Experimenting with gut strung baroque instruments, pianofortes, harpsichords, faster tempos and smaller ensembles these new 'bands' and there periods names - academies, consorts ets blew the cobwebs off the industry at the time.
Of course against this was the 'Beethoven would have loved the modern Steinway, Bach is fine on a piano, Mozart always struggled with badly intonated wind instruments - whats the point in going backwards?'
The point was that something new was learned about music that had been forgotton. The limitations of the period orchestra revitalised the music that responded to faster tempos and cleaner articulation - the over Romantic interpretations of Karajan etc where now seen as anachronistic.
Now the early music 'scene' is vibrant. Nobody cares if people want to spend money on period instruments, or struggle with a Baroque flute. Everybody knows its musicianship and music that is the bottom line - but performance is now also a matter of historical interpretation.
It is the same now in pop and rock. Its History. Everything new is a re-interpretation of the past. What you use to do that is up to you. The period instrument movement soon dropped the term 'authentic' since it suggests correct. But in a way thats what everyone is trying to acheive, thats way UAD plug ins have pictures.
The matter of ability is perpendicular to this. In fact there are probably more incompetent musicians in charge of a plug-in stuffed DAW than four track tape recorders. It should be the other way round - if you cant do much on a Tascam 424 ....