HIP (Historically Informed Performance) is not so hip as it used to be. William Christie does Baroque opera with cutting edge directors. René Jacobs records a Matthew Passion with tempi that rival Furtwängler’s. The information age was what made historically aware performances possible. It did not give us all the answers. In fifty years will we have HIP performances that are more like the 16th or 17th century than they are today? And how will the information we gain then be applied? Will not the actually application of it be indelibly tied to the decade?
The number, variety, and quality range of the BEMF musical events is so vast that it induces a kind of giddiness or vertigo over the course of the week that can be taken as either the frenzy of enthusiasm or the disorientation of overload. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Going to concerts is always a social event, and attending a series of them along with numbers of articulate, knowledgeable people (including the total stranger who might be wearing an “Earlier than Thou” T-shirt) with whom you can share information and compare responses is stimulating—at the very worst—at best highly enlightening.
A beautiful, warm, late-autumn Sunday afternoon in the peaceful village of Bedford, New York was disrupted by some cracklingly energetic performances of Hispanic vocal and instrumental music performed on period instruments by Ensemble Rebel and guests. The title of the program was misleading; there was nothing that referred to the political powers that shaped the cultures from which this music came. This raises the question: how should such a program be billed? As “Spanish and Latin-American Music from the Baroque Era” or “Baroque Music from Spain and the New World?” The difference has to do with the way you like to categorize such unruly experiences.