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Interview With Sir Colin Davis

Young Col

Well-Known Member
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2,419
Interesting, Kev, as you say, when you get to it. Must say I felt JD's blog was over the top intellectualism -I have no more idea what Schenkerian analysis is than the average non-musician would have about Kasiski analysis (actually a basic code breaking technique) but I was interested in the comments on Bach : I don't think it's that there should be no dynamics, rather they were envisaged as stepped or terraced because crescendo and diminuendo weren't used then...

Anyway, my point was more about the passage of time. I had not thought of Sir Colin Davis as 85. I have a superb vinyl of him conducting the LSO on the Enigma Variations and Cockaigne Overture. Looking at it now I see it's in mono, with a picture of him on the inside cover and the date is 1965 - when he and I were both Young Cols (me more so!). Where have the years gone
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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Ah - this is the anti early music viewpoint interview that sparked a pile of comment elsewhere. I can strongly recommend avoiding Shenkerian analysis unless you want a headache.

As someone who falls into the early music camp, I'll add my two pen'orth.

First of all, I'm not keen on absolutes. One of the really big issues with performance of any music before the invention of recording (say 1900) is that we have no idea what it really sounded like. We can make some educated assumptions. Musicology (history of music and of performance styles) was not a serious subject until late in the C19th. Prior to that we have people writing things down from time to time. We don't know if these people were muscians, if they knew what they were talking about, accurately described things, whether what they describe was standard practice etc etc.

The original purpose of vibrato was as a form of decoration (an affect) on longer notes, usually in slow pieces. Sometime during late C19th or C20th vibrato became "continuous" vibrato. Singers adopted it because it helps the sound to carry over a big orchestra (think horned helmets, Brunhilde, and a Wagner sized orchestra. It's totally wrong for Mozart, Beethoven etc.

Equally, Mozart and Haydn wrote for an orchestra with typically 2222 woodwind (2 each flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon), 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timps and strings of about 66421 (6 1st and 2nd violin, 4 viola, 2 celli, 1 bass). So performing that with a Tchaikovsky symphony string department of strings (14 14 12 10 6) just doesn't feel right (it changes the perceived sound quite a lot).

Haydn or Mozart played by a chamber orchestra such as ASMF on modern instruments, or a period instrument group, both work. But I like the older instruments as they have a better balance. Here's a simple example:

In Elgar's scores, he often asks for the trombones (there's usually 3 - alto, tenor, bass) to play FFF i.e. very loud. Most conductors cut this back to FF. Why? It's quite simple, a trombone from around 1900 has a much smaller bore and a smaller bell than a modern instrument. Modern instruments are MUCH louder than older ones.
 
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old git

Tremendous Bore
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5,545
Nice one, Kev.

The Count, the Duke and now the Sir.

Does he specialise in alto or tenor sax?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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I suppose it comes down to how/when we improve performances with modern techniques. For me the most enjoyable performance of Beethoven's triple conerto is the recording with Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Daniel Barenboim. Vibrato a plenty and the music sings....

And I think that's what Davis was trying to say. Techniques change audiences change, expectations change.

A more modern example would be the blues of Robert Johnson. They've inspired many modern musicians, are played with better instruments, modern techniques.... But funnily enough one of my favourite CD's is eric Clapton's unplugged, where we get (to some extent) away from digital enhancement and back to real sound.

I don't think there's an easy answer, but the extremists will fight hardest - for ideology, not for music. And it's here we get onto sticky ground as we realise the parallels between political ideologists, reilgious ideologists and musical ideologists. Can't discuss that here, probably just as well.
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
I don't think there's an easy answer, but the extremists will fight hardest - for ideology, not for music. And it's here we get onto sticky ground as we realise the parallels between political ideologists, reilgious ideologists and musical ideologists. Can't discuss that here, probably just as well.
Go ahead Kev. We promise not to tell the moderator.
 
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