Music of another era
Writing an earlier post The art of the classical maverick prompted me to listen again to David Munrow's 3 LP box Music of the Gothic Era recorded for Deutsche Grammophon shortly before he took his own life in 1976. What is immediately striking is how fundamentally different these performances of Leonin, Pérotin and their contemporaries are to today's approved 'authentic' interpretations. Amazon reviewers reprimand Munrow for being 'dated', for 'overblown instrumentation', for using 'bells, fiddles, lute, bandora, psaltery, harp, organ, percussion, cornetts, recorder and shawms', and for having 'the mindset that everything must be accompanied by some mentalist walloping away like mad on the tabor and a cacophony of other instruments'. Yet David Munrow attracted radio and television audiences and generated record sales that today's classical industry would die for. Isn't there are a lesson to be learnt here?
In an earlier post I wrote about how the pendulum has now swung too far in the direction of the classical fundamentalists who dictate via the mob-throb of social media not only what we listen to, but who plays it and how it is performed. Another dissenting post suggested that new classical audiences want more bang for their bucks and it seems that David Munrow's mentalist walloping away on his tabor delivered what new audiences wanted back in the 1970s. Aren't authentic performances just another silly convention? Does it really matter what the classical fundamentalists think when politically incorrect Machaut and other aberations such as big band Bach contributed to an Indian summer of recorded classical music. Since then the promised digital long tail has turned into a long wail for the demise of the maverick. The blandness of our algorithmic age is evidenced perfectly by how Universal Classics ditched that stunning 1976 LP artwork seen above for the anodyne CD packaging below.
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