Last week I came across a fascinating book by musicologist Robert Donington entitled A Performer’s Guide to Baroque Music.
About the book
We are playing a lot of baroque music at the moment so I was interested to know what the author would say – although I expected it to be rather dry, a bit like the ornaments’ section of Grade 5 Theory. Imagine my delight then when , opening the book more or less at random, I came across the following impassioned statement:
“We are of this modern age; and much has changed which could not be changed back even if we so desired. But not our deeper human nature, and not the essential musicianship so intimately bound up with our human nature. These do not change. The start of good baroque performance is knowing that there were ordinary human beings under those concealing wigs and crinolines. Obviously there is discipline in great baroque music: but it is a discipline of strong feeling, strongly ordered. Cold formality and cautious reticence have no place in good baroque style.”
More inspiring quotes
A little further on he continues:“In baroque music the performer is king. It is baroque spontaneity we are trying to recapture. It is always a mistake in rehearsal to press a point of style against the convictions of the musicians concerned.”
This is worth buying
I couldn’t borrow the book so I wrote the quotes out by hand.I’ll buy a copy of his book now to find out what else he has to say. If the rest is as full of feeling as this, it will be a joy to read.