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  1. We cannot imitate the past, only what we perceive of the past from the slim evidence it has left us. And our decision to try to imitate the past is truly a contemporary decision, which no one before the 20th century would have made. As for “personal,” we make our own choices about how to mix the past and the present, but we make them only in the present.

  2. Surely evidence for past performance practice is uneven. It can be anything from non-existent to extensive depending on just what repertoire we are talking about, how distant in the past it was created, what instruments survive from that time, what was written about it, what recordings exist, and so on. Furthermore, we can work as hard on historically aspects of the music and its performance as we wish but we can never recreate audiences of the past to listen critically and appreciatively to the results of our efforts. Our audiences are necessarily contemporary ones with expectations and sensitivities unique to our own time. It seems to me that if our focus is on creating “personal and contemporary” performances of music from times past we would do best to abandon historically informed practice altogether and simply adopt the music as one’s own. In this context an utterly unauthentic performance might be the most personal, contemporary and interesting of all. I hasten to add that the musical performances I most enjoy are those which are informed by what we know of the past but not so conditioned by it that they become dull, dry, academic and boring.

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