CMSCVA

From the blog

An Interview with Harpsichordist Carsten Schmidt

– by CMSCVA Artistic Director James Wilson

Carsten Schmidt will be performing two concerts of solo music for harpsichord, on February 8 and 9, 2014. This is the first time CMSCVA has presented a recital composed exclusively of early keyboard music. We thought we would interview Carsten and hear some of his thoughts on the concerts.

JW   So I’ll start with the obvious question. Why should a chamber music lover  – someone who likes listening to Brahms trios and Beethoven quartets –  come hear you play a recital of harpsichord music?

CS   Historically, almost all solo music for harpsichord was written for very intimate settings. It’s true chamber music and often the character of the pieces reflect that.

JW   You’ll be playing  two programs this weekend featuring French repertoire. What is special about the character of those pieces?

CS   Often there is a dreaminess about this music, especially in the French composers, that one finds only in a few other places. The exception might be lute repertoire, and some solo guitar music which inherited some of those characteristics from the lute. But the harpsichord has another side also, it can make a lot of sound and be almost bombastic at times, so it can also imitate music that was written for theatre and official functions. It is this combination that makes it particularly fun to play, and I hope to listen to also…

JW   Tell us a little about the instrument you will be playing on for these concerts.

CS   For the concerts this weekend I am playing a fairly new instrument that my good friend Kees Bom made for me over the past few years. He is a 75 year old Dutch harpsichord maker, a real character, and has now over 200 instruments that have made it to every corner of the world. My instrument arrived in the US last summer, and to me it is as beautiful to look at as to play and hear.

JW   CMSCVA fans might know already know this, but historically the design of harpsichords varied greatly depending on what country and era they were built in. What kind of harpsichord is yours modeled after?

CS   It is modeled on two instruments by Joannes Dulcken from Antwerp, who was one of the most famous makers in the 18th century. Kees actually was involved in the restoration of an original Dulcken that is now in a museum in Belgium, so he knows what it is all about.

JW   What inspired you to make up the two programs, “Paris 1792: When  Johann Met Louis,” and “The French Connection.”

CS   Louis Couperin and Johann Jakob Froberger are two of my favorite composers. There are not exactly household names, and even many professional musicians only know their names (but not actually their music) from music history college courses and text books. Yet they wrote some of the most beautiful, original, and expressive music I know. It also interesting to compare them, and their influence on each other, as you can observe what happens when a quintessential French composer and a rather cosmopolitan German meet and exchange artistic ideas.

JW   And last question – any parting advice on how to listen to this music?

CS   It takes a little time and an open ear to enter their world, but once one does life without them would be a mistake.