Thank you for all the complimentary letters and emails about last month’s concert. What an enjoyable start to this exciting season! One puzzled listener asked, however, why we bother with “historical, though in fact inferior, instruments”. With this welcome opportunity to explain what’s special about Barokensemble De Swaen, here’s a potted history of HIP (Historically Informed Performance) and the reason why we feel it’s worth the extra “bother”.
During the 1950s and 60s, our pioneers (such as Piet Dhont), began the search for an alternative to the modern (symphonic orchestral) style. Suspecting that a deeper beauty could be found in older works, they carefully researched and crafted replica instruments and adopted techniques, temperaments and interpretations from surviving evidence. Their suspicions were correct. Indeed, the purity and beauty of this “new” old music captivated musicians and audiences alike. A movement was born.
However, the movement soon became a victim of its own success. The popularity of HIP music then rose more quickly than musicians could be properly trained. In conjunction with the increasingly sanitized demands of a recording industry apparently anxious that the public might not like anything too different, several "improvements" were introduced to make instruments more accessible- reducing the risk of squeaks, slips and splits - so that players more used to modern instruments could transfer to them easily. These alterations, which also subdue the instruments’ acoustic characteristics, have since become standard practice. Hence, most “HIP” you will hear is, ironically, played on instruments with a design or set-up unique to the late 20th century, pre-dated by the synthesizer and the electric guitar.
A few individual musicians choose to investigate HIP in greater depth but only a small handful of those currently teach in conservatoires. It is usually a personal quest to return to our pioneers’ task (and not always welcome in institutions, who supply what is now an established industry), to offer change and honour the raison d’etre of HIP; i.e.: To serve the music and respect composers’ intentions.


not always welcome in institutions, who supply what is now an established industry

Barokensemble De Swaen is happy to bring together these scattered, inquisitive, like-minded performers from all over Europe. For seven years, Barokensemble De Swaen has insisted on a combination of unwound gut strings in equal tension, oboes with internally-scraped reeds on a single staple and "real" natural trumpets and horns (i.e. without nodal vent holes or hand stopping). In Hilversum we perform together with the 1710 Weidtmann church organ in the organ loft, as was 18th century practice.

We relish these added challenges because we prefer the extra character, expression, textures and “soul” to hermetically sealed safety. To serve the music, our aim is to find solutions in the same way as performers would have done in the early 18th century. Otherwise, we would never find out how this great music might really have sounded! Each concert is carefully prepared to the highest possible standards, within the overall context of “work in progress”. Musicians are human. There are no perfect performances anyway, except those performed by machines. Perfect means past, finished, dead. We perform live music.
All this, and entrance is free! We rely on the voluntary financial support of our audience. Please donate generously. You can also help us by becoming a “Friend of De Swaen”.








Something “new” you’ll be hearing in this concert is a corno da tirarsi, one of the mystery instruments from Bach’s Leipzig period. As mentioned in the programme last March, no example survives. Thanks to Blechblas-Instrumentenbau Egger in Basel, we now have one. The corno da tirarsi (lit. ”Pull horn”), was unique to Gottfried Reiche, Bach’s celebrated trumpet virtuoso. Using a copy of the coiled instrument from Reiche’s portrait, Gerd Friedel has ingeniously added a crook -of which Reiche would have had many- with a short double slide, enabling the required notes to be played with a historically possible solution.
Eggers have very kindly sponsored this project by letting us borrow the prototype to play in public for the first time. Thank you Rainer, Gerd and Rosi!

Mike Diprose
October 2008


JS Bach, „Ach Lieben christen, seid getrost“ BWV 114

A.Vivaldi, Concerto in D Op 3 Nr 11, RV 565

JS Bach „Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben?“ BWV 8

Sat 25th & Sun 26th October 2008


*Comment: The paragraph about the Corno da Tirarsi also appears with the HIPhip for March 2008.