Musical Works and Performances: A Philosophical Exploration

By Stephen Davies | Go to book overview

5 Authenticity in Western Classical Music

Playing harpsichord music on the piano was simply not satisfying—which eventually led me to take up the harpsichord. Something similar seems often to be the case with violinists. There are certain things which one finds in early violin methods which the modern violin and bow are simply incapable of doing. During my first conservatory years I was involved in a small baroque ensemble, using modern instruments. The necessity of playing on early instruments became more and more clear to us; it was not the public which demanded this, but rather our own growing dissatisfaction. For us, the early instruments began where the modern ones left off. This also became clear to me while working with musicians in a modern orchestra; even the most outstanding results do not come close to what one can achieve on baroque instruments.

(Koopman 1987 : 4)

In this chapter I discuss performances judged for the authenticity with which they represent the works they are of. In Chapter 1 I argued that musical works are not of a single ontological type. It follows, then, that what is required for authenticity in a work's instances will depend on what kind of piece it is. For most of this chapter I restrict my attention to authenticity in performances of pieces intended for live performance and specified by scores written by their composers. 1 Such works are the most common and familiar in Western classical music. It is pieces of this kind on which debates concerning 'authentic performance' focus.

My discussion does not address the politics of performance. I approach the topic under three headings. What is authenticity in respect of performances of works? Is authenticity attainable in practice? Is authenticity a good thing?

-206-

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Musical Works and Performances: A Philosophical Exploration
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Musical Works and Performances iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Part One Works, Their Instances, and Notations 1
  • 1: Musical Works 6
  • 2: Elements of Musical Works 45
  • 3: Notations 99
  • 4: Performances 151
  • Part Two Performance, Culture, and Recording 199
  • 5: Authenticity in Western Classical Music 206
  • 6: Authenticity and Non-Western Music 254
  • 7: Recordings 295
  • References 341
  • Index 362
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