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I'm OK, You're OK, Even if you're HIP (Listening to Richter) September 24, 2016

I'm OK, You're OK, Even if you're HIP

I listened to Bach's English Suites played by Sviatoslav Richter and Mozart's k361 played by the BPO winds and Ozawa (a broadcast recording) on a long pre-dawn walk this morning before settling in here with my smartdumbphone in my corner spot in the coffee shop. I absolutely love this music done this way. And 25 years ago, during the great HIP wars, I was branded a dinosaur with tastes as fossilized. Actually more than branded. Derided.

It's a bit amazing to me at this point how nasty people could be with each other, the original instruments crowd vs the old and young (me) foggies who hated what we heard as thin, pinched, nasal, expressionless desecrations of great music in the name of "authenticity."

But how we could stand the bloated, romanticized, just plain wrong performance style centuries removed from the composers and their original sounds and intentions? It was beyond the historically informed practice partisans, aka to us, HIPsters.

Maybe my geezerhood-relative lack of interest in the debate is why, but it seems to me the battle is long over. The HIPsters "won" in a sense, but less by the world adopting the original "original" approach than its merging with traditional dinovalues. Basically, I find plenty of modern HIP ensembles listenable, which wasn't the case back then. How much I still love Richter in Bach and hate it on harpsichord or love the BPO in Mozart (my "imprint" recording of k361 was Furtwangler's) over "modern" more modern (ie not modern) recordings tells me it's not me whose changed.

But the real point is, what a bunch of boobs we were to be arguing about it in the first place. WHO FREAKING CARES? It ain't oncology. There's no meaningful right or wrong.

OK, maybe academicians and working musicians whose livelihoods are tied to such debates should care (Pinchas Zukerman wrote a legendary diatribe in Fanfare back then that us anti-HIPsters loved, comparing modern violin sounds to a cat puking).

But listeners? It really uncovered our insecurities. Why should I care how you like your Bach? Why should you care that I love Stokowski's Bach infinitely more than on Bach's organ?

We were already a teensy minority (even teensier now) when it came to loving this music in the first place. Instead of reveling in its delights together, it became a turf war. It was still Haydn, who cares how it was cooked? Oh boy we sure did if you liked it the "other" way.

It probably has a lot to do with the fact that it was guys doing most of the battling. Sure, women have always loved this stuff as much and played it and, especially these days, performed it as much as dudes. But its different. I've never known, personally, a hardcore record collector with many thousands of records without a penis. I know they're out there, but the gender ratio has to be 100 to 1, if not greater. The whole record-collector thing is as male-dominated as drag racing. And as competive. It's kind of weird.

So we had to duke it out, divide up sides. The little pond's fish couldn't stand the other heathens.

I still can't stand the sounds made by hardcore HIP orchestras and ensembles but I'm sure glad plenty of others do and help pay for the music and keep it breathing and on just this side of life support. I like that someone shares a love of this amazing music and keeps it going. It's lonely enough as it is out here.

We're in this together more than we used to be. Good thing. Considering that our pond has gotten even littler, it helps that we don't eat our own. At least I don’t think we do. I don't care enough anymore to pay attention.

But I do still love big band Bach. I just don't want to fight you about it.

But we'll always have politics.

September 24, 2016

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