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by Daniel Hathaway

Zierer-PianoWhen Oberlin faculty violinist Marilyn McDonald and pianist David Breitman play Beethoven sonatas in the Conservatory’s Kulas Recital Hall on Saturday, September 13 at 4:30 pm, they’ll be joined by the latest addition to Oberlin’s impressive collection of historic keyboard instruments. An Anton Zierer fortepiano built in Vienna in 1829 came to live in Oberlin last summer and has kept Robert Murphy, the conservatory’s curator of fortepianos, busy getting it settled into a new environment.

Murphy began working with his mentor, 1963 Oberlin graduate Edward Swenson, in his Trumansburg, NY restoration shop when he was 14, and has logged “close to a hundred” historical restorations or work on historical replicas. “At any one time,” Murphy recalled, “Swenson might have had a Graf fortepiano next to a Steinway next to a Baldwin upright, with a virginal off in the corner, and he was working on all of them at the same time.”

Sometimes benign neglect works in the favor of technicians who are charged with restoring historic instruments. Read the rest of this entry »

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by Daniel Hathaway

CPE-Bach-Program-1786“The Bach Legacy” is the overriding theme in this summer’s Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute, and artistic director Kenneth Slowik decided to devote the second faculty concert on Friday, June 21 to a partial replication of an historic benefit concert given in Hamburg in April of 1786 by Johann Sebastian Bach’s most celebrated son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. (Program pictured here.)

That concert, given in support of a medical institute for the poor, began with what seems to have been the first ever performance of the Credo from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in b minor. C.P.E. Bach provided the Credo with a brief, new introduction and slightly adapted it to a new age when instruments like the oboe d’amore had become obsolete and needed to be replaced (in this case by violins). Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Oberlin-BPI-OrchestraWe could have chosen all Transylvanian music,” quipped artistic director Kenneth Slowik during the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute faculty concert in Warner Concert Hall last Friday evening, “but we decided to go for quality: Austria.” This year’s BPI theme focused on music by composers who lived and worked in lands touched by the Danube River, with special attention to the exotic string music of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber. In addition to his Battalia, student and faculty ensembles regaled a large and appreciative audience with music by Georg Muffat, Emperor Leopold I, Johann Joseph Fux and the young Joseph Haydn.

Though most of the repertory on Friday evening fell into the “not often played nor heard” category, Biber’s battle piece had the distinction of appearing on two area concert programs last week (it was also on the menu for ChamberFest Cleveland at Mixon Hall on Wednesday evening). This short and entertaining Baroque tone poem from 1673 depicts a motley and dissolute group of soldiers who get drunk and sing different songs at the same time, go into battle then lament their fallen fellows. An ensemble of three violins, four violas, two cellos, theorbo and harpsichord led by principal violinist Julie Andrijeski created cacophony worthy of Charles Ives and plausible battle sounds with dramatic snap pizzicatos. Read the rest of this entry »

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