Several months ago Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Jeanne Lamon, music director, invited me to do some transcriptions and arrangements of Slavic 17th century music to be performed at their season opener entitled, “Music Fit for a King.” I provided a series of fanfare–like works for trumpets, horn, and military drum, as well as two motet-like works for strings, one, in fact, in twelve solo voices. I attended rehearsals and three of the five performances in Toronto; as expected, I had a wonderful time with some of my very favorite baroque musicians.
At her pre-concert talk on opening night, harpsichordist and project coordinator Charlotte Nediger, a truly wonderful musician and person, pointed out that most of the music on the program was unpublished and hadn’t been recorded. At that point I hadn’t absorbed the comment fully. But sometime during the second performance, in anticipation that I would have only one more after that to hear all this fantastic music, I began to experience a kind of ache – a mild sadness of sorts. And then I realized it was because the next evening I might be hearing some of this music for the last time.
We’re so used to being able to get recordings or watch clips of our great works on Youtube, even if not always by our favorite musicians or under the best circumstances. Or, we order the music and perform it ourselves. Not necessarily the case this time.
I wasn’t quite as sad over the works I provided, because, especially with ABO, I have the means to perform them again, and likely will for our May concert, “Haydn in Russia.” And, coincidentally, the Schmelzer lament on the “Music Fit for a King” project also will be on our Oct. 28 concert under the leadership of Jaap Schröder. This had more to do with some of the other works I had gotten to know during my week with Tafelmusik, and the fact that what I was feeling, in a sense, was antithetical to our modern experience. That is to say, most of the music listeners encountered in the 17th century never would be heard by them again. So much truly amazing music went by in one brief encounter.
I found myself reacting to this realization at the concert in an interesting way. I began to listen even more attentively than usual, as if studying what I was hearing in order to memorize it. Nothing else had my attention but the music. Interestingly, I found much of the repertoire sticking in my mind clearly and vibrantly, more or less like getting to know someone in an elongated, energetic initial conversation, rather than little by little over time, not knowing when and if I might see that person again.
It was a good ache, therefore, in the sense that it caused me not to take the music for granted – not to put it off until sometime later. Certainly I’m not suggesting that listeners at the time reacted the same way. Perhaps some did, but many were probably as or more concerned with other activities taking place simultaneously, especially at court ceremonies and celebrations.
On ABO’s first concert of the season, which takes place Friday, October 28, 2011, at 7:30pm, Marquand Chapel (Yale Divinity School), guest conductor Jaap Schröder will lead the ensemble in some rarely heard masterworks of the 17th century – some good ache works – that aren’t readily available on recording, and that you may never hear again. This will be a unique opportunity to appreciate great music at a new and more memorable level, under the direction of one of the most important foundational figures in baroque music. We certainly hope to see you there.
You may purchase tickets through our website or at the door.
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