Monday, December 12, 2005

HIP Is Here To Stay

The recording company Deutsche Grammophon has a long-running series called "The Originals" where they re-package classic recordings from their catalogue. I notice that the newest batch of reissues includes Trevor Pinnock's recording of Handel's "Messiah", performed on period instruments.

Truth be told, I've never thought this was one of the very best recordings of "Messiah," though I think it may be one of the best-selling recordings of the piece, which would explain why it's been chosen for reissue in a series devoted to the label's classics. But the thing that intrigues me about this is, simply, the fact of an HIP (Historically Informed Performance) recording being included in such a series.

It wasn't so long ago that music lovers were engaged in a debate over whether HIP was here to stay or just a fad, whether it was going to take over baroque and classical performance or whether "traditional" performances would prevail. Pinchas Zuckerman, the director of the National Arts Centre orchestra in my native Ottawa (as I recall, he replaced none other than Trevor Pinnock, whose work with the orchestra wasn't particularly impressive -- not that Zuckerman's was either), used to and for all I know still does go into long tirades about how HIP musicians weren't real musicians, just people who took up the gut strings and valve horns because they couldn't get jobs in "traditional" orchestras.

And now HIP is in and of itself traditional, so much so that twenty-year-old HIP recordings are coming out in a series alongside recordings by the likes of Karajan, Fricsay and Mravinsky. Those simulated cat-gut strings and small-sized choruses are part of our musical culture now.

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