To Be Historically Accurate Or Not To Be? That Is The Question.

Classical Academy | Orchestral Music


There's a great debate at the heart of classical music performance - should you try to be historically accurate? "Historically Informed Performance" or "Period Performance" as it is known privlieges the aesthetic criteria of the era in question, rather than adapting a work to fit with modern practises and patterns familiar to listeners. Using historical documents, scholars determine the ways in which early pieces should be performed.


For instance, period instruments are often used by specialist ensembles - the harpsichord being a common example, but also viols and recorders, as well as old string instruments. Even singers can train their voices for a less loud tone, with less vibrato, to sound 'authentic'.


Many believe that incorporating in the performance cultural elements from the time of the composer results in a stronger, deeper rendition. This phenomenon, known as the Early Music Revival, began in the 19th century. However, it is obvious that no audio or video recordings of the performing arts survive prior to the invention of recorded sound - so who really knows what's 'correct'?


In the biting words of 20th century American organist Virgil Fox, "they say that Bach must not be interpreted and that he must have no emotion, that his notes speak for themselves. You want to know what that is? Pure unadulterated rot! Bach has the red blood. He has the communion with the people. He has all of this amazing spirit. They're so untalented that they have to hide behind this thing because they couldn't get in the house of music any other way!"


Where do you stand? Listen to our playlist of early music performed by ensembles specialized in period performances and decide for yourself.