I have been asked by one of your musicians with whom I communicate, to offer my comments on performances of our music in your present time.
So I have been listening to some performances of what you in your modern times call baroque music. It has given me little pleasure.
To begin, it lacked the life, the vivacity, the brilliance even, of the little concerts I, we enjoyed in our Hamburg cafes, given by students, professors, professionals, all mixed together, just whoever happened to be passing and thirsted for a coffee or a little music, and above all, the simple pleasure of it.
And your modern musicians seem to take pleasure in making our music sound harsh, almost painful. And I speak for myself and my contemporaries, some known to you, others not, all of whom feel the same. You make your violins sound almost... I dont know... like a bird in pain.
And for some reason which I know not nor understand, you seem by common consent to have banned, forbidden, eradicated from your music the most noble and much valued practice of vibrato. Do you not know what richness this can impart, how it denotes your deep affection for the music under your bow?
I also frequently find your modern tempi excessively fast as if, not only you do not wish to savour it, its cadences and twists of harmony... you almost dislike it, and wish to play and have done, with all possible speed.
But most striking of all to me, and to others of my friends, is the fact that you totally and completely... even your most highly regarded professional players... you ignore the challenge, so much enjoyed by my friends both players and listeners... the noble art of improvisation. Why do you think there are repeats in our scores and manuscripts? Can you truly imagine that we are so proud of it that we say to you simply... play it again? Well that is what you seem to think, even the most celebrated players among you. But that was surely not for us.
For us, the repeat, each and every repeat, was a challenge, a challenge for each and every player, to improvise (though often with much secretive practice beforehand), to create some new variation, simple, complex, adventurous, but always something novel to surprise and delight audience and fellow musicians alike. The improvised repeats were indeed a much anticipated pleasure for us all, and were often interrupted by spontaneous applause, though this was not encouraged!
Your musicians today have lost the art. Or they fear the challenge, I do not know. But for me, to hear each idea boringly repeated, is indeed most tiresome. And I mourn for you in your loss.
I am sorry that I appear to have been so critical, but having been asked by a musician of your time for my comments, I gave them, critically albeit, but honestly and in the sincerest of friendship.
Most respectfully, George P.T.