Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Art of Re-enchantmentMaking Early Music in the Modern Age$

Nick Wilson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199939930

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199939930.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 18 October 2018

Seven Ages of Early Music

Seven Ages of Early Music

(p.19) 2 Seven Ages of Early Music
The Art of Re-enchantment

Nick Wilson

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter 2 provides a historical overview of the early music revival in Britain. Early Music’s pre-history (taking us to Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and France, in particular) is briefly introduced. The main part of the chapter then applies an analytical schema - the ‘Seven Ages of Early Music’ to highlight key milestones in the cultural movement over the last 40 years or so. The seven stages take us through Early Music’s Infancy (1966-67), Growth, Independence, Maturity, Consolidation, Restlessness, and thenNew Direction?(2007 onwards). Leading pioneers of the movement, such as Michael Morrow, David Munrow, the ‘class of’ 73, Roger Norrington and John Eliot Gardiner are introduced. Inhighlightingthe pattern of early music ensemble formations over the years, the chapter develops a strong sense of the movement’s trajectory, complete with its ‘coming of age’ with the launch of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in 1986.

Keywords:   AlteMusik, seven-year cycle, human development, MusicaReservata, Early Music Consort of London, Academy of Ancient Music, The English Concert, Taverner Choir, Consort & Players, The Tallis Scholars, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages.



Credit for familiarizing the term “early music” in British musical culture, along with much else besides, must go to the charismatic musician, musicologist, and radio presenter David Munrow. In choosing, in 1967, the Early Music Consort of London as the name for his newly-formed specialist period performance group, and coincidentally having a hand in the naming of the Early Music Shop launched a year later, Munrow had effectively hit upon a workable Anglicization of “Alte Musik, ” which already held considerable currency in Germany and other European countries.2 By the early 1970s the historical performance gauntlet had been thrown down, forcing the classical music establishment in Britain, as elsewhere, to question much that it had otherwise simply taken for granted.

There are clear grounds for beginning this study of Early Music in the latter part of the 20th century; but, of course, this is a story that can be tracked back considerably further. As Howard Mayer Brown observes, there is evidence of musicians in the late Middle Ages copying out troubadour songs from original manuscripts composed years earlier.3 The historical musicologist Friedrich Blume argued that the early music movement really stemmed from the Bach revival, sparked off by Mendelssohn’s 1829 performance of the St. Matthew Passion.4 Three years later, François-Joseph Fétis held his influential series of “historical concerts” at the Paris Conservatoire. Writing in 1983, Laurence Dreyfus describes the cultural phenomenon of Early Music as a late 20th-century ensemble of social practices relating to the performance of older repertories of Western classical music. Elizabeth Roche (1989) criticizes Harry Haskell’s (1988) history of The Early Music Revival for being “too simplistic” in suggesting that “everything that has happened in this field within the last 150-plus years can be seen as part of a definable ‘early music movement.’”5 Whether Early Music is seen to embrace a (p.20) long tradition of historically informed performance practice or is exclusively related to a more modern-day commercial phenomenon divides opinion. Nonetheless, as a cultural movement offering an alternative to mainstream classical music performance, Early Music unquestionably gained a particular prominence and foothold in the market from the 1960s onward, and in terms of its impact this was of a qualitatively different order to anything that had gone before.

Interest in authenticity (understood broadly as the extent to which a performance faithfully recreates—or tries to re-create—the music as the composer would have intended it) has tended to surface as a reaction to the prevailing musical currents of the day. Alte Musik in early 20th-century Germany, for example, denoted a rejection of the “overheated emotionalism of the age of romanticism and the increasing secularism of the age.”6 The musicologist and conductor Paul Sacher established a chamber orchestra in 1926 in Basle specifically to explore and perform pre-classical7 and modern repertories, such was his antipathy toward 19th-century music. He followed this up seven years later by opening the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis—the first institution to develop a formal curriculum for training musicians in older performance techniques.8 After the Second World War, whereas early music in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria was chiefly the province of amateurs and academics, Paris became home to the “first great virtuoso” to specialize in the music of the 17th and 18th centuries—the Polish-born harpsichordist, Wanda Landowska.9

In Britain, the roots of the early music movement are most usually traced back to the influential activities of Arnold Dolmetsch (1858–1940), who made his own instruments, introduced the recorder to the UK, and performed works by early composers on the instruments for which they were written.10 As Howard Mayer Brown notes, “it was Arnold Dolmetsch more than anyone else who was committed to the idea that performers should try to play music in the way its composers intended. He, more than anyone else, is the founding father of the ‘cult of authenticity.’”11 However, despite Dolmetsch’s relative successes, he remained a somewhat isolated figure within the musical life of his times. Something of a maverick, he was admired by many but regarded as an outsider by the classical music establishment. The sense in which Dolmetsch had to fight against the status quo is powerfully relayed by Robert Donington, himself one of Dolmetsch’s most illustrious pupils:12

What many thousands of active musicians across the world now take for granted had to be conceived with rare vision and fought for with rare tenacity when Arnold Dolmetsch embarked on his half-century of uncompromising crusading, way back in the 1880s…[N]‌ow the world of music is so resonant with the results of it that not one enthusiast in a thousand knows that it all pretty much began, as such movements must, in a single man’s visionary initiative.

Donington’s praise for Dolmetsch attributes causality to the actions and “visionary initiative” of this pioneering individual, rather than any more general societal or structural change. This is an attractive proposition, and certainly Dolmetsch’s contribution (p.21) to early music, especially in Britain, should not be underestimated. The fact remains, however, that the modern-day revival of early music did not “take off” for at least another 20 years after Dolmetsch’s death.

