January 18, 2012
© Tilman Skowroneck 2012
It is a sad occasion that makes me resume the writing of blog posts: yesterday morning the news reached me that Gustav Leonhardt has passed away on 16 January in his Amsterdam home.
Gustav Leonhardt walking the streets of Vienna. Photo by Ibo Ortgies, October 22, 2011
As I wrote elsewhere, I remember Gustav Leonhardt as a lifelong friend and mentor. Lifelong, because our first encounter happened at a time that I do not even remember. I am told that I was two years old; friend, because that’s what he was to me: always kind, inquiring, never brusque, and on many occasions more than ready to share not only musical, but also completely unmusical experiences such as a new movie, a book with high-end photos of Bugatti cars, a (slow, one may add) sightseeing drive through the summery back country of Siena, Tuscany, or the offerings of one or another new Amsterdam restaurant; mentor, finally, because since the first time I touched a keyboard (with higher aims than a plinking or plunking agenda, which was at the age of five and a half) Gustav Leonhardt’s musicianship has been a continuous source of inspiration for me. When I finally was in the position to take lessons at his house in Amsterdam, he spent considerable time and effort to critically assess my playing (quite in contrast to his generally complimentary style at masterclasses), from which I benefit every day even today, and for which I am eternally grateful.
The impact of this shift in the world of historical performance practice will be great. No matter whether in accordance or in opposition, there will be few harpsichordists today whose playing is not, in one way or another, influenced by Leonhardt’s approach. Now, all of a sudden, we’re on our own. The impact on the world of his closer friends and colleagues is immense. His unique wit, brilliancy and warmth will be missed at every moment to come.
My thoughts are with his wife Marie Leonhardt, his family, and his friends.
The New York Times Obituary is available under this link.
June 13, 2011
© Tilman Skowroneck 2011
Fellow wordpressers know this, of course: somewhere in the functions that only can be accessed by the blog owner there is a little window that lists all the search terms that people used for finding one’s blog. Last week, someone found my website by searching for the words nobody needs a harpsichord.
Of course, one cannot but wonder what circumstance prompted someone to type these words of wisdom into a search window. But words of wisdom they are, at least almost: we, the harpsichordists, have to make a dedicated effort of making our music accessible to listeners who often didn’t even know that they needed us. It is possible; the ubiquitous manifestations of (positive, to be clear) surprise after a recital (“I didn’t know a harpsichord could sound like that!”) are ample proof that a single person playing old music on a box with strings and plectra can, in fact, provide true listening pleasure to audiences.
The harpsichordist largely depends on getting the entire package of her or his recital across “as is.” Dancing, for example, funny costumes, grimaces, dramatic monologues, cigar juggling or walking on one’s hands don’t really do the trick to make a harpsichord recital more palatable to the audiences. The times that the use of an “exotic” instrument in itself worked like a hat trick are long gone. Read the rest of this entry »
June 11, 2011
© Tilman Skowroneck 2011
“Art worlds decline when some groups that knew and used the conventions which inform their characteristic works lose that knowledge, or when new personnel cannot be recruited to maintain the world’s activities.” (Howard S. Becker Art Worlds, 349)
The importance of “support personnel” and “conventions” in art worlds is somewhat easier understood when we look at examples of everyday technology: until a few years ago, for example, it was not problematic in the least to get color films adequately developed, printed, or put on a high-resolution CD. For the past two years or so it has become very difficult to find labs that are still matching this standard: real film is nowadays processed so rarely that it (apparently) has become a major hassle for the labs to keep their chemicals fresh and uncontaminated. As a result, some of my most recent pictures resemble my first photographic efforts when they came back from our corner-store developing service back in the sixties, featuring indistinct colors, embedded particles of dust and debris, specks, and scratches.
But not only the standard of the technology and its maintenance declines. The people who are there for me to talk to about my pictures have no longer any clue about the processes involved in conventional photography. Read the rest of this entry »
June 10, 2010
A post-lunch attack of ego-googling (we all do it, why not admit it) a few minutes ago brought forward a selection of material stored in various other locations that clearly has been borrowed from this very website. So, for example, some helpful spirit uploaded my versions of the anonymous “Barafostus’ Dream”, Morley’s “Nancy” and Fux’s “Ciaccona” on Youtube, correctly identifying me as the performer but omitting the source. Since (as I have explained in an earlier post) the original CD that contained these pieces has a specific sound profile due to poor filtering of some kind, I am quite positive the material was copied from my “Recordings” page on this blog.
I am aware of the mechanics of open-access publishing, and I wouldn’t like my comment here to be seen as a complaint. I will mention nevertheless that the material here, albeit freely available, is (naturally) my property. I sign for it, I have to answer for it, and hence, it is under my personal copyright. The least you can do if your mouse-finger itches to drag and drop things from here to somewhere else is to properly cite the source and mention the date you accessed it. If you’re unsure about how to do this, drop me a line and I’ll assist you.
This applies to all content, no matter whether it’s pictures, text, text snippets, or bits of music.
Thanks for your (to be anticipated) consideration.