Fallacy of the Work, Truth of the Performance: What Makes Music Baroque: Historical Authenticity or Ontological Plurality?

Antoine Hennion1

Baroque Music has enjoyed a revival over the last half-century centred around the idea of a more authentic interpretation. Does this mean playing it ‘as it was played at the time’, rediscovering the truth of an interpretation? Or does it mean the opposite, finally accepting the irreducible plurality of music as performance (Hennion 2014)?

Music is a good place to think about how we might reformulate the question of authenticity.2 In the history of art the issue turns around the problem of forgery. But what counts as a fake in music? A piece has to be replayed each time anyway. ‘Falsification’ does not really arise. It is ‘allographic’ (Goodman 1976): the binary true/false division relevant in literature or with the original in the visual arts turns into something different in music – a wide range of interpretations that are more or less authentic. Is there any room then, for musical forgery? Conversely, if the fake is impossible, what is authenticity in music? We will indulgently look at baroque ‘modernised’ versions from the nineteenth or twentieth centuries; in doing so are we simply in the business of making provocative worldly paradoxes? Or may we redefine the true as variation itself? As the mobility, the fragility, the irreducible incompleteness of work that has always ‘to be done’? And then, do we need to distinguish between the ‘true fake’ and the ‘pretend fake’ in music, or not? These are the questions I explore in this chapter.

Fig. 3.1 Bach, horrified on the Wendy Carlos Synthesised-Bach disc

Are there Fakes in Music?

In the visual arts the question of fakery cannot be avoided. The physical materiality of the object imposes a radical distinction between original and copy. This generates confusion between the aesthetic truth of a work and the erudite determination of its historical origins. The latter may take on almost judicial or police-like definitions of authenticity. Indeed, the process may end up in court. By contrast, pieces of music do not sell themselves as unique-and-original. The fraudster cannot work here. S/he lacks the support afforded by confusion between the original work and its cloaked copies. Instead of the difficulty for an expert faced with an original that s/he doubts (Bessy and Chateauraynaud 1995), music substitutes the continuous succession of different versions of ‘the same’ work. Critics, scholars, and aesthetes endlessly evaluate and re-evaluate. Through its limitless interpretations music offers a continual unfolding of variations rather than the rigidity of marble.

At the same time, however, neither should we exaggerate the opposition between these forms of art. Rather than radical differences, their medium-related contrasts instead suggest unevenly tangible properties that are common to them both. Aesthetics engages ‘the work of the art’, and not ‘works-of-art’, as Gérard Genette very nicely puts it (1994). As he argues, there is no stabilised ontology. Instead there are ‘works’ in the etymological sense of communal work between objects and their readers, their spectators, their listeners. There is interplay between them, through a long series of mediations, captures, and input screens. It is this interplay which enables them to stand the test of time (Hennion 2015). Pictures push us to dissociate a work of art ‘itself’ from its ‘reception’. Art theory strives to reconnect them. The need to keep music updated (in the case of ancient music under the aegis of ever more ‘faithful’ interpretation) works in the other direction: the continuous co-production of the work and its public is made tangible (or perhaps, to put it more precisely, the public and ‘its’ works). If the question of forgery is posed in art, for instance as de-attribution,3 then music offers an analytical advantage by highlighting the paradoxes of aesthetic truth. It helps to bring these centre stage for the ‘work’ of art, and not as a ‘yes or no’ issue.

Fig. 3.2 Covers of Erato LP, including Albinoni’s Adagio by Jean-François Paillard5

Music extract no. 1: Albinoni’s Adagio by Karajan4

Here is a famous tune: Albinoni’s Adagio, a classical music hit. I have not used quotation marks, but this is because I would need to put them round every word including ‘Albinoni’s’! Indeed, for once we are in the presence of a pretend musical, of a ‘real’ fake, as it were. For reasons that we have already seen, this is not so common in music. Musical forgeries do indeed exist, not because they lack authenticity but because the intention is to deceive. However, they are more a product of hoaxes, provocations, or sometimes commercial stunts. The intentions may be good (as is partially the case with Albinoni’s Adagio). They may have nothing to do with forgery in the more restrictive, analytical sense used by art historians which couples deceivers and deceived, such as counterfeiters and buyers, collectors or curators.6

Let us start as factually as possible with our Adagio. It was Remo Giazotto who wrote this slow languid movement in 1957. What is interesting here is that Giazotto was neither a prankster nor a con artist. Instead he was an expert pushed by ‘his’ composer, whom he sought to elevate to the heights of Corelli, Vivaldi, or Torelli. Giazotto, who published Tomaso Albinoni in Milan in 1945, was the Venetian composer’s musicologist. He identified so narrowly and with such more or less good intentions with Albinoni, that when knowledgeable reconstitution of the sheet music was not enough to produce a playable piece, he ended up writing one instead.

The record industry is not quite so candid. It knows well how to lie by omission. The proven Albinoni fake (certified, factual) turns into a much more clearly intentional falsification. Trickery, linked as is often the case to commercial interests, is added to the mix. Here is an example from the recording of Erato’s Adagio. Following the CD cover biography of Albinoni and the caption ‘arrangement/Bearbeitung: Giazotto’ we read the following:

The adagio in G minor, recently discovered by an Italian, Giazotto, which he had published in 1948 in Milan, is part of a sonata for trios in G minor, without an opus number and for which Giazotto realized the figured bass.

