Harnoncourt lives on
It’s been 6 months now since the trickster has left us. In case you haven’t come across it, here’s a great BBC3 interview with Harnoncourt from 2012. It gives you a very rounded idea about him as an artist (and person).
One of the things he touches on that has given me food for thought is how a work of art has a life of its own, it’s not bound by its physical barriers. Its identity as a dialogue between the artist and his/her audience is more important. As such it changes as the audience changes. He postulates that Die Zauberflote of today is not the same as Die Zauberflote of 1791.
It was interesting how on the one hand he wanted us to forget 19th century concepts of listening to music written before that time whilst at the same time acknowledging that we as 21st century audiences have accumulated that experience – all that has come after 1800 – and thus can’t receive art quite as people did in the 1700s. Sounds like a bit of a contradiction.
Though what he probably means is that we can’t roll our eyes at 18th century opera seria for being written according to a set formula of recit/aria/recit but rather take it on its own merits.
He also says that the greatest works of art from the past are always relevant. Of course, they define civilisations. This is more evident today when there’s a lot of anguish and rethinking in regards to European Civilisation. There is a good possibility that in the not so distant future “the Western” way of thinking won’t be the default view of the globalised world. What then? It’s quite disconcerting as a European to imagine this. Will Mozart and Monteverdi be encapsuled as common world heritage in the same way cave paintings of Summerian or Egyptian art was, or will they be forgotten?