Inspired by its historically-informed yet experimental ethos, we have christened our flexible chamber group after the Meiningen Court Orchestra, which was founded in 1690, making it one of the oldest permanent orchestras in Europe. In the 19th century it gained the patronage of George II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. In 1880 Hans von Bülow was engaged as conductor; he augmented the ensemble to number 44 players and put it under a strict and rigorous rehearsal regime. Von Bülow resigned after a dispute with Johannes Brahms, and was replaced briefly by Richard Strauss (von Bülow's assistant, then only 20 years old), then by Fritz Steinbach. Under Steinbach the orchestra forged links with Johannes Brahms, performing privately for him in 1891 and holding Brahms festivals in Meiningen in 1895 and 1897.
Why do we still perform music of the past? How can it continue to be appealing, fresh and revealing after 100, 150, 200+ years?
The world of classical music is often criticised for being stuck in an outmoded aesthetic of both repertoire and performing style; but we try to remember that the performer's remit is (and always has been) to entertain - to divert from the mundane - and we must be risk-takers in freely sharing our own personality and private passions as we bring sleeping music to life.
Whilst academic rigour is greatly important to the members of the Meiningen Ensemble, we only pursue our bookish research (which we all secretly love very much!) as a way of informing our performances. We must never become bound by the information we discover, but rather allow it to broaden our artist's palette and give us freedom to use that palette in endlessly imaginative ways.
Whether you have a taste for reconstructing historical performing styles, or simply want some great sounds to enhance your existence for a while, we hope that our performances will provide the 'real thing' in generous portions.
THE 'HIP' DEBATE
Present-day performances of ‘canonic’ repertory tend to cluster around two aesthetic and philosophical polarities – ‘historically-informed performance’ (or HIP) on the one hand, and ‘mainstream’ on the other. But it’s not as simple as that. HIP is itself a spectrum, ranging from performances with thorough-going intentions to reconstruct past performing practices (period instrument set-up; performing style and ideology; techniques), such as those by the Ferdinand David Ensemble in which HuCPeR members David Milsom, Duncan Druce and George Kennaway have all been involved in the past, to more generically ‘period-instrument’ renditions which utilise aspects of historical practice (most notably, original or replica instrumentation) in intentionally modern syntheses. Meanwhile, ‘mainstream’ performance is increasingly infused with aspects of historical practice, and other sub-disciplines have come into being, including ‘recordings-informed performance’.
This ensemble seeks to take a creative and synthetical view of all of these approaches. It is not always a period-instrument group, and concertises equally freely on modern instruments. It is not purely a period-style ensemble (although sometimes it is), but seeks to explore a range of different sonorities, methodologies, and approaches in performance, demonstrating the wealth and diversity of the experiences of its players, as well as the fascinating and varied performing practice landscape of the twenty-first century. This is a matter of seeing music performance rather in the manner of different productions of historical plays, the ensemble embracing the coexistence of renditions in modern or historical ‘costume’, and seeking to subvert traditional, linear historical conceptions.