We have been so fortunate to be at the Boston Early Music Festival — it is presented in odd-numbered years and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to hear the best of the best in early music. I dare say that at this particular festival every single concert is over the top in levels of musicianship. It doesn’t get better than this!
But now it is also possible for you to hear and experience some of the performances we have heard in person. You can go to Boston’s Early Music Channel to hear broadcasts of the live concerts. At this website there are links to two of the concerts we heard: The Voix Baroques, conducted by Stephen Stubbs and the BEMF Festival Orchestra Concert in two parts: Part I and Part II. There is even a link to download the programs, with program notes. There is also a video clip of Acis and Galatea, the staged opera by Handel. You can also watch a video clip of “behind the scenes” of BEMF’s fantastic opera production of Niobe, Regina di Tebe.
If I were hard pressed to name some of the favorites we heard at the Festival, I would have to name:
Jordi Savall, gamba. Click here for a list of YouTube videos. Jordi Savall is among the leading instrumentalists and conductors of the European early music scene, specializing in Renaissance and Medieval music. He began studying music when he was six, learning cello and pursuing that instrument at the Barcelona Conservatory. He took an interest in early music, and began learning the viola da gamba. Savall also gained proficiency in the various members of the viola family. He studied the gamba and early music research and practice with Wieland Kuijken in Brussels and August Wenziger at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, obtaining a diploma as soloist and professor in 1970. In 1973 he succeeded to Wenziger’s position. In 1968 he had married the soprano Montserrat Figueras, who shared his interest in early music. With her and other musicians interested in early Spanish music, he founded in 1974 the ensemble Hesperion XX. I understand that Jordi Savall flew in from Europe just the night before the concert and flew right back immediately afterwards. He had only the morning to rehearse for the concert with the percussionist and lutenist, but was absolutely fantastic!
Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano and harpsichord. Click here for a list of YouTube videos. Kristian Bezuidenhout, who was born in South Africa in 1979, began his studies in Australia and completed them at the Eastman School of Music. He first gained international recognition at the age of 21 after winning the prestigious first prize in the Bruges Fortepiano Competition. Mr. Bezuidenhout is a frequent guest artist with the world’s leading ensembles including The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Orchestre des Champs Elysées, The Orchestra of the 18th Century, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Concerto Köln, The Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Collegium Vocale Gent, in many instances assuming the role of guest director. He has performed with celebrated artists Philippe Herreweghe, Frans Brüggen, Christopher Hogwood, Ton Koopman, Pieter Wispelwey, Daniel Hope and Viktoria Mullova and he regularly gives Lied recitals with Carolyn Sampson and Mark Padmore. We must have seen Kristian a half-dozen times at this festival and had the opportunity to speak to him several times.
To see a YouTube video of countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, click here. The French sopranist and counter-tenor, Philippe Jaroussky, studied violin. piano, harmony and counterpoint at the conservatory in Versailles. In 1996, he began his voice studies with Nicole Fallien and continued these studies at the department of Early Music of the conservatory in Paris with Michel Laplénie, Kenneth Weiss, and Sophie Boulin. He received his diploma as a violinist from the Early Music Faculty of the Paris Conservatoire.
Stephen Stubbs, lutenist. Click here for a list of YouTube videos. Stephen Stubbs has been engaged in music-making since early childhood. His interests in “early music” and the 20th century avant-garde music led him to study composition and harpsichord at the University of Washington. At the same time, he learned to play keyboard and plucked instruments, specializing in the principal Baroque accompanying instruments, harpsichord and lute. After graduation he completed his study of the lute in Holland and England, where he made his professional debut as lutenist at Wigmore Hall, London in 1976. His research and performing life on the lute, citarrone, and Baroque guitar helped re-establish these plucked continuo instruments within the soundscape of Baroque music. The success of La Morte d’Orfeo launched Stubbs as one of the most called-upon directors of early opera performances, and spun off the highly successful ensemble Tragicomedia. Carl at one time even tried to engage Stephen Stubbs to play theorbo for our Monteverdi Vespers, but he had another engagement in Prague. They must have exchanged a dozen emails. We went to talk with him after the late-night concert to introduce ourselves. He of course, would love to come to play in Hawaii — his wife Maxine played harp in the orchestra for the opera and in the late night concert we attended.