This, to put it mildly, is a somewhat modest account of Giazotto’s intervention. Though perhaps more surprisingly, musical dictionaries and histories often have difficulty situating themselves on these matters. It is as if they were reluctant to openly offend music lovers, preferring to leave everyone free to keep their illusions. So while the Laffont dictionary for musicians does not underplay Giazotto’s role to the extent of the Erato booklet, it also seems to shy away from completely denouncing its authenticity: ‘The famous Adagio for strings and organ is almost entirely the work of musicologist R. Giazotto’. In the same collection, the erudite New Oxford Companion to Music loses little sleep over such diplomatic concerns:

By peculiar coincidence, the sheet music which contributed to his recent celebrity is apocryphal: the adagio in G minor, in all its romance and sentimentality, is in fact the sole work of musicologist Remi [sic] Giazotto.7

The former convenient omissions are reminiscent of the artistic blur with which publisher Buchet/Chastel envelops The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, a book in which Magdalena speaks in the first person. The origin of the text is explained, somewhat Jesuitically, in this ‘editor’s note’:

This book, published anonymously in England and Germany, translated into almost every language, enjoyed considerable success everywhere. It must be attributed not only to the often passionate interest that the person and the music of J.-S. Bach never fails to arouse, but above all due to the fact that this little book, at once moving and precise, is inspired by the most beautiful love that ever existed.

Does this tell us that Magdalena is not the author? If so, then this is the only occasion in the book when this happens – unlike the first Buchet/Chastel edition, which noted that the author was an early twentieth-century Englishwoman (since identified as Esther H. Meynell, the original dating to 1925). But the advantage of ambiguity is that it can be implied without saying that the text still comes8 more or less directly from Bach’s second wife – as with the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. In this collection of music, which of course provided a guide for Meynell, Magdalena noted her husband’s, children’s, and their loved ones’ favourite songs. There are advantages to omission and imprecision.

The Biggest Pretenders: The Public

Let’s come back to Albinoni. The Adagio has been an enormous success. It is a ‘hit’. This time I put ‘hit’ in quotation marks because the Adagio belongs more to the world of recording, media, and modern taste than to its supposed century of origin. ‘Classical-Music’, hyphenated and in quotation marks as well,9 points to a body of work that is shared by musicology, the music industry, and the taste of the listening public, a well signposted ensemble of pieces of music from the past. This ‘Classical-Music’ has transformed the past into chronological and alphabetical shelves, ensembles of composers, and styles in which difference becomes a bonus within a homogenised, reconstituted space. As with ‘brands’, periods and styles increase product differentiation, as they would say in marketing. They are no longer fragile and evanescent traces of irretrievably lost listenings. Nothing is less historical than the histories of music played on a small scale in listeners’ homes, the classics categorised on the shelves of record stores (including specific places for ‘anonymous’ pieces, opera, or potpourris). ‘Historical’ recording does not necessarily have anything to do with history. It presents the past; it does not present it as passed.10

Fig. 3.3 Front and back covers of the book, in French and German. See, in particular, the more recent 2012 version from Buchet-Chastel, which mentions ‘translated from German’

The advantage of the Adagio is that it is so excessive that from its first phrase it reveals the key to its success in its time. It must be said that since then the renewal of the repertoire of the baroque and its fans have given us the tools to understand how un-‘baroque’ the Adagio really sounded. It has been said of the great modern art forgers that a successful fake depends on a gap, an expectation, a desire that the imitated work could fill (Grafton 1990; see also Laclotte, or Rowland, in Lista 2009.). The fake is so anticipated; it fits so well into place that one hardly even wants to smell a rat. The desire for baroque both in its twentieth-century and its current form are an effect. Both have been the product of perfect marketing, not as intentional manipulation but rather as a response to the expectations of its publics: a modern public, and an ‘old’ product, by which I mean a product that was made to seem old.11

Once again, nothing is more modern than the old, and nothing evolves faster. The accents of the Adagio ring out all the more romantically to our ears because they were trying to express in caricatural form the mid-twentieth-century sense of baroque feeling. A little like the style of Victor Hugo for the Middle Ages, the more they wanted to make it baroque, the more they made it romantic! What best characterised a piece as baroque in 1957 is what betrays it today, what most clearly ‘dates’ it, as we very nicely put it. It brings us a faithful version of the desire for ancient music in the 1950s. It is a ‘true’ fake, this time in the sense that it contains its share of truth. And a truth that gives way to something different is always stronger than the one that seeks to display itself.

There are other well-known cases of musical fakes. They may be innocent in intention. Sometimes it is simply the effect that is surprising. Conceived as a challenge or a joke, a pastiche may work so well that it gets fused to the work of the composer being imitated. This is more or less what happened with Mozart’s Adélaïde concerto in D major for violin. Violinist and conductor Marius Casadesus (1892–1981) said he found sketches and presented it as an early work written by a ten-year-old Mozart for the daughter of Louis XV, Princess Adélaïde. Casadesus had it edited in 1930 by Schott in Mainz.12 With his friend Yehudi Menuhin, he ‘created’ it in 1931 in Paris with the Lamoureux Orchestra. Amused by their slick move, the two accomplices recorded it with EMI, and the joke took off. Frequently performed by the two musicians, it became a hallmark of their collaboration. It was widely appreciated, played by other violinists, and became well-known. In 1964, it was given a Köchel number (the catalogue of Mozart’s work, reviewed by Alfred Einstein, 6th edition), K Anh. 294a. It was only in 1977, following a dispute about the copyright of its orchestration, that Casadesus admitted the deception: he had composed it in the style of the composer himself, for fun, and to benefit his violinist friend.

Fig. 3.4 Sleeve of Menuhin’s recording: no mention that the score was not written by Mozart14

Music extract no. 2: The concerto played by Menuhin13

But history does not stop there: even catalogued as spurious or a fake as it now is (Anh 294a/C 14.05), the concerto continues to flourish as though nothing had happened. Its popularity reflects on our problem in an interesting way, for since the admission was made, it has been the taste of the public rather than commercial interests which have prolonged the fakery. There has been no faker apart from the public itself, and this does not want to inhibit its enjoyment, or let ‘its’ Mozart Concerto be taken away. The contrast with museums or gallery de-attributions is stark: here the truth does not seem to matter much.

