Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Academy of Ancient Music to Perform in Cincinnati on November 9

(photo of Academy of Ancient Music by Marco Borggreve)

Two years ago, Academy of Ancient Music (one of the great period instrument orchestras of the world) contacted Peter Landgren, the dean of CCM (University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) to say that they would be touring the US in November 2014. They would consider their only stop in the Midwest for a concert in Cincinnati, if he was interested. Dean Landgren exclaims, “I have loved this ensemble for many, many years, and the ability to bring them to Cincinnati to perform some of my favorite works – the four orchestral suites of Bach! It was a no-brainer!”

Dean Landgren then worked with CCM’s assistant professor of harpsichord and organ, Michael Unger and other CCM faculty members to organize masterclasses for keyboards, strings, woodwinds, and brass instruments for the day following the concert.

This is a huge opportunity for Cincinnati, a city that has so much exquisite music, but is sorely lacking its own period instrument orchestra! It is also a great opportunity for conservatory students and the public alike to hear one of the finest Baroque orchestras in person. The orchestra will present Bach’s orchestral suites, music from their recently released album.

I hope to see you on Sunday, November 9 at 5PM with the Academy of Ancient Music at CCM’s Corbett Auditorium. For more information about the concert and to order tickets, visit http://ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/academy-of-ancient-music.html.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Chat with Henner Harders, Builder of Viols





Henner Harders is the mystery luthier on the cover of Catacoustic’s season brochure. He is a viol maker in Germany and created Annalisa’s beautiful lirone.

How did you become interested in building viols and historical string instruments? Did you build violins and cellos first?

I grew up in a musical family together with two brothers and two sisters. My mum taught all of us and the neighbors kids recorder. My father was playing the cello and double bass. He got interested in this mysterious instrument called viola da gamba because the cello parts he played were often originally meant to be played on a viola da gamba. Being a Professor for crafts in the university of Bremen, his interest in the instrument made him take part in Fidel making courses. After a few years and after having made quite a few and also after having started making his own versions of Viola da gambas he started giving the courses himself. At the same time, he started playing the instruments, and our
whole family started playing them. These instruments had steel strings and fine tuners;
later on, when most of us got proper viol lessons, they were changed to gut strings. So, we had my mum and dad building these instruments as a hobby, and we had a well-equipped woodworking workshop. Us kids spent a lot of our free time in the workshop using the fretsaw and cutting out lots of things of plywood.

Making a viola da gamba is unusual enough. How did you become interested in making a lirone?

One of my first customers asked me to make her a lirone, so I went to the museum in Leipzig and measured the 2 existing instruments they have and the left overs of a destroyed original lirone. Based on these, I made my first lirone, which was 20 years ago. Over the years I kept changing little details to improve the instrument. I like the sound of it. It sounds more like a keyboard or like a whole consort with its clear and very carrying sound.

Do you model your instruments on historical examples? If so, how do you get your detailed information to craft the instruments? Paintings? Museums?

My models are usually based on instruments I have measured myself in museums or private collections or on detailed drawings. I may change things to accommodate the customers’ requirements.

You live in a small village that is quite secluded from city life. Is this an inspiration for you? What are the pluses and minuses of this small-town country life?

I grew up in the countryside and always liked it a lot. I work from home, and as my customers come from all over the world, I don't depend on having a shop and I can concentrate on the making of new instruments. I really enjoy the peacefulness of living in our small village of about 120 inhabitants. The downside is that one has to do a lot more driving to get the kids to their music lessons or school and that it is more difficult to find other musicians locally which share the same interests.

You are a team with your talented wife Susanne Küster, who is an in-demand scroll carver for many instrument makers throughout the world. Does she carve the scrolls for all of your instruments? How does your partnership work? Is this how you met?

A Susanne Kuster original
Yes, she does do all the carving jobs on my instruments, which is a privilege. I prepare the pegbox and after having found out what the customer would like, she makes a sketch and either she or I cut out the outline. Susanne was trained in the same carving school as my little sister, she was just a year above her and moved to Bremen and was looking for work. This is how we first met. After she had done some carving jobs for me, she also started making instruments and decided to learn violin making properly in the violin making school in Newark / England.

Do you play the viol? How did you learn about historical instrument making and repair?


