I’m happy to announce the ninth episode of the new version
of my book on the future of classical music, online right now. In it you’ll find
some delightful details of performance practice in the past. Or maybe a better
term would be performance non-practiced, since what I’m talking about is
improvisation, which should sound spontaneous, rather than practiced (no matter
how much work went into it). Here I’m continuing my portrait of classical music
before the concept of classical music existed, and one key difference between
then and now is that performers improvised — they changed the notes the
composers wrote, sometimes drastically. And that’s what the composers and
audience expected. It’s fascinating that musicologists know about this (what I’m
reporting is hardly my discovery), but even so, we rarely hear performances that
show anywhere near the amount of improvisation common before the 19th century
(and, in Italian opera, well into it).
You’ll see that I’ve used musical notation in this episode,
once very briefly, and the other time. …well, check it out. The notation is so
vivid that you don’t need to read music to know what’s going on.
As I’ve said, this is the last episode until September. I
need some time off, and I’m beginning a badly-needed vacation at the start of
July. In August I’m likely to take some of the material I’ve written for this
book, and work at improving it.
On another note, I again want to mention the debate
that went on in my blog about Allan Kozinn’s brave
and controversial piece in The New York
Times. After I ventured a disagreement, Allan wrote a comment,
understandably defending himself. This developed into quite a wonderful
discussion, very civilized, focusing on issues, not personalities, with
comments from many, many people, including some notable figures in the
classical music business. Some of these people had to post anonymously, since
they’re not authorized to speak for their institutions. But two were happy to
post openly: Joe Kluger, who used to run the
Philadelphia Orchestra, and Klaus Heymann, the
founder and CEO of
believe, is one of the rare debates that actually illuminates its subject.