In the years prior to the Second World War increasing numbers of musicians became interested in the “problems” of performing early music. Brown describes them as having “an open, eager, and perhaps slightly naïve attitude towards questions of authenticity.”13 Though halted by the War, the activities of musicians, particularly in England, America, and the Netherlands, picked up again quickly. Performer-musicologists like Edward Dent, Boris Ord, and later, Thurston Dart at Cambridge as well as Jack Westrup at Oxford had considerable influence on generations of students. In America, the activities of two men in particular (Paul Hindemith and Noah Greenberg) represented the forefront of early music performance. Another American, Thomas Binkley, established the “Studio Der Frühen Musik” in Munich in 1959. Further significant developments in Germany included the growth of the Moëck Verlag und Musikinstrumentenwerk, which had been founded in 1925 as a center for making recorders and many other historical wind instruments; the influential (nonperiod) groups such as the Münchener Bach-Chor (1954) and the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart (1965); and later, Reinhard Goebel’s Musica Antiqua Köln (1973). In the Netherlands, the early music movement was spearheaded by the virtuoso players Gustav Leonhardt (harpsichord), Frans Brüggen (flute and recorder), and the Kuijken brothers (violin, flute, recorder, viola da gamba, and baroque cello). These early music performers were very active in the establishment of the distinguished early music program at the Conservatory in The Hague. Meanwhile, in Austria, Nikolaus Harnoncourt cofounded the Vienna Viola Da Gamba Quartet (1949), together with Eduard Melkus, Gustav Leonhardt, and Alice Hoffelner (whom he was to marry), and later the Concentus Musicus Wien (1953). By the early 1970s, Harnoncourt and Leonhardt had embarked on a landmark project together to record all of Bach’s cantatas for the record company Teldec. This carefully researched series of recordings featuring period instruments and an all-male choir marks a decisive turning point, most notably in regard to historical performance practice’s expanding claims to core classical music repertory.

By the 1960s there were three different types of early music performance going on in Britain.14 To begin with, professional ensembles of various sizes, playing on modern instruments, were performing music by the likes of Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, and their contemporaries, very much as an integral part of their standard repertoire. In the main, there was only limited interest in performance practice per se (i.e., an explicit concern for how the composer would have heard the music performed).15 Neville Marriner’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and the Goldsbrough Orchestra (which later became the English Chamber Orchestra (ECO)), stand out as hugely important precursors of the early music movement; for they offered historically aware, stylish, refined, scaled-down performances, in contrast to the large-scale professional concerts also popular at the time—one thinks particularly of Bach’s choral works performed by massed chorus, e.g., with the Three Choirs Festival (pre-1719), the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival (1784–1912), or The Bach Choir (founded 1875), with modern (p.22) orchestral players. Meanwhile, a relatively small group of amateur musicians was experimenting with period instruments, forming ad hoc ensembles with like-minded enthusiasts. Many of these amateurs were highly educated professionals (academics, doctors, teachers) for whom early music performance represented an intellectual as well as an aesthetic pursuit, a hobby, not a job or career. Much of their playing was based on their own musicological and archival research; some also made their own instruments. Finally, a number of professionally-trained classical musicians were branching out into early music, working with their own period instrument groups, consisting of three or four players, sometimes a few more. Over a short period of time, early music performance began to prove itself both artistically and commercially, as the musicologist and performer John Butt observes:16

Particularly fascinating was the fact that a huge industry connected to the revival of early music and HIP [historically informed performance] was blossoming just down the road in London…The movement was dominated by a handful of scholar-performers directing versatile vocalists and instrumentalists who learned the historical styles and techniques more or less ‘on the job.’

Butt’s observations about the “movement” very much set the scene for this present study. Firstly, there is recognition that Early Music has become more than just a parochial approach to performing classical music; indeed, it represents a sizeable commercial phenomenon (a “huge industry”). Secondly, those involved in the early days of the revival were performing in a HIP manner without any formal didactic channels for training in just how to do this. Thirdly, the domination of the early music movement by a “handful of scholar-performers” begs further examination. How exactly did such a small group of people come to have such a major influence on the classical music profession?17 Writing in the late 1980s, Nicholas Kenyon remarked that “No change has more profoundly influenced the development of our music-making during the last two decades than the growth of the historical performance movement.”18 With the benefit of hindsight, it is hard to disagree with Kenyon in his assessment of the central importance of Early Music on the classical music profession. But the question remains, how did this all come about?

Seven Ages of Early Music

Before explaining Early Music’s remarkable rise in more detail, we need first to get a better sense of who was doing what and when. Figure 2.1 presents an overview of professional early music group formations over the last 40 years or so in Britain.19 Two aspects of this activity are worth highlighting. First, there is an immediately obvious rise and fall in the number of formations, with a distinct peak in activity during the late 1970s to early 1980s. Second, underlying this trend is a less prominent pattern of heightened activity, with clusters of particularly influential new formations occurring (approximately) every 7 years. (p.23)

                      Seven Ages of Early Music

Figure 2.1 The Early Music Life Course

(p.24) It is interesting to speculate as to the cause of this clustering effect. Although demand-side influences are important when it comes to promoters and record companies’ vested interests, i.e., in sustaining support for breakthrough artists, to the point where they would be unlikely to look elsewhere for other “new kids on the block” within the same area, they do not usually appear to influence the decision to form an ensemble in the first place.20 On the supply side, attention could be brought to the distinctive context of the university or music college, where many such groups were formed. It seems plausible to suggest that new ensembles find it harder to break through, folding before they come to the public’s attention, when existing groups are either still resident or, at the least, remaining firmly in the collective consciousness of those living and working within such institutions.21

