AAM principal violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk shares his thoughts on Historically-Informed Performance and the AAM…
The differences between the early days of Historically-Informed Performance (HIP) and now are a natural manifestation of the different cultural backgrounds of the two eras.
The HIP scene in the 70’s, as in the world of avant-garde theatre or “progressive” rock music, was marked by a general feeling that there was freedom to experiment, there was a hunger for the new, and it seemed as though it was easier to get projects off the ground. In London there certainly was an awful lot going on and although I was still at school my sister Lisa (a previous principal flute of AAM) was in the thick of it professionally and was taking me off to all sorts of concerts. While it took me a while to really “hear” and appreciate what that generation of musicians was trying to do, there was a palpable sense of excitement at things being new and revolutionary. It would be dishonest to suggest that everything was totally fantastic of course: people were still finding out really how to deal with these different types of instruments and were just establishing a new vocabulary for all sorts of unfamiliar repertoire.
“There was a palpable sense of excitement at things being new and revolutionary.”
In the string world, techniques of string and bow making were rather less sophisticated than now. In these and other ways the whole movement has matured and developed, in part due to the explosion of recording activity and the increase in touring during the 80’s (my first tour with AAM was to Japan and Taiwan in 1984, on what was the first Far Eastern tour of a Western period-instrument group).
I think in one sense that HIP is a victim of it’s own success. It’s now pretty “mainstream”: practically every music festival in the world will have period instruments represented – and even if they don’t, modern orchestras’ approach to the core classical repertoire has undoubtedly been influenced by the pioneering work of bands such as AAM. One can hear this in the number of players which modern bands tend to use now for Mozart and Beethoven, and in the approach to tempi, articulation and to colour.
This is all good of course: it’s a big part of what the whole period instrument movement was about in the first place, to get audiences and musicians to re-consider musical traditions which had built up through the 19th and early 20th centuries. As we look to the future though, I think it’s really important to re-connect as much as possible with the exploratory spark which started off the HIP movement 40/50 years ago or we’ll just end up as part of a new orthodoxy. The “early days” were also marked by a sense of connection between performers and audiences, as though both were embarking on a journey together, and this is being rekindled now. The AAM is exploiting the internet and modern communication in general to this end. While the internet makes it easier for things to go corporate, large-scale and “Global”, it should also be possible to use it to develop and enhance the intimate communication between composer, musician and audience member which is the essence of all music-making.
“The ‘early days’ were also marked by a sense of connection between performers and audiences, as though both were embarking on a journey together, and this is being rekindled now”
Interviews with players, rehearsals available online, live streaming of concerts, tour blogs, message boards etc: these are becoming ever more popular and expected by the classical music audience, and the AAM is developing strongly in this field. I think that in the AAM the exploratory spark is also kept alive by trying hard to be imaginative in programming – with Richard Egarr at the helm there’s certainly never going to be a sense of “resting on laurels” and his daring performing approach ensures that things stay fresh.
Pavlo’s recording of J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin is out now on LINN CKD 366 and available for download at www.linnrecords.com. You can read his profile on the AAM website here, where you can also watch him playing Bach.