A Piccolo Violin - A Baroque Bass - Temperament & Wolf TonesSunday, April 03, 2016
|Chloe Meyers & Alexander Weimann
In the early 70s my mother bought the complete set of 6 Brandenburg Concertos performed by the Concertgebouw Orchestra (before it became Royal). She told me that the Brandenburgs were her desert island choice. That is how I first listened to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto 1 in F major, BMV 1046.
In 1963 I visited my friend Robert Hijar who was getting a fine arts degree at Mexico City College. He told me, “Listen to this. It is George Frideric Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks in D major –HWV351. It’s played with the instruments of the period and with the tuning (that’s the word he used) of the time."
|Curtis Daily & his double bass made circa 1770 in Venice in the shop of Ignazio Ongaro
He played the record and my first impression besides the fact that the tuning was indeed off, was that the recording was being played at a slower speed. It wowed (to use a recording tape terminology).
I have backtracked with Google (did not find the Concertgebouw recording) and narrowed the record to this one:
Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV 351 by George Frideric Handel
Conductor: Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble: Wind Ensemble
Written: 1749; London, England
Date of Recording: 04/1959
Venue: St. Gabriel's Church, London, England
What this means to anybody who has gotten this far is that Early Music Vancouver’s (a co-production with the Pacific BaroqueOrchestra) that I attended with my Rosemary last week (April 3) at the Chan was a 2 out 3. The third piece played was Georg Philipp Telemann’s Concerto in D major – TWV 54:D3 for three trumpets, timpani, 2oboes and strings. It is important to note here that the PBO was "reinforced" by the young musicians from the UBC Baroque Mentorship Orchestra!
While pretty well the first piece of baroque music I ever heard was that Handel in 1963 I have always thought (I am an amateur!) that Bach’s Brandenburg 1is the quintessential sound of the baroque period.
Memories of my past, of my mother and of a Shure V-15 Type II cartridge (the one in my turntable in those early 70s) were streaming through my head as I listened to a fine orchestra expertly conducted by Alexander Weimann.
|Chloe Meyers & Elana Cooper
Of particular interest to me is that my mother had told me that in that Concertgebouw recording of Brandenburg 2 they had not been able to find a competent piccolo trumpet player so a clarinet or an oboe had replaced that infernally difficult instrument. And here at the Chan, Brandenburg 1 was being played with a piccolo violin by concertmaster Chloe Meyers. I must add that the Telemann had three baroque trumpet players, all women, Kris Kwapis, Lena Console and Katherine Evans.
I decided that I would write this blog combining the idea of the smallest instrument (that piccolo violin) and the largest instrument (not counting the two harpsichords that were present), Curtis Daily’s baroque bass.
I have a personal reason for this. For this concert Daily was my house guest. He had inaugurated my new home’s guest room two weeksbefore.
Daily lives in Portland so he needs a place to stay. A couple of years ago we connected with the fact that we both love Mexico and are keen on a bulky camera (a natural for a string bassist!) the Mamiya RB-67 which I sometimes describe as a camera on steroids.
We all know that the Masons of the 21st century are fuddy duddies who are too far gone to remember secret handshakes. I would like to make the point that the New Masons are the really good musicians (and most who are musicians are of that calibre). The world can be divided ( I do) between those who can read music and those who cannot (or do it badly like me).
Having one of these New Masons in my home with whom I conversed, drank Argentine Malbecs in the evening and discussed our dislike of the American Republican Party. By necessity since bassists play to the right of their instruments Daily might be contrary in his left winger view.
The EMV (Early Music Vancouver) programs have a little box inviting concertgoers to host musicians from abroad. This saves the organization money but at the same time it provides the generous hosts with access to the secrets of the New Masons.
This is not much of a review. But we did enjoy the concert and my wife who is mostly of the negative comment variety, told my eldest daughter on the phone that she had enjoyed the pre-concert talk with EMV Artistic Director Matthew White and PBO (Pacific Baroque Orchestra) Artistic Director Alexander Weimann. The latter provided the rapt audience with a lineup of string instruments, from the piccolo violin to a double bass and explained the sound and tuning of each.
It has been EMV’s mantra from the beginning to educate its audience. Both White and Weimann are excellent ones.
On the afternoon before Daily left our home I asked him why it was that my first hearing of that Handel Fireworks sounded so odd. White had alluded a bit to this in the pre-concert talk and narrowed it down to the fact that after all these years early music practitioners have finally gotten their stuff together.
Daily talked about temperament and of wolf tone. Within seconds the New Mason was talking over my head. I believe (to simplify all that hocus-pocus) that just like Thelonious Monk sounded odd the first time I listened to him now I consider that he plays the right wrong notes. Occasionally, particularly in early 17th century baroque music I can hear these odd notes (violinist Marc Destrubé calls the blues notes). Destrubé has further told me that the more I listen to this music the least likely that I will notice those odd notes.
I hope my friend Curtis Daily visits Vancouver soon. I will then get another glimpse into that secret society. He might even demonstrate with his bass some of those wolf tones.
Interspersed among the pictures that I took with my Fuji X-E1 during the concert breaks (I never shoot during a performance as that is not Kosher) are some taken with my Mamiya in my little studio using obsolete techniques like Fuji Instant b+w film. There are also some neat photographs using the same techniques taken by Curtis Daily. I like his two snaps (and variations there of) of our guest room which are below.