It is intriguing to review this pattern of formations in terms of the underlying logic of human development, though in doing so I would seek to avoid the anthropomorphic implication that cultural movements somehow take on the characteristics of individual human beings (it should also be observed that not all of the phases are of strictly 7 years’ duration). Figure 2.1 refers to the stages in terms of phases of the human life course. The idea of human development unfolding in a number of stages (often 7) is deeply embedded in our cultural mythology. Coincidentally, the number 7 also held special significance for one of the key figures in Early Music—Thurston Dart, who, being as “superstitious as he was intellectually acute, ”22 believed that his career operated in 7–year cycles (he died aged 49). My own model in what follows, complete with illustrative typology and phase descriptions (which begin each section), takes inspiration from Jaques’s monologue23 in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, as well as archetypal models of childhood and human development. Of these, the work of educationalist Rudolf Steiner, who founded the Steiner Waldorf schools in 1919, is the most widely known. He held that 7–year cycles continued throughout life.24 He would therefore have linked Shakespeare’s “puking infant” to the 0–7 year period, the “whining schoolboy” 7–14, the “lover” 14–21, and so on.

We cannot properly consider each of the phases without taking into account the broader socioeconomic context (see also Figure 2.1). Unfortunately, providing a causal link between macro- and micro-levels of analysis is never a straightforward task. Discerning between necessary and merely contingent causal factors is difficult, to say the least. For example, although on the face of it the burst of early music activity around 1973 seems to be entirely coincidental to the deepening economic meltdown that resulted from the oil crisis of that year, this might overlook the fact that peoples’ faith in mainstream institutions, including those within classical music, was being shaken in the trickle-down from world events. Equally, it is fascinating to reflect on the shifts in political power and ideology taking place across many European countries in the 1970s and ’80s, and to ask what sort of impact the progression toward free-market neoliberalism—that deeply embedded culture in which market functioning is the “overwhelming priority for social organization”25—might have had on the level of private sector funding for early music projects during this period. At the very least, we need to bear in mind the motivating, enabling, and constraining influence of such structural conditions on the activities and practices of those involved.

(p.25) Preparation (Pre-1967)

Without wishing to stretch the literary metaphor too far, Shakespeare’s puking infant did not arrive into the world without prior notice; there were signs. Some of the leading exponents in the lead-up to early music’s revival have already been introduced, including such figures as Arnold Dolmetsch, Wanda Landowska and Thurston Dart. The performances of scholar-musicians in Basle, Vienna, and The Hague during the 1950s were pivotal. Certainly, it is far from unreasonable to suggest that it was the Austrians (Harnoncourt) and the Dutch (Leonhardt, Brüggen, Bylsma), not the British, who were the real “pioneers” in this field. “English period instrument specialists followed them after a 10–20 year time lag” suggests Andrew Pinnock (former early music officer at the Arts Council).26 One notable exception is Michael Morrow, the founder of the group Musica Reservata in 1960. In interviewing performers and other early music experts for this research, it was striking how often they mentioned Morrow’s approach to early music performance as representing something really new, distinctive, and highly original. As Catherine Mackintosh, formerly leader of the Academy of Ancient Music and later the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, put it, “Musica Reservata was the most exciting and original early music group—ever! Full stop.”27 In Morrow’s obituary notice, David Fallows commented, “He remains for me the clearest case of what they call an original.”28 Clifford Bartlett, a lynchpin figure in making new editions available to performers, recalls:29

Then the sudden break was Musica Reservata in the late 60s. They were enormous events. You could put on a medieval programme and fill the QEH, which you wouldn’t do now. [Michael Morrow] was not a conductor. He was a man with good ears—a concept of the sound he wanted. That’s what was so good about Reservata—they broke away, a completely different style of singing, influenced if anything by Balkans. Some musicology behind it, and a lot of intuition and guts, and the desire to do something revolutionary and have a complete break.30

Andrew Parrott conducted Musica Reservata in the mid-1970s. He recalls: “One of the most important experiences I had during these years was as conductor for Michael Morrow’s Musica Reservata. It was a crazy, eccentric and ground-breaking group, and a tremendous window into pre-Baroque repertoire.”31 To those who said “why bother” with early music, Morrow’s reply was, “Music only exists in terms of its style.”32 As J. M. Thomson eloquently put it, Morrow “was a musical apostle of a highly distinct nature whose precepts influenced (and ruffled) a multitude.”33 John Sothcott (a cofounder of Musica Reservata) remembers Morrow being far from pedantic about the instruments he was to use. “The spirit and the style of the performance were everything.”34 Most significantly, Sothcott recalls, “Michael’s reason for attempting performances, by fair means or anything else, was to bring the music to life for its own sake and, as he often said, so that he could hear it. He was in no way a careerist performer and perhaps never really understood those who were”35 (and here perhaps is a critical point of difference between Morrow and the younger Munrow, who played with Musica Reservata on several occasions). Anyone who has listened to a Musica Reservata performance or recording, and particularly the singing (p.26) voice of Jantina Noorman, will even today recognize something quite distinctive in terms of the sound-world being conjured up in their performances. This pioneering group, at least, was no mere copy of Harnoncourt or Leonhardt’s approach to HIP.