I started playing the viol at the age of 7 and had proper lessons from 9 - 12 until my teacher moved away. Later on I had cello lessons, but after leaving school came back to playing the viol. I have had lessons with a pupil of Wieland Kuijken while we were living in Viersen before we moved to our own place in the former east of Germany. I was trained to make viols at the London College of Furniture back in 1986 for 4 years, where I visited the early fretted instruments workshop. When Susanne went to Newark, I followed her and also enrolled in the violinmaking course while still making my own instruments. At the same time I started working for Dietrich Kessler in London 2 days a week making viols. This was a very inspiring time for me, as he had seen so many old viols and had some fantastic old viols himself, which I could look at while making a copy of them.

How many instruments have you made? What is your dream project in instrument building? What are your favorite projects?

Henner Harders, the day Annalisa took delivery
So far I have made about 80 instruments. Before I started building viols, I was making electric basses. I do not really have a dream project, as long as I always have instruments on order, I am happy. It is always exciting to find out what exactly the customers want from their instrument. Depending on the kind of repertoire they want to play, on their ideals of sound and possibly with some individual decoration or carving. I find it very helpful to be able to play the instrument myself, which gives me a good idea of how the set up could be optimized to aim for best playability and response.

More information about Henner’s instruments, along with his contact information can be found at his website at http://www.violworks.com.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Behind the scenes at Catacoustic



Catacoustic’s season opener:  T minus 2 days and counting.  What’s going on behind the scenes?

All the musicians have arrived.  For this event, it’s a big crew:  twelve people will be on stage.  Six locals, six visiting from out of town.  Where will they stay?  

Welcome to Upland Place in East Walnut Hills, the friendliest street in town.  Neighbors up and down the street host musicians in their homes.  The hosts get to meet fascinating artists:  “You play the what, again?”  The guests get a quiet, homey environment, walking distance from Annalisa’s house, where most of the rehearsals take place.
Music to make the angels sigh

Standing-room-only lecture
Rehearsals may last all day, and can be intense.  But Catacoustic is committed to – and famous for – a nurturing, musically-rewarding experience.  Everyone brings their best to the table, and the primary goal is to create a cohesive interpretation that shows each person’s strengths.  Musicians find their time with Catacoustic so positive they often return.  We also look for ways to make their visit extra productive by finding them other opportunities.  This week, our baritone is giving a guest lecture at CCM on Baroque performance practice.  Our visiting gambist is offering a workshop to local viol players.  

Meals are taken around Annalisa’s table.  Yes, she cooks all that food for all those people, day after day, meal after meal, concert after concert.  When they sit down and break bread together, the musical bonds they’ve been forging in rehearsal are cemented with fellowship.  

Two pardessus!
Dress rehearsal is the last day before the show.  The troupe moves into the performance space.  Chairs, stands, lights are all checked.  Acoustics and staging are experimented with.  Notice I don’t mention a sound check:  of course we never amplify; we make the building do the work for us.  Instead of electricians, our technicians are the architects who knew how stone could resound, how overtones could meet up in the vaults.  And on this occasion, one Mr. Louis Tiffany has provided us with a spectacular light show—past audiences have clamored to see the stained glass by daylight, so for this concert we are obliging.  

The continuo team
The hour or two you see the musicians on stage represents days and weeks of preparation and careful thought.  Who’s picking up the theorbist at the airport?  Can the bass player sleep in a house with a cat?  Is one of the singers vegetarian?  Has Annalisa cooked enough food for all these people?  

Donors, take note:  We stretch every dollar as far as it will go.  By housing the musicians privately, and feeding them in Annalisa’s kitchen, we save thousands each year, which we can turn around and use to present ever finer concerts.  If you would like to be more involved—if you’d like to house musicians, or provide some meals, if you’d like to sponsor one of our world-class soloists – please get in touch.  We like to think of Catacoustic as a community, with everyone coming together to make what we do possible.  

3:00pm Sunday, September 21, 2014
Church of the Advent, 2366 Kemper Lane, Walnut Hills (Cincinnati), OH 45206
There is ample street parking available, as well as available parking in the US Post Office lot just south of the church on Kemper.
 
Tickets are available at http://catacoustic.com/tickets/ or at the door.  $25, students $10.