Fig. 3.5 The first two images are fly-leaves of the score, published before and after Casadesus’ confession, without any change. The third is from a website which still sells it as a piece by Mozart, mentioning only that it was ‘edited’ (herausgegeben) by Casadesus

Pieces that are Larger than Life

In other instances deception has a more direct, polemical, and aesthetic purpose. When it goes beyond notes it becomes a matter of discovering a style, a spirit. For instance, it was Berlioz who signed the choral piece L’Adieu des bergers as Pierre Ducré in 1850.15 He wanted this (from which L’Enfance du Christ would originate) to pass as older music in order to garner admiration for its fervour, its ‘sweet’, ‘naïve’ simplicity,16 for, in short, its authenticity. Nothing is more true than the false – this is normal. It is so well made to be true.

Music extract no. 3:
L’Adieu des bergers/The Shepherds’ Farewell, by Cluytens17

Father Émile Martin (1914–89), with his own Messe pour le Sacre des Rois de France, that he performed in 1949 as a work by Étienne Moulinié (1599–1676), and the musicologist Jacques Chailley made similar moves, but these were less for musical and more for religious or political traditionalist reasons. Father Martin, for example, was a strong advocate of a return to religious choral art. But whatever the motive, when the work lacks context it can be tailor-made. Whether as romantic provocation or traditionalist protest, the gestures of the faker express taste. In one way, indeed, they express it better because they are more radical and explicit. They respond to the desire for an object with a fake that is larger than life. A forgery expresses more raw desire than authentic objects. The latter, caught up in their historical precedence, have to fashion the taste that targets them – and in doing so, they partially mask this taste.18 The moulding action of the forger is exactly the opposite: it fills the empty space that is a public’s possible taste (or a public’s impossible taste – which is to say almost the same thing).

A Historical Fakery or a New Listening?

Music extract no. 4: Gounod’s Ave Maria, by Pavarotti19

On hearing Gounod’s no less famous Ave Maria (or Bach’s, Gounod-Bach’s, or Bach-Gounod’s, the attributions keep changing), it appears we are swimming in the same water. This becomes a successful wedding tune, a standby for an international star, a Christmas album. The caricature classic becomes a variety hit. And it is a caricature marked from birth by its dubious authenticity, since it is a melody that Gounod added to the first prelude of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. With this music, in short, one bathes in arrangements from the beginning. In its present-day and aggressively commercial character it simply replaces the romanticism and the veiled manoeuvrings of the nineteenth century with contemporary tastes.

Fig. 3.6 Gounod’s Ave Maria on a 33 potpourri of Ave Maria (by Bach/Gounod), and one from the Marriage Airs (by C. Gounod alone)

Yet it would be a grave error to call this piece a fake. Or, more precisely, what it perfectly illustrates is that nothing is more historical than the notion of fakery itself. Indeed, from a strictly analytical point of view Gounod’s Ave Maria is exactly the opposite of Giazotto’s Adagio. For the latter a composer tried to imitate this style to meet a modern desire for old masters. At the same time, despite himself he betrayed it in favour of the romantic vision of the past then preferred by the contemporary public: the ‘forger’ modelled his work on this to a much larger extent than he himself believed he was doing. Nineteenth-century Gounod was a Bach lover, sad that Bach was not better known. He sought to make a public with no real desire to listen to Bach come to appreciate his work. He was interested neither in being musicologically faithful, nor in passing off his own work as that of a more important composer. Even less was he looking to follow fashion: there was no passion for the baroque. Above all, he was not seeking to ‘imitate’ Bach, but rather to turn the work of the latter back into music.20 He didn’t seek to mimic Bach’s style but to retrieve what it is in Bach’s music that transcends his own era. He believed that Bach’s music is eternal in what it reveals and can produce in its listeners. Correspondingly, it was not the note-by-note detail of its past performances that counted for him. This meant it was appropriate to add a melody to what he conceived of as a harmonic pattern: his object was to show its strength by ‘realising’ it. He made music using what he read as a starting point, a little like a saxophonist in a present-day jazz improvisation. This is how he used Bach’s chorales in a similar fashion to teach harmony and counterpoint at the Conservatoire.

A few others including Boëly, Chopin, Liszt, and Saint-Saens also sought to extract music that an 1850s listener could appreciate from Bach. And the result of this love and dedication was the slow creation of a new taste for Bach in France. First he became the absolute master, the father of music, and a source of inspiration. Soon, in what was quite unusual at a time when people only listened to contemporary work, he became a composer whose work could be listened to live – provided, of course, that it was adapted to the orchestras of the time, to concert habits, and to the contemporary ear. The need, in short, was to amputate what only had meaning for an eighteenth-century audience. And this was Gounod’s most explicit aesthetic aim: to be selective and eliminate what appear to have been concessions made by Bach to the tastes of his time. Bach is cleaned up to become universal – or, more realistically, brought into conformity with present tastes.

Fig. 3.7 The first page of the original sheet music by Gounod, and a modern score

The work of adaptation, transcription, and arrangement was huge in scope. From Bach’s music it was necessary to make a sort of modern-day music, arranged so that the contemporaries of Gounod or Saint-Saens could hear its eternal elements. Far from being a betrayal, these arrangements were the necessary translations of their time.21 They would gradually familiarise listeners with older styles and, more simply, to the idea that listening to music written one hundred and fifty years ago can bring meanings other than the archaeological or the pedagogical.

A Story of Desire for History

But the more their work succeeded, the more these tireless adapters came to seem to feed parasitically off the tastes that they themselves had created, and to obscure the great ancestors they believed they were serving. Their very success is what would gradually downgrade their transcriptions by instilling a desire to return to the original sources.22 This desire is indeed a paradoxical figure hiding behind fidelity to the original whilst doing the exact opposite. It is nothing less than the historical production of an unprecedented desire for authenticity, and even of the very invention of an ‘original’ to be respected.23 Listening to these old masters as a result of the work of their nineteenth-century transcribers, twentieth-century Bach lovers would come to despise those transcribers, couching their feelings of superiority in the musicological and aesthetic authenticity.