There were other incipient stirrings happening in the mid-1960s in Britain, and probably the most notable of these was the then student John Eliot Gardiner’s project of putting on Monteverdi’s Vespers at King’s College Cambridge—in his words, “to some extent an act of hubris” at the time. The event is significant on a number of levels. For Gardiner himself it marked the beginning of his own musical pilgrimage, and the launch of the Monteverdi Choir (and later the Monteverdi Orchestra)—“For me it was a defining moment, a clear indicator that this was the direction my life should take.”36 He describes founding the Monteverdi as an “anti-choir” insofar as it was “a deliberate reaction to the polite, euphonious Oxbridge choral sound of the time, by encouraging its members to sing with far more colour, passion and intensity than they were used to.” Gardiner recalls how the event gave him “the desire to train as a conductor, and the motivation to study music in as wide a way as possible, including historical performance practice.” He adds “I was very aware not only of my own technical shortcomings, but also those in the nascent early music movement, which still had a slightly amateurish feel to it.” More widely, the concert brought together a whole range of interested parties: among the performers were David Munrow (who led the recorder consort), Christopher Monk and Donald Smithers (cornetti), Andrew Davis, Simon Preston, and members of the future King’s Singers. In the audience were Thurston Dart (Philomusica’s founder, and professor of music at Cambridge at the time, and later at King’s College, London, where he invited Gardiner to study as a postgraduate in 1966); Raymond Leppard (Trinity College, Cambridge); and George Malcolm (harpsichordist and ex-music director at Westminster Cathedral).

Infancy (From C. 1967)

Infant (0-7 years):

During these foundation years we are moved by instincts, and heavily dependent upon the nurture we receive from our environment. We learn to say ‘I’ and recognize ourselves, as standing apart from our parents.

1967’s “summer of love” signaled the rise of hippie subculture. What started in San Francisco quickly moved to other countries, including Britain. It is perhaps rather more than just a coincidence that the acronym for historically informed performance (HIP), which has gained prominence over the more problematic label “authentic, ” is also the root of the word hippie (“hip” or “hep, ” denoting awareness). Though early music performers have been criticized for being overly self-conscious about their performances of classical music, a more empowering explanation sees their concern with authentic editions, instruments, and performance techniques as displaying a greater awareness of the limitations of the notation system and instrument manufacture, and (p.27) perhaps a greater concomitant awareness of their potential. This focus on “awareness” has some scientific backing, too. Psychology-based research by Kernis and Goldman37 highlights awareness (i.e., knowledge of one’s positive and negative traits, values, needs, and preferences) as the first of four components in a “multicomponent conceptualization of authenticity.”

To the extent that we can sensibly talk of any single year as marking the “birth” of Early Music in Britain, it would surely have to be 1967. For it was in this year—the 400th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth—that David Munrow together with Christopher Hogwood launched the Early Music Consort of London. It was also the year that Michael Morrow’s Musica Reservata gave their ground-breaking performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London (on July 2). John Thomson remembers this South Bank concert very well: it was “an unforgettable occasion when we felt that early music had at last taken off in London.”38 At about the time Michael Morrow was forming Musica Reservata, David Munrow was undergoing an altogether different epiphany in his musical development—having flown off to Peru during his year off to teach English, he amassed a small collection of Bolivian flutes and other assorted wind instruments, which on return he taught himself to play (he had learned the bassoon at school). After studying English at Pembroke College, Cambridge, he became a lecturer in early music history at the University of Leicester, before setting up the Early Music Consort. Although Munrow was to die tragically young, committing suicide in 1976 aged only 33, he had by that time recorded more than 50 albums and given many performances with his own Consort and with Morrow’s Musica Reservata, amongst others. He had also presented 655 editions of the Radio 3 program Pied Piper, which was the conduit for many to learn about (early) classical music in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Munrow’s unbridled energy and enthusiasm for performance, together with his “showmanship” and virtuosic technical skills on a host of wind instruments, is legendary. Christopher Bishop, Munrow’s producer for EMI, recalls how he “was the most tremendous fun to work with.”39 “He mucked about all the time. He was great fun.” His playful music-making was “jolly, clever, and full of life. It just had it.” But at the same time, he was so professional and absolutely disciplined. He would stay up all night to write out the parts, as he wouldn’t trust other people to do it for him. He used to do all the copying by hand; nothing was printed. As Bishop recalls, “he was so full of energy, it was terrifying!”

Just as Morrow sought “to bring the music to life, ” so Munrow relished the challenge of playing all sorts of Medieval and Renaissance instruments, and communicating the joys of this music to as many people as he could. As anyone who has ever tried to play a sackbut, cornett, regal, or crumhorn would know, they are far from easy instruments to master. The physical challenges involved remind us that part of the fascination of early music comes from the very immediate, tangible, embodied pleasure one can get from performance itself. One of Christopher Bishop’s abiding memories of Munrow is seeing him (as much as hearing him) perform—“I can see his red face puffing away, ” Bishop recalls.

(p.28) In an echo of Donington’s words about Dolmetsch, David Munrow’s part in the early music revival has been described as “decisive.” Writing at the time of Munrow’s untimely death in 1976, Howard Mayer Brown suggests:40

The special quality that set David Munrow apart, or so it seems to me, was a rare combination of abundant musical talent, the energy and skill to organize and lead other people, and an uncanny ability, given only to a few great teachers, to convince large numbers of people that what was important and attractive to him should also be attractive and important to them.

