Early Music Revival

"See Early music and Historically informed performance for a more detailed explanation of this topic."

The general discussion of how to perform music from ancient or earlier times did not become a subject of interest until the 19th century, when Europeans began looking to ancient culture generally, and musicians began to discover the musical riches from earlier centuries. The idea of performing Early music more "authentically", with a sense of incorporating performance practice, was more completely established in the 20th century, creating a modern Early Music Revival that continues today.

The Early Music Revival in the 19th Century

Felix Mendelssohn is often credited as an important figure in beginning the revival of music from the past. He conducted a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion in 1829, and that concert is cited as one of the most significant events in the Early Music Revival, even though the performance used contemporary instruments and the work was presented in a greatly condensed version, leaving out a significant amount of Bach's music. Handel's Messiah, performed annually since it was composed in 1741, even with updated orchestrations by Mozart and others, is a work that shows a rare continuous line of performance that gradually defied early performance practice, only to be embraced by it in more recent years.

The Early Music Revival in the early 20th Century

In the early 20th century, musical historians in the emerging field of musicology began to look at Renaissance music more completely and carefully, preparing performing editions of many works. The choirs at the cathedral churches in England were quick to revive these pieces, establishing a new standard and tradition in performing Renaissance choral music. Other important milestones in the Early Music Revival included the 1933 founding of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland by Paul Sacher—together with distinguished musicians including the pioneering specialist in early vocal music Max Meili, who contributed to the extensive L'Anthologie Sonore series of early music recordings and recorded Renaissance lute songs for HMV—and the 1937 presentation and recording of some of Monteverdi’s Madrigals by Nadia Boulanger in France. Arnold Dolmetsch is widely considered the key figure in the Early Music Revival in the early 20th century.

The Early Music Revival in the second half of the 20th Century

By the 1950s the Early Music Revival was fully underway, and was a fully established phenomenon by the end of the 1970s. It was centered primarily in London and Basel (at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, although there was much activity in other European and American cities, especially New York and Boston. It had far-reaching and important effects for the way that people listen to classical music and the way it is taught, performed, sponsored and sold. Few people involved in the classical music industry today would not acknowledge the breadth and depth of the impact that this movement has had. As much as any other force in the period, the protagonists of the Early Music Revival were opponents of cultural values that, in the late 1950s, seemed virtually unquestionable. The revival of interest in music from earlier periods was more widely felt than in the pedagogy and performance practice of European art music; it also influenced the performance practices and research of popular music and the music of oral traditions.

The Early Music Revival changed the listening habits of classical music audiences by introducing them to a range of music of which they were largely unaware. In the long term, the performance methods and values of the early music revivalist, particularly what became known as a quest for 'authenticity' had a permanent effect not only on early music performance, but also on the performance of music from later periods.

Most interest was centred on the medieval and renaissance periods, and to a certain extent, the first part of the "baroque" period. However, it could be misleading to think of this revival simply in chronological terms, because early music performers soon extended their interests to later periods. The focus was not simply on repertoire, but on the ways in which the music is conceived, the process by which it is learned, and the manners in which it is performed.

At this time established pioneers of early music such as the English counter-tenor Alfred Deller were joined by a new wave of specialist groups such as Musica Reservata and the Early Music Consort. The music they played, and the way it was performed, appeared new in comparison to the sounds that most people were used to from classical music; it seemed fresh and exotic.

The Early Music Revival in the 21st Century

There continues to be a great flourishing of ensembles, training programs, concert series, and recordings devoted to ancient music in the 21st century. In the United States, gatherings such as the Boston Early Music Festival and organizations such as Early Music America (EMA) and the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) continue to promote the study and performance of ancient music. Several college music departments, such as Indiana University and Boston University, have strong Early Music degree programs. Recordings of all eras of early music and many obscure ancient composers are now available; since most major recording labels are no longer funding classical music recordings, the majority of recorded music available is found for purchase (or download) on the internet.

ee also

*Pro Cantione Antiqua
*Boston Early Music Festival

External links

* [http://www.medieval.org/emfaq/misc/whatis.htm/ Medieval.org] description of Early Music and the history of performance practice


*GroveOnline|Revival|Haskell, Harry|10 August|2007

*cite book
last = Haskell
first = Harry
title = The Early Music Revival: A History
publisher = Thames & Hudson
date = 1988
location =
pages =
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 0500014493

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