Nate Helgeson: Musique Française - Part One
Some of my colleagues are sick of hearing me say it at this point, but I basically only listen to French music. There was a good six year period where I listened to French music from between 1600 and 1750 pretty much exclusively (honestly!). One of the more puzzling aspects of the baroque scene, in the US anyway, is why so few other people seem to be with me on this.
I may be wrong of course, but I would wager that you have not heard of the following composers: Boësset, Montéclair, Philidor, Hotteterre, Campra, de Visée, Sainte-Colombe, Clérambault. Many classical music diehards may never have heard of the comparatively famous Rameau, Marais, or Charpentier.
What gives? Why isn’t French music better known? Well, it’s complicated. Some of it has to do with the field of musicology having been dominated early on by Germans. Some of it has to do with the massive and impractical expense of putting on French baroque opera. But honestly I think a lot of it is just inertia. We typically go to see concerts of music we already know we like. And if we don’t know that we might like French music, we don’t buy a ticket, and so groups don’t program French music, and the cycle continues.
So I present to you a little taster menu of French works from the late 16th century onward - a sampling of some of my favorites. Connoisseurs will notice there isn’t a lot of “standard” rep here, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised by this list.
This will be a two-parter. We’ll start with “petite” music - music for small forces - music of the chamber and the chapel. Then next time we’ll do the massive, extroverted, public-facing works, as well as some dance and “country” music.
First on our menu, I want to focus on one of the well-springs of French style: song. And so of course we’ll start with an instrumental piece… There are many great recordings of Marais’s Les Voix Humaines, and I encourage you to listen to every single one. But my favorite is still Paolo Pandolfo’s touching solo version.
After that we’ll go back in time to some airs de cour, or court songs. For one or more voices, often accompanied by lute or theorbo, they’re usually simple in conception: strophic, with “singable” melodies spanning only an octave and moving basically step to step, without leaps. Simple sounds like a bad word though - elegant would be better. Clear. Pleasing. Elemental.
Then, beginning with the Stabat Mater by Charpentier, we move both a little later in time and to the spiritual side of vocal music. A lot of religious music from this period is imposing and gigantic in scope. We’ll get to that stuff in the next playlist, because it’s glorious in all its corpulence. But there was also music for smaller forces, written for private chapels. In these pieces by Charpentier, Delalande, Campra, and Couperin I think you’ll hear a lot of same stylistic virtues from the airs de cour. Even though the musical language has expanded a little to include more dissonances and leaps in the voice, that simplicity of architecture but richness of harmony is still there.
And now for the instrumental music.
You knew some harpsichord would be coming eventually! There’s a huge variety of styles in French harpsichord music, from the innocence and charm of Corrette’s stars, to the dance sets of Dieupart, to the hilariously self-indulgent bombast of Balbastre and Royer. If you thought you hated the harpsichord, I hope something here changes your mind. I particularly love this version of la Janneton by D’Agincourt, which always reminds me, perversely, of the troika from Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije.
This playlist is already getting really long, so I will be cruelly neglecting the theorbo repertoire, except to highlight one piece by Robert de Visée. We usually think of truly personal expression as the domain of later music. Baroque music was mostly “public,” and not autobiographical in any way. A rare exception is this Plainte, mourning the tragic early deaths of de Visée’s own daughters. De Visée’s music is well worth a deeper dive if this piece moves you. He was one of Louis XIV’s favorite musicians, and it’s not hard to understand why.
Next up, a little flute music. I think these pieces highlight the agility and range of expression of the flute, which made it a wildly popular instrument at the time. Flutists have a way of gesturing and articulating that is so close to a singer, but that you can seldom actually hear in a big concert hall. When we talk about French chamber music, somehow the giants of flute music, (Hotteterre, Philidor, Blavet, etc) have become footnotes in tiny print at the bottom of pages devoted to the much more famous Couperin and Marais. I think that might be because in modern times we tend to focus on complex, experimental, and exceptional works, and tend to ignore composers who are comfortably in the center of a style. Hotteterre’s flute music for instance, is as French-y as French gets. You know how sometimes you eat a strawberry and say “Dang, this strawberry tastes exactly like strawberries”? Wait, you’ve never said that? Well, Philidor and Hotteterre sound exactly like French chamber music. To me anyway, I don’t know. Come at me, musicologists.
