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Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member

Came across this when I was looking into clarinet history. This is a group that performs on new-manufactured period instruments. In this case, we're talking baroque period. There are several videos focusing on single instruments, which was what I really enjoyed.
Thank you very much for the hint to these videos!

I am someone who is very interested in historically informed performance and period instruments, and have watched many videos on this channel.

I found the video about the old flutes very nice, if only because I love the sound of the old wooden flutes. You can really hear how different these flutes sound in different keys! I love this muffled sound, which is created by the forked fingerings, especially when it has been specifically used by composers to create a certain mood or atmosphere.

I also like the video on the old clarinet, because even there fork fingering was necessary, and chromatic tones sounded different. This "inadequacy" was also deliberately used by composers at that time, for example by Carl Maria von Weber in his opera "Der Freischütz", where he had the clarinets play chromatic tones in low registers, which were supposed to create an eerie atmosphere. On modern clarinets and flutes these tones shine too bright and too clean, since these instruments were built to sound even and clean in all keys.

I also liked the video about the natural horn, although I have already seen other videos about it. I noticed that Beethoven very often uses the sound of stopped horns to achieve a certain effect. Just think of the first bars of an aria from the opera "Fidelio" or "Leonore", which depict the dark dungeon in which Florestan is locked up.

fidelio gestopft.jpg

Here, in the sixth bar, the horns suddenly play a loud E flat followed by a soft d. This E flat is a tone in which the horn must be stopped, while the D is played openly. The stopping and the forte result in an uncomfortable rattling of this tone, only to end up in a tone played openly and softly. This sounds like a rattling of chains, or like a cry of pain that becomes weaker. On my recording on period instruments you can hear this too, on other recordings played on valve horns this note sounds too soft and too gentle. Both the E flat and the D sound the same, only at different volumes; there is no difference between these two tones anymore.

In Mozart's operas, on the other hand, I have not yet found a single stopped tone; he always uses only open tones, which I find a pity. He uses them, as far as I know, only in his horn concertos.

Because of such things, I hear music only on the instruments for which a composer has composed. Of course I also like valve horns, modern flutes and oboes! The music of Wagner or Verdi or Strauss on these old instruments would sound terrible, because the composers wrote for other instruments, which have completely different characteristics!
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