Recorded yesterday night around 2 a.m. in the living-room, on my Hemsch copy by Fred Bettenhausen. Balance engineer: Jonas Niederstadt.
How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave.
Lamentation Wie liegt die Stadt so wüste (1663) by Matthias Weckmann (1616-1674) – out of a demo which I recorded in 2007, together with some of my exquisite colleagues: Margaret Hunter (Soprano), Matthias Gerchen (Baritone), Annika Schmidt & Roman Baykov (baroque violin), Christian Heim, Kaori Koike & Anja Engelberg (viola da gamba), Pär Engstrand (violone), Simon Linné (theorbo). Balance ingeneer: Matthias Nordhorn.
Mme de Lacour was born in 1896 and lived 100 years. She founded the harpsichord class at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1955. She was a student of Wanda Landowska. According to the English Wikipedia page, she “helped to make harpsichord music fashionable”, whatever that means. At the moment, it seems that Mme de Lacour does not have a fanpage on the net, but a few soundfiles of her are available on YouTube.
Isolde Ahlgrimm, about one of ther war-time concerts in Vienna, 1945:
“In 1945, on the morning before a concert, the district where it was to be held was heavily bombed. I was sure that it would make little sense even to turn up at the hall, but in the end I decided to make my appearance. I walked through a depressing scene of rubble and broken glass only to find an expectant, hungry and war-weary audience that had also turned up at the hall and I played Mozart, including the D minor Fantasia. Never before in my entire life had music seemed such a divine gift as this evening. For, during this precious few minutes, for both performer and audience, it was just like heaven and every trouble was forgotten”.
(Peter Watchorn: “Isolde Ahlgrimm, Vienna and the Early Music Revival” Ashgate, 2007)
Isolde Ahlgrimm was 31 at that time, Vienna had been occupied by the Russians just a few months ago, the city was permanently bombed, Isolde’s husband was gone missing after being convicted and imprisoned one year earlier for having once said “It would be the greatest misfortune if Germany won the war”. Isolde herself was just able to start perforing again after the occupational ban on her (since her husband’s conviction) and was struggling for a decent living with little or no help from her husband’s family.
She became one of the world’s most important personalities in the field of technique and performance on historical keyboard instruments, yet she is constantly “forgotten” by her younger colleagues who were inspired and guided by her. It’s a shame I never knew about her, until I got my hands on this beautifully written book.
… often an antagonistic story of addiction, conquest, betrayal, escape, emancipation… Intriguing, disturbing, timeless.
“More than an hour of that woman and her all-pervasive personality makes me ready to go crazy. And she is very nice to me, but she wants to make me simply a part of her own ego, and have complete control over me, a thing which I constantly resist, an exhausting process. She is not a good teacher in that she does not explain things well, or discuss anything whatever. There is absolutely no question of doing anything but what one is told. Any excercise of personal intelligence is not considered necessary and is ignored”.
Ralph Kirkpatrick about Wanda Landowska
(Kirkpatrick: “Early Years”, New York, Lang 1985)
“Our classical performers are the curators of their heritage, not its proprietors. They are sworn to preserve it and trained to be uncreative. So if you are creative, you have to hide the fact. You have to come on (to yourself as well as others) as a better curator, not a revamper.”
More thoughts on the matter in The Spin Doctors of Early Music, signed by Richard Taruskin and published in the NY Times at a time I was trying (fortunately without success) to fit in. An article worth reading and reflecting upon.
When I was a young student in Bucharest, studying Music Education in the first year, I had my first contact with the vocal music of the Renaissance. The “Music Education” 5-year study programme used to have three key aspects (Instrumental Pedagogics, Choir Conducting and Music Theory) and follow Music History chronologically. The first year was dedicated to what we nowadays call “Early Music” and gave us a brief insight of the music of the Antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque up to the Mannheim school. Bewitched by this beautiful Early Music, I remained stuck in it and didn’t care much about the learning matter of the following years – couldn’t care less about Mahler, Strauss, or even Mozart, who were no mistery for anyone anymore since music school.
Together with some like-minded colleagues, we started looking for more material in the University library. I remember that students were not allowed to enter the library (as they were not allowed to do almost anything), so that one had to go to the desk and kindly ask the librarian for a particular book, or title they were looking for. If students were lucky and had proved themselves to be trustworthy, they were sometimes allowed to enter the sacred ground of the library. Some of them were even working there a few hours a week – without getting paid.
Anyway, we sometimes belonged to the lucky ones and we loved to search through dusty shelves for some precious sheets of music wearing names like Palestrina, Desprez and such. Next thing we did was “trying them on”, our circle was big enough for anything up to an octet. I can’t imagine an archeologist being happier than we were about our findings. Those were golden times.
Back in 1995 there was still no trace of serious Early Music education in the Bucharest University of Music, despite a few official lecturers for harpsichord and organ. The next step, the next opportunity was taking part in masterclasses abroad. From such masterclasses, as much as from further official studies outside Romania I passed through and completed later, I learned a few things which were new to me, but only a few of them contained valuable information about historically correct practice of Early Music. Most information which was kindly given to me during my studies concerned basically two aspects: a special “Early Music” lifestyle (shaving your legs and playing Early Music don’t match) and politics in a Music University (stop thinking, start ass-kissing). It’s a sandy soil, this Early Music scene.
But this is, of course, the past. A few reforms have happened since 1995: for example, one may nowadays wear shoes, and they don’t even have to be Birkenstock. Other things instead – like the utterly hierarchical social structure in the Early Music scene – still hold strong, but I suppose it won’t stay like that forever. If back in the year 2000, a harpsichord student in Northern Europe was expected to have no private life outside their harpsichord studies and kiss as many asses as possible, such things are unconceivable now. The common Early Music student nowadays is partially devitalized by both the general economic situation and the extra-small Bologna Process corset he’s been stuck in, and will simply have no time left for professoral ass-kissing. Unfortunately he or she will not have time anymore to play the archeologist in the library. And that’s a pity, really.
The official website of harpsichord
player and teacher Alina Rotaru