Violin fans are going to have to wait for another day to get their fill, but there is at least a little something for you in this movement from Clérambault’s Medée. The whole thing is spine-tingling, but I wanted to highlight the violin playing in this movement. The bit at 3:15 where the violin wails away on the G string gets me every time. I hope this piece dispels anyone’s notions that the baroque violin has to be crystalline, dainty, or affected.
And finally, my buddy John Lenti likes to say that every concert should end with a chaconne, so here you go, John. I know you had the G major Handel in mind, but these two are pretty cool too. The Jacques Morel comes from one of the first discs of French music I ever owned. And the play count for the D’Agincourt one on my iTunes? 218.
There are literally thousands of other pieces I could have chosen for this playlist, so we’re only hearing a tiny slice of what’s out there, but maybe this potpourri will at least whet your appetite. I hope you enjoy, and stay tuned for next time when we dive into the opulent worlds of opera and grands motets, and explore a little bit of the country side of French dance music.
An Important Update from PBO’s Executive Director
I’m writing this from my desk at home. It’s been three months since our daily lives changed dramatically, and much has happened since then. Our worlds have shifted.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve realized how much I have taken the future for granted. Like a piece of music that I know forward and backward, I’ve relied upon recurring themes as time passes: the reopening of farmer’s markets in the spring; the change of pace as school closes for summer; the excitement of a new arts and culture season each autumn. Now it’s as if that reliable music, with its beloved themes (and even that one annoying part that makes me question the composer’s intent), has had its pages removed, cut apart, and taped back together in a haphazard order. There are moments that I recognize, certainly, but it’s all disorienting and strange. I’m having to think harder and pay more attention. There is no relaxing into what I know; I’m alert and on guard for surprises. Things have changed, and it’s uncomfortable.
But of course, it’s in the uncomfortable places that we grow. Paying attention to the world around us has finally forced our society to acknowledge systemic injustices, racism, and violence against the Black community; being limited in our ability to return to the status quo has required us to imagine new ways of connecting with one another. I have hope that the world we are building together right now is one of greater equity, creativity, justice, and beauty. We have hard work to do, and the potential for a much-improved new normal is what inspires me to keep going.
So it is that we look ahead to the future of our arts and culture community. We know now that it may be some time (months or even a year) before we are able to gather together in person. I know many of you are concerned about the future of PBO.
Let me assure you that we have a plan. We’ll be telling you everything later this month, but a few key “spoilers:”
PBO’s musicians, staff, and board have worked together to create something new and special. For the time being, we plan to hold our 2020-21 Season entirely online (though we can certainly change course and open our concert hall if safety guidelines change). We’ll be filming at least 12 new performances in high definition, with the spectacular audio quality you’ve come to expect from PBO. Because musician safety is among our very highest priorities, these performances will feature smaller – socially distanced – ensembles in unique venues. Monica has been hard at work reimagining the season, which will feature works by Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Handel, and so many more.
We’re also launching a digital concert hall, Great Arts. Period., which we are sharing with the Portland arts community. PBO’s performances will be presented there, alongside extraordinary performances by fellow arts organizations.
In the next few weeks, we’ll be reaching out to let you know how you can help. Over half of PBO’s costs are supported by ticket purchases, and the path forward requires new ways of doing business. We’ll be in touch!
At the beginning of this letter, I mentioned writing this from my home desk. What I didn’t tell you is that I moved last month – delightfully – into the family home of one of PBO’s founders. There’s a poetry to this new-to-me point of view, seated firmly in PBO’s roots. Things are changing, and there is no bargaining that away or denying it. But we have a firm foundation, strong ties to one another, and an adventurous spirit. I am so grateful to have you with us as we learn and grow in this next chapter.
All best and more soon,
Nate Helgeson: Origins
I’m nostalgic by nature.
I guess that might not be too shocking, coming from someone whose chosen career is historical performance of centuries-old music. But it does explain why in this time when all of us are so uncertain about the future, I find myself thinking a lot about the past. The really ancient past of the 1700s, yes, but also the merely somewhat ancient past of my high school and college years.
Back then I didn’t play historical instruments, I had never seen a gut string, let alone a theorbo (...T-H-E-O-R-B-O, the largest member of the lute family…), and it hadn’t occurred to me that playing Bach cello suites on the modern bassoon was a dubious proposition. What I did do, though, was listen to recordings. Lots of recordings. Over and over again.
