Early Music Revival
See Early music
Early music
Early music is generally understood as comprising all music from the earliest times up to the Renaissance. However, today this term has come to include "any music for which a historically appropriate style of performance must be reconstructed on the basis of surviving scores, treatises,...

 and Historically informed performance
Historically informed performance
Historically informed performance is an approach in the performance of music and theater. Within this approach, the performance adheres to state-of-the-art knowledge of the aesthetic criteria of the period in which the music or theatre work was conceived...

 for a more detailed explanation of this topic.

The general discussion of how to perform music from ancient or earlier times did not become an important subject of interest until the 19th century, when Europeans began looking to ancient culture generally, and musicians began to discover the musical riches from earlier centuries. The idea of performing Early music more "authentically", with a sense of incorporating performance practice, was more completely established in the 20th century, creating a modern Early Music Revival that continues today.

Study and performance of ancient music before the 19th Century

Musicians working before 1800 were already beginning to study ancient music.

In England, Johann Pepusch developed an "Academy of Ancient Music" in the 1720s to study music by Palestrina
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition...

, Tomás Luis de Victoria
Tomás Luis de Victoria
Tomás Luis de Victoria, sometimes Italianised as da Vittoria , was the most famous composer of the 16th century in Spain, and one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation, along with Giovanni da Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso. Victoria was not only a composer, but also an...

, William Byrd
William Byrd
William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard and consort music.-Provenance:Knowledge of Byrd's biography expanded in the late 20th century, thanks largely...

, Thomas Morely, and other 'ancient' composers At the end of the 18th century, Samuel Wesley
Samuel Wesley
Samuel Wesley was an English organist and composer in the late Georgian period. Wesley was a contemporary of Mozart and was called by some "the English Mozart."-Personal life:...

 was promoting the music of Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

, and in 1808 began performing Bach's organ music in a series of London concerts.

In Vienna, Baron van Swieten presented house concerts of ancient music in the late 1700s, where Mozart developed his love of music by Bach and Handel.

The Early Music Revival in the 19th Century

Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

 is often credited as an important figure in beginning the revival of music from the past. He conducted a famous performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion
The St Matthew Passion, BWV 244, , is a musical composition from the Passions written by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1727 for solo voices, double choir and double orchestra, with libretto by Picander . It sets chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of Matthew to music, with interspersed chorales and arias...

 on March 11 1829, and that concert is cited as one of the most significant events in the Early Music Revival, even though the performance used contemporary instruments and the work was presented in a greatly condensed version, leaving out a significant amount of Bach's music. Handel's
HANDEL was the code-name for the UK's National Attack Warning System in the Cold War. It consisted of a small console consisting of two microphones, lights and gauges. The reason behind this was to provide a back-up if anything failed....

Messiah (Handel)
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742, and received its London premiere nearly a year later...

, performed annually since it was composed in 1741, even with updated orchestrations by Mozart and others, is a work that shows a rare continuous line of performance that gradually defied early performance practice, only to be embraced by it in more recent years.

The Early Music Revival in the early 20th Century

In the early 20th century, musical historians in the emerging field of musicology
Musicology is the scholarly study of music. The word is used in narrow, broad and intermediate senses. In the narrow sense, musicology is confined to the music history of Western culture...

 began to look at Renaissance music
Renaissance music
Renaissance music is European music written during the Renaissance. Defining the beginning of the musical era is difficult, given that its defining characteristics were adopted only gradually; musicologists have placed its beginnings from as early as 1300 to as late as the 1470s.Literally meaning...

 more completely and carefully, preparing performing editions of many works. The choirs at the cathedral churches in England were quick to revive these pieces, establishing a new standard and tradition in performing Renaissance choral music. Other important milestones in the Early Music Revival included the 1933 founding of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis
Schola Cantorum Basiliensis
Schola Cantorum Basiliensis is a music academy and research institution located in Basel, Switzerland, and focusing on early music and historically informed performance....

 in Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

, Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 by Paul Sacher
Paul Sacher
Paul Sacher was a Swiss conductor, patron and impresario.-Biography:He studied under Felix Weingartner, among others. In 1926 he founded the Basel Chamber Orchestra to play works written before the classical period and modern works...

—together with distinguished musicians including the pioneering specialist in early vocal music Max Meili
Max Meili
Max Meili, a Swiss tenor, was born 11 December 1899 in Winterthur and died 17 March 1970 in Zürich, Switzerland. He first trained as a painter then turned to singing, leading to lessons with Felix von Kraus....

, who contributed to the extensive L'Anthologie Sonore series of early music recordings and recorded Renaissance lute songs for HMV
His Master's Voice is a trademark in the music business, and for many years was the name of a large record label. The name was coined in 1899 as the title of a painting of the dog Nipper listening to a wind-up gramophone...

—and the 1937 presentation and recording of some of Monteverdi’s
Claudio Monteverdi
Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer.Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition – the...

 Madrigals by Nadia Boulanger
Nadia Boulanger
Nadia Boulanger was a French composer, conductor and teacher who taught many composers and performers of the 20th century.From a musical family, she achieved early honours as a student at the Paris Conservatoire, but believing that her talent as a composer was inferior to that of her younger...

 in France. Arnold Dolmetsch
Arnold Dolmetsch
Arnold Dolmetsch , was a French-born musician and instrument maker who spent much of his working life in England and established an instrument-making workshop in Haslemere, Surrey...

 is widely considered the key figure in the Early Music Revival in the early 20th century..

