Posted inPlaylist

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, […]

Posted inReport

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 […]

Posted inEssay

Centuries of Silence

Only then can his creative genius begin redounding, as it should, to the glory of Black music history,” writes the musicologist Robert Stevenson in his 1982 article, “The First Black Published Composer.” Stevenson’s subject was Vicente Lusitano (ca. 1520-ca. 1561), an African-Portuguese priest and musician who enjoyed an international career. Stevenson heralds works like the […]

Posted inReview

Transformed By Absence

As the Midwestern fall turned into a frigid, icy winter, I listened to Glenn Gould playing Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” and read Philip Kennicott’s Counterpoint: A Memoir of Bach and Mourning. Alternating between listening and reading, I found myself overwhelmed by emotion and flooded with the desire to do something. I wanted to clean house, dance […]

Posted inInterview

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 […]

Posted inProfile

Windows

It starts with the name. He gets irritated when you ask about it. Americans can’t pronounce the “ij” in “Bijlsma,” but the U.S. market is important, so marketing had the last word. He settles for “Bylsma.” He’s Dutch. In 1959, he won the International Pablo Casals Cello Competition, the Nobel Prize for cellists. When he […]

Posted inInterview

Confinements

Round-number anniversaries of composers’ births and deaths can often feel arbitrary, excuses to keep programming the same music. Not Monteverdi’s 450th birth year. His operas are universal, important reminders that us humans have always had the same struggles, that we’ve been here before: 450 is a number that puts things in perspective. The conductor John […]