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Recreating the original

Nicholas Kenyon explores what's really happening when we strive for perfect historical accuracy in music performance. Is it authenticity or something else entirely?

Nicholas Kenyon explores what’s really happening when we strive for perfect historical accuracy in music performance. Is it authenticity or something else entirely?

Fifty years ago a revolution began in classical music. Back then, there was little doubt how to play a Mozart symphony or a Bach passion – it meant big symphonic forces, heavy textures, slow speeds and modern instruments. But then along came period performance: a new generation of musicians researched and revived period instruments, performance styles and forgotten composers. With lighter forces, faster speeds and new tools, they declared war on the interventionist musical culture of the mid-19th century. To start with, they were largely dismissed as eccentrics - Neville Marriner called them "the open-toed-sandals and brown-bread set” – and academics unable to play in tune. But throughout the 1970s and 80s they multiplied and gathered force. Along with the advent of the CD, their newfound repertory and fascinating new-old sound gave a boost to the classical recording industry. They overturned the way classical music was listened to and performed, making household names of musicians whose scholarly credentials became almost as important as their performing flair.

Nicholas Kenyon tells the story of that revolution, from the earliest pioneers to the global superstars of today. Across the series, he’ll uncover the musical detective-work which went on in universities and rehearsal rooms, reliving the incredible vitality of the times through landmark recordings which took the musical world by storm.

In today’s episode, Nicholas asks about the issues raised by this exploration. In reviving this music of the past, were we really recreating an original performance or were we using our imagination in different ways?

J S Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No 4/3
Musica Antiqua Cologne
Reinhard Goebel, director & violinist

Monteverdi: Selva morale - Sanctus
Taverner Consort
Andrew Parrott, conductor

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 14 In E Flat Major, K.449
Malcolm Bilson, fortepiano
The English Baroque Soloists
John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

J S Bach: Cantata 131/1 Aus der Tiefe
The Bach Ensemble
Joshua Rifkin, conductor

Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique mvt 2
London Classical Players
Sir Roger Norrington, conductor

Rameau: Nais - overture
Les Talens Lyriques
Christophe Rousset, conductor

Carver: Missa dum sacrum - Benedictus
The Sixteen
Harry Christophers, director

Haydn: Symphony No 86 mvt 4
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor

Beethoven: Symphony 8 mvt 4
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor

Produced in Cardiff by Amy Wheel

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 In G Major BWV.1049

    Ensemble: Musica Antiqua Köln. Director: Reinhard Goebel.
    • ARCHIV : 4231162.
    • ARCHIV.
    • 12.
  • Claudio Monteverdi

    Selva morale - Sanctus

    Ensemble: Taverner Consort. Ensemble: Taverner Players. Conductor: Andrew Parrott.
    • EMI: 7 49876 2.
    • EMI.
    • 1.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Piano Concerto No. 14 In E Flat Major, K.449

    Performer: Malcolm Bilson. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Orchestra: English Baroque Soloists.
    • DG Archiv E4631112.
    • DG Archiv.
    • 9.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Cantata 131/1 Aus der Tiefe

    Ensemble: Bach‐Collegium Stuttgart. Conductor: Joshua Rifkin.
    • DECCA : 458-087-2.
    • DECCA.
    • 8.
  • Hector Berlioz

    Symphonie Fantastique mvt 2

    Conductor: Sir Roger Norrington. Orchestra: London Classical Players.
    • EMI : CDC 7-49541-2.
    • EMI.
    • 2.
  • Jean‐Philippe Rameau

    Naïs (Overture)

    Orchestra: Les Talens Lyriques. Conductor: Christophe Rousset.
    • L`OISEAU LYRE : 455-293--2.
    • L`OISEAU LYRE.
    • 5.
  • Robert Carver

    Missa dum sacrum - Benedictus

    Choir: The Sixteen. Conductor: Harry Christophers.
    • CORO : 16051.
    • CORO.
    • 5.
  • Joseph Haydn

    Symphony No. 86 In D Major mvt 4

    Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle. Orchestra: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
    • EMI : 555-509-2.
    • EMI.
    • 12.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony No. 8 In F Major Op.93 mvt 4

    Performer: Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
    • TELDEC : 2292--46452-2.
    • TELDEC.

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