Gramophone Collector

Wanderlust and exile
Edward Breen listens to a collection of discs exploring the boundary between East and West

Early musicians look east not because they find it quaintly exotic, nor because they learned from Disraeli that is a career. They look, and have always looked, because they realise the roots of the ‘Western’ story are as inextricably intertwined with The East as is its present.

The modern early musician (if you forgive the oxymoron) is heir to an important lineage of musical thought, one that has fundamentally shaken the broader frame of classical music in which it perches. Whereas early twentieth century performances tended to come straight-from-the-page in the prevailing chamber music style, things changed in the 60s when, for instance, performers like Thomas Binkley looked to Andalucían improvisatory practices to inform the performance of medieval dance, he and others began to view monody as a starting point rather than an absolute. By the 1980s Christopher Page moved away from what he once described as the ‘medieval-banquet, rosy-cheeked-wench, sucking-pig view of the medieval past’ towards a more ‘cathedralish’ middle ages and perhaps it was no coincidence that around this time Peter Phillips also discovered an urtext renaissance suited the clean digital sound of CD.

Having now established a canon of early music, the movement is restless again and seems to be revisiting its 1960s roots. I for one detect wanderlust.

To read the full text of this article please visit (August 2016)


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