Or order season tickets!  Five tickets, which can be used at any concert in our upcoming season, for $100, a 20% discount!  Available until September 21. 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

He Who Sings, Prays Twice



Catacoustic Consort begins its fourteenth season September 21 by reaching into one of the most rarely-visited corners of the German Baroque and finding treasure within. Membra Jesu nostri patientis sanctissima—it sounds impenetrable, but its rewards are profound.

L'abbaye de Villers-la-Ville
Arnulf of Leuven died in 1250, in what is today French-speaking Belgium.  He was a poet, and probably the author of “Membra Jesu Nostri,” or “The Limbs of our Jesus,” a meditation on the wounds of the crucified Christ.  We can’t know for certain; when his abbey at Villers-la-Ville was ransacked during the French Revolution, the original manuscripts were lost.  Another piece of our heritage destroyed.


Buxtehude
Dieterich Buxtehude was born around 1638 in what was then Denmark.  His career as music director, organist, and composer unfolded in Lübeck, Germany.  His students included Johann Pachelbel, and his friends included Handel and Bach, who revered him above all his predecessors.  But at his death most of his music was unpublished; some was collected and preserved by a friend in Sweden, but some has been lost forever.  Another piece of our heritage allowed to slip away.

In 1680, Buxtehude set Arnulf’s poems to music, a cycle of seven cantatas which come together in what is often called the first Lutheran oratorio.  The piece is eclectic, following rigid forms one minute, utterly disregarding them the next.  Five voices, and sometimes three, and sometimes one, are united with two high melody instruments, except in Part 4 when we have an entire viol consort.  Two sopranos, countertenor, tenor, and baritone interweave through text both hopeful and despairing. There’s a reason this piece is so rarely staged today:  the requirements of the ensemble are beyond what most organizations can muster.  

Pardessus de viole
In Catacoustic’s performance, we will have the extraordinary opportunity to hear two pardessus, the rarest of viols. Catacoustic’s Artistic Director Annalisa Pappano is one of the most renowned performers on this instrument working today, along with Joanna Blendulf of Madison, Alabama.  (These partners in pardessus have recently released a CD of exquisite French music, available for purchase at http://catacoustic.com/store/.)  Joining them will be internationally known theorbist Daniel Swenberg, Michael Unger on chamber organ, and gambists David Ellis, Cole Guillien, and Stephen Goist (these last two being this year’s Catacoustic Early Music Scholarship recipients!)  The vocal ensemble will include the welcome return to Cincinnati of soprano Youngmi Kim, soprano Melissa Harvey, tenor Brian Thorsett, baritone Aaron Cain, and countertenor Michael Maniaci, fresh from his Cincinnati Opera debut in La Calisto

The piece begins with a verse from the book of Nahum:  Behold, upon the mountains the feet of one bringing good news and proclaiming peace.  What could be more welcome in these uncertain times?  Come and enjoy this once in a lifetime performance. 

Tickets are available at http://catacoustic.com/tickets/ or at the door.  $25, students $10.

Or order season tickets!  Five tickets, which can be used at any concert in our upcoming season, for $100, a 20% discount!  Available until September 21. 

3:00pm Sunday, September 21, 2014
Church of the Advent, 2366 Kemper Lane, Walnut Hills (Cincinnati), OH 45206
There is ample street parking available, as well as available parking in the US Post Office lot just south of the church on Kemper.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Instruments and Instrumentalists of La Calisto with Cincinnati Opera and Catacoustic Consort

The Catacoustic Consort has been fortunate to collaborate with Cincinnati Opera in their first ever production of a Baroque opera - Cavalli's La Calisto. (There are also some members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the pit, playing violin, cello, and bass.) Many people have approached us at intermission and following the concert, wanting to know more about the instruments and us. So, I thought it would be handy to have an extra bit of program note material for people who might like to learn a bit more...

The music in this opera is played in a creative and improvisatory manner that is surprisingly similar to jazz. The composer provides the material for the solo voices, and only a skeletal bass line for the accompanying instruments remains. Instruments such as the theorbo, harpsichord, Baroque guitar, and lirone are expected to know how to play the correct chords according to certain theoretical rules of harmony. This practice, called basso continuo or simply continuo, was a very common way of playing music in the Baroque period.

