In September, I participated in a program that was called Music of the 18th century at European Courts. This all-embracing title reminds me a bit of a flimsy book in my possession called Chinese cooking, or the yet to be written twenty-page ‘Guide to Western Philosophy’, not to mention the greatly anticipated fifty-page (because of the photos) ‘ history of the automobile in the 20th and 21st centuries’. (Nicholas Cook’s Music: A Very Short Introduction, on the other hand, is quite readable in spite of its mere 137 pages sans notes.)
We teased the leader-planner of our orchestra a lot about this – especially since about half of the program consisted of music from Bach’s cantatas. His excuse was – naturally – that he had been asked to give a name long before he knew what music we were playing. But even without this complication: to give a program a name, i.e. to transform an idea of pieces-to-play into a product, is really hard.
Consider a program with random snippets of quite optimistic religious music from the early German Baroque called “de Profundis”. We were only saved by the fact that we are in a country where the average inhabitant’s command of Latin begins and ends with ‘carpe diem’ (because all their boats are called like that). Or what about “in Mozart’s and Haydn’s manner” (for mixed Classical chamber music), “Music’s Venice” (Monteverdi) or the vague “Europe 1697, a journey in time and space” (some music and an actor reciting eternal wisdom with a strong flat-country accent). Well, we did sell our concerts, so apparently this is the way to go.
Ensemble’s names are even harder to find. After gathering some experience with a prize winning ensemble called “Les Folies” (I later found out that there are more groups called like that. At the time, I was astonished about this fact) and a group called Trio Franciolini (A blatant case of non-sequitur: Franciolini was a 19th-century harpsichord forger), I am now playing in a Baroque group called “Corona Artis”. During the 17th and 18th centuries, music was usually not considered the crown of the arts at all. So how did we get stuck with this name?
Our group was built from scratch, by ways of two auditions during the fall of 1991 and a few follow-up convulsions. Even before the recruiting was properly concluded, a name had to be found. I remember that I had collected several pages of writing and drawings when I presented my research to our producer. As a result of my personality, most of the material was explicit nonsense. Apart from variations on the Borealis theme (in spite of the fact that our base, the Swedish city Borås, has nothing to do with this) I offered about fifteen ideas like “Les Miserables”; “The sleeping beauties”; “Les Enfants Terribles” etc. He made a gratifyingly sour face and subsequently posted a short article in our organization’s internal Monthly, asking our musical community for help – with no results. No wonder: the reward was a free-choice CD with 17th or 18th-century music…
So one day this producer calls me (the ensemble leader at the time) and says Corona Artis. I say Corona Artis what. He says, the name of the group, what did you think. I say aaahm, well. He says, I talked with all the others (there were some others at that point), and they approve of the name. I say if they approve, what can I say?
So he called the others and told them that I had approved of the name Corona Artis. That’s why we’re called like Mexican beer at a vernissage.