What Is Historically Informed Performance?
Historically informed performance (period performance) is an approach in Western music which adheres to the knowledge, as it is currently known, of the instruments and performance practice of the period in which the music was conceived. Access to examples of earlier musical instruments and historical treatises are the basis on which period performance is formed. Instruments corresponding to the period of the music being performed are used, as well as technique and aesthetics of the period.
Why Period Instruments?
I grew up playing modern flute and love playing early music on modern instruments. But, they are not what the composers had in mind and do not possess many qualities and capabilities the composers expected. The "evolution" of musical instruments has always required the sacrifice of certain capabilities that are less esteemed in favor of others that better suit the music of the times.
The earlier instruments provide a heightened sense of intimacy. They are softer and playing techniques require less pressure. They are more delicate and "painterly," with more coloration of tone. There is a heightened harmonic clarity, as the tones are much less obscured and evened out by vibrato, so the tones interact more clearly.
The tuning is more pure, both as early instruments are tuned differently and because of a sensitivity to pure thirds, which suffer in the equally-out-of-tune, evenly-compromised modern system. There is a very different tonal aesthetic and blend; modern instruments are more brilliant and have sounds that stand apart from one another, whereas the old ones have richer, fuller sounds on a softer dynamic level that more willingly blend into or, perhaps you could say, contribute to one another.
- Jeffrey Cohen
Music is the conjuring of the past ideas made new, and the end result is the sharing with others, fellow musicians, conductor, and, of course, the audience. A shared experience that can touch the heart, the mind, the soul of one and all listeners for that moment in time to unite us all in community – those who make the music and those who listen. Music cannot be solitary; rather, music is the embodiment of community, striving for harmony yet requiring individuality in the midst of mutuality. – Rosalie Romano