Thursday at the Boston Early Music Festival

Recorder Masterclass with Paul Leenhouts

The first player at this class was a conservatory-level student
named Joe, who played the Telemann Fantasia in C major. This is a
very complicated piece, and Joe not only played well but had the
flexibility to take direction from Paul well, so we got to hear
a lot of different possible ways to play the piece.

One discussion of interest was how to play the echoes. The
easiest method to pull off was to just turn around and play the
echo phrase with the instrument pointing away from the
audience. Of course, this isn’t usable in all settings. Joe
made a face when someone suggested alternate fingerings, so Paul
made him play some and suggested he should practice them harder.

The next performer was a committed amateur from Illinois named
Jim, who played a Frescobaldi Canzona with his wife Ina at the
harpsichord. The first two points Paul made were:

  • The soprano Jim was using was an octave higher than
    Frescobaldi had envisioned the piece. Jim said he normally
    played it on tenor, but hadn’t wanted to pack the tenor from
  • If he were playing a piece like that in concert, he would
    learn 3 or 4 of them, because otherwise it wouldn’t be enough of
    the same thing. Jim said he usually played in church, and one
    was the right number for a prelude or postlude.

So then Paul moved on to the technical issues. He worked on
tuning and ornamentation and ensemble listening skills.

The last player was named Jean, and she played a Loeillet
sonata movement. Paul’s impression of her was that she’d have
more fun playing if she had more technical ability, so he showed
her how to practice breathing and long tones to improve her tone,
and how to practice the difficult finger passages.

Erin Headley & Anne-Marie Lasla,
violas da gamba,
Kristian Bezuidenhout, harpsichord and organ

This was the eleven PM concert. I went because although I’m
not normally a big fan of solo viol playing, Erin Headley has
provided some of the more memorable instances of it that I’ve ever
heard. I wasn’t disappointed in the playing; both the viols and
the keyboard were very good, and the music from the French Baroque
is beautiful and elegant.

Kristian Bezuidenhout’s constant head-bobbing is distracting,
but I got used to it. I especially enjoyed the
courant from the Couperin suite, as it was one of the
few fast, danceable things on the program.

The person I was sitting next to remarked at the end, “They
should maybe play livelier music on these late concerts.” I
couldn’t disagree with that — even in the Follia at the end I was
having trouble keeping my eyes open. But I also couldn’t disagree
with the friend I rode home with on the train, who had been to all
three of the official concerts, at 5, 8, and 11, and said
“Glorious music for 7 hours; I didn’t want it to end.”

Notes from the exhibition

After the masterclass I spent an hour or so at the exhibition.

I dropped off three recorders with their makers, so that they
could be looked at.

Then I checked out the Early Music Shop to see if they had more
brass instruments than I’d seen. They did have a Moeck cornetto
diritto. The Moeck cornettos don’t have a very good reputation
in the cornetto community, and nothing I managed to get out of
this one should modify that. But it is an easier stretch than
you’d expect for a cornetto that size.

The rumor was that Frank Hubbard and maybe some other keyboard
makers were exhibiting at one of the churches instead of paying
the exhorbitant rentals for a room at the Raddison (see yesterday’s
for a discussion of how empty the ninth floor was).
But I needed to get to the exhibition to unload the instruments,
so I couldn’t stop and check it out.

Then I saw a friend buying an alto recorder from Tom Prescott. She
was vascillating between two instruments of the same model.
They both sounded like good instruments to me, and the flute
maker at the next booth wasn’t sure which was better, either.
So then Tom Zajac, my friends recorder teacher, walked by and he
told her which one he preferred, so she took that one. He
admitted that he was heavily influenced by the pretty wood grain
pattern — they were, as you’d expect, very similar in sound.

So then three of us went off and had supper, which we all needed
because we hadn’t really eaten lunch. They see each other all
the time, but I hadn’t seen either of them recently, so it was
good to catch up.

So how’s business?

The board doesn’t share their numbers with me, but here are my

  • The viols supported Erin Headley even worse than the
    recorder players supported Paul Leenhouts, so the downstairs in
    Jordan Hall might have been half full.
  • I’m told the audience at the 8 PM concert of the BEMF
    Chamber Ensemble was respectable — not sold out, but no large
    sections unoccupied.
  • My impression is that the exhibition is about as well
    attended as usual — of course the large crowds come on
    Saturday, so I’ll let you know more about that later. The
    recorder maker who sold my friend her instrument seemed also to
    be closing another sale at the same time, so he seems to be
    doing well.
  • The recorder masterclass was not as well attended as it has
    been in previous years, but they’ve usually had it on Saturday.

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