Saturday, November 21, 2009

Building Our Future Audience

It's never too early to recruit our future audiences. Indeed, I can hardly think of a more important activity: if we leave our youth behind, who will attend early music concerts in the coming years? Time is always precious, so why would someone come to an early music concert if they thought of it in terms of ancient and obscure instruments performing old and boring music?

So, the outreach program of the San Diego Early Music Society is more than a duty, it is a passion. This year we were especially fortunate to bring members of Musica ad Rhenum to Oak Park Elementary. I'm embarrassed to admit that Oak Park's existence has eluded me: more properly, it should be referred to as Oak Park Music Conservatory. It is part of our magnet school program, focused on providing a broad education, but with additional exposure to music. I thought music education was largely dead in California public schools, so this was an exciting find for me.

I could hardly imagine a better early music ensemble to bring with us. The five members of Musica ad Rhenum are fun to hang around with: good natured, spontaneous, and generous. I noticed in their formal performance last night that they played as a group of peers – there was no prima donna, but rather a friendly gathering of virtuosi collaborators.

We had lots to show these budding musicians. They were naturally fascinated with the contrast between the small harpsichord we brought and the modern piano. One observant child wondered why the baroque violin didn't have a chin rest. There was a lot of interest in the nearly keyless baroque flute, demonstrated by Jed Wentz; they could relate to this  because it was a kind of cross between the recorders and modern flutes they play.

Viola da gamba player Cassandra Luckhardt led a wonderful discussion of the differences between the gamba and cello, assisted by baroque violin cello player Job ter Haar. See the size and feel the energy of this enthusiastic audience. These kids are not only our future audience, they are our musical future.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Apotheosis of Beauty

Next Friday, Musica Ad Rhenum will present a program entitled 'Apotheosis of the Beauty' and beautiful it promises to be. We will indeed get to hear two of the 'Paris' quartets which are among the best pieces Telemann ever wrote.

Why Paris ? Some details about his trip there and the compostion of these new quartets can be found in his autobiopgraphy: "My long-planned trip to Paris where I had already been invited several years ago by some of the virtuosi who lived there and had taken great pleasure in [performing] some of my printed music finally took place around Michaelmas, 1737. This trip took 8 months. In Paris I had had engraved in copper for publication, after having received from the king the permission and copyright for 20 years, new quartets (by previous subscription) and 6 sonatas consisting entirely of melodic canons. The astonishing manner in which the quartets were played by Messrs. Blauet, transverse flute, Guignon, violinist, Forcroy, his son on the viola da gamba, and Edouard, violoncellist would deserve to be described here at length if only there were sufficient words available to do so. In short, they pricked up the ears of people at the court and in the city so that they became very attentive and, in a short time, I received general approbation which was accompanied by even greater politeness. [...] Thus I left Paris with a feeling of having achieved great pleasure and in the hope that I would return again in the future. (Translation by Thomas Braatz, 2009)"
Note that Mr Frocroy in this case was no less than Jean-Baptiste Forqueray (whose music we heard played by Blandine Rannou a month ago) and Mr Blauet is the famous Michel Blavet. There is no mention of the harpsichordist which probably means that Telemann himself played in these concert too. And what a concert it must have been !

On the program too -and to keep the "Parisian" link- are pieces by Francois Couperin. It is well known that Couperin always tried to reconcile the Italian and French tastes in music and his 'Grande Sonade en Trio' l'apotheose de Corelli is one of the best example of it. The (delicious) French subtitles read :

"Corelli au pied du Parnasse prie les Muses de le Recevoir parmi elles Corelli charmé de la bonne réception qu'on lui fait au Parnasse, en marque sa joye. Il continüe avec ceux qui L'accompagnent.
Corelli buvant à la source d'Hypocrêne. Sa troupe continue
Enthouziasme de Corelli causé par les eaux d'Hypocréne
Corelli après son enthouziasme s'endort ; et sa Troupe jouë le Sommeil suivant
Les Muses réveillent Corelli, et le placent auprès d'Apollon
Remerciment de Corelli "

Which can be roughly translated as :

"Corelli at the foot of Parnassus prays the Muses to receive him among them
Corelli charmed by the favorable reception given to him on Parnassus expresses his joy. He continues with those who accompany him.
Corelli drinking at the spring of Hippocrene. His troupe continues on.
Corelli's divine frenzy caused by the waters of Hippocrene
Corellu after his divine frenzy falls asleep and his troupe plays the following sommeil.
The Muses awake Corelli and place him at Apollo's side.
Corelli's thanks."

And since we are talking about Francois Couperin, there was no way to omit his solo harpsichord music in such a concert. Michael Borgstede, the harpsichordist of Musica Ad Rhenum and who has just recorded his complete 'ordres' for Brilliant Classics will thus present 5 pieces from the 25th ordre. He will be joined by Jed Wentz, flauto traverso, Igor Rukadze, violin, Cassandra Luckhardt, viola da gamba and Job ter Haar, violoncello, for the rest of the program.
Don't miss this exciting concert. For more details, please visit Friday, Nov 20, 8pm, St James by the Sea.