Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Here's a fun article on J.S. Bach's magnificent Mass in B minor, one of the magisterial and final pinnacles of his oeuvre, and yet in some ways puzzling. What, after all, was a faithful Lutheran doing setting an entire Roman Catholic Mass--a Missa Tota?
And for performances, stay away from the trendy and the faux HIP (Historically Informed Performances). Someday I will write a rancorous essay entitled, "Historically Informed Performances: The Living (and oh so HIP) Originalism of Classical Music."
Instead savor the magnificently moody and measured performances of Furtwängler and Scherchen. Or, if you can't get ahold of those, this version conducted by Herbert von Karajan will do.
Here is an enjoyable exchange of comments over at our Center site on this post that I wanted to share with readers here, reflecting a range of jurisprudential and musicological views--the excellent Frank Cranmer of Law and Religion UK, my colleague Mark Movsesian, and then a response from me.
On historically-informed performance, I’m afraid we must disagree.
All those incredibly s-l-o-w, turgid performances of Handel and Bach, muddy, Romantic English organs (maybe they built better ones in the States), oversized symphony orchestras producing completely the wrong balance – we’ve been there and I, for one, don’t want to go back.
Originalism makes less sense in music than in law, I’d agree, because law involves power. And sometimes a contemporary take on early music works, like Respighi’s Birds and Ancient Airs and Dances. But as a presumption, I’d go with the clarity of Originalism in music on aesthetic grounds, over gushy late-Romantic reinterpretations. Where’s your sense of tradition?
Frank, a pleasure to see you here. It seems that both you and my comrade in arms are as one on this matter. But he has a very Puritanical streak in matters of art (and food, I should add) that runs deeply against my grain. And I cannot agree that the ascetic and rather precious technicality of HIP performances is really at all close to what Bach intended. So I suppose I regard myself as the true traditionalist. It’s like the difference between originalist theory today and the actual jurisprudence of Joseph Story or John Marshall. Very few real similarities.
Oh well. De gustibus non est disputandum–in law and in art.