The very notion of authenticity that leads us to despise Gounod-Bach’s Ave Maria today therefore has a story. The first early music lovers were reinventing music from the classics (and especially Bach). This was music that was only being studied – and studied selectively – at the time. It was like learning Latin or Greek. Nineteenth-century musicians who loved their music made space to perform these old masters who were otherwise only known and respected for their knowledge of the science of music. The result was the creation of a new space for the love of music and production of a repertoire free from the tastes of the day which lay the foundations for our modern taste for classical music. This new conception of music and its recasting of the tastes of music amateurs and how they relate to the past would gradually include an increasing requirement for fidelity to the original by tearing composers out of history and integrating them into modern taste. There again, the more they are historicised, the less historical they are. The more they become present in our modern world of music, the more we want them to belong to the ‘past’, to be carriers of traces, remnants. But as we do this we integrate them into this new, homogeneous, musical taste.24 If we call this ‘the history of music’ this is antiphrasis. Today’s ‘baroque music’ became so only when it turned into a genre and was labelled in catalogues for its present-day enthusiasts. It belongs resolutely to modern times rather than to history.

Fig. 3.8 Photograph of a ‘Baroque Music’ section from an outlet like Fnac or Virgin

In other words, what we are observing is not the authentic versus the inauthentic. Rather, it is two competing conceptions of truth. The transcriptions and arrangements of the nineteenth century and modern musicology’s concern to relieve Bach of his romantic burden and play his music as it was played in his era simply point to different versions of truth. The nineteenth century draws from classicism – as did Gounod himself, who wrote some sublime passages on the capacity of some works to contain all music, serving as both a guide and inspiration in infinite musical re-creation. And he made us share his opinion.

Which is the More Baroque?

Let us close with a final experiment that straddles two time periods.25 We are in the spring of 1974. Within an interval of a few weeks, two complete versions of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s (1735) heroic ballet Les Indes Galantes have come out on LP. The event will trigger yet another vicious quarrel between the ancients and the moderns! The very name of the protagonists poses a problem: our newcomers are modern precisely because they are playing on period instruments, while the old ones become old because they insist on playing on modern instruments. In France, the term ‘baroqueux’, derogatorily derided or proudly claimed, will come to bridge this terminological vacuum for ten years. Only in the 1990s will we return to ‘baroque’ or the traditional terminology of ‘early music’. The difference is important. With the slip from naming the performers to naming their repertoire, these words denote the victory of the ‘baroqueux’. It is now the music that has become baroque, and not just its interpretation. And from now on, ‘baroque’ music may only be played in one way.

Fig. 3.9 The cover of the sheet music for Les Indes galantes

These memorable disputes deserve closer study. Their vigour is poorly understood once they have passed, but these are very rich moments. They give rise to new ways of feeling, of valuing, and loving things, and of defining the self. Taste is not a passive reservoir of prejudice. It is a capacity to be captured, transported, and converted. Quarrels are creative: the fight between camps redraws both parties.

CBS Versus Erato

The dispute centred around Les Indes galantes. Not Rameau’s Indes, but those ‘of’ Jean-Claude Malgoire and Jean-François Paillard – or (to put it differently) those of CBS and Erato. In 1974, everything is at stake in the tense competition between these two labels.

Up until that moment the CBS catalogue had favoured the big soloists and it had issued little music predating Mozart. Its manager in France, Georges Kadar, in betting on Malgoire, a thirty-four-year-old oboist, is hoping to make it into the big league with an outsider.26 CBS France is pushing the development of a French interpretation for a repertoire which, having long been the preserve of British performers, is being reborn. The company senses this rise, but also notes that its main defenders, the Dutch, Belgians, or Germans, after starting on small labels, have mostly already signed up to specialist labels belonging to major companies: Teldec, Archiv, Seon.

By contrast, for Paillard there is continuity. The ‘baroque’ in the modern sense, as it will gradually bloom, does not yet exist in France: the quarrel of Les Indes will be one of its founding events. Far from being ‘baroque’ in the historical sense, the catalogue promoted by Paillard is called ‘French classical music’. This is the title of a Que sais-je?27 that he publishes in 1970, and it is in line with the analyses of musicologist Norbert Dufourcq (who had been the professor of Erato’s Artistic Director Michel Garcin). Dufourcq had always insisted on the opposition between the great music of Versailles and currents of baroque in Southern and Central Europe.

In 1974, Paillard, who is fifty-six years old, has been issuing seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French music with Erato for twenty years. Though he sometimes uses singers and choirs, he mostly works with small string ensembles, which he has gradually adapted to mainly instrumental repertoires from France, Italy, and Germany, without differentiating greatly between their national styles.28 The numbers of instrumentalists are small. The soloists, mostly French performers, are more varied than in the romantic concerto repertoire and create a lively and rhythmic music that contrasts well with the regular slow movements. In all this Erato is a precursor, and the label has effectively used Paillard to create a strong image and find a new, younger, and more popular audience than those for classical and romantic music. Concerns with style and instruments do not take centre stage, and for Paillard himself, the publication of Les Indes in a four-disc box set is the crowning moment of a long recording career entirely with Erato.

Fig. 3.10 Covers of Les Indes galantes by Paillard at Erato, and by Malgoire at CBS

The card CBS plays with Malgoire is quite different. In 1974, this instrumentalist, having trained at the Conservatoire and worked at the Orchestre de Paris, is far from bathing in everything that would give 1980s baroqueux recordings a flavour all of their own and ensure the triumph of Harnoncourt, Savall, Jacobs, and Herreweghe.29 He does not use very low pitches,30 the voices of children or counter-tenors, dance phrasing, rhythmic inequality, forgotten ornamentation, or the touching accents of the lute or viola. But Malgoire shares an interest in the more varied and slightly acidic tones of these older instruments and he collaborates with instrument makers. Indeed, he is one of the first to speak of ‘authenticity’ in this field. A first record in 1967 has already caused a stir, and it is this emerging taste which brought Malgoire (himself influenced by Dufourcq) closer to the French music of the seventeenth century. ‘La Grande Écurie et la Chambre du Roy’ (The Great Stable and the King’s Chambers) is the name of the ensemble that he establishes in 1966, and that title represents the banner of Versailles music’s revival. It is forged on the model of the woodwind ensemble playing in the court of Louis XIV, though in reality in Malgoire’s ensemble only the flutes, a few oboes, and a ‘natural baroque’ trumpet (as noted on the cover of the box) are ancient.

