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"One of the reasons that reconstruction of earlier playing styles is so difficult is precisely the fact that we start from the viewpoint of late 20th- century taste and habits, and use them as the basis for comparison. But what does modern taste consist of? If the style of Elgar's day is 'old-fashioned', in what ways is modern style 'new-fangled'? The answer...is that we use more vibrato and less portamento than was used earlier in the century, we are more concerned with clarity of detail and exact note values, we take most music more slowly and we change tempo less frequently and to a lesser degree. If these characteristics of modern style have arisen so recently, do we not have to be very cautious in using them as a basis for investigating much earlier playing styles? What would happen if, in order to reconstruct, say, the performance practice of Beethoven's day, we were to start not from modern style but from the style preserved on early gramophone records?
. . . . our conjectures would be quite different if we were living in the 1920s instead of the 1980s. Similarly 18th- and 19th-century descriptions of tempo rubato make a very different sort of sense if we take early, rather than late, 20th-century style as the starting point for comparison. My own very strong suspicion is that many of the habits preserved in early gramophone records had their origins at least as far back as Beethoven, and in some cases earlier. This is something to argue about, but one central point is indisputable: the styles of the early 20th century did not arise overnight. For this reason, if for no other, it is time for historically minded performers to start considering the implications of early gramophone records."
The Recordings of Sir Edward Elgar -- Authenticity and Performance Practice
Early Music, Vol. 12, No. 4, November, 1984, pp. 481-489, pp.