About the Instruments
The viola da gamba was one of the predominant instruments of the Renaissance and Baroque periods in Western Europe. “Viola da gamba” literally means viola of the leg. The viola da gamba (or viol) is a fretted instrument with from five to seven strings and is played with an underhand bow grip, rather than the overhand bow grip of the violin family. The viola da gamba comes in a variety of ranges that correspond to the human voice: soprano, tenor, and bass. The viol is a hybrid of several Middle Eastern instruments and arrived first in Spain with Jewish musicians from the Middle East. When the Jews were expelled from Spain, many went to Italy and worked in the courts of Italian nobles. These nobles (especially Isabella d’Este in Mantua) took this new instrument and worked with their instrument makers to make it an “Italian” instrument, which is the viol we know today. In Italy, the viola da gamba was mostly an ensemble instrument that played vocal music, although it also played virtuosic improvisatory arrangements of solo songs. Jews later traveled to England (around the time of Henry VIII) and brought the viola da gamba. In the Baroque period, the viola da gamba flourished in France and developed into a “French” instrument with the addition of a seventh string on the bass. There is a wonderful abundance of music for the viola da gamba, as it was an instrument that wealthy aristocrats played. The noble class could afford expensive instruments, paper for the music, and professional musicians who would teach and compose music.


The lirone (pronounced lee-roh-nay) was played throughout Italy from the late 16th through the 17th centuries. It is a bowed string instrument that is held similar to a cello, but it has anywhere from nine to fourteen strings, with three or four strings being played at a time. The lirone was used to highlight emotional peaks in music and was considered ideal for dramatic laments. The lirone is a uniquely “Catholic” instrument and was especially favored amongst the Jesuits. It was described in Greek and Roman mythology and was brought into the church to attract parishioners.


The new harmonic language of the Baroque period called for a fuller chromatic range of notes than what came before it in the Renaissance. Whereas earlier harps only played diatonic notes (white keys on the piano), more chromatic notes (black notes on the piano) were now necessary. The Baroque triple harp has two identical diatonic rows of strings on the outside, with an inside row of chromatic notes.


In 17th-century Italy, the bent-neck lute was replaced by the theorbo (pronounced thee-ohr-boe). The bass strings were mounted on an extension, giving them nearly twice the string length of the treble strings. Naturally, this gave the bass more strength and volume. The purpose of the theorbo is to reinforce the bass, whereas the purpose of the lirone is to enrich the harmonies. The composer Giulio Caccini said that the theorbo was the perfect instrument to accompany the voice.


The recorder is a family of instruments (similar to the viola da gamba) with sizes ranging from the sopranino, soprano, treble, tenor, bass, and great bass. It is basically an extended whistle with a thumbhole and about seven holes for the remaining fingers. It was quite popular during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. With its history tracing back to the Middle Ages, the recorder has undergone several changes in appearance and importance throughout the centuries. Characteristic for this early wind instrument are eight finger holes, including one thumbhole, as well as a block of wood set into the shaped mouthpiece, creating the place for tone production. The German and French names for the instrument “Blockfloete” and “flûte á bec” reflect this feature. Evolved from a one-piece body with cylindrical bore and single holes as seen in medieval iconography, the recorder became popular as a consort instrument during the Renaissance, forming a small ensemble of differently sized recorders from great bass to garklein (one octave above the soprano). By the 16th century, the recorder also began its development into a solo instrument. A substantial portion of recorder music was composed during the Baroque period. Eighteenth-century instruments have a conical bore, some double holes, a wider range, and often a more ornamented design than earlier models. The recorder fell out of use towards the end of the 18th century, and experienced its revival along with the rise of historical performance practice in the 20th century.


The cornetto is a wind instrument made of wood, covered with leather, and played with a small cup-shaped mouthpiece. Rare as it may be today, in the 16th century the cornetto was second in importance only to the organ as an instrument for sacred music, and was considered by many to be the most perfect of all instruments for its ability to imitate the human voice. The extreme difficulty of the cornetto, together with its remarkable agility and expressivity, made it necessarily an instrument of virtuosi, many of whom were among the most famous and well-paid in Italy. After 1600, cornetto virtuosi increasingly had to give way to virtuosi of a new instrument, the violin, but for the first half of the 17th century, the cornetto and the violin were considered virtually interchangeable. Many musical works, therefore, were written "per cornetto overo violino." With fashion moving inexorably in the direction of string instruments, it was inevitable that standards on the cornetto would fall. Though the cornetto was played in Italy until the arrival of Napoleon at the end of the 18th century, the virtuosi had long since disappeared, their "golden age" extending from about 1550 to 1650.