Classic or Baroque – Is it that Clear?

The quarrel soon takes the form of a war between two well-defined camps: the classical and the baroque. Everything is about opposites. Voices, numbers of performers, old instruments, revised or original score, pitch – it is like night and day. Over the years that follow the conflict only grows – though it also quickly leads to the victory of the baroqueux, who oust most of the traditional ensembles from the pre-1800 repertoire. No question: with all his flaws, Malgoire is part of the baroque camp, and anyone who subscribes to the new ‘baroquist’ mindset must support him; with all his qualities, Paillard is part of the classical camp and this is doomed to disappear – the case is open and shut. Here is an example, a critical 1994 review of Les Indes by Paillard (disdainfully specified as ‘Paul Dukas’ version’), twenty years after the release of the LP – in French, its tone is so arrogant and definitive that it even sounds vulgar:

Opéra international-November 1994-evaluation 1/5

Clearly, Jean-Français [sic] Paillard has in no way understood that a heroic-ballet [the subtitle given by Rameau to his Indes] is a form of entertainment. His only concern seems to be to turn the music into a simplified film soundtrack, so that we can taste the intrigue, but strictly in the first degree, factually. What we hear is simply boulevard theatre – not even boulevard opera, because the music is absent. The ear has nothing to savour. Not to mention the fat, sluggish string section, an elephantine choir and a very weak cast of singers: Gerda Hartman too tight, Louis Devos screaming his highs, with his voice often remaining caught in his throat, Philippe Huttenlocher short-winded as usual. Fortunately, Jennifer Smith and John Elwes have the good merit to keep their heads under water [sic, obviously for ‘above’] in such a shipwreck.

The story has been settled, and long ago! However, is the evidence of the ear so clear? To test this we carried out an experiment31 gathering all the material of the dispute (works, reviews, excerpts of broadcasts from France Musique, the French national radio station, booklets, and CD cases, etc.). This shows that radical opposition between the two versions can be traced in a careful, discographic staging (booklet, illustrations, list of instruments, facsimile, interviews, and so on) which contrasted completeness with authenticity and the fame of the pieces against their historically informed performance. But things are not so obvious when we switch from marketing to actual performance. Here the opposition is much less clear cut. Indeed, sometimes the baroquisants features are even inverted (in addition, both recordings were done very quickly in an atmosphere of enthusiastic improvisation). Malgoire insists on the reduced number of his ensemble, but despite the talk Paillard’s is nearly as small.32 The 440 Hz pitch in the CBS recording is barely any lower than the 445 Hz of the ‘modern’ Erato version. Both conductors have resorted to large, amateur choirs. But what is least in accordance with the texts and pronouncements is the cast of singers. The Malgoire version was saved in extremis by Janine Micheau, veteran of French opera, who had already sung in Hans Rosbaud and Maurice Lehmann’s 1952 production at the Opéra de Paris. Another veteran, Jean-Christophe Benoît, rubs shoulders with Anne-Marie Rodde and Bruce Brewer, theatre singers experienced in this repertoire and ornamental know-how, as well as some very young artists, most of whom, Rachel Yakar aside, would not continue in baroque singing. It is quite different for Paillard. In the years that followed, his soloists would emerge as baroque singers at various levels: Gerda Hartman, Philippe Huttenlocher, Louis Devos, and especially Jennifer Smith (who would sing in a Les Indes concert in London under the baton of Malgoire, a year later!) and John Elwes, who would later be one of the favourite tenors for Bach’s complete cantatas by Harnoncourt and Leonhardt.

The critics at the time did not hear any of this. All their comments contrast the two versions. Harmonie (6–7–8, 1974) runs a contrast ‘for’ and an ‘against’ Malgoire ‘to better understand the debate’. Does this clarify it, or simply sustain it? What both critics definitely agree on is the certainty of their disagreement: ‘The fact that these two versions of Les Indes are so clearly dissimilar…’, ‘Obviously, for Paillard, Rameau does not cover the same things as Malgoire. It is not within the same universe’ (our emphasis). The ‘evidence’ is the same in another music journal, Lyrica (I, 8–9, 1974): ‘What really stands out is that right down to the smallest detail their interpretations are the reflection of two personalities which could not be more different’. Diapason helpfully brings this opposition back to ‘the conceptual differences between the two conductors […] as they themselves explain’: the intensive orchestration of their rivalry in the advertising by their record labels meant that nobody dared to disagree. This collective coaching effect no doubt echoed the expectations of the public. The latter was starting to divide between traditional versions and the ‘neo-old’. The only question was which camp to choose: in a time of religious wars, it is not good to be stuck in the middle.

The Les Indes Dispute: Forty Years On…

The object is not to mock the blindness of the past with advantage of the illusory benefits of hindsight. On the contrary, it is to extend respect to a way of listening that is other to our own: to analyse rather than to sneer. However, listening again to these recordings, Joël-Marie Fauquet and I (both witnesses, if not insiders, to the 1974 event) were surprised to find that our impressions or sensations have changed. Everything that had made us pick sides with such fervour at the time has been diluted. Indeed, during this seminar both of us even felt that, more than Malgoire, Paillard is the one who sounds more like a precursor to William Christie, or to any other big name among the ‘baroqueux’.

