With some justification, a commentator has described today’s typical early-music performance style as the most modern thing around, despite its claim for historical accuracy. Early accounts reveal this to be a valid assessment, for today’s technology and high education standards give us a massive advantage. In contrast to music composition, which needs no technology, music execution requires skills that can be greatly enhanced through technology. For example, the metronome (invented in 1816) is an excellent training tool for rhythmic steadiness, but this usage did not become universal until some point in the twentieth century. Countless reports from preceding centuries document the rhythmic instability that posed a major obstacle for even the best ensembles. Leaders had to resort to audible time beating, whether by stamping the foot, pounding with a stout rod, or playing the first violin part at deafening volume. For us, the metronome also enables rapid tempos: one simply begins slowly, and gradually increases the tempo in small increments.
Another great advance was the invention of recording technology, which provided models for imitation, thereby improving intonation, tone quality, expression, and rhythmic stability. Today, it continues to provide automatic ear training and many other benefits. The articles in the present compilation not only provide insight into early performance standards, but also treat subjects such as tempo, Beethoven's tempo marks, keyboard instruments, over-dotting, notes inégales, embellishment, vibrato, choral singing, vocal soloists, and temperament.
Beverly Jerold: Beverly Jerold has published extensively on 18th- and 19th-century topics in journals such as Early Music, NOTES, the Dutch Journal of Music Theory, BACH, The Beethoven Journal, The Musical Times, Ad Parnassum, Eighteenth-Century Music, and Göttinger Händel-Beiträge. Her book, The Complexities of Early Instrumentation: Winds and Brass (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015) presents the efforts made to guide composers in avoiding the severe limitations of these instruments during the 18th and 19th centuries. Before this information began to appear in the late 18th century, many composers wrote parts that were poorly performed, for which the players were unjustifiably blamed. Another recent publication in Music Theory & Analysis (2014-15) concerns newly discovered material on temperament and intonation from the encyclopedist Denis Diderot, who appears to have been the first to describe the modern concept of “expressive” intonation. Jerold is also a practicing keyboard musician.