This blog will primarily focus on the pioneers of the Early Music movement, many of whom are now forgotten. Often, all that is left – even for quite famous musicians – is a sketchy wiki profile, perhaps a listing of CD transfers; and a not always accurate obituary.
A very odd mix
This is a fascinating story of how enthusiastic amateurs, private collectors, generous benefactors, self-taught instrument makers, musical clergymen, moonlighting professional musicians, academics and wayward university students, all contributed to promoting music by long-forgotten composers, played in ‘the old way’ on obsolete instruments. It will be told largely by those who took part in the struggles, or witnessed them from close at hand.
Apart from acknowledging the pioneers, the aim is to discover how this ‘movement’ gathered impetus and overcame resistance from the musical establishment (at a time when ALL music was played exactly the same way, regardless of when it was written). Now, more than sixty years on, Early Music has captured the public’s imagination; and become one of the most popular parts of mainstream classical music culture.
There’s no time to waste
As the first generation of pioneers, responsible for the re-discovery of old instruments and playing styles have all died, we’ll be focusing on musicians active just after the war, when some very significant breakthroughs began to take place.
But if the recollections of this second generation are not recorded urgently, then this fascinating part of our social history and cultural heritage will be lost forever. Sadly, in the course of the preliminary research, several important “pioneers”, whose lives have largely gone unrecorded, have died. And, as most of those potentially involved are 70 or older, it’s vital that field work continues.
What you can expect:
Original content, particularly interviews, will often be featured along with embedded videos from other sources.
Samples from digitalized LPs, 78 r.p.m. discs and private recordings will be included. These will be interpretations that have been deleted or never even made it onto CD. And different recordings will be compared to show the extent to which the principles of HIP (historically informed performance) have been applied, overdone or completely ignored.
What the papers said
Early damning reviews will also have a place, to underline how tastes have changed. Given the critical onslaught, it’s amazing that early music – played on authentic instruments, and in the style of the period – has survived at all!
You can play a part
Apart from information gleaned from record sleeves, there is almost nothing available on some very influential players like Eduard Müller (teacher of Gustav Leonhardt); August Wenzinger (teacher of Jordi Savall and conductor of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, famous from many early recordings); Thurston Dart, Cambridge University professor, broadcaster, early keyboard specialist and conductor; and Sir Anthony Lewis, to name but a few.
And it’s also been impossible to find out why jazz and pop record labels, like Artone and CNR, issued non-commercial early music discs in the 1950s and sixties. There must have been a reason, and it certainly wasn’t for the money.
If you knew any of the people whose names come up in the blog and have any reminiscences, recordings and memorabilia, or have any information about the various companies that are mentioned; please do get in touch to help create fuller profiles for those about whom we know so very little.