The decisive influence of Munrow and how his activities impacted on the direction of early music performance is a theme taken up further in Chapter 4. Here we see a growing distinction between Medieval, Renaissance and early Baroque, and later repertoires, as interest in “authentic” performance began to be played out in markedly different ways for all those involved.

Growth (From C. 1973)

Whining schoolboy (7-14 years):

In the second phase, we learn to create an inner world of our own—a world of imagination, essential for navigating through the turbulent world of adolescence. In this period our abilities in the outside world are tested, as we become better able to share with others.

Moving into the early 1970s, we come to the launch of the most prominent early music groups that have formed the nucleus of the professional early music scene in Britain over the last 40 years. Two of the founding music directors, Christopher Hogwood and Andrew Parrott, were already familiar faces with regular appearances for the Early Music Consort and Musica Reservata, respectively. Hogwood had been a founder member of Munrow’s group, having first met him whilst at Cambridge. He also played with Musica Reservata on occasion. Parrott’s connections at Oxford were instrumental in his later involvement with Musica Reservata, conducting the group in the mid-1970s in place of John Beckett. Peter Phillips founded The Tallis Scholars whilst he too was at Oxford—where he studied Renaissance music with David Wulstan and Denis Arnold. Trevor Pinnock, who founded The English Concert, was the only one of this “class of ’73” who was not an Oxbridge graduate. This is a theme that warrants further study, as the Oxbridge connection, and what it says about necessary social, cultural, and educational capital41 to set up an early music ensemble, is an integral feature of this story. The sheer number of Oxbridge graduates involved at all levels of early music performance is remarkable, though not at all at odds with the wider British cultural elite—British arts and comedy in particular. The majority of leading figures, and many others who were involved to a less prominent degree, studied and/or taught at either Oxford or Cambridge (see Figure 2.2). (p.29)

                      Seven Ages of Early Music

Figure 2.2 Leading Early Musicians’ Education & Training

(p.30) In the case of The English Concert and the Academy of Ancient Music, both Pinnock and Hogwood had been regularly performing with smaller groups prior to the establishment of the orchestras we know so well today. Trevor Pinnock recalls that his group The Galliard Harpsichord Trio, which had performed widely for over six years in local music clubs and regularly at the newly-built Purcell Room on the South Bank, just got to a point where change was needed: “I did feel that we were at the end of a road, and I knew of new developments, Harnoncourt and Leonhardt, and I knew there was something further, but I didn’t know what it was. I wanted to find out.”42

Hogwood, too, harbored desires to form an ensemble a little bit bigger than a chamber group (an economically viable size), for which there was work from the music clubs and the BBC. As Hogwood recalls, “the evidence of Harnoncourt and Leonhardt, both here and in Amsterdam, showed that bigger groups could be put together…and the reason we knew that was that we heard the recordings.”43 Here again, we can clearly see the pivotal influence of the continental pioneers. It is also at this point that the involvement of the record companies became decisive:

We had a conversation with somebody who worked at Decca—Peter Wadland—who had the job of re-packaging an existing label (L’Oiseau-Lyre). He persuaded the people who hold the budget at Decca to take a risk in allowing him to pay for just one record; and we got players together.44

Whilst individual movers and shakers like Hogwood and Pinnock were clearly central to what was to unfold, the impetus for Early Music’s success resulted to a large degree from intense collaboration with like-minded commercial record executives, and, of course, the first wave of early musicians who performed in their groups.

Independence (From C. 1980)

Lover (14-21 years):

During the third phase we become self-conscious. Focus falls on our emotions as new interests develop. This is a time characterized by searching for life purpose, and testing of boundaries. We undergo physical, emotional, moral and mental change and conflict, as we begin to break free from parental influence.

Moving into this third phase of Early Music, we see a very active pattern of early music groups being founded. Gothic Voices, His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts, the Rose Consort of Viols, and the Gabrieli Consort, amongst others, were establishing a name for themselves in earlier repertoire. Meanwhile, there was a growing contingent of period instrument ensembles that focused on Baroque repertoire, including the English Baroque Soloists, London Baroque, Raglan Baroque Players, the Parley of Instruments, the King’s Consort, and the London Handel Orchestra. It was not long (p.31) before these and other groups, notably Norrington’s London Classical Players, The Hanover Band under the direction of Roy Goodman, the Academy of Ancient Music, The English Concert, and later Collegium Musicum 90 under Simon Standage and Richard Hickox, began pushing at the boundaries of “early music, ” performing later repertoire still.

The parallels with the life cycle outlined (under “lover”) above are striking. The repertoires of Classical and then Romantic music are themselves redolent of an interest in more emotionally diverse musical experiences. The rhetorical Baroque gives way to the passion and angst of later musical styles. It is not surprising that proponents of HIP found themselves in sometimes heated discussion about what was or wasn’t suitable for the Early Music “makeover.” By the early 1980s, the academic question of how late early music should go had been overtaken by practice. The success of recordings such as the Academy of Ancient Music’s complete Mozart symphonies (1979 onward) demonstrated that the tide was not to be turned. The launch of the compact disc (CD) in the early 1980s then provided a hugely significant boost, as the movement began in earnest to assert its independence.

The “testing of boundaries” associated with this phase of development inevitably involved a degree of internal competition. The pool of professional players from which the HIP ensembles were drawn in the initial years was very small. This inevitably led to diary clashes, when performers would be forced to choose between competing loyalties. Even by the 1980s the level of formal training available in early music performance at the music colleges remained modest. A “second wave” of young players was about to come through seeking careers in HIP, but opportunities remained relatively scarce.