Music extracts nos. 5–6: ‘Forêts paisibles’ from Les Indes in each version33

It was the same for the heterogeneous audience at the seminar. Radical differences that scarred the adversaries fade before glaring similarities whose features are obvious to us now, though they seem to have been inaudible to listeners back then. What happened between ‘baroque’ and ‘classical’ advocates in 1974 is happening again now, but between these two – and us. And, far from overlapping, these two sets of opposing judgements, then and now, barely even recognise one another. So much for the ‘evidence’ derived from listening!

Are we simply reverting back to the idea that taste is arbitrary? Do we simply like what we like as a function of identity? Does the music have nothing to do with it? Though now we are submerged in a sea of sociologism which claims a certain quality of scientific proof for these previously iconoclastic claims, the answers are not obvious. After all, who should we believe? Why would we favour our modern-day ears? They may simply be too distant to detect the relevant differences. The witnesses to this 1974 story felt that the versions presented to them were different. Is there any point in judging the effects of music if it is not at the time and place of their reception? The situations that enable us to compare the 1974 listener with one today are itself an artefact of the disc. But there is more. Engraving music onto a durable material accentuates the tendency to attribute the effect of the music to the music itself alone. Everything else that made us listen and love stays in the shadows. Places, moments, and dispositions that made us sensitive, habits, the music that we play in our heads, our systems of reference which rendered certain things significant and others insignificant, all of these disappear (Hennion 2015). Vanished, then, is the collective ear; the contexts of our expectations; the conflicts; whatever it is that makes us desire music even if that music does not yet exist; and then what leads us to appreciate it or not.

And here we are back with the original question. What is it that makes musical estimation possible and updates this as time passes? The answer has nothing to do with fixed ‘recordings’ that simply need to be broadcast. It has nothing to do with isolated sounds. Rather it is music as a collective, sensorial event made – and absorbed – by particular tastes. Listeners were not simply embracing isolated sounds but aesthetic programmes, emerging movements, sonorous desires, and attitudes towards tradition.34 To hear a piece of music from afar is to hear nothing at all. What now appears to us as secondary may have been crucial back then. The clumsiness of the baroque instrumentalist to which we pay little attention or which brings a smile to our lips may have been most striking back then in its novelty and tonic, colourful, provocation.

The desire for the work precedes and ‘creates’ it. This does not mean that the work is nothing, or that any other piece would have been judged apt for consumption in its place. However, it is this condition that enables the pieces to be read and loaded with meaning. It is this that makes them eligible as possible pieces even before they are desired. Taste is a music-maker, not an opus consumer. There is an invisible mask of input in music. It is what the story makes perceptible. We see this at work at the time of the moderns versus the ‘neo-ancients’, but also as the period’s most seemingly steadfast traits got inexorably lost. The passage of time has prioritised what was common to them – and this is precisely why a 1970s ‘sound’, a way of playing and singing, was less noticeable at the time. It reveals the historic character of taste in an exemplary fashion. The baroque game made the object of its historical concerns visible and official in an entirely new way (‘play in the old way’). Desire for baroque music was more important than sticking to the old treatises. In particular, it raised a desire that was completely of the moment, to challenge the classical mould. With hindsight this is seen most clearly than at the time, when it had achieved only partial success. The taste for ‘baroque’ was a product of its time to such a degree that it quickly became dated and now it tells us more about the 1970s than it does about the eighteenth century.

Conclusion: Music as ‘Desire for Music’

So what have we learnt? The answer is that performance is more relevant to music than truth. It is how music is played – and replayed – that is crucial.35 Those variations which characterise ways of playing make the ‘authentic’ baroque of the first baroqueux sound very ‘’70s’ – that is, very 1970s. Our Harnoncourt and Leonhardt, too, are already ‘Viollet-le-Ducquised’.36 Fidelity to source ‘dates’ – this marks a performance with the seal of the period in which it is made rather than the period it aims to cover. Art specialists know this well. There it takes the form of controversies about restoration.37 But for paintings and statues, it is relegated to the sidelines: ‘presentation’ is effaced in the mounting of an exhibition, a museum, a gallery, or when a painting is hung at home. In music, on the contrary, it is centre stage. Music is an art form where the presence of the living bodies is paramount. Performers, singers, and the instruments are in action. Objects are set in motion, not showcased behind glass. Music is to be made and done. It is to be played. It is not to be contemplated.

Between the two poles of the object and the subject, the score that comes to us from the past and modern taste that we very selectively bring to these vanished repertoires, is a third term, that of interpretation. This is present in all the arts, but especially in music. Here we are helped by a double entendre. ‘Interpretation’ in music is about both understanding and playing. Michael Baxandall (1972) wrote of the ‘eye’ of the time in painting. In music we might talk about the ‘ear’ of the century. As time passes, such sensibilities to listening and hearing become more difficult to identify and document as the objects and writings themselves become more present and pervasive. However, the need to replay the music, and not just to hang it on a picture rail, necessarily highlights the communal work of musicians and audiences needed to hear works written in other eras than our own. The interpretation of a piece of music enables a modern ear to penetrate work from the past, turns it into something else, and enables it to enter the repertoire of available authors. Composition: this is precisely le mot juste for musical things, not only for the composer but also from the point of view of the listener. Listening to a work is a composition between what it attempts to ‘reach’ and what the listener makes of it. And the latter depends on all the modern prostheses and the work carried out by bringing together generations of ‘interpreters’ in both senses of the word. It is this which separates and connects the modern-day-listener to the old work.

So what have we done here? Have we talked of ‘baroque music’? If we stick to a textbook definition of the history of art or music, discussing the historical features of a style, then undoubtedly we have not! Yet we have been looking at the specific characteristics of music associated with origins in the ‘baroque’.38 These traits are by no means arbitrary. If Giazotto lends his quill to Albinoni, two centuries after his death, it is to be more baroque than baroque itself, even if it only means projecting the 1950s romantic image of the Italian baroque onto his favourite author. These are some qualities specific to Bach that Gounod wants to revalorise in the composition of present-day music – even and especially if his concern is universality rather than the baroque from which he tries to rid Bach. And it was from all the wonderful trappings of seventeenth-century opera that two competing conductors drew the weapons with which they chose to work. In this way, drawing on the forgotten inflections of what was classical French music, they together contributed to the reincorporation into the repertoire of what has now become twentieth-century ‘baroque’.

