Originally Posted by bigshot
I like Leonhardt a lot. But I tend to prefer bigger bands and modern instruments, particularly with violins and piano in Mozart.
For me it depends. Take the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 for instance. Although Bach is usually a more general, abstract composer (look at Musical Offering and Art of Fugue) rather than a composer who composed taking into account the specific sonorities of his/her instrument (Chopin and Scarlatti for example), in this case there is a specific musical purpose that the baroque instrumentation serves in this piece. A modern ensemble struggles to achieve the same sense of balance in volume as the modern trumpet is very loud and overpowers all the other wind instruments. And this isn't even taking into account the timbre problems. But don't get me wrong; I still enjoy piano and modern string recordings of Bach quite frequently... it all depends on who is playing.
With Mozart, I think I will 99% of the time take a period ensemble over a modern one. A modern orchestra simply does not have that sense of lightness and refinement in sound. I only need to hear the Mozart Symphony No. 38 by Gardiner to remind myself.
Now with someone like Beethoven or Shostakovich, I think there can be many exceptions. It's hard to achieve the same level of dramatic dynamics in Beethoven with a period ensemble as with a modern one after all. Shostakovich apparently still used gut strings in his time... would be interesting to hear that. But for now, I think he sounds fantastic on modern instruments. Anyone ever listen to Rostropovich's performance of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto? His best recording imo.
Originally Posted by mike1127
Do you ever listen to Leonhardt? His is a very sophisticated rubato. Sometimes he overdoes it and kills the momentum, but at the faster tempos his rhythmic sophistication is unmatched.
Bach with a straight feel can work too.
I feel that Bach should be played with a straight tempo but at the same time, not give off an inflexible, metronome-like impression. I think in cases of pieces like the Bach Cello Suites, the more the player deviates from the bowings that the composer intended, the more he has to resort to rubato, in a struggled attempt to make the piece sound more rational.
But in cases of orchestral works, I think the many mechanics of sound - timbre, articulation, intonation, acoustics, etc. - all should uniformly build a "drive" to the piece that allows a straight inflexible rhythm to be elastic sounding. Of course, this is extremely difficult to achieve.
And ironically, I find Bach to be somewhat of a minimalist - a strange one at that. I mean yes he has the typical baroque ornaments everywhere but even his ornaments are there for a REASON. Take them out, and it's enough to give a listener a very different impression of the piece. My point? Everything he puts down on a paper is "minimalized" or essential. He is paradoxically simple AND complex.