Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Meeting Marcia—a Discography

I’m meeting Marcia Hadjimarkos, our performer for Friday evening’s recital series, for the first time Thursday. However, I have known her for years, thanks to recordings and the Internet. Indeed, our first introduction had a lasting influence on me: it triggered a wanderlust that has resulted in regular visits to Europe.

It started back around 2000, when I bumped into her Haydn recording on clavichord at Tower Records. Some of us remember the good old days, when you could browse in a local store and find such obscure recordings. This recording mesmerized me (it still does). I noticed in the notes was that although Marcia was born in the United States, she lived in France. I couldn’t comprehend why someone would prefer living in France over the United States. This triggered something in me.

The last time I had left the U.S. was 30 years earlier. For some reason, I was suddenly emboldened and began ordering both sheet music and CDs from Europe; I might add, the exchange rate was more favorable twelve years ago… I commissioned a clavichord from Joris Potvlieghe in Belgium and thus began my regular trips back to Europe. All triggered by Friday night’s performer.

I believe it was the next year that Marcia released her recording of C.P.E. Bach’s Pièces de caractère - Rondos et fantaisies on clavichord and fortepiano. These gems are perfectly performed and represent some the best from Bach’s second eldest son. It’s a pity that this recording is nearly impossible to find these days.

Her next recording is on fortepiano, a beautiful copy of a Stein, similar to the instruments Mozart would have played. The program is conservative and designed to please, including the Sonatas in C minor, KV 457, C major, KV 545, and B flat major, KV 333, along with three rondos. The sound quality of the recording overall is excellent, with just the right amount of room ambiance. I think programming the Sonata in C major, “sonata facile,” is actually quite bold: such a well-known piece leaves the performer very exposed. She gives the repeats in opening Allegro just the right amount of embellishment. In fact, her execution of ornaments reflects limits of the fortepiano action: simplified to the point where one trill that is usually flubbed by us amateurs is appropriately made into an appoggiatura. This recording is readily available, and is a must-have.

Marcia has had a long association with Dame Emma Kirkby, who we heard in concert this year. Kirkby is best known for her earlier music, but she released a recording of Haydn songs with Marcia accompanying on fortepiano. This is Haydn one doesn’t hear often, elegantly performed with a gorgeous sound.

Marcia’s latest recording is of Schubert, performed on a copy of a fortepiano by Johann Fritz, ca. 1814. This recording fills a gap in Schubert’s repertoire, including 22 of Schubert’s German Dances, along with the relatively large (40 minutes) Sonata, D 850 in D Major. Marcia demonstrates her ability to perfectly render miniatures in her treatment of the German Dances and the real depth and virtuosity in the Sonata. I find the modern piano to be a little too homogeneous—too bland—to bring out the best in Schubert. Marcia’s Fritz is the perfect instrument.

Don’t miss Friday’s recital, performed on an 1813 Broadwood fortepiano. Tickets are available online and at the door. For details and map of the venue, visit our web site.

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