That appetite for recordings (was there CD binging before there was Netflix binging?) was actually what led me to pursue historical performance. In particular, it was a habit I and my friend Luke Storm had of trading listening suggestions. Luke and I would carpool together from Eugene to Portland each week for PYP rehearsals, leaving many hours for “Hey, dig this” sessions.
Luke plays tuba, so of course, his picks often featured eardrum-rending passages for the brass, which was alright I guess, since the road noise pretty well precluded your Mahler Adagiettos and your ‘Moonlight’ sonatas. But his taste was (and is) much more eclectic than mine, and while I was listening to wall-to-wall bassoon concerto albums, he was exploring more interesting things. Among those more interesting things were a lot of the recordings you’ll hear on this playlist. I owe a lot to those car trips, and to Luke. To this day he’s a kind and generous tuba player, and a most talented and virtuosic friend. You can hear him on a whole bucket of movie soundtracks, in concert all over southern California (at least once the Quarantimes are over), and on discs on the Moda and Innova labels.
So without further rambling about the glory days, here are some of the recordings that kindled my interest in baroque performance, long before I laid hands on a historical bassoon. Enjoy:
Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr, Corelli and Biber violin sonatas
With humble apologies to Monica and her many excellent discs, my introduction to the baroque violin came from these recordings of Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr from the early 2000s. Manze’s highly personal and capricious style was captivating to me. If you listen to a lot of violinists today, even modern ones, you can hear characterful playing all over the place. But if like me you were used to violinists of past eras (great though they were), Manze’s freedom and creativity is pretty shocking. Check out his other discs if you get a chance - they are all eye-opening.
And though there’s no accounting for taste when it comes to continuo players, Egarr is still my favorite. In fact, a little digression on Egarr: have a listen to the opening Adagio of the G minor Corelli sonata (no. 5), and if you read music, take a look at the score. That kind of inventiveness blew my 18-year-old mind, and it blows my mind today. You see one whole note on the page, and yet Egarr conjures a hundred ebbing and flowing notes in its place. Opinion varies hugely on just how faithful this kind of continuo playing is to what happened in the 18th century, but I have to be honest, I don’t really care. It’s a scarcely believable display of musicianship and personality, and I love it. Some of you might remember Egarr’s performances of Handel organ concertos in 2009 (or 2008?), where instead of playing a small portable organ like a normal person, he decided to use First Baptist’s full-size organ. The only trouble was that that instrument is pitched a half step higher, so he played all the concertos a half step down. E major instead of F. Ab minor instead of G. Unreal. I was there for one of the shows, as I imagine were many of you, and it confirmed my ridiculously high opinion of him. Richard, if you’re listening, come back anytime!
Danny Bond, Devienne bassoon sonatas, and Ensemble Zefiro, Zelenka Trio Sonatas
I had heard baroque bassoon before, but these two albums showed me what the baroque bassoon was capable of. Bond and Grazzi are living legends, and their playing blew up any notions I had that old bassoons were somehow limited or deficient compared to the modern instrument. Bassoon music isn’t everyone’s favorite thing, so I hope you’ll indulge me the 25- odd minutes of bassoon time. I promise it won’t be too painful.
Devienne and Zelenka were both interesting characters, although neither’s music is very well-loved today. If I do a post on the French revolution, I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from Devienne and his colleagues. Check out his bassoon quartets and flute concertos. And if the Zelenka disc interests you, I also recommend his sometimes oddball religious works. There’s something not quite right about Zelenka’s music. In a good way.
Il Giardino Armonico, the Four Seasons
I bet a lot of you have heard this album, or at least remember the provocative cover art. Once again, there are a lot of wild and crazy recordings of these pieces out nowadays, but if you stack this Four Seasons against recordings from past decades, especially by the big-name soloists, Onofri’s is bonkers by comparison. And unlike a lot of recordings of Italian music that are merely high, fast, and loud, Giardino Armonico’s is high, fast, loud, and full of character. The bird-song bits sound more like actual birds. The viola really does sound like a dog (well, close anyway). The icicles really are icy. The snozberries really do sound like snozberries. A lot of times in classical performance, “Beauty” (capital letters, scare quotes), takes priority over character, humanity, drama. Beauty is nice, I guess. I like a beautiful sound. But after hearing these recordings, listening to a performance of such over-played works that is just beautiful? What a missed opportunity.
