harpsichord and nyckelharpa

To participate in the St Matthew Passion means that you meet another continuo player, which is something that doesn’t happen very often otherwise. While two oboists at the left and two oboists at the right huddle together and compare reeds between arias, while two plus two flutists practice their passionate bits of duo during the coffee breaks and while the assorted singers fine-tune their smiles and the pronunciation of words like “zerknirscht,” the keyboard section exchanges stories of life and talks about bold new projects.

Andreas Edlund (organ, Choir I) whom I (organ, Choir II, plus some stray chords from the harpsichord) hadn’t seen for two years (a shame because his artistic and culinary tastes are impeccable) brought me his new CD with harpsichord and nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle). The keyed fiddle, possibly best described as a hurdy gurdy-violin cross-breed (organologists forgive me), has – according to the booklet – been around since the middle ages. In the 1950s and -60s, there was a revival of the instrument which also brought about some technical changes, or improvements. Today, the Swedish Nyckelharpa is firmly established as a folk instrument and there are several people who master it extremely well.

But nyckelharpa and harpsichord? Difficult to avoid a spontaneous association with crossover. Why would I want to avoid the word? Well, when the duo Homburger Guy (“New compositions, improvisations and baroque masterpieces”) was here a few years ago to join forces with our ensemble, they made – in their TV interview – a special point of calling their mix of genres something else, but not “crossover.”

The point made here is almost too subtle for my taste. No matter what the event is supposed to be from the artist’s view, style combinations of this kind are evidently addressing audiences with several contrasting musical tastes. (Whether this is an advantage is, in fact, uncertain: combination programs appeal to the curious but they repel the purists). But perhaps one should honor the effort of presenting programs that help audiences merge by not contrasting the styles. If we call these “flow-over” instead, we might give a faithful impression.

The CD From Castle & Cottage with Torbjörn Näsbom, keyed fiddle and Andreas Edlund, harpsichord (Musica Rediviva MRCD-014) is flow-over of the best sort: excellently played, slightly naughty and very entertaining. The only non-flow-over piece is Francois Couperin’s beautiful fifth Prélude in A major. Otherwise the CD is a colorful mix of Swedish Folk Music (Church March, Spring Drops…), a C.P.E Bach gamba sonata, a Bach Cello suite and Marais. Updated info here. (May 21, 2015)

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