Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Christopher Hogwood 1941-2014 (extended)

Christopher Hogwood died this morning.  Announcement on his website :

"Following an illness lasting several months, Christopher died peacefully on Wednesday 24 September, a fortnight after his 73rd birthday. He was at home in Cambridge, with family present. The funeral will be private, with a memorial service to be held at a later date."

 He shall ne missed . His death casts a long shadow. over Handel studies,  over period performance, over musical learning and practice.

Period informed performance has been around now more than 60 years It's an unshakeable part of modern musical thinking. Nikolaus Harnoncourt rebelled against the bland "internationalization" of post-war American orchestral sound (read my article Nikolaus Harnoncourt against the bland and the safe)  All "historically-informed" practice means is being aware of the uniqueness of each composer and period, respecting the music, rather than imposing some "one size fits all " approach. As Harnoncourt has said, it's pointless being  "authenticke" in some kitschy way. Integrity is far more important. What is so frightening about that?  There's no reason why early music can't be played any which way. but it's better to build new performances on genuine understanding of period imagination, rather than on inaccurate assumptions thereon. People in the past enjoyed their music without carrying the baggage of stultifying social expectation  that classical music seems to attract in some circles. Period-aware practice has revealed the energy, expressiveness  and liveliness in early music. HIP was once hip, and thankfully is now free again.

Being an Englishman, Hogwood applied these clear-thinking principles to Handel and the British tradition to illuminating effect.  Read this article, Reconstructing The Messiah.) Currently I'm revisiting Hogwood's Handel Messiah, with the Academy of Ancient Music (from 1980). After 35 years, some aspects feel "of its time"  e.g., the haircuts ) but that's perfectly reasonable. All good performance is well informed and modern at the same time, if the performers have integrity.

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