About the Catacoustic Consort
The Catacoustic Consort presents a variety of vocal and instrumental music from Renaissance chamber music to Baroque opera, with the intent of recreating the sound of the music when it was originally composed. The music is performed on period instruments such as the viola da gamba, theorbo, organ, harpsichord, Baroque guitar, and lute. In addition to a historically informed approach to performing music, Catacoustic is dedicated to approaching music with an understanding of the life and times when it was originally played. Some favorite composers of early music include J.S. Bach, John Dowland, Marain Marais, and Claudio Monteverdi.

The Catacoustic Consort is dedicated to the early music community in the greater Cincinnati area with its annual subscription series of five or six concerts. Catacoustic also provides a rental program of early instruments; concert tours (travels to San Francisco, Colombia, Portland, etc.); offers an annual scholarship for instruments, training, or early music education; and sponsors the annual Cincinnati Early Music Festival, which celebrates local musicians engaged in the performance of early music. Catacoustic is also committed to outreach to senior citizens.

Based in historic East Walnut Hills (Cincinnati), Ohio, the Catacoustic Consort is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. For more information about the Catacoustic Consort, visit www.catacoustic.com.

Musicians’ Bios
Annalisa Pappano
(Founder and Artistic Director of Catacoustic Consort, bass viola da gamba, and lirone) studied at Indiana University’s Early Music Institute and at Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Her playing has been described by critics as “mercurial and enchanting” and “with a sound that is lighter than air with the airy luster of gilding on the mirrors of a rococo drawing room.” She has performed throughout Belgium, England, Ireland, Colombia, Canada, and the U.S. and has appeared on nationally syndicated radio and has played at the Berkeley and Vancouver Early Music Festivals and the Ojai Music Festival. Pappano is a member of Atalante (England) and has performed with numerous other ensembles including the Houston Grand Opera, the Cleveland Opera, the Portland Opera, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (San Francisco), Les Voix Baroques, Opera Atelier, the Toronto Consort, the Concord Ensemble, Cappella Artemisia (Bologna), Wildcat Viols, and Consortium Carissimi. She has taught at Viola da Gamba Society of America national conclaves, the Viola da Gamba Society Pacific Northwest and Northeast chapters, the San Diego Early Music Workshop, ViolsWest, the Madison Early Music Workshop, and has been a guest lecturer at numerous universities. Pappano led the Catacoustic Consort to win the grand prize in the Naxos / Early Music America Live Recording Competition and recorded a program of Italian laments on the Naxos label. Pappano teaches viola da gamba at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.


Michael Leopold holds both an undergraduate degree in music and a master’s degree in historical plucked instruments from American Universities as well a degree in lute and theorbo from L’Istituto di Musica Antica of the Accademia Internazionale della Musica in Milan, Italy. Originally from Northern California, he continues to reside in Milan and has performed both as a soloist and as an accompanist throughout Europe, Australia, Japan, Chile, Mexico and the United States. He has played with a number of leading Italian early music groups, including Concerto Italiano, La Risonanza, La Venexiana and La Pietà de’ Turchini and several American period-instrument ensembles. He has also collaborated with several orchestras and opera companies, including Orchestra Verdi di Milano, Opera Australia, San Francisco Opera, Barcelona Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Gulbenkian Mùsica, and Portland Opera. His performances in operas have been noted in various reviews, “Michael Leopold was a standout on theorbo, providing some of the most sensitive and heartfelt musical moments of the evening,” (Kathryn Bacasmot, Chicago Classical Music. Teseo, Chicago Opera Theater) and “High marks especially to the marvelous theorbo, lute and baroque guitar specialist, Michael Leopold, whose recitatives added dazzling color.” (Harvey Steiman, Seen and Heard International. Xerxes, San Francisco Opera). He can be heard in recordings on the Stradivarius, Glossa, Naïve, and Naxos labels.


