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Brueggen's New Goals In Old Music

February 25, 1986|JOHN VOLAND

Page through any concert listing and you will see them. Check out the latest classical releases at your favorite record shop and you can't help noticing them.

It would appear that "authentic" original instrument performances--once the sole preserve of scholars, musicologists and performers--are part of the musical mainstream, some 30 years after the first groups devoted to the exact reproduction of Baroque music began performing.

As one of the earliest lights of the early music scene, recorder player/conductor Frans Brueggen--performing three times in Southern California (at Caltech, the County Museum of Art and at UC Irvine) over the next three days--acknowledges the establishmentarian cast the formerly "radical" musical movement has adopted.

"I think the times of deeply looking into Telemann and Vivaldi are gone--and I don't pity it at all," he said in a telephone interview from his apartment in New York. "They've been scrutinized enough. Original instrument and performance practice should be marching on now, to medieval music and the early Romantics."

Although it is primarily as a recorder soloist that Brueggen won notice, his schedule of late has included many appearances as conductor--and it is primarily in this function that the Dutch musician is pursuing new directions for the original-instrument movement.

"Obviously, playing the recorder would limit me somewhat when dealing with Beethoven or Schumann," he remarked with a laugh. "People in the field are working toward Schumann, now that the early Beethoven is being performed by myself and others with the original forces."

Brueggen and his Orchestra of the 18th Century--a 40-player group using period instruments and sharply reduced string forces--performed Beethoven's First Symphony, and he said plans are in the works for performances of the composer's "Eroica" symphony during the ensemble's 1987 tour.

With the Romantics, however, one encounters musicological research methods not available in music of the Baroque and earlier, Brueggen added.

"When you begin talking about early Romantic performance practice, you must realize we have a more or less direct oral tradition going all the way back to Beethoven," he said.

"In that way one can gather a lot of material about how performers did things during that time. For instance, the whole tempo question was different in Beethoven's time. They were in general quite brisk, much more so than today. Although he, for instance, put metronome markings in some of his scores, the timings were very fast; in some cases too fast. At the premieres, it seems, there was never a dull moment."

Brueggen laughed, and continued: "But the scores were so fresh, so new and so living, that the composer couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement of it. This applies even today, to modern composers, I believe."

Brueggen said the problems involved in researching medieval performance practices are more like those he encountered with the early Baroque period.

"You go digging," he said. "I am especially glad to note that much of the current research is being devoted to finding out what kinds of sounds those people were used to hearing."

Brueggen's own hearing has been subtly shifted in the last few years by his increasing commitment to conducting, he said.

"I find the conducting discipline alters a bit the way I approach my solo playing--especially where matters of timing, generally, are concerned," Brueggen related. "I find myself perceiving the whole a little more clearly than in the past, learning to fit in a little differently into the performance picture. It's a wonderful change, actually."

One thing that will not change, however, is the search of Brueggen and his colleagues in the original instrument field for original programming. On the program of Brueggen's trio-recital in Beckman Auditorium at Caltech tonight are such composers as the 14th-Century Frenchmen Guillaume de Machaut and Solage, 16th-Century Englishmen John Lloyd and William Cornysh, and a fellow popular in the Middle Ages: Anonymous.

"We are always looking for something new and giving it a try," Brueggen concluded.

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