In a strange ballet, intersecting, composite fragments pass between centuries and customs foreign to one another, relying on each other for expression and transformation. Revisions, loans, projections, annexations – none of these refer to the historical relevance of a repertoire. Nor do they point to the arbitrary gestures of a contemporary producer or the appropriation of a fickle and fleeting public fancy. These variations are neither true nor false: they are what make music.39 Far from a fidelity frozen in deference to the objects of the past, the work of taste forms ears and trains bodies, invents devices and scenes, and mobilises collectives. On each occasion that the music is remade, its arrangement is unprecedented. If we think of sculptural movements that have continued to surprise the very stones from which they grow, what is ultimately more baroque than these perpetual musical impulses which, without ever resting on the objects of the past, bring them back to life indefinitely?


1 Translation by James O’Hagan and John Law.

2 The baroque case in music has often been used to defend or criticise conceptions of authenticity, e.g. Adorno (1967); Taruskin (1991); Hennion (2015, ch. 6).

3 If a de-attribution or evidence of forgery causes the price of the ‘same’ painting to drop, is it not the price tag alone which affords value? Svetlana Alpers opposes a magisterial response to the false evidence of this cynical (or sociological) thesis formulated, for example, by Alsop (1982). By inverting the argument, she shows Rembrandt carefully installing the authority of the artist-creator: even the possibility of copying his paintings is part of his own work (Alpers 1988). On this slow historical production of the notion of the original, see the beautifully deployed analysis of Haskell and Penny, about Roman statues (1982).

4 This chapter includes a number of music extracts, which can be listened to online. Readers are encouraged to follow the relevant hyperlinks, as in this case to Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor (Karajan) <https://archive.org/details/HennionAuthenticOrTrueAlbinoniAdagio>[accessed 06 February 2016]

5 Giazotto is credited as editor in the second album.

6 See, for example, Dutton (1983), or De main de maître (Lista 2009), the proceedings of a 2004 Louvre conference on forgery in art.

7 On p. 48, in the conclusion of the Albinoni section (Arnold 1983).

8 One thinks of the brilliant analysis proposed by O. Mannoni (1969) of this adverbial phrase as a marker of denial: ‘I know, but still…’

9 The art of the social sciences is one of quotation marks, while that of the counterfeiter is doubtless that of omitting them at the right time.

10 See Hennion et al. (2000), and on history and ‘history’, Hennion (2011).

11 … ‘il a été fait pour faire vieux’: French says it better, by using the verb faire, between ‘to seem’ and ‘to be’. This taste for the old has a long history and its continuous extension of the classical repertoire can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century. On music, see Fauquet and Hennion (2000), or Campos (2003), and on other forms of arts, see again Haskell and his work on the taste variations (1980; 1987; Haskell and Penny 1982).

12 I owe the details of these cases to J.-M. Fauquet, as well as many other precisions, arguments, and elements of discussion on the idea of the fake in music.

13 Adelaïde: Orchestre Symphonique de Paris, conductor Pierre Monteux, violin Yehudi Menuhin, recorded in 1934 <https://archive.org/details/HennionAuthenticOrTrueMenuhinAdelaideMozart> [accessed 06 February 2016]

14 On the back of the sleeves, Casadesus is mentioned as the ‘orchestrator’.

15 An invented name inspired by Joseph-Louis Duc, his friend since their stay in the Medici Villa.

16 See his Mémoires’ Post-Scriptum (1991: 556). After its success, Berlioz was prompt to reattribute the choir to himself when it would be integrated into his oratorio.

17 Hector Berlioz (1803–69), L’Adieu des bergers, de L’Enfance du Christ, Chœurs René Duclos/Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire/André Cluytens <https://archive.org/details/HennionAuthenticOrTrueBerliozAdieuDesBergers> [accessed 06 February 2016]

18 The expert’s gesture mirrors the ‘faker’. The former looks with uncertainty at an object of unknown provenance, and evaluates whether it is authentic or false by using multiple signs, takes, clues. As s/he gradually ‘feels’ it out, this is a real test involving body senses. The ‘obvious’ character, the clarity of the final verdict, is quite unlike the uncertain states that lead to this. See the striking developments of this expert’s paradoxical judgement in Bessy and Chateauraynaud’s book (1995), precisely entitled ‘Experts and Fakers’.

19 Ave Maria by Charles Gounod, Pavarotti <https://archive.org/details/HennionAuthenticOrTrueGounodAveMaria>[accessed 06 February 2016]

20 For the complete analysis, see Fauquet and Hennion (2000: 161 sqq).

21 On musical mores in the nineteenth century, see Fauquet, dir. (2003).

22 See M. de Certeau, in The Writing of History (1988: 136), about our relation to the past: ‘the “Return to origins” is always a modernism as well’.

23 If we think of Rameau’s opera which he reforms every time he performs, or Bach’s cantatas brimming with borrowed tunes from instrumental works and vice versa, what is the sense in the idea that one of these versions is an original and others are deformations? The production principle moves towards the live performance, rather than being centred around one author’s work in the modern sense: the retro-projection of this repertoire on the idea of originality is an anachronism dressed up as fidelity to origins.

24 Haskell and Penny (1982) note that in the early nineteenth century Roman statues that had come in great number to fill the French museums and to decorate English gardens were abundantly restored. By the end of the same century, whatever signalled their antiquity was generously highlighted, even if it meant damaging them on purpose.