An accomplished and versatile harpist, Elizabeth Motter’s career has taken her across the U.S., as well as to Italy, Japan, Singapore, and Israel. Highlights include the Aspen Music Festival, two seasons with Des Moines Metro Opera, three summers in Italy at the Spoleto Festival, playing with the New World Symphony in Miami, and the Cincinnati and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestras. She spent three months performing in Japan and, as a finalist in the Singapore Symphony auditions, was invited to perform a series of concerts there in 1997. She has had the privilege of playing in orchestras supporting such legends as Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin, Manhattan Transfer, Al Jarreau, The King’s Singers, and Frank Sinatra. Elizabeth began her study of the baroque triple harp in 2011. She has attended the Amherst Early Music Festival, Accademia d’Amore in Seattle, Oberlin's Baroque Performance Institute, and the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Harp Performance degree from the Oberlin Conservatory. She currently resides in Cincinnati, teaching at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Preparatory Department and performing with many professional ensembles throughout the region. She has participated in recordings made by the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, The Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, as well as two Christmas CD’s with Cincinnatis Vocal Arts Ensemble.



Alex Opsahl studied recorder with Peter Holtslag and Daniel Bruggen at the Royal Academy of Music. She studied cornetto in Italy with Bruce Dickey, continuing at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. She was the winner of the 2003 Moeck Solo Recorder competition, the 2001 and 2003 RAM Early Music Prize and 2003 Hilda Anderson Dean Award. She works now both as a cornettist and recorder player across Europe and the US. Alex has performed with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra under Ton Koopman, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Apollo’s Fire, the Green Mountain Project, Le Studio Musique Anciennes de Montréal, Musica Angelica, The Whole Noyse and American Bach Soloists. She has performed at the Berlin Philharmonie, Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room and the Royal Albert Hall, and played in filmed productions of L’Incoronazione di Poppea with both Oslo Opera and Glyndebourne Opera. She recorded Vivaldi’s Recorder Concerto in C Minor, RV 441, with the Norwegian period orchestra Barokkanerne, and the JD Berlin cornetto concerto with the Norwegian Baroque Orchestra. Alex is a member of the Dark Horse Consort and is the Music Director of the LA-based ensemble Tesserae.


Kiri Tollaksen enjoys a varied career as a performer and teacher. Equally skilled on trumpet and cornetto (a wind instrument used primarily in 17th century Western Europe), Kiri has been praised for her "stunning technique, and extreme musicality," (Journal of the International Trumpet Guild). She has performed extensively throughout North America and Europe with numerous groups such as Apollo's Fire, The Folger Consort, Tenet, Green Mountain Project, Piffaro, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, New York Collegium, Concerto Palatino, La Fenice, the Huelgas Ensemble, the Catacoustic Consort and Seattle Baroque Orchestra. She has performed both at the Boston Early Music Festival, and at the Bloomington Early Music Festival, and she is a founding member of the ensembles Anaphantasia and Dark Horse Consort.

As a professional trumpet player, Kiri performs with the River Raisin Ragtime Revue in Tecumseh, Michigan, and freelances throughout Michigan. From 1996-2005, she played the Eb soprano saxhorn with the Dodworth Saxhorn Band (a re-creation of a 19th century community brass band). From 1995-2004, Kiri was a member of the Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Gustav Meier.
Kiri maintains a teaching studio in Ann Arbor, has taught cornetto at the Amherst Early Music Festival, and was on faculty at the Early Music Institute at Indiana Univeristy from 2006-2010. Kiri holds performing degrees in trumpet from Eastman, Yale, and a Doctorate in Musical Arts from the University of Michigan. Her discography includes recordings with the Huelgas Ensemble, La Fenice, Apollo's Fire, Piffaro, The New York Collegium, La Gente d'Orfeo, the River Raisin Ragtime Revue and the Dodworth Saxhorn Band.


