M. De Sapio
Bruce Haynes' THE END OF EARLY MUSIC is a book about the historical performance movement, its aims and philosophy and its place in the modern musical scene. Haynes traces HIP (historically informed performance) in history, contrasting its philosophy with the romantic mindset which preceded it (which included the notions of absolute music, canonism, and the "transparent performer"). But Haynes' book is not simply a polemic against "mainstream" (i.e. non-historically informed) ways of performing older music; he outlines and critiques different trends within HIP itself, coming down squarely on the side of what he calls the Eloquent Style, a "passionate oratorical manner...based on declamation and gestural phrasing".
Part I of the book is brilliant. Haynes outlines what he discerns as the three successive styles of playing early music in the 20th century. The grand romantic manner, with its swooping portamento and rhythmic liberties, was a carry-over from the previous century. In reaction to this, and influenced by the "objectivist" aesthetic of Stravinsky, a new "Modernist" style developed in the 1930's that was extremely precise, literalistic, and emotionally detached (this is the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields variety of baroque performance). This style, stiff, mechanical, lacking in inflection, was far worse than Romantic Baroque; Haynes considers it an analogue to the mechanized standardization of the Industrial Revolution. The 1960's saw the beginnings of the Period Style which is now practiced by HIP musicians all over the world. Haynes further divides Period Style into two trends -Straight Style (or "Modern Lite", as he calls it), and the Eloquent Style, which Haynes feels represents the true baroque aesthetic.
As a historical performance student and performer, I am in fundamental agreement with Haynes' ideas, even if I have quibbles with certain particulars. Although the book has "early music" in the title, it is pretty much limited to baroque music, Haynes' area of specialization; Haynes does not make it clear how much of what he says is also applicable to Renaissance or Classical music. Moreover, it is hardly a "history of music", as the subtitle proclaims, but rather a history of musical interpretation from the romantic era to the present with the baroque era as the point of reference.
At times Haynes could have chosen his words better. As a Catholic, I was dismayed by the language he used in comparing the romantic concert to religious ritual in the chapter "Classical Music's Coarse Caress": "Music of this type thus risks becoming liturgy, UNTHINKING AND UNPROVOCATIVE [my emphasis]...Ritual actions are those that, because they are often repeated, lose the meaning they once possessed, and become automatic". I don't know what Haynes' religious convictions are, but he should have chosen his words more carefully here so as not to offend.
Haynes seems unwilling to give the 19th century any credit whatsoever, and occasionally his claims left me with some questions. For instance, he claims that the 19th-century bred a literalistic approach to the score along with the idea of the performer as mere "executant" of the composer's wishes. But how is this to be squared with the notion of romantic performers using compositions as vehicles for soul-searching personal expression? Elsewhere Haynes rails against the idea of canonism, or playing an exclusive list of compositions by "dead composers". But surely it was precisely romanticism's rejection of the ephemeral music-making of previous eras that allowed the early music revival to take place? On one occasion, Haynes seems blatantly to contradict himself. On p. 220 he criticizes HIP performances of Beethoven and romantic music for not sounding like the recordings of the early years of the 20th century, while earlier on the same page he had suggested that those early recordings don't represent an authentic Beethovenian performing style to begin with.
Other complaints I had were in the niceties of style. Haynes has developed a whole lexicon of names for the concepts he describes (Eloquent Style, Strait Style) and for the most part they work nicely (though the term "musicking" strikes me as silly). But he frequently refers to "Classical music" when it's clear he means "classical music" (the capital "C" indicates the Classical style period, whereas the lower-case "c" indicates "serious" or "art" music). Haynes' tone is informal, to the point of writing "kids" instead of "children" and "paper" instead of "newspaper". In general, the book could have been more carefully edited.
All in all, this is an important and very readable book on the fascinating subject of musical interpretation.