 1920 actual practice with vibrato varied widely; sometimes it was conceived as a sort of ornament, sometimes it was used to add expression to a melodic line, sometimes it was broad, sometimes it was narrow. All of those are valid options!

May 17, 2022, 9:30 AM · A big factor in whether or not to use vibrato is projection and the size of modern concert halls. Most modern soloists must play concerti to make a living—you can’t play loudly without vibrato.

Violin vibrato probably parallels the development of the very wide operatic style as halls and pit orchestras got larger.
Modern violins with metal strings also encourage the use of vibrato.

May 17, 2022, 9:58 AM · the whole point of HIP performance is to try not to incorporate moderns style but to be true to what we know about period practice, of which we know quite a bit
Edited: May 17, 2022, 4:43 PM · From another viewpoint, I feel a kind of difference of chemistry between bow types(material, length...) and vibrato types.
Edited: May 17, 2022, 11:28 AM · One aspect of HIP practice that is accessible to all is to present performance with more, bounce, crispness, athletic spring....I’m reaching for the right term...at least for renaissance and baroque music. Less accessible, because more expensive, is the need for different instruments and bows, as this short video illustrates. The solution of holding the modern bow short is practical for amateurs certainly, but I have also seen it in symphony orchestras that want to keep Bach, Handel and Vivaldi in their programmes.


May 17, 2022, 9:17 PM · Do orchestra pros really choke up on their bows when it's Baroque stuff on their stands?
Edited: May 19, 2022, 4:21 AM · "1) The modern approach of 'everyone should do continuous vibrato on everything' dates from roughly the 1920s, and was probably brought about by early broadcast and recording technology"

According to Sheila Nelson, recording and broadcasting merely made faster, narrower vibrato "more fashionable" than that of Kreisler and Sarasate, whose vibrato was, in turn, broader and slower (and sounded horrible when miked - Kreisler changed his style as a result) than that which came before them.

May 18, 2022, 4:31 AM · Paul, I’ve seen it a couple of times, both in Haendel, coincidentally. Unless it’s my eyes deceiving me.
May 18, 2022, 6:56 AM · https://youtu.be/B0AIJkGgLzA
I like this solution in terms of tone color, but it isn't seen in many cases as of now.
May 19, 2022, 4:07 AM · @Hajime - are you referring to the bowhold those players are using? I think that's the regular 'Russian school' bowhold, not anything Baroque-specific. Though I may be wrong...
May 19, 2022, 7:04 AM · https://youtu.be/wHvM4PFudLU
You can play the movies in slow motion, as you know. And I'll enumerate other instances.
May 19, 2022, 8:01 AM · I sometimes do this on bad, clumsy mornings when my heavier bow wants to thump the strings. (My lighter bow only tries to thump.)

I find HIP has also helped me to discover other composers. While Bach and Scarlatti sound great on the piano, Rameau and Couperin really need the specific sound of the harpsichord. Similarly Bach can be played many ways on the cello, but Couperin and Marin Marais only work on the viola da gamba.

May 19, 2022, 12:22 PM · I am in the unusual situation of being an adult learner of violin who decided almost from the start to focus on baroque music, especially 17th century. I wasted about 4 years "teaching myself" but then found a fantastic violin teacher who specializes in early music. After only a few monthly lessons, the covid shutdown also shut down my lessons, until a few months ago when I stopped resisting zoom lessons so now we have a weekly lesson. Next month will be my first in-person lesson since 2019!

Books and videos on baroque violin playing usually assume one has already had modern training, but I don't have such habits to change. She's using me to test pilot her baroque violin pedagogy under development, maybe to someday become a baroque method. Imagine a Suzuki-like method for baroque violin. Right now in my elementary fundamental stage we've been working on holding the violin and bow so the instrument resonates as the bow falls via arm weight, etc.

My musical goals include someday playing some 17th century violin sonatas with a keyboard and/or lute and/or gamba as continuo. Just in local taverns of course.

Edited: May 19, 2022, 12:30 PM · Will, there are existing Suzuki-like books ("methods"?) for Fiddle (Wicklund), Americana (O'Connor), and probably other genres, so I don't see why a baroque-oriented pedagogy shouldn't work too. Of course the Suzuki sequence is already heavily baroque-oriented (lots of Bach ditties from the Anna Magdalena Notebook, etc.), so your teacher would have to distinguish her pedagogy from that. Inasmuch as vibrato is not generally introduced until the learner is pretty well along (a couple of years or more for most children), I'm not sure what else would be different at the beginner level.

Someday I would love to hear you playing your violin in a tavern!!

May 20, 2022, 10:29 PM · Note that Suzuki relied exclusively on music that was public domain at the time. That's why the Suzuki books are so heavily baroque-oriented.
May 20, 2022, 10:48 PM · I remember that I don't like to hear vibratos used on wind instruments. So I 'm not surprised that the vibrato usages are affected by string types and bow types.
In any case, I think it's important to explore the composer's intention regarding certain notes and slurs(hierarchy, natural damping, sustention...) . And Harnoncourt has explained in his books that the notation manners had changed between 18th and 19th century.
May 20, 2022, 11:21 PM · Thats an interesting point Andrew. That never occured to me before!

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