25 See a detailed account of the case in Hennion and Fauquet (2004).

26 The large body of work that he entrusted to someone who is still a beginner bears witness to this: Lully’s Alceste in 1975, Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie in 1978 that followed, and after them Vivaldi, Haendel, Monteverdi, Mozart…

27 A famous series of pedagogic handbooks published by the Presses Universitaires de France.

28 He sold more than 100,000 records of a compilation including Pachelbel’s Canon, Albinoni’s Adagio, Bach’s Aria from the Suite in D major etc. (see fig. 1).

29 Also, due to their real concern about research on the repertoire and the updating of the public’s taste for unknown names must be highlighted: Tous les matins du monde, a film by Alain Corneau, whose stars were Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe and Marin Marais, would crown the success of this restoration process in 1991.

30 Ancient pitches were much lower than modern ones – it is said around 415 Hz instead of 450, but it is not the right way to put it: first and foremost, they changed in time and from one place to another.

31 Experimental seminar ‘Aimer la musique (To Love Music)’ on listening, amateurs (music lovers), and taste, organised at the CSI by A. Hennion and J.-M. Fauquet.

32 Diapason, a music journal, no. 187, May 1974: ‘The two “great machine” scenes from the score […] for my tastes, are undoubtedly better off being played by Jean-François Paillard’s larger orchestra than by Jean-Claude Malgoire’s over-minimalist one’: 24 musicians on the first, 23 on the second!

33 Two bitterly disputed versions of Rameau’s Indes Galantes both out in 1974, by Paillard (Erato) and Malgoire (CBS): ‘Forêts paisibles’, with the famous Danse des sauvages <https://archive.org/details/RameauSauvagesPaillard>[accessed 06 February 2016]

34 This partially explains the very unequal commercial careers of both versions. Paillard was re-edited for CD, whereas Malgoire’s sales dropped quickly: it is Malgoire, which a direct competition with new Baroque versions before the same public has outdated, particularly Christie’s Indes in 1991.

35 For even the first time round it is played in relation to the ‘intentions’ of the composer.

36 Reference to Eugène Viollet-Le-Duc, famed for his interpretive restorations of medieval cathedrals [translator’s note].

37 Restoration is a work that evokes both forgers through technique, and music, through its link between interpretation, and today’s ways of showing: re-presentations, indeed, in the strongest sense of the word. See Étienne and Hénaut (2012).

38 We re-adorn the word with quotation marks to reinforce that it is a ‘performative’, not a ‘constative’: it makes baroque, it does not observe it as a fact.

39 See Kopytoff (1986) on the careers of objects.


Adorno, T. W., ‘Bach Defended Against his Devotees’, in Prisms (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983 [1967]), pp. 133–46

Alpers, S., Rembrandt’s Enterprise (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1988)

Alsop, J. W., The Rare Art Traditions: The History of Art Collecting and its Linked Phenomena Wherever They Have Appeared (New York: Harper & Row, 1982)

Arnold, D., The New Oxford Companion to Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983)

Baxandall, M., Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972)

Berlioz, H., Mémoires, P. Citron, ed. (Paris: Flammarion, 1991)

Bessy, C., and F. Chateauraynaud, Experts et faussaires. Pour une sociologie de la perception (Paris: Métailié, 1995)

Campos, R., La Renaissance introuvable? Entre curiosité et militantisme: la Société des concerts de musique vocale, religieuse et classique du prince de La Moskowa (1843–1847) (Paris: Klincksieck, 2000)

de Certeau, M., The Writing of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988)

Dutton, D., ed., The Forger’s Art: Forgery and the Philosophy of Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983)

Étienne, N., and L. Hénaut, dir., L’Histoire à l’atelier: restaurer les œuvres d’art (XVIIIe-XXIe siècles) (Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 2012)

Fauquet, J.-M., and A. Hennion, La Grandeur de Bach: l’amour de la musique en France au XIXe siècle (Paris: Fayard, 2000)

Fauquet, J.-M., Dictionnaire de la musique en France au XIXe siècle (Paris: Fayard, 2003)

Genette, G., L’Œuvre de l’art. Immanence et transcendance (Paris: Le Seuil, 1994)

Goodman, N., Languages of Art (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1976)

Grafton, A., Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990)

Haskell, F., Rediscoveries in Art: Some Aspects of Taste, Collecting, and Fashion in England and France (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980)

——— Past and Present in Art and Taste (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987)

Haskell, F., and N. Penny, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture, 1500–1900 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1982)

Hennion, A., ‘Présences du passé: le renouveau des musiques “anciennes”. Sources et retours aux sources’, Temporalités [online] 14 (2011), <http://temporalites.revues.org/1836> [accessed 15 May 2014]

———‘Playing, Performing, Listening. Making Music – or Making Music Act?’, in L. Marshall, and D. Laing, eds., Popular Music Matters: Essays in Honour of Simon Frith, (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), pp. 165–180

——— The Passion for Music: A Sociology of Mediation (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015)

Hennion, A., S. Maisonneuve, and É. Gomart, Figures de l’amateur. Formes, objets, pratiques de l’amour de la musique aujourd’hui (Paris: La Documentation française/DEP-Ministère de la Culture, 2000)

Hennion, A., and B. Latour, ‘How To Make Mistakes on So Many Things at Once – and Become Famous for it’, in H. U. Gumbrecht, and M. Marrinan, eds., Mapping Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Digital Age (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), pp. 91–97

Hennion, A., and J.-M. Fauquet, ‘Le Baroque en stéréo: la querelle des Indes galantes’, Cahiers de médiologie 18 (2004), 79–89

Kopytoff, I., ‘The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process’, in A. Appadurai, ed., The Social Life of Things (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 64–91

Lista, M., ed., De main de maître. L’Artiste et le faux (actes du colloque du Louvre en 2004) (Paris: Hazan/Musée du Louvre Éditions, 2009), pp. 13–24; 207–236

Mannoni, O., ‘Je sais bien, mais quand même…’, in Clefs pour l’imaginaire (Paris: Le Seuil, 1969), pp. 9–33

Taruskin, R., ‘L’ancienneté du présent et la présence du passé’, Harmoniques, 7 (1991), pp. 69–102