So, until we can all be back together in 3-D, stay tuned for new playlists and more deranged, poorly organized commentary from myself or other PBO musicians. Our plan is to put up new posts and playlists each month, and our hope is that you’ll enjoy exploring repertoire, composers, and styles as much as we do. If music comforts you in uncertain times, maybe this will help just a little bit. Stay safe out there.
A couple of logistical notes: we’re using the Spotify platform for convenience and for the large library, but if you have something against Spotify or just can’t access it for whatever reason, these recordings are available elsewhere - a quick google search will usually get you to a bunch of listening options. And of course you can always buy the full albums, which usually benefits the musicians more directly. One nice thing about Spotify, though, is the tagging. If you want to hear more from an artist, composer, or ensemble, you can click on the text and Spotify links you to other recordings with that same tag. Needless to say, this leads me to spend many, many hours wandering down rabbit holes - but happily so! Give it a try. It’s a great way to find recordings you might never have discovered otherwise.
with Byron Will, Harpsichord Maker and Byron Schenkman, Harpsichordist
Harpsichordist Byron Schenkman will be performing in PBO’s concert, Leclair, Rameau, and the Age of Enlightenment on April 6, on a very special instrument created by Byron John Will. Below is the story of the beautiful instrument and how it came to grace our stage!
Byron Schenkman said of the concert, “As a harpsichordist I find French harpsichord music the most satisfying to play—this is the repertoire that really makes the most of the instrument’s rich sonority. 18th century French style harpsichords such as the one we’ll be using for this concert are especially delicious, with lots of variety of color and rich, resonant low notes.” He continued, “We’re lucky that Byron Will, one of the great harpsichord builders of our time, lives in the Portland area and is able to provide us with such a great instrument for this concert!”
18th century Paris was a bustling center of music creation, performance, and harpsichord making. There were no less than 80 harpsichord makers in Paris at the time of Rameau. Many composers could simply walk from their homes to the workshops and play the completed instruments from various makers.
Arguably, the most famous family of builders was the Blanchet family. François-Etienne Blanchet carried on the traditions of his father Nicolas, building new instruments as well as rebuilding and enlarging Flemish harpsichords. As harpsichord maker to the king, his instruments were in high demand. François Couperin even owned a Blanchet harpsichord.
Regrettably, there are only four of François-Etienne Blanchet instruments left to us today. One harpsichord Byron Will has always been attracted to is a double manual (two keyboard) harpsichord Blanchet built in 1746 at the Versailles Chateau. It was restored in the late 1960s by Claude Mercier-Ythier.
In 1986, after Will received a commission for a French harpsichord they chose to copy the 1746 Blanchet, with its clear singing and strong voice, and rich bass. They decided on a mid-18th century inspired black exterior and Chinese red interior, with gold bands with a Louis XVI style stand, with turned, fluted legs.
However, in late 2017 Will received an email from his original client, stating he was moving his family to Washington and as the instrument needed some work done he decided to give it back to the maker saying Will could keep the instrument or eventually find a good home for it.
After recently completing a Flemish double harpsichord commission, Byron Will restrung his client’s Blanchet copy with a wire developed by Stephen Birkett, who is reproducing the wire used in the 18th century. The plucking material is sea gull and pelican.
Will said, “Having this wonderful gift in my home is a grand addition to my life-long study of French harpsichord music, and, additionally, for this harpsichord to be used in performances of this wonderful and elegant music.”
When you’ve been presenting Messiah for as long as we have, you get to know the text pretty well. In honor of this time honored tradition, we’ve put together a few fun puns from Messiah leading up to this weekend’s performances! We even asked fans for their favorite including:
• Our winner - ...come for tea my people, saith your God.
• Lettuce break their bonds asunder.
• His Coke is easy, but his burden is Sprite.
There are still tickets available for this weekend’s concerts, although seats are going QUICKLY!
Check out our Facebook page for more punny Messiah pictures!
Owed to Joy
by Holly Stern (pictured!)
Hard to believe it’s been 16 years since I wrote the last Baroque Enquirer. [Check out all of Holly’s newsletters here!] PBO was a mere teenager then. Now it’s time to celebrate the orchestra’s 35th birthday.
It’s time to get HIP!
I know, I know. Most of you are already hip to HIP, and that, too, bears celebrating.
HIP stands for Historically Informed Performance, which sounds fairly daunting and perhaps even a bit boring. But, in fact, it is what PBO has always done and which you have been enjoying since your first concert with us. (Now, doesn’t that make you feel positively brilliant?)
