For a while, I got into HIP instruments in a big way. Well, at least renaissance guitar, baroque guitar, and vihuela. Sadly, I had to abandon them; there were only so many hours in the day. From my work with them, I learned a tremendous amount that I try to bring to the modern instrument. From that perspective though, I don't see moving from A440 to something else is a musically significant change. If anything, it may go the opposite of what I often do.
See, a craved for a more and more delicate attack and lighter texture for much of the early repertoire. When I discovered period instruments, I found what I was looking for. I've now returned to solely the modern instrument but it has completely changed the way I approach early music. I often play with a capo at the 1st fret. Sometimes I play at the 3rd fret. Rarely, I may even use a capo at the fifth fret. And it has nothing to do with trying to match some historical pitch. Even if there were such a thing, it doesn't really matter anyway. This (the modern guitar) is the instrument I have. And I love to play music that wasn't written for it. A modern piano was good enough for Glenn Gould, and I can maybe better understand why so many early musicians enjoy his Bach renditions.
I often find that the capo, thinning out the texture, and focusing on a most delicate touch is what really brings much of the early music to life the way I think it should be. For example, I'll mention some of my current repertoire. First, a set of the following pieces:
Mille regres, Narvaez
Recercar decimoquinto, Crema
Fantasia que contrahaza la harpa...yada yada yada, Mudarra
La compagna, Da Milano
For this set I use a capo at the first fret. For me, it is a perfect balance. I am clearly playing a modern guitar. While there are some lute techniques used, most of what I do is modern guitar techniques or something half way in between. A capo too far up the neck (like placing it on the 3rd fret to imitate a vihuela as is often done) doesn't sound the best. I love the first fret capo because it really allows the modern instrument to shine and stand on its own terms. On the other hand, it takes the "difficult edge" off of the music. I find playing without the capo far more difficult. I am constantly fighting the bigness and boomyness of an instrument the music was never written for. The capo takes all of that away. The light texture sounds more natural, much fuller. It better allows me to let the music play itself instead of me fighting the music.
Another set I play is handled completely different:
It is a self compiled PARTITA by Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello. I think Brescianello wrote a number of great pieces. However in my opinion, there isn't a single Partita he wrote where every movement is worthy. (Hey, I don't know what good music is, but I know it when I hear it). I didn't concern myself with trying to immitate a colascione. I'm honestly not sure exactly what the instrument he wrote for sounded like anyway. Who cares? I have this modern instrument, and I have this small collection of great music. Here, I found a capo up on the 3rd fret really brings the music to life with the least amount of effort. I even throw in some campanella (usually as ornamentation) in a few places that gives a striking resemblance to a baroque guitar. Sparingly, I even use some rasgueado. To be convincing, it requires a most delicate and controlled right hand. I could never achieve those results with a capo at the 1st fret, heaven forbid try to play without one!
I'll be very honest. I don't play the lute suites because I have a life...lol. I am most drawn to the cello suites arranged by Stanley Yates. Yes, many people talk about some of his decisions as an arranger...yeah, I get it. But, who DOESN'T make their own changes anyway? Besides, he even provides a comparison score of the original transposed to the same key and placed on the treble cleff. The biggest reason I play his arrangements is because the over all texture seems to fit the music more than it fits the odern instrument. He even recommends using a capo at the first fret.
That is my 2 cents. That is my experience. Your mileage may vary.
Dr. Todd Tipton, classical guitarist
Cincinnati, OH, USA (available via Skype)