Also at about this time, some historical musicologists began to challenge perceived wisdom over the use of instruments with Medieval vocal music—the so-called “English a capella heresy” as Howard Mayer Brown dubbed it.45 Old HIP “truths” were being questioned from the inside; the uniformity of view that on the face of it characterized this single cultural “movement” was coming under threat from internal wrangling and division. Nowhere is this increasing “self-consciousness” more evident than in relation to the writings of Richard Taruskin, whose essays published in the early 1980s characterize a period of deep and sustained reflexivity for Early Music. The authenticity and resolve of the historical performer was to be sorely tested by these now publicly aired views.

Maturity (From C. 1986)

Soldier (21-28 years):

In the cycle that follows we fully enter into adulthood. This is our ‘coming of age’. Faculties of insight, intuition and judgment are central. Sparks of interest that were awakened in previous phases now get developed along more definite lines. Any issue not faced up to at this time will likely require attention at some later date.

(p.32) Amidst the new groups formed around 1986, the setting up of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) demands particular attention; for this group, more than any other, heralded the “growing up” of the early music movement, challenging not just the status quo of the classical music mainstream but also its early music “parents.” The founding of the OAE speaks volumes about the state of early music performance by the mid-1980s. The orchestra was an idea born out of the performers’ own frustrations with the limitations of the HIP scene. From the outset the orchestra emphasized its collective credentials, giving all the players a say in its decision-making, though one of its cofounders has suggested that this was more a pragmatic response to the particular circumstances of hastily assembling an orchestra for its first performance than a principled stand. It is striking, nonetheless, that this was the first time that such an organizational policy, wholly in keeping with the underlying HIP principle of democratic control, had been acted out on such a scale within the movement.

As a professional early music instrumentalist in London in the mid-1980s, you generally “belonged” to one or more groups—typically Hogwood’s Academy of Ancient Music, Pinnock’s English Concert, Norrington’s London Classical Players, or Gardiner’s English Baroque Soloists (to a lesser extent this was also true of early music singers). Though there were generally high levels of loyalty for what many performers considered “family” units, there was also a growing dissatisfaction with the way things were heading. Ten to fifteen years after setting up, many performers were searching for new avenues, new directions and opportunities. A key unfulfilled aim was to play with other leading HIP directors, such as Leonhardt or Harnoncourt, from the continent. Under the current scheme of things, this was just not possible.

By this time, Early Music’s founder-directors were increasingly building their own careers in the wider musical mainstream. Alongside performing regularly with their individual HIP ensembles, they were branching out into other territories, working with (early and modern) orchestras and groups abroad. Not surprisingly, this gave rise to a further legitimate concern on behalf of some of the early musicians that they had effectively helped to secure the reputations of their founders, but were now themselves in danger of being left out in the cold. There was a growing desire to claim back control, both artistic and financial.

Probably the single most important development, which catapulted the OAE to success, was its cause being taken up by the now world-renowned conductor Simon Rattle at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1989. As a condition of Rattle’s conducting the Da Ponte trilogy of Mozart operas at Glyndebourne, he insisted on bringing in the OAE (formerly, orchestral accompaniment was provided by the London Philharmonic Orchestra). The arrival of the OAE onto the musical scene is also significant, therefore, in marking a coming together of the hitherto separate classical music mainstream and early music fields, in such a way as to have a decisive impact on its subsequent trajectory. Early Music had “come of age”; but with the benefit of hindsight one might already be asking “at what price?” This was already a very different early music scene to the one that Michael Morrow or David Munrow would have recognized in the mid-1960s.

(p.33) Consolidation (From C. 1993)

Judge (28-35 years):

It is often felt that creative individuals seem to make their greatest advances during these years. A possible contributory cause for this is that the association centers of the brain come to their peak efficiency at about thirty-five years of age.

One can point to the latter half of the 1990s as being a time of consolidation for the established professional groups and ensembles, accompanied by a decline in the number of influential new early music groups being formed. The continuing trend to advance the repertoire going under the HIP treatment saw some period instrument orchestras fully embrace works from the Romantic and late Romantic periods. The OAE and Gardiner’s Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (set up 25 years after the Monteverdi Choir) now performed Brahms, Berlioz, and Bizet. Groups being formed at this time were doing so against the backdrop of a very established early music scene in Britain and abroad.46 Music colleges now employed dedicated, salaried staff, some of whom were themselves players from the class of ’73. For the first time in Britain, early music was being taught as a fully legitimate strand of conservatoire education. Younger (second and third) generations of performers were also establishing themselves in early music and its continuing training: Laurence Cummings assumed responsibility as head of Historical Performance at the Royal Academy of Music (1997); and Ashley Solomon was appointed professor of flute and recorder at the Royal College of Music (1994), becoming head of Historical Performance a few years later.

At a wider level, 1994 marked an important shift in British cultural policy, with the introduction of the National Lottery in November of that year. The arts were beneficiaries as one of the five “good causes” (the others being sport, charity, national heritage, and a millennium fund). From a public funding perspective, the Lottery offered a watering-down of the “long-recognized division between professional and amateur artists”47 as community and other amateur groups were now eligible for funding. Arguably, this also represented the potential abolition of any hierarchy of art forms within funding,48 since Lottery awards were judged on the strength of the bid rather than by genre. With no access to detailed records, however, it remains open to speculation whether this had any significant bearing on the activities of amateur early musicians across the British Isles—particularly amongst the National Early Music Association’s (NEMA) regional fora. Having said this, there were certainly occasions when large-scale cultural initiatives had a positive impact on regional early music provision. In particular, the popular Glasgow International Early Music Festival, under Warwick Edwards (who had founded the Scottish Early Music Consort in 1973) was launched in 1990, as part of Glasgow’s year-long celebrations as Cultural Capital of Europe.

