Early Music (i.e. music up to around 1800) started to become more widely popular after World War II. This blog will primarily be about the pioneers who re-discovered this repertoire and started playing it on original instruments, or modern copies, in the authentic style, which is now often called historically informed performance, or HIP for short.
The idea for this blog has grown out of research into the life of my harpsichord teacher, Mrs Mary Potts of Cambridge – herself a student of über-pioneer Arnold Dolmetsch, back in the 1920s. Apart from a tiny entry in a musical Who’s Who, her obituaries and a couple of mentions by now-famous students, I could find nothing at all about her.
After much intensive brain-racking and some good luck, I managed to find people who knew her well; and now have much more information about her life, her BBC broadcasts and live performances (on her 1775 Shudi harpsichord), her students, her influence and her role as ‘great appreciator’, which has often been referred to. This blog will, in part, follow the ‘making of’ Mary’s story - through the words of those who knew her – which may, one day, become a documentary film.
But apart from fond memories and funny stories about Mary, many of those I have spoken to; have participated in, or witnessed first hand, the enormous changes in the way that early music is performed, as it has become appreciated by a larger public worldwide.
Everyone who’s anyone
I have already been in touch with most of the pre-eminent performers, conductors and scholars (whom my teacher either knew personally, had performed with or taught during a professional life which spanned more than 50 years). Between them, they can fill in some of the many gaps in our knowledge of the revival’s back-story, and help create ‘living’ biographies of musicians who deserve to be remembered. And, at the same time, this will help clarify trends and influences; and expose previously unseen connections.
Is it just me?
But, I wonder, is there anyone else who is interested in seeing these interviews, reading a composite of the often scant information currently available about these ‘pioneers’; and hearing extracts from ‘old style’ authentic performances from between 1920 and 1980?
Personally, I’m fascinated by the whole early music movement, the gradual (and continuing) re-discovery and the many players and semi-conductors who led us to the playing styles that we have today. And I’m keen to find out more about those largely forgotten or unacknowledged people who – like Mary Potts – helped to get us here.