The Early Music Revival in the second half of the 20th Century

By the 1950s the Early Music Revival was fully underway, and was a fully established phenomenon by the end of the 1970s. It was centered primarily in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and Basel (at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis
Schola Cantorum Basiliensis
Schola Cantorum Basiliensis is a music academy and research institution located in Basel, Switzerland, and focusing on early music and historically informed performance....

), although there was much activity in other Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an and American cities, especially New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, and San Francisco (centered around its Philharmonia Baroque). It had far-reaching and important effects for the way that people listen to classical music and the way it is taught, performed, sponsored and sold. Few people involved in the classical music industry today would not acknowledge the breadth and depth of the impact that this movement has had. As much as any other force in the period, the protagonist
A protagonist is the main character of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical narrative, around whom the events of the narrative's plot revolve and with whom the audience is intended to most identify...

s of the Early Music Revival were opponents of cultural values that, in the late 1950s, seemed virtually unquestionable. The revival of interest in music from earlier periods was more widely felt than in the pedagogy and performance practice of European art music; it also influenced the performance practices and research of popular music and the music of oral traditions.

The Early Music Revival changed the listening habits of classical music audiences by introducing them to a range of music of which they were largely unaware. In the long term, the performance methods and values of the early music revivalist, particularly what became known as a quest for 'authenticity' had a permanent effect not only on early music performance, but also on the performance of music from later periods.

Most interest was centered on the medieval
Medieval music
Medieval music is Western music written during the Middle Ages. This era begins with the fall of the Roman Empire and ends sometime in the early fifteenth century...

 and renaissance
Renaissance music
Renaissance music is European music written during the Renaissance. Defining the beginning of the musical era is difficult, given that its defining characteristics were adopted only gradually; musicologists have placed its beginnings from as early as 1300 to as late as the 1470s.Literally meaning...

 periods, and to a certain extent, the first part of the baroque
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 period. However, it could be misleading to think of this revival simply in chronological terms, because early music performers soon extended their interests to later periods. The focus was not simply on repertoire, but on the ways in which the music is conceived, the process by which it is learned, and the manners in which it is performed.

At this time established pioneers of early music such as the English counter-tenor Alfred Deller
Alfred Deller
Alfred George Deller CBE , was an English singer and one of the main figures in popularizing the return of the countertenor voice in Renaissance and Baroque music during the 20th Century....

 were joined by a new wave of specialist groups such as Musica Reservata
Musica reservata
In music history, musica reservata is either a style or a performance practice in a cappella vocal music of the latter half of the 16th century, mainly in Italy and southern Germany, involving refinement, exclusivity, and intense emotional expression of sung text.The exact meaning, which appears...

 and the Early Music Consort
Early Music Consort
The Early Music Consort of London was founded by Christopher Hogwood and David Munrow in 1967 and disbanded in 1976 following Munrow's death. It produced many influential collections of early music, typical of which was The Art of the Netherlands issued as a 3-record set in 1976.-Selected...

. The music they played, and the way it was performed, appeared new in comparison to the sounds that most people were used to from classical music; it seemed fresh and exotic.

But the revival could not have been complete without the reconstruction of instruments of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. People like Otto Steinkopf (one of the most knowledgeable and talented Berlin instrument makers and performers) started the meticulous reproduction of woodwinds: crumhorns, cornamuses, rauschpfeifes, shawms, flutes and early types of clarinets and oboes. Other manufacturers like the Renaissance Workshop Company (formerly J. Woods and Sons Ltd.) played an important role in the development of Early Music in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Early Music Revival in the 21st Century

There continues to be a great flourishing of ensembles, training programs, concert series, and recordings devoted to ancient music in the 21st century. In Europe a proliferation of early music festivals
Early music festivals
Early music festivals is a generic term for musical festivals focused on music before Beethoven, or including Historically informed performance of later works...

 and specialist departments of music conservatories, have made Early Music an established part of mainstream musical activity.

In the United States, gatherings such as the Boston Early Music Festival
Boston Early Music Festival
The Boston Early Music Festival is a music festival held every two years in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, for all people interested in historical music performance....

 and organizations such as Early Music America (EMA), the Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburgh
Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburgh
The Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburgh is a non-profit performing arts organization in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that presents performances of music from the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and early Classical periods with an emphasis on historically informed performance...

 and the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) continue to promote the study and performance of ancient music. Several college music departments, such as Indiana University
Indiana University
Indiana University is a multi-campus public university system in the state of Indiana, United States. Indiana University has a combined student body of more than 100,000 students, including approximately 42,000 students enrolled at the Indiana University Bloomington campus and approximately 37,000...

, the University of North Texas
University of North Texas
The University of North Texas is a public institution of higher education and research in Denton. Founded in 1890, UNT is part of the University of North Texas System. As of the fall of 2010, the University of North Texas, Denton campus, had a certified enrollment of 36,067...

, and Boston University
Boston University
Boston University is a private research university located in Boston, Massachusetts. With more than 4,000 faculty members and more than 31,000 students, Boston University is one of the largest private universities in the United States and one of Boston's largest employers...

, have strong Early Music degree programs.

Recordings of all eras of early music and works of many lesser-known composers are now available. While some major recording labels have reduced funding for classical music recordings, a large number of independent classical labels, such as Harmonia Mundi and Hyperion, continue to produce early music recordings. The majority of recorded music available is found for purchase (or download) on the internet.

External links

  • Medieval.org description of Early Music and the history of performance practice
  • Renaissance Workshop Company the company which has saved many rare and some relatively unknown instruments from extinction.
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