HIP is the use of instruments like the ones Baroque composers wrote for. It’s an exploration into what never made it onto those pages of music, but which the performers of the day knew to do. And it’s just plain fun.
What, inquiring minds want to know, makes it so much fun? The list could be long, but this article should be short, so I’ll just get the discussion started.
My favorite reason is the constant sense of discovery. Since Baroque composers rarely notated whether something should be played loud or soft, short or long, whether the phrase moves toward this note or that, much was left up to the performers. Which provides ample opportunities for a fresh approach. There have been years when we played Handel’s Messiah on four consecutive days, and each one was different, made so by the raised eyebrow or other body language of the conductor/harpsichordist. To have the director trust you to adapt on the spot, in front of an audience, is a heady feeling. As is the joy of discovering new possibilities in a well known work.
Monica Huggett, PBO’s Artistic Director, is a master of interpretation. She can play a phrase so convincingly you’re sure that is The Way it should sound. Then she’ll stand the phrase on its head, and you’ll say, “Oh, wait. That’s the way it’s supposed to go.” And the next day, she’ll . . .
Time out here to relay a favorite anecdote. Several years ago, Ton Koopman, director of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and a generous mentor and guest artist with PBO, was conducting a major modern symphony orchestra. Now, Ton, like Monica, loves to delve into a work’s possibilities, something apparently unappreciated by the reviewer, who took him to task for “micromanaging” the orchestra. The print went something like, “These musicians know their Beethoven symphonies. All you have to do is get them started, and they can take it from there.” Yawn. Please note, this is (thankfully) by no means the universal approach in modern orchestras. But with HIP, the joy truly is in the details.
In my 30 years as a violinist with PBO, this has always been the absolutely best time of year: the opening of a new season. Just think of all the delectable concerts you have stretching out before you. As you listen to this all-Vivaldi concert, take note of the word painting which is sure to be embedded in the vocal pieces. Bask in the nuances and energy, as the orchestra brings the instrumental works to life.
With all this in store, don’t you feel just a wee bit sorry for your friends who perhaps suffer from baroqueophobia? The ones who think they’d be bored silly at a concert of 17th- and 18th-century music? Now is your chance to do a Good Deed. Bring them with you. I still remember one of my students telling me about her mother’s reaction at a PBO concert. The poor woman must have braced herself for tedium, because partway through, she leaned over to her daughter and said, “This is Baroque music??? I like this!”
Your turn to spread the word. The PBO experience truly is owed to joy. And if you tell your friends that, they will think you’re bringing them to a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth, and they’ll be hooked before you know it.
October Flash Sale!
Get $25 tickets in any section to any of our Vivaldi: The Red Priest, The Poet or Telemann in Paris concerts when you use the code 25for25 at checkout! The sale only lasts for the first 25 tickets claimed for each series, so secure your seats now:
Fri Oct 19, 7:30pm
Sat Oct 20, 7:30pm
Sun Oct 21, 3:00pm
Fri Oct 26, 7:30pm
Sat Oct 27, 3:00pm
The Leipzig Audition
FRI MAY 4 & SAT MAY 5 7:30PM
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
SUN MAY 6 3:00PM
When the composer and writer Johann Kuhnau died in 1722, he left a vacancy for one of the most prestigious musical jobs in Germany, that of the Thomaskantor in Leipzig. The position was demanding, entailing the organization of services at the city’s four Lutheran churches as well as the provision of music for municipal and university functions; duties included composing, copying, teaching, auditioning, rehearsing, and performing. Naturally, the town council sought Germany’s most well-reputed musician, and offered the job to Georg Philipp Telemann, who then occupied the equivalent position in Hamburg, but Telemann declined after the authorities there raised his salary. They then turned to Kuhnau’s student Christoph Graupner, the Hofkapellmeister of the court of Hesse-Darmstadt, but he too secured a raise and a renegotiation of his contract, and stayed put. Finally, they settled on their third choice, Johann Sebastian Bach, who spent the remainder of his career as Thomaskantor until his death in 1750.
At the time, diverse styles were converging in the late Baroque, with the proliferation of sheet music and the increased mobility of composers and players around Europe. Few figures exemplify the trend better than Telemann and Bach (and of course their colleague and contemporary Georg Frideric Handel). Telemann spent a short time in his mid-twenties in Poland and later spent several months in France; like Bach, he also absorbed the Italian style spreading northward. He was adept on a wide range of instruments, from keyboard to strings to various winds (including the oboe) and his familiarity with them informed the technical and tonal aspects of his composing.