By 1995 (the year of Taruskin’s Text & Act, and Kivy’s Authenticities), the explicit use of “authenticity” as a promoting discourse for Early Music was disappearing from PR leaflets and program notes. Even with the benefit of hindsight, however, it is hard (p.34) to ascertain whether this had any direct effect on what those involved were actually doing. Perhaps the deepest level of consolidation at this time was in respect of the recording industry’s interest in early music as a lucrative commercial opportunity, and the impact this had on the breadth and depth of repertoire now recorded. As Nicholas Kenyon observes,49 the period instrument movement provided a “perfect match” for the latest recording technology.

Restlessness (From C. 2000)

Slippered pantaloons (35-42 years):

During this period we experience a desire to share whatever we have learned in life with others. Many philanthropic acts are undertaken, as individuals ‘give back’. But there can also be some sense of impending crisis as we look back and question the value of our achievements.

The weeks and months after September 2001 saw a retrenchment in the amount of work being made available to early music ensembles. The level of touring of classical music groups in general slowed, also hitting the early music scene. Even before 9/11, however, the musical establishment, including big record companies like Deutsche Grammophon (DG), had been getting anxious. John Eliot Gardiner’s ambitious Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, in which every one of Bach’s Cantatas was performed on the appropriate feast day in the millennium year, was originally intended to be recorded by DG, though in the end they only recorded 4 out of the 59 Cantata programs given; but all but one of the others were recorded live for archival purposes. It was five years later, having listened to all the pilgrimage “takes” that Gardiner and his wife Isabella decided to set up their own record label, Soli Deo Gloria (SDG), named after Bach’s appending of these initials to the end of each of his Cantata scores, and to issue these recordings commercially. Somewhat tongue in cheek, SDG has been taken by some journalists to stand for “sod DG!” after it had pulled out of the deal and reduced its commitment (though Gardiner himself asserts “that this was only suggested to me afterwards”50).

Elsewhere, there were positive signs that Early Music was “giving something back.” The new National Centre for Early Music, “an educational resource” housed in a converted church in York, opened its doors for the first time in April 2000. Early Music’s pioneers were also increasingly keen to share more widely what they had learned themselves. For example, as principal conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sir Roger Norrington was in a position to encourage modern orchestral players to explore “pure tone” performance (i.e., eschewing vibrato) across a broad range of repertoires. Norrington has described his approach more generally in terms of “Evidence-Based” Performance (EBP).51 EBP is motivated by the underlying belief that “tradition is laziness, ” i.e., that the response “we usually do it like this” is not a sufficient justification for its continuance. Of course, such a position is not just held by advocates of historical performance practice. It is fascinating to chart the rise of “Evidence-Based” (p.35) approaches in other domains (notably the medical field and policy development), in the years toward the turn of the millennium.52 Regardless of context, a key challenge for all “evidence-based” approaches is to ensure the appropriate balance when basing one’s actions on “facts” and “knowledge.” As Etzioni (1968, 1993) suggests, the vision should be of a society where analysts and experts are “on tap but not on top”—a society that is active in its self-critical use of knowledge. Interestingly, another key development in the early noughties saw some of Early Music’s own experts (performer-scholars) stepping back from their groups so as to allow the next generation of younger musicians to be “on top.” Notable amongst the class of ’73, Trevor Pinnock stood down from The English Concert in 2003, and Christopher Hogwood from the Academy of Ancient Music in 2006.

New Direction? (2007 Onward)

Second childishness (42-49 years):

In this seventh stage we often undergo some major change. Very often, we seek a new direction in life—a new beginning. Unresolved aspects of life come to the fore, and this can, of course, be very unsettling (if not ultimately fruitful) for those involved.

Bruce Haynes’s book The End of Early Music was published in 2007. Though the book is not as pessimistic as the title might suggest, it marks a taking stock. In fact, 2007 was a year still full of early (and not so early) music. The York Early Music Festival celebrated its 30th year; Harry Bicket took over the helm from founder-director Trevor Pinnock at The English Concert; the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment really did come of age, with a 21st birthday concert at the Royal Festival Hall; and the Monteverdi Choir and John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, continued to push the HIP boundaries as they immersed themselves in Brahms’s symphonies and choral works, on tour.

At the time of writing this book there are rumors that the current season of the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, in London, will be the last to enjoy the support of its title sponsor (Lufthansa have been “on board” this flagship festival for the last 28 years).53 As I discuss in more detail in Chapter 10, there is much to celebrate, even if the balance sheet of Early Music’s achievements is not unequivocally positive. So what next for early music? It is increasingly difficult today to distinguish between, say, the specialist period instrument orchestra and the chamber orchestra. Both operate on similar economic models, competing for work with each other from festivals and promoters. Arguably, this is just how it should be—the period instrument orchestra returning to its origins, having grown out of such groups as the Boyd Neel Orchestra, the Philomusica of London, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, the Goldsbrough Orchestra, and the English Chamber Orchestra. There is today a very significant level of overlap in terms of the players (p.36) involved in “historical” performances, with a mix of specialist and modern players. This, at least, is the case for Baroque repertoire and later. We see another story altogether with Medieval and Renaissance music. Whilst interest in early vocal music has flourished, with many specialist young groups coming to prominence in recent years (e.g., The Cardinall’s Musick, The Clerks, and Stile Antico), early instrumental music has remained somewhat out of the spotlight, despite the continued presence of established groups such as the Rose Consort of Viols, Fretwork, and His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012.

