Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
As regular friends of the decanter know, ol’ Robbo despises much of our current so-called culchah, even that part of it allegedly devoted to the higher arts. However, one aspect of it that makes him very grateful for having been born when he was is the modern proliferation of the so-called “historically -informed” school of Renaissance, Baroque and Classickal musickal performances, played on either period instruments or modern replicas. I believe it’s fair to say that Nikolaus Harnoncourt was the original historically-informed warrior, but Hogwood, along with Sir John Eliot Full Of Himself and Trevor Pinnock, was definitely in the first wave of musicians to exploit the breach made by Harnoncourt in the wall of stuffy, stilted, heavy-handed 20th Century treatments of these periods. Nowadays, the wall has collapsed completely and there are more crack historically-informed ensembles than ol’ Robbo can even count, much less keep up with.
Indeed, the AAC isn’t even really among ol’ Robbo’s favorite ensembles these days, but I still feel the need to raise a glass to it and to its founder. In my misspent yoot, I spent a lot of time listening to the Old Gentleman’s collection of Baroque and Classickal records, almost all of which had been recorded in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Even then I could grasp the stodgy, slow, turgid, over-instrumented feel of these recordings, and in a way understand why the musick they performed was dismissed by some as clockwork, soulless and boring. In this mode, Bach sounded mechanical, Handel sounded pompous and other composers sounded bizarre.
I can’t remember my first exposure to a genuine period performance but I can remember my reaction, which was something along the lines of, “Whoa”. It was something equivalent to seeing all the gunk cleaned off the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for the first time. Since then, I haven’t looked back.
UPDATE: Now with spelling and grammar and stuff!