Among Telemann’s vast oeuvre in many genres are 135 orchestral suites for a wide variety of ensembles, mostly composed in Frankfurt, where he spent his thirties as Kapellmeister of the Baufüßkirche and city music director. Like the others catalogued as TWV 55, the Ouverture-Suite in A Minor follows a mostly French model, with a stately overture followed by a set of short movements, some derived from dance forms; in this case they include Louré (a slow gigue), Bourée, Rondeau, the exuberant La Réjouissance, and a Menuet and Trio. Also from Telemann’s time in Frankfurt comes the Concerto in E Minor (TWV 52:e2) one of a set of six scored for two transverse flutes, a bass instrument (bassoon or lute), strings and basso continuo. It exemplifies the confluence of styles in his music: formally, it follows the Italian sonata da chiesa, with four movements organized slow-fast-slowfast and including a fugal second movement (here with a Polish inflection). The opening features a limpid melody in the French style, the finale is a menuet en rondeau, and the work overall demonstrates Telemann’s balance of easy, charming tunes with driving, thrilling virtuoso passages.
At around the same time that Telemann was writing much of his chamber and orchestral works, Bach did likewise. For almost six years beginning in 1717, he served as Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, a music enthusiast ten years his junior who maintained an 18-member orchestra. As the court was Calvinist, Bach was free of obligation to compose all but the most basic church music, and he produced many of his best-known secular works there, including the Brandenburg Concertos. The survival rate of his orchestral music is regrettably low, and the Concerto for Two Oboes and Bassoon, though sometimes called “rediscovered”, is a speculative reconstruction based on later material. His musical recycling is well-known, and the sinfonia of Cantata 42, composed for the Sunday after Easter in 1725 in Leipzig, is believed to be based on a lost work from his time in Cöthen.
The concerto uses that sinfonia, another from the Easter Oratorio, and the alto aria from Cantata 42; the later work would have involved adding text for church use, so the reconstruction puts the process in reverse. Given the Eastertide use of the music, and Bach’s mastery of religious symbolism, it’s tempting to hear the sacred pieces in the concerto. The opening movement sets the strings and solo group in separate themes that then coalesce, and in the central movement, to which Bach later applied the text “Where two or three are gathered together in Jesus’s name” the solo group of oboes and bassoon (perhaps representing the two Marys and Jesus in the cantata) similarly unify. The joyous concluding movement—the sinfonia from the Easter Oratorio, also used in an earlier secular cantata—offers the solo group in brilliant accord.
While Bach was in Leipzig, he enrolled his oldest son Wilhelm Friedemann at the Thomasschule, and son followed father in church work, including an early stint in Dresden, where instrumental music was incorporated into the Mass. He composed the Adagio and Fugue in D Minor as a Gradual, an interlude following the Epistle. Solemn, even haunting, the opening movement features ethereal slow melodies over subtle strings with exquisite suspensions; it leads directly into a tightly woven fugue, with faster rhythms and brighter textures bringing a bit of spryness and light.
As for Graupner himself, he was a friend of Telemann and Handel and equally celebrated in his day. He spent most of his career as Hofkapellmeister at Darmstadt, where he composed prolifically, but his work fell into obscurity after his death, partly owing to a legal dispute between his family and the court that kept it unpublished and out of the public ear for many years. This program provides an opportunity to rediscover him via the Ouverture in G Minor (GWV 471), which displays high contrasts and inventive use of instrumental sonorities in a blend of elegance and technical brilliance typical of the great musical confluence of his time.
– James McQuillen
STEPHEN BARD, OBOE
Stephen Bard has established himself as one of North America’s leading players of historical oboes and appears regularly with preeminent period instrument ensembles including Tafelmusik, Philharmonia Baroque, Portland Baroque, American Bach Soloists, Handel & Haydn Society, and Boston Baroque. His playing, “especially noteworthy for its sensuous lyricism” (Philadelphia Inquirer), has been lauded for “long, amber-tinted lines and pertly articulated phrases” (San Francisco Classical Voice). In demand as a soloist and chamber musician, his playing has been recorded with many of these fine ensembles on the Chandos, Naxos, CBC, and ATMA Classique labels. His festival appearances include the Oregon Bach Festival, Carmel Bach Festival, and at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. He holds bachelor degrees in Music and in Computer Science from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music. He is currently based in Philadelphia.
