Festival to Honor Early Music Pioneer

Above: A selection from a recording by David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London.

The landscape of early music today is replete with fabulous recordings of historically informed interpretations of musical works that reach back well into the Dark Ages. The Tallis Scholars now rub shoulders with the Academy of Ancient Music and the Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra, recordings of the Ensemble P.A.N. vie for iPod space with those of L’Arpeggiata and Europa Galante.

But things were not always so, in part because what once constituted the Dark Ages for early music really reached forward to about 1970. That was when much music then only recently recovered from the Middle Ages and Renaissance came again to light in a groundswell of public performances and recordings of early music in the so-called early music revival.

We have David Munrow to thank for many of these early music recordings. Munrow was equal parts antiquarian and visionary, an academic who unearthed buried musical treasure in dusty libraries and, with Christopher Hogwood, formed the equivalent of an early music garage band to bring it before the public. With the Early Music Consort of London, Munrow produced a discography that covered instrumental and vocal music from nearly every region in Europe and written for a range of performance contexts.

According to an interesting historical sketch of Munrow’s work in The Telegraph, England’s Bath Festival will pay tribute to Munrow and his legacy in a special event June 2, in what would have been Munrow’s 70th birthday year. (Munrow committed suicide in 1976 at the age of 33.) But you don’t have to fly to England to enjoy Munrow’s visionary plundering of what was once considered only the detritus of music history. Any period-instrument recording you might catch on Classical 101 owes a debt to the man who had the creativity to imagine how the music of the past might have sounded and the courage to make it so.

Read more: David Munrow: Tragic Genius Who Brought Early Music to the Masses (Telegraph)

Comments