Michael Morrow’s Musica Reservata pioneered a no-compromise performance style for medieval and renaissance music throughout the 1960s and 70s which, they claimed, attempted ‘to recreate the past in all its glory and its horror’. These hard-edged performances, especially the vocal style, baffled many critics, but Morrow was unmoved: without such stylistic conviction and accuracy, ‘the music at worse, does not exist at all; at best, it is deformed, dishonoured, and sent out to walk the streets.’ This paper attempts to penetrate Morrow’s conception of ‘the music’ when ‘recreating the past’.
Morrow’s talks and broadcasts reveal strict views demanding a ‘bite and attack’ from singers, whose influence is indebted to period instruments. Morrow also found contemporary models for this philosophy in other world traditions, including Yugoslav folk and Genoese fishermen. The paper reveals how such ideas are made manifest in a 1969 recording of Landini’s yearning love-song Questa fanciulla. This striking performance is contrasted with another, made just days later, by David Munrow. Performance analysis read against archival evidence offers new insights into Morrow’s ideas about music’s ability ‘to recreate the past’, and thus further contributes to the ongoing debate on authenticity and the recovery of lost performance practices.
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