Monday, August 22, 2011

Baroque and Brazilian

I had a tremendously energizing musical day on Saturday. I went to NYC for a Baroque session with distinguished harpsichordist Anthony Newman. I had the pleasure of performing with him when we performed for the Young Concert Artists 50th anniversary marathon concert at Symphony Space this past season. We played J.S. Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and C.P.E. Bach, and Tony's insights on ornamentation, rhythm, articulation, and character were revelatory. I read his book, Bach and the Baroque, which is a valuable resource.

It was really fun to hear Tony improvise ornaments for each composer's style and copy them to play them myself! In addition, the approach to meter and tempo and specifically how the feel of each movement, Largo, Adagio, Allegro, etc. is related to tactus or pulse is one of the most striking differences between modern and period practice. Another very important point is about the influences on Bach and Handel from French and Italian musical thought, regarding the accent or release on certain beats; note values to be played shorter than full length; and the most radical of all: that the score provided the basis for the musician to embellish and interpret in a uniquely personal and virtuosic way. This approach is so different from the later conception that the score is a finished, comprehensive text to be followed literally. I learned a lot and had a great time applying new ideas to the music. Tony and I are coming up with some concert plans to perform together.

My next musical experience of the afternoon was an impromptu jam session on Brazilian chôros with my friend the composer, pianist, and recording entrepreneur David Chesky. I went to visit him and his family, and discovered that among his many musical endeavors is playing Brazilian music. This multi-talented guy also writes his own chôros. I love chôros and perform them regularly with my duo pianist Charles Abramovic, and Charlie has made flute/cello/piano arrangements for our trio. David does authentic Brazilian playing so it was great fun for me to imbibe the style. The chôros have a rhythmic groove as distinctive in its own way as the different Baroque styles I had just explored with Tony.

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