NATE HELGESON, BASSOON
Nate Helgeson is one of the West Coast’s leading specialists in historical bassoons. Born into a musical family in Eugene, Oregon (his brother, Aaron Helgeson, and uncle Stephen Gryc are both accomplished composers), Nate studied modern bassoon with Steve Vacchi and Richard Svoboda before taking up the baroque instrument, continuing his studies with Dominic Teresi at the Juilliard School.
Now based in Portland, Nate performs on stages large and small throughout North America. In addition to solo and orchestral appearances with premier period ensembles across the country, he can be heard on recordings by Apollo’s Fire, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra. Nate was a finalist in the 2016 Indianapolis Baroque Concerto Competition, and in 2012 was chosen to perform at the summer music festival, Dans les Jardins de William Christie, an outdoor festival of 18th century music in the west of France hosted and directed by the eminent French music specialist, William Christie.
Nate loves the diverse sound world of historical bassoons, performing on replica baroque and classical bassoons by the late Guntram Wolf (Kronach), an anonymous original instrument from the 1830s, and a 1960s modern bassoon by Heckel (Biebrich).
JOSHUA ROMATOWSKI, FLUTE
Joshua Romatowski, flutist, has been praised for his ability to “allow each note to sound with its own expressive qualities” (San Francisco Examiner). Joshua’s playing has been described as “elegantly shaped” (San Francisco Examiner) and possessing “graceful intimacy” (San Francisco Classical Voice). Joshua holds a MM in Flute Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a BM in Flute Performance from the University of Texas at Austin, as well as an Artist Diploma in Early Music from the Cornish College of the Arts. Joshua was a finalist in the National Flute Association’s Orchestral Excerpt Competition and a winner of the Ladies Musical Club of Seattle Frances Walton Competition.
As well as being a prize winner in the National Flute Association’s Baroque Artist Competition, Joshua has appeared in concert on baroque flute in every major city on the West Coast with the American Bach Soloists, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Byron Schenkman and Friends, Pacific Music Works, and other period ensembles. Joshua currently holds the 3rd Flute/Piccolo chair with Symphony Tacoma and is on faculty at Music Works Northwest. Joshua’s primary teachers have been Timothy Day, Marianne Gedigian, Jeffery Zook, and Janet See.
GONZALO X. RUIZ, OBOE
Born in La Plata, Argentina, Gonzalo X. Ruiz is one of the world’s most critically acclaimed baroque oboists. A member of Portland Baroque Orchestra for over twenty years, he performs as principal oboist and soloist with Philharmonia Baroque, Ensemble Sonnerie, Boston Early Music Festival, The English Concert, Wiener Akademie, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Carmel Bach Festival. He has collaborated with conductors McGegan, Savall, Pinnock, Rattle, Egarr, Manze, Hogwood, and Hassellböck, among others.
Ruiz’s playing is featured on dozens of recordings including his 2010 Grammy™-nominated recording of reconstructions of the four orchestral suites of J.S. Bach, with Monica Huggett and Ensemble Sonnerie. Ruiz was appointed to the faculty of The Juilliard School in 2009. He previously taught at Oberlin Conservatory’s Baroque Performance Institute and at the Longy School’s International Baroque Institute. Ruiz is an acknowledged expert in reed design, and examples of his work are on permanent display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In his free time he enjoys playing guitar and dancing tango.
JANET SEE, FLUTE
Janet See is one of today’s outstanding performers on baroque and classical flute. For over 35 years she has performed as soloist, in chamber music, and in orchestras throughout Europe and North America. In North America, Janet plays principal flute with Philharmonia Baroque, Pacific MusicWorks, Seattle Baroque, and Portland Baroque Orchestra. In London, Ms. See played principal flute for Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s baroque and classical orchestras and with those groups recorded the complete Mozart Operas, Beethoven Symphonies, and numerous other discs.
Janet is an active and enthusiastic teacher of early flutes and also of interpreting the nuance and language of baroque and classical music on modern flute. She is director of the popular Seattle Baroque Flute Summer Workshop, which attracts students from all parts of the United States. Ms. See is a teacher of the FM Alexander Technique, having trained in London with Walter Carrington.