I joined the early music revival movement in the wake of the progress made by the great pioneers of the 60s, and therefore witnessed first-hand the way it developed – not only did it spark a revolution in performance practice, it also inspired in musicians a sense of engagement, both with a repertoire and with music-making in general.
While the resistance we experienced back then towards reviving historical performance practice has now given way to acceptance, the inclusion of a few Handel operas in the programmes of our major festivals and opera houses must not make us complacent – we must be wary of conforming and continue to cultivate a spirit of curiosity about music and the circumstances in which it was originally performed.
We heard the sad news of the death of Nikolaus Harnoncourt. I should therefore like to dedicate these few lines and this year’s European Day of Early Music to the memory of that great non-conformist musician, in recognition of the central role he played in the early music revival movement.
He once wrote the following: “Art is more than just entertainment. It used to be a vital element of civilisation: you went into a concert hall and came out again devastated, transformed, your certainties stripped away.” What I most expect from the younger generation of musicians as they approach this repertoire (and all music, for that matter), is that they base their interpretations on a close examination of the cultural and historic context in which any given work was written. To quote Harnoncourt again, “The word ‘WHY’ should always be at the forefront of every artist’s mind.”
(Photo Molina Visuals)
Any initiative to bring Early Music to the attention of a bigger public is important!
I don’t believe that music can have great impact if it doesn’t say something or represent something universal. That is what is wonderful about music. French Music, German Music are World Music. French Culture, or English Culture, or German Culture, or Italian Culture, these are World Cultures as well. This is one of the reasons why, obviously, culture is a terribly important part of civilization. And perhaps, in this sad world we are living in now, culture is one of the things that could allow us to survive or at least to have faith in ideals which I think are eternal.