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Jean-Marie Leclair: Seduction and Rococo Art

In Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ masterful and emblematic 18th-century epistolary novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the Marquise de Merteuil tickles, delights and at the same time emasculates both her sparring partner Valmont and the reader with artful, witty virtuosity. A razor-sharp, humorous image here, a play on words there, a slightly confounded expectation, an erotic allusion, a badinage beckons us. We lean forward to better hear each salacious detail. The Marquise compliments our intelligence even as she robs the dignity of others and … [Read more...]

A highly personal note to an international concert program

Plum Blossoms and Fleurs de Lis: War and Peace in the Forbidden City and Versailles Four Nations Ensemble and Music From China Sunday, April 21st at 6 PM Salon Sanctuary Concerts in New York City Thursday, April 25th at 8 PM Market Square Concerts in Harrisburg Pennsylvania I met Albert Fuller in New York in 1967 after his recital on the Hunter College Harpsichord Series. He played Rameau, Couperin and Le Roux. At 16 years old my response was, “I want to do that.” It was not until 1972 after another concert, this time the Bach sonatas … [Read more...]

Playing the Texan Palace

    We made a final turn off the highway to a country road. We had been driving for an hour, had stopped at a Tex Mex roadside restaurant, and then watched as the highway modulated from urban sprawl to desert austerity but we were not prepared for the romantic vision as we made this turn. The road lead us towards a stone church to the left and a very large, square, silver-stone house surrounded by trees and a few outbuildings. Other than these buildings all we could see was a landscape of endless acres spotted with cactus … [Read more...]

Court and Concert, notes to a program

Notes for Four Nations concert program for the Pittsburgh Renaissance and Baroque Series (Synod Hall on Saturday, January 12) and at the New Church in New York City (Monday, January 14). Check below blog for details. I prefer that which moves me to that which surprises me. --François Couperin (from the preface of Book One of his harpsichord works) I prefer the bizarre to the insipid. --Anne Louis Girodet (French painter and student of David)   Eighteenth century France experienced revolution in every quarter. Society, … [Read more...]

Francois Couperin: The beginning of a long look.

Open Book One of Couperin’s Pieces de Claveçin and look at the first two pages of music. In contrast to the published volumes of d’Anglebert, Rameau, Le Roux and Marchand, Couperin opens not with a prélude, or improvisatory awakening of the instrument but rather with an Allemande Grave. Four of the five suites of Book 1 (and several in the following three volumes) have monumental works that serve as introductions to each collection of pieces, collections he calls ordres. Performed with the required repeats, these allemandes are impressive in … [Read more...]

Bastille Day

From the Salon to the Scaffold Notes to a program at Maverick Concerts for July 14th, 2012 Bastille Day I prefer that which touches me to that which surprises me The composer, François Couperin (1668-1733) I prefer the bizarre to the insipid The painter, Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824) Nothing (happened) The King Louis XVI, Journal entry for July 14, 1789 July 14th is the day we recognize as the boundary between the Old Regime and the new, republican world of France. But this revolution is only one manifestation of a large social … [Read more...]

Lamentations and Ululations: Notes before a program

Antonio Vivaldi came to prominence on the coat tails of Johann Sebastian Bach. This was a favor returned, as Bach’s own style went through a metamorphosis with his discovery of the Venetian master’s brilliant energy and rational, transparent, and effective form. Everything in Bach evolved, from harpsichord music to extended arias and choral writing. So, when the Bach Gesellschaft published its volumes of concertos, the Vivaldi works most influential on Bach were included. Today, Vivaldi is recognized as the master of the violin concerto and … [Read more...]

Sans Souci-Notes before a concert

A journal of our visit to Sans Souci and notes on a program of the Four Nations Ensemble in New York City on March 7th, 2002 A day at Sans Souci, Frederick the Great’s favorite home, is immersion in a Rococo world. The gardens cascading below the pavilion (it is neither a palace nor chateau but a Prussian Trianon) are as visually complex as the interior walls are energetic with silver and gold traceries and shell work. The Four Nations Ensemble’s concert (March 7th in New York City) is a program of sonatas from Sans Souci written to fill the … [Read more...]

Berlin and the Sing-Akademie

The melancholy that pervades French 18th century art springs from an observation that nothing lasts; nothing fine, happy, exquisite, delicious, amorous, luminous, nothing lasts. Leaving Versailles is leaving Eden and leaving Paris is done with regret. Heaven on earth may well be a moment in which our taste buds are being ravished, our eyes delighted, and all our senses satisfied while seated in a restaurant looking inwards to the belle époque décor and outwards to a river of humanity in promenade on a Haussmann boulevard. My next music … [Read more...]

Leaving Versailles

      It snowed this morning over Versailles and so, just as during my first visit here in 1969, today there is a rare view of the 17th century classical gardens by Andre Le Notre, one of history’s greatest landscape architects. All white, the grounds are an abstract composition in perfectly cut leafless hedges, trees, alleys and statues. The grounds are closed for a second day but the town of Versailles is sparkling in silver sunshine all focused by frigid breezes in the coldest winter in 30 years. There is a … [Read more...]

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