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Ton Koopman, harpsichord
By his twenties, Antonius “Ton” Koopman was already carving a musical niche for himself in which he would rise to become one of the world’s most prominent performers in the early music movement. He founded his first Baroque orchestra in 1966, followed by an exuberant career (40 years and counting) of performance, conducting, and scholarship. He is widely regarded as one the finest organists, harpsichordists and conductors of our time. A frequent guest on EMV’s series over the years, for this recital he will play on a harpsichord by Vancouver-based maker Craig Tomlinson.
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This concert is generously supported by Zelie & Vincent Tan
Preludium manualiter in g minor BuxWV 163
Johann Jakob Froberger
Toccata nr. 2 in d minor
Tombeau de Mr. Blancrocher in c minor
Johann Sebastian Bach
Chromatic Fantasie and Fuge in d minor BWV 903
Concerto in d minor, after oboe concerto by A. Marcello BWV 974
Allegro moderato, adagio, allegro
Toccata in G major BWV 916
La Leclair in G major
La Forqueray in f minor
Johann Sebastian Bach
From the Well-Tempered Clavier II:
Preludium and Fugue in C major
Preludium and Fugue in D major
Preludium and Fugue in E major
Joseph Hector Fiocco
Sonata in G major
(Adagio, Allegro, Andante, Vivace)
When you think of a toccata, your first thought might be the opening notes of Bach’s famous example in D minor. But the toccata (from toccare, meaning “to touch”) is older and more diverse than Bach’s celebrated work. These pieces of Italian origin, often with titles like praeludium, fantasia, or intonazione, are in their simplest form a sort of tastar de corde (“checking to see if the strings are in tune”) and yet the toccata style flourished into works of great virtuosity. Rapid runs, unsteady rhythms, and drastic changes in mood showcase the artistry of the player and the instrument itself.
Originally an invention of the Italian lutenists and keyboardists like Merulo, Gabrieli, and Frescobaldi, the toccata’s virtuosic elements found their way into the works of the seventeenth century North German composers and their aptly-named stylus phantasticus (fantastic style), for which Dieterich Buxtehude’s Praeludia (sing. Praeludium) are the most well-known and documented examples. In his own time, Buxtehude’s toccata-like works must have left quite an impression on his contemporaries; writer Martin Heinrich Fuhrmann extolled that “if one rubs the compositions of the Italian on the Buxtehudian touchstone, one can see what is chemical- and what is ducat-gold.” He adds his conclusions in Latin: “Ita hoc Germanus Italizat, imo multis parasangis praecurrit. (Thus this German Italianizes; indeed he runs many miles ahead.”)
Frescobaldi deserves much more credit than he is given by Fuhrmann. In fact, Frescobaldi’s own student Johann Jakob Froberger is likely responsible for bringing the modish Italian styles to his German counterparts following stints in Rome and Vienna. Froberger’s own Toccatas demonstrate a mastery of the genre. Like his teacher, he delighted in the use of chromatic harmonies and he characteristically placed contrasting fugal sections between the introductory and closing passages.
Froberger was far from just a connoisseur of the Italian style. He travelled extensively in Europe absorbing the latest trends and incorporating them into his works. His French-inspired pieces are full of imaginative ornamentation and demonstrate a mastery of the style brisé, in which the notes of a chord are not played simultaneously, but rather arpeggiated one at a time. His Tombeau de M. Blancrocher is an exquisite example and was written in response to the sudden death of his friend, the lutenist Charles Fleury, Sieur de Blancrocher. The descending scale that closes the piece morbidly references Blancrocher’s cruel fate: he died after falling down a flight of stairs.
J.S. Bach, like Froberger, was also a composer concerned with absorbing (and in his own way, perfecting) the various continental styles of the time. Bach had extensive collections brought back to him by his well travelled patrons, as was the case in 1713 when Prince Johann Ernst returned to Weimar from the Netherlands with several publications of Venetian composers. Rather than copy out the music in its original form, Bach made new arrangements of the pieces for his own instrument, as is the case with Marcello’s Oboe Concerto which Bach set for solo keyboard.
Bach also absorbed the tradition of the stylus phantasticus from his meetings with Buxtehude in 1705. (He walked the entire 450 kilometers from Arnstadt to Lübeck on foot and stayed for nearly 3 months.) Unlike Buxtehude’s multi-section formula of alternating toccata materials with more formalized counterpoint, Bach’s tendency was to develop his toccata in a self-contained movements followed by an extensive fugue, as is the case with the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, and to a certain extent, his diverse Preludes and Fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier. Similarly, Bach’s Toccata in G major restricts his use of the wild toccata elements to the piece’s opening lines before transitioning to subsequent sections that that sound more like a three-movement Italian-style concerto.