Michael Unger is a multiple award-winning harpsichordist and organist and has appeared as a soloist and chamber musician in North America, Europe and Japan. He is a First Prize winner of the International Organ Competition Musashino-Tokyo, a First Prize and Audience Prize winner of the National Young Artists’ Competition of the American Guild of Organsits (NYACOP), and a Second Prize and Audience Award winner of the International Schnitger Organ Competition on the historic organs of Alkmaar, the Netherlands. He received favorable international reviews for his debut solo recordings under the Naxos and Pro Organo labels, and his performances have been broadcast on North American and European radio. Recent harpsichord performances include the complete Bach Brandenburg Concertos with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, and appearances with the Skaneateles Festival, New York State Baroque, and Publick Musick. Michael holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Eastman School of Music, and is a Gold Medal graduate of the University of Western Ontario. Since August 2013, he is Assistant Professor of Organ and Harpsichord at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.


Lutenist and guitarist David Walker has performed extensively throughout the United States, earning praise for his “surety of technique and expressive elegance,” (Columbus Dispatch) as well as his “tremendous dexterity and careful control” (Bloomington Herald Times). David has appeared with such early music groups as Chatham Baroque, Clarion Music Society, Mercury, the Newberry Consort, and Tempesta di Mare, and is a member of the chamber ensemble Ostraka. He has performed in numerous baroque opera productions, including engagements with the Wolf Trap Opera Company, Glimmerglass Opera, and Boston Baroque. Festival highlights include the Savannah Music Festival, Indianapolis Early Music Festival, and solo recitals for the Bloomington Early Music Festival and the University of Louisville Guitar Festival. Recording credits include Ostraka’s critically acclaimed debut, Division, in addition to recordings for Sono Luminus and Linn Records.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Catacoustic CD Available June 19

Five years ago, my dear friend Joanna Blendulf and I made a CD recording of our pardessus duo program. (The pardessus is such a rare little instrument--it was only played in France, and only during the 18th century!--that very few players perform on it today, and its charming repertoire gets much less attention than it deserves.) We worked so hard to prepare this virtuosic music. This is a program that we have invested years in and many hours of practice. We have taken our program to Portland, Eugene, San Francisco (SFEMS), Columbus, and Colombia. Sadly, the engineer lost the recording we made when his hard drive crashed, and he didn't have proper backups. You cannot imagine the feeling in the pit of our stomachs to learn this news.

Joanna and I have known each other since we were high school students and met at Interlochen Arts Camp, where we both were introduced to the viola da gamba by Mark Cudek and Ann Marie Morgan. Since then, we have been great friends, and a beautiful musical partnership has blossomed. We play fabulously together, if I may say so myself. There are a few people in this world, where – just like when you have a best friend, and conversation just comes so naturally and joyfully – we don’t even have to work to play together, but we know exactly what the other person is going to do. Joanna is one of these people. In technical, musical terms, our “ensemble” is pretty good.

After these years of licking our wounds, Joanna told me that she would be willing to record this program again. So, after a generous gift from Gregg Hill and Linda Holmberg, we decided to take the emotional plunge and make the recording once again in January of 2014. This time we had a great team: John Hadden, renowned early music engineer and producer, Fred Martens, our amazingly talented graphic designer, along with brilliant theorbo player David Walker and sparkling soprano Youngmi Kim. And, after over five years, we are actually BETTER! On June 19, our final product is due to arrive in the mail, entitled “Secret of the Muse.” The CD will be for sale at www.catacoustic.com, as well as through amazon.com and iTunes. You can be the first to own it buy purchasing it at our concerts on June 19 & 21.

What is the secret of the muse, you may ask? The secret is a dear friend.
Joanna Blendulf & Annalisa Pappano at Interlochen Arts Camp

Thursday, April 10, 2014

For Ye Violls: The Astounding Music of William Lawes



April 26 will see the third in Catacoustic’s series exploring the viol consort music of 17th century England.  We began last spring with the melancholic music of John Dowland, written during the quiet afterglow of Elizabeth’s reign.  Last fall we continued with a sampling of composers writing during the decades of the English Civil War.  Tonight we dedicate to the greatest of these wartime composers:  William Lawes (1602-1645).  

Charles I of England
Let us first consider Charles I of England.  One wonders how history might have turned out differently had Charles not, quite unexpectedly, ascended to the throne of England.  He was a terrible king, intransigent and self-righteous.  But he was also refined and educated, and he loved music.  He studied music, he employed full-time musicians and composers who travelled with him—music really mattered to this man.  How happy he might have been as a private aristocrat, ruler of only his own castle, generously patronizing his chosen artists.  Thrust instead into a job he was unsuited for, his life was filled with war, conflict, and unhappiness, and at the age of 48 he said goodbye to his two young children and was beheaded before a mob.  

