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Nicholas Kenyon’s opening chapter Performance Today eruditely consolidates the essence of the editors’ persuasive introduction: single-volume histories of music are understandably preoccupied with composers, dates, careers and commentary on scores, but this is apparently the first large-scale book to concentrate seriously on how western ‘high-culture’ music was (and is) performed and understood in action.

Naturally, many chapters are indebted to seminal works of musicology that have given plenty of attention to mingling biographical and analytical surveys with what is known about relevant performance practice and audience. Nonetheless, this encyclopaedic tome offers a fresh perspective because it concentrates on what performers actually did, how they might have done it and what contemporary observers or participants thought about it. Expert contributors confirm that our understanding of historical music can progress far beyond the dots on the page that survive in manuscripts or collected printed editions. The bulk of the book is structured into sections consisting of four chapters each: an authoritative overview, a discussion of vocal performance, a chapter on instrumental performance, and then an individual case study explored in depth. A useful reference tool for dipping into.

David Vickers Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing