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Sacred Time

If you’re going to the Metropolitan Opera, Wayne Koestenbaum, author of the iconic exploration of opera queendom, The Queen’s Throat, is the best guide one could hope for. After dinner at Rosa Mexicano across from Lincoln Center, we sauntered across Columbus Avenue to a performance of Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov.” For both of us, it was […]

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A Goldberg Variations Playlist

Writing about my musical path for the New York Times last month, I noted that the one strand of continuity for me, between instruments and repertoires, was Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Part of that continuity was my dissatisfaction with the work. Don’t get me wrong, the Goldbergs are incredible. But, from piano to harpsichord to organ, […]

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Holistic Improvisation

I work in the niche realm of historical performance, but videos from the 2020 Bovicelli Competition are the nichest thing I have seen in a long time. This year’s competition, officially titled the “International Singers’ Competition on the Diminution Practices of the 16th and 17th Centuries,” was hosted by the Schloss Weißenbrunn Foundation in Germany […]

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Process of Emancipation

Talking to harpsichordists regularly, it’s easy to get the impression that issues of historical performance, musical philosophy, and even fashion weigh heavily on their minds. But how much do they really think about these big ideas while practicing and performing? I spoke with Alina Rotaru, a Romanian harpsichord soloist, continuo player, and teacher at the […]

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An Element of Faith

An Interview with Pierre Hantaï By · Title Image Screenshot from a video of Pierre Hantaï performing Scarlatti on a Bizzi harpsichord · Date 6/14/2018 The harpsichord is inextricably tied to the eccentricity and experimentation of the historical performance movement. Any hot new recording of baroque repertoire would be incomplete without a first-rate instrument. But […]

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Out of the Piano’s Shadow

An Interview with Keith and Robert Hill By · Photography Detail views of harpsichords by Keith Hill · Date 5/31/2018 “I like leather,” the famous harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková once said. Amid the harpsichord’s renaissance in the 20th century, a debate arose as to the materials that should be used for the plucking mechanism (plectra): leather […]

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An Interview with Jean Rondeau By · Photography © Katie Baillot · Date 11/30/2017 While this might not be the moment that all of us have been waiting for, it’s certainly titillating to catalogue another casualty report in the Harpsichord Wars. In March, Mahan Esfahani hurled a set of observations (some say accusations) against the […]

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Music Of An Earlier Time

Wait, is it the Monteverdi year? Help. I can’t get on social media without seeing Instagram theorbos, videos of madrigals by fellow early music noobs, or another of review of “Orfeo” pretending it’s a new work. In particular, Sir John Eliot Gardiner (known by some as Jiggy) has made a splash this year by taking […]

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Silent Valley

Last month, the librettist and Anglican priest Alice Goodman told the New York Times of her text to the opera “The Death of Klinghoffer,” “Anything I might say about the controversy”—she was accused of anti-Semitism in her depictions of Jewish characters—“would pour gasoline on the embers.” She went on, “I doubt I’ll ever write anything […]

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Cross Pollination

An Interview with Kristian Bezuidenhout By · Photography © Marco Borggreve · Date 08/24/2017 Recently, I spoke with the keyboardist Kristian Bezuidenhout by phone. His demeanor was gentle without being apologetic: while ironing his shirts, he talked about the music of Bach with immense sincerity. But his programming often includes music by other composers, particularly […]