On the back cover of A very short introduction to early music, written by Thomas Forrest Kelly (2011), Christopher Hogwood congratulates the author on what he sees as “a very astute recognition that present ideas could soon seem as dated as those of Beecham and Stokowski—or Mozart and Mendelssohn.” Whilst this will no doubt be proved right in some respects, we must surely do what we can now to understand and explain the early music movement, how it came about, and how those involved managed to make it work and make it pay (whilst continuing to allow its music to enchant us). I pick up on this task over the next few chapters, but first we return to the case for and against authenticity in musical performance. In particular—is authenticity in performance a matter of legitimate interest for performers today, or is this, as some have suggested, yesterday’s story?


(1) . From As You Like It, Act 2, Scene VII.

(2) . See “What is early music?” on the Renaissance Workshop Company’s website: http://www.renwks.com/knowledge/earlymusic/earlymusic.htm, accessed November 14, 2012.

(3) . Brown’s review (1988:30) provides an excellent historical background to the early music movement.

(4) . Blume 1950.

(5) . Roche 1989:382.

(6) . Brown 1988:36.

(7) . The Classical period in music is held to have been between about 1730 and 1820, including works by the composers Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven (his earlier works). The Romantic period followed.

(8) . Sacher married the heiress to the Hoffmann-LaRoche pharmaceutical company—an important source of funds for his projects, including the founding of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.

(9) . Landowska (1879–1959) began her musical training on a modern instrument (the piano), like most early music performers even up to the present day.

(10) . See Campbell 1975.

(11) . Brown 1988:39.

(12) . Donington in Campbell 1975:ix–x.

(13) . Brown 1988:46.

(15) . Conductors Raymond Leppard and Sir Neville Marriner represent important exceptions—both well known for their historically informed performances of Baroque and Classical repertoire with modern chamber orchestras.

(16) . Butt 2002:ix–x.

(17) . By way of historical parallel, there were only a handful of active ideologues (“situationists”) behind the student riots of 1968 in Paris.

(18) . Kenyon 1988:2.

(19) . I have sought to include the most active and well-known early music groups; however, I do not claim this to be fully comprehensive in its coverage, not least because the number of (p.233) groups performing early music on an irregular basis well exceeds the possibilities of presentation within one Figure.

(20) . There are exceptions. Gothic Voices, directed by Christopher Page, for example, was set up at the request of the BBC, to make studio recordings of Medieval and Renaissance vocal music.

(21) . Stage models of growth are familiar in research on small businesses (see Churchill and Lewis 1983; Greiner 1972; Scott and Bruce 1987). However, such growth models are applied to individual organizations rather than populations of new businesses, so any parallels should be treated with caution.

(22) . I am indebted to an anonymous reviewer of an early draft for this information. The reader will note that the number 7 features prominently in my own thinking in this book, with 7x7 models used to structure my analysis (this was not something I consciously planned at the outset).

(23) . His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the canon’s mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slippered pantaloon With spectacles on nose and pouch on side; His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. (As You Like It, Act 2, Scene VII)

(24) . See Steiner 1973. My illustrative phase descriptions are loosely based on reading various popular treatments of Steiner’s work available online; see, for example, Tony Crisp’s article “Every Seven Years You Change, ” available at http://dreamhawk.com/body-and-mind/every-seven-years-you-change. Though I stop the cycle at 49, Steiner’s own approach continues through 63 and beyond.

(25) . Couldry 2010:4.

(26) . Andrew Pinnock: interview with author, May 29, 2003.

(27) . Catherine Mackintosh: interview with author, April 29, 2004.

(p.234) (28) . Thomson et al 1994:538.

(29) . Clifford Bartlett: interview with author, November 25, 2003.

(30) . The “spectacle” is highlighted as important here. Other notable early music spectacles include Munrow’s “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” project for television; Norrington’s “Experience” weekends; and John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage.

(31) . In Bruno 2007:15.

(33) . Ibid.

(35) . Ibid.

(36) . Sir John Eliot Gardiner: interview with author, November 6, 2012.

(39) . From a podcast David Munrow On The Record—On an overgrown path, 2008. Available at: http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/on-an-overgrown-path/id269102376, accessed July 5, 2011.

(40) . Brown 1976:288.

(41) . See Bourdieu 2002.

(42) . Trevor Pinnock: interview with author, October 13, 2012.

(43) . Christopher Hogwood: interview with author, January 10, 2003. Sir John Eliot Gardiner cites a recording of Couperin performed by the Kuijken brothers in the late 1960s as particularly inspiring him in the direction of period performance (he launched his own period orchestra in 1978).

(44) . Christopher Hogwood: interview with author, January 10, 2003.

(45) . See discussion in Leech-Wilkinson 2002.

(46) . Establishment recognition of the early music movement came in 1997 in the form of Roger Norrington’s knighthood; John Eliot Gardiner was similarly honored in the following year.

(47) . Cloonan 2007:36.

(48) . Hewison 1995:263.

(50) . Sir John Eliot Gardiner: interview with author, November 6, 2012.

(51) . Sir Roger Norrington: correspondence with author, November 8, 2012.

(53) . See Church 2013.