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1/18/97: Do you work with original instruments? How much consideration do you give to creating historically authentic performances?

I value a lot of the thinking, questioning, and scholarship that have gone into this area in the past few decades. And it is helpful to know what materials the composer was working with as I plan a performance and deal with any questions that arise. In preparing to perform a work, however, I concern myself much more with understanding and creating the excitement that the composer intended and worked toward. So, for example, knowing that Gluck urged his Orfeo to sound like his “leg was being sawed off” as he cries out for Euridice is far more important to me than studying the exact stage of development of each instrument at the time of the premiere of the work or the pitch we think was probable that night. I worry that we are having difficulty recreating the excitement of performances from earlier in this century and that emphasis on original performance practices can be misplaced. For myself, I quite enjoy listening to Vladimir Horowitz playing Scarlatti on a modern grand piano and do not expect a harpsichordist to out-perform him—not by virtue of the instrument at hand, in any case.

©1997 by Joseph Rescigno. The text here may be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes as long as credit is given.

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