Stay, O Sweet, and do not rise;
The light that shines comes from thine eyes;
The day breaks not, it is my heart,
Because that you and I must part.

Stay, or else my joys will die,
And perish in their infancy.

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General rehearsal for “LEBENSBILDER” (“Lifetime Images”), Ensemble LUXURIANS, a music & poetry project feat. “Iris” by Albrecht Dürer, with works by Dowland, Sweelinck, Shakespeare, Donne and others.
Photos by Jonas Niederstadt.

How deserted lies the city

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.

The Gift of Music #2

Soundfile with harpsichordist Marcelle de Lacour, found in the treasure box called Bibliothèque numérique Gallica:

♪ Tombeau de Mr de Blancrocher by Louis Couperin, Editions de L’Oyseau-Lyre, 1940.

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.

The Gift of Music

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.

Teacher vs Pupil

… 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)

The Early Music Syndrome

“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 thoughtsabout it 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.

Carpe Diem Special: KUROFUNE

The need to tell other about “our babies” at Carpe Diem Records became stronger this January, after the Nymphidia release. While working together with Jonas on the Carpe Diem catalogue 2011, we realized that, by and by, Carpe Diem productions have become exactly what they were always supposed to be: little, unique pieces of jewelry, precious snapshots of unforgettable moments, each showing beauty in another way, using different colours, shapes and shadows, never repeating themselves, always alive.

KUROFUNE is fair, elegant, cold, sleek like Japanese porcelain, true in its nakedness and frugality like haiku, seemingly distant, graceful and subtle, like the fresh trace left in wet grass by a silk shoe.

I remembered listening to the first edit of the KUROFUNE recording one year ago, a few days after Jonas recorded the musicians (Chiyomi Yamada, Toyohiko Satoh and David van Oojen) in a Medieval church near Bremen. Chiyomi Yamada’s light-feathered Soprano, singing unknown (to me, at least) Japanese next to famous European lute songs, was almost an unreasonable demand to my European ears: what an unusual freedom in that voice, running untroubled through “our” well-known songs using unknown ways and knowing no borders or limitations, like a cold, fresh, silvery water of a mountain spring.
“So Japanese” I thought, but then again, what do I know?

These days, the whole world is watching Japan with concern and compassion. How bad it feels to see such distress. And in such cases, who cares about different kinds of mourning? In cases of extreme emergency, all “cultural” differences lose their power, no matter how decorative they used to be in our light-hearted every-day-life.

KUROFUNE made me think about that, while listening to the second edit. We decided to change the order of the songs, mixing Japanese and European together. We tried to act instinctively, following the emotion -  that we considered to be most important in this out-of-the-ordinary context. Had we followed some musicology reasons instead, separating the songs by age or worse, by geographical zone, we would have surely destroyed KUROFUNE and killed its story.

KUROFUNE was inspired by the story of the Tenshō boys (16th C.), who travelled eight long years by sea to Europe and back home. They became aquainted with European culture (and its music) and learned to play European instruments. They must have heard European songs with Japanese ears and maybe they felt a bit like I did, when I first heard KUROFUNE. And just as I did, they must have fallen in love with that strange, unusual, foreign Beauty they heard.

Dürer / Sweelinck LIFETIME IMAGES Trailer

feat. Schirin Nowrousian (recitation), Karin Gyllenhammar (soprano), Mirjam-Luise Münzel (recorder) and Jonas Niederstadt (lute) – a magnificent team.
This project brings Sweelinck, Shakespeare, Dürer, Dowland and other wonderful creative minds together, it also connects the past and the present in a gentle way, yet unfiltered and without compromise. We are looking forward to do that again!

Here’s the trailer of our first performance together for this project February 17th this year.


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