Now several generations old, the performance practice movement operates with a fundamental premise that is both simple and powerful: music from the past was not written with modern instruments in mind. While Bach, Mozart, and Schubert can sound fabulous on today's instruments, the experience of hearing such repertoire on the historical instruments for which it was composed can be a revelation. Staunton's mission is to "Rethink Classical," and that extends to historically-informed performance practice. At Staunton all music composed before 1850 is performed on period instruments (original and replica) by professional musicians highly trained in historical traditions of interpretation and style.
Through the generosity of private owners and universities, Staunton Music Festival is proud to feature several early keyboards in its concerts. These special guests include replicas of fortepianos by Walter (ca. 1795) and Conrad Graf (ca. 1830), two magnificent organs built by the famed Taylor & Boody makers, and a half dozen harpsichords of varying eras and national origins. In Staunton you will hear Chopin played on an 1830 piano, or Bach on a replica of an instrument he himself owned. Staunton believes in the power of such experiences.
AT HOME WITH ANDREW WILLIS
Acclaimed pianist Andrew Willis welcomes you to see and hear two of his own early keyboards: a Bösendorfer from 1841 and a Pleyel built in 1848.
MENDELSSOHN'S CAPRICCIO BRILLANT
In 2019 Andrew Willis joined with other Festival musicians for a rousing performance of Mendelssohn's Capriccio Brillant--a modest-sized piano concerto in all but name.
Many of the string players who come to Staunton each year are particularly expert in historical performance traditions, and they bring with them multiple instruments to perform the Festival's varied repertoire. Violins, violas, cellos, double basses, and guitars all have their modern versions and their early kin: Baroque and early Classical violins and violas, for example, or viola da gambas, violone, lutes, and theorbos all take center stage in Staunton. That fact brings new life to familiar masterworks, whether it is a Vivaldi concerto, Bach cello suite, or a Beethoven symphony. History matters at Staunton.
VIVALDI'S "WINTER" CONCERTO
Baroque violinist Antti Tikkanen was the soloist in a brilliant rendition of Vivaldi's "Winter" Concerto in F Minor from The Four Seasons , performed at the 2015 Festival.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A VIOLONE?
Heather Miller Lardin discusses the modern double bass (or contrabass) and its long history reaching back into the Renaissance, when it was known as a violone or bass viol.
WINDS & BRASS
Some of the most striking differences between original/replica instruments and their modern counterparts can be seen and heard within the wind and brass families. Staunton is proud to welcome several of the world's most acclaimed performers on early wind and brass instruments, arriving from across the U. S., Europe, and South America. Instrument designs and mechanisms have changed over the centuries; innovations provided wider ranges of notes and keys, but in the process some of the instruments' natural tone colors have been lost. At Staunton these age-old sounds are rediscovered and reinterpreted for a new generation of music lovers.
UNDERSTANDING THE NATURAL HORN
Todd Williams takes you into the heart of the valveless horn, showing its construction and differing ways to produce its distinctive sound, so evocative of nature and nostalgic allure.
SCHUBERT'S DER HIRT AUF DEM FELSEN
Soprano Megan Chartrand is joined by Ed Matthew (clarinet) and Gabriel Dobner (fortepiano) in this 2015 performance of Schubert's scintillating "Shepherd on the Rock".