The curious case of the authorship of Forqueray’s feisty gamba and harpsichord pieces remains a small mystery. In 1747, the musician son of famed gambist Antoine Forqueray posthumously published his father’s viola da gamba suites alongside his own virtuosic arrangements for solo harpsichord. But did Antoine Forqueray really write these sonatas? Scholars note that the progressive writing in the sonatas seems years ahead of its time. Complicating matters further was the relationship between father and son, which was anything but cordial. Antoine Forqueray had even gone as far as to have his son Jean-Baptiste imprisoned on false charges and banished from France! Whatever the case may be, the pieces represent a high point of the exquisite French style of masters like the violinist Jean-Marie Leclair, who is singled out as dedicatee of one of the movements. Monsieur Forqueray the elder is given a similar tribute in Duphly’s La Forqueray whose melody lies predominantly in the bass clef, appropriately recognizing the master’s devotion to the viola da gamba.
Belgian-born Joseph-Hector Fiocco was the son of Italian composer Pietro Antonio Fiocco. Like his contemporaries Handel and Bach, Fiocco strove to incorporate both French and Italian influences into his works. His first suite for harpsichord embodies this desire, beginning with eight movements with French titles and finishing with these four Italian-titled movements: Adagio, Allegro, Andante, and Vivace.
Ton Koopman, harpsichord
Born in Zwolle (The Netherlands)Ton Koopman had a classical education and studied organ, harpsichord and musicology in Amsterdam. He received the Prix d‘Excellence for both instruments. Naturally attracted by historical instruments and fascinated by the philological performance style, Koopman concentrated his studies on Baroque music, with particular attention to J.S. Bach, and soon became a leading figure in the “authentic performance” movement.
As organist and harpsichordist Ton Koopman has appeared in the most prestigious concert halls of the world and played the most beautiful historical instruments of Europe. At the age of 25, he created his first baroque orchestra; in 1979 he founded the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra followed in 1992 by the Amsterdam Baroque Choir. Combined as the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, the ensemble soon gained worldwide fame as one of the best ensembles on period instruments. With a repertoire ranging from the early Baroque to the late Classics, they have performed at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Théatre des Champs-Elysées and Salle Pleyel in Paris, Barbican and Royal Albert Hall in London, Musikverein and Konzerthaus in Vienna, Philharmonie in Berlin, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York, Suntory Hall in Tokyo as well as in Brussels, Milan, Madrid, Rome, Salzburg, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Munich, Athens, etc.
Among Ton Koopman’s most ambitious projects has been the recording of the complete Bach cantatas, a massive undertaking for which he has been awarded the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis “Echo Klassik”, the BBC Award, the Hector Berlioz Prize and has been nominated for the Grammy Award (USA) and the Gramophone Award (UK). In addition to the works of Bach, Koopman has long been an advocate of the music of Bach’s predecessor Dieterich Buxtehude and following the completion of the Bach project, he embarked in 2005 on the recording of the Buxtehude-Opera Omnia. The edition consists of 30 CDs, the last having been released in 2014. Ton Koopman is President of the International Dieterich Buxtehude Society.
In 2006 he was awarded the Bach-Prize of the City of Leipzig, in 2012 the Buxtehude Prize of the city of Lübeck, and in 2014 he received the Bach Prize of the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 2016 he received an honorary professorship with the Musikhochschule Lübeck and became Honorary Artistic Advisor of Guangzhou Opera House. In November 2017 Koopman received the prestigious Edison Classical Award. In recent years, Ton Koopman has been very active as guest conductor working with the most prestigious orchestras as Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Vienna Symphony, Boston Symphony, Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestra.
Among his recent engagements are performances of Bach’s B Minor Mass with Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and St. Matthew Passion with The Concertgebouw Orchestra, followed by concerts with Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, NHK Orchestra Tokyo and Gulbenkian Orchestra Lisbon. In 2018-19, he will return to Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome, Stockholm Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Lyon, Staatskapelle Dresden and National Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony in the USA. The future will include concerts with Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, DSO Berlin and many others.
Ton Koopman has recorded an enormous number of records for Erato, Teldec, Sony, Deutsche Grammophon and Philips. In 2003 he founded his own label “Antoine Marchand”, a sub label of Challenge Classics. Ton Koopman publishes regularly. He has edited the complete Händel Organ Concertos for Breitkopf & Härtel and recently published new editions of Händel’s Messiah and Buxtehude‘s Das Jüngste Gericht for Carus Verlag. Ton Koopman is Professor at the University of Leiden, Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music in London and artistic director of the Festival “Itinéraire Baroque.”