Why period instruments?

la speranza performs on period instruments, that is, instruments that are as close as possible to original instruments of the era from which we are performing.

Many friends and colleagues have asked me why we would use these period instruments when we could just as easily perform the same works on modernized instruments?

Simply, we strongly believe in the power of the intimacy that performing on original instruments provides to both the musicians and the audience. These original instruments are without the acoustic modifications that allow modern instruments to project in large halls, providing a warmer, grittier sound that is more suitable for smaller gatherings and is more similar to what audiences of the 18th and 19th centuries would have expected.

Ever since I was introduced to historically informed performance practice, I have been fascinated with how similar period instruments are to humans. The vulnerable yet engaging sound of period string and wind instruments is closely reminiscent of the human voice in both song and speech. I’ve also observed a connection between period instruments and community building. Period instruments are less acoustically “perfect” than their modernized counterparts; therefore, playing them and blending well with other period instruments requires a delicate balance of mildness and muscle, maintaining flexibility and accompanied by a vast knowledge of history and learning spirit. As humans, we use all of these qualities as we seek to understand ourselves, maintain relationships, and build communities.

In a world that’s becoming increasingly digital and fast-paced, this connection in live community is elusive yet so important! We hope to see you at one or both of our concerts this season to hear live chamber music from the Classical and Romantic eras on historically appropriate instruments. At each concert we’ll explain exactly what constitutes a “period” instrument. You’ll also hear from Thomas Carroll, historical clarinet virtuous and builder , who will talk about his instruments that he’s modeled after original clarinets from the 18th and 19th centuries. Finally, you’ll experience the unique connection that exists in historically informed performance between the audience and performers that inspired each of us in pursuing our crafts.

—Yvonne

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Yvonne Smith, with her viola modeled after an 18th century German instrument

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