 Charles I’s reign had an incalculable impact on English legal and monarchical history.  But it’s the music we’re here to talk about.  Hume, Jenkins, Simpson, and the other great composers we heard last fall all tried to keep out of the war and focus on their composing.  William Lawes, on the other hand, was right in the middle of the action.  

William Lawes
Lawes was employed by Charles and lived at court.  There he picked up on the enormous French influences felt in every corner of life.[i]  He absorbed French styles and the new Italian music just coming into circulation, married them to English conventions, and created a startling new sound.  He wrote fantasias with the melodies buried in the inner voices.  He wrote dance suites combining forms that had never been put together before.  He wrote airs that mimicked the sounds of battle, the basses laying down a pattern of cannon fire; the treble voices a swirling mass of bugles, shouts, horses, and chaos.  His counterpoint has been described as willful and angular.  His love of dissonance flew in the face of what was then considered in good taste.  He was as “out there” for his time as can be imagined—think of Elvis, combining country, gospel, and rhythm and blues, and producing something totally new.

Here’s how Laurence Dreyfus sums up this eccentric:   “To solve the puzzle of Lawes, one might focus on Lawes' influences and his social context, but they in no way account for his wayward musical personality. Attuned to his topsy-turvy world, one begins to hear in every piece an undiscovered place which hadn't been mapped before. The clarity of utterance is remarkable, for in overturning venerable rules of dissonance treatment, and deforming classical ideas found in the works of Orlando Gibbons and others, Lawes persuades you that backward is forward, that chaos is ordered, that ugly is beautiful. ” Lawes belongs among the true originals of music, with the likes of Charles Ives and Erik Satie.
Why have some composers remained well-known and widely performed, and others have slipped into obscurity?[ii]   Lawes' case is a good example of the randomness of history at work.  Lawes died fighting in the war, shot in a sortie during the siege of Chester, only 43 years old.  The king took time out from the war, his looming defeat, and the death of a close relative during the same battle, to institute special mourning for Lawes, declaring him to be the “Father of Musick.”  And then all hell broke loose.  The Stuarts lost the war, and the shocking fact of regicide created a fault line in English society that took generations to heal.  Lawes had been ground-breaking, but his death came before much seed had been sown into that ground, and it was easier for future music-lovers to go with neutral composers or favorites of the later regimes than to stick with the dead king’s favorite.  Even the great Purcell, working some 40 years after Lawes, expressed disdain for Lawes’ work, without realizing, perhaps, that Lawes’ devotion to and cultivation of counterpoint made his own harmonic profundity possible.
This gorgeous music will be performed by a large consort of internationally renowned musicians:  Joanna Blendulf (Madison, Alabama), Julie Jeffrey (San Francisco), Lynn Tetenbaum (San Francisco), Larry Lipnik (New York), Gail Ann Schroeder (Asheville, North Carolina), and Annalisa Pappano (director of Catacoustic).  

April 26, 2014 @ 7:30 pm.  Church of the Advent, Walnut Hills, 2366 Kemper Lane, Cincinnati, OH 45206. Tickets are available at catacoustic.com, at 513-772-3242, or at the door:  $25, $10 for students with ID. Children under 12 free.  


[i]  The reasons for the English Civil War were complicated and varied.  But religion played a large part.  England had been turned by force into a Protestant country over a century earlier, but its rulers had been see-sawing back and forth ever since.  The most powerful Catholic country in Europe at the time, France, wanted to see England return to the fold, and jumped in whenever it saw a chance to influence the English court.  Charles I, like all the Stuarts, was required by law to practice Anglicanism, but his true sympathies for Catholicism were barely concealed.  He married a French Catholic, filled his court with Frenchmen, and accepted as much French support as he dared when the war erupted.  When that war was lost, his family fled to France, where they lived for generations as their fortunes ebbed and flowed.  Remember “My Bonnie lies over the ocean”?  That song refers to Bonnie Prince Charlie, the last of the Stuarts to try to regain the throne for his family.  He lived over the ocean in France.