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EMG and Seattle Baroque Orchestra present Ingrid and Byron Return!

February 17, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010, 8:00 p.m.

Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave. (8th & Seneca) Seattle

BUY TICKETS online: $37 general/$32 senior/$12 under 25

Call (206) 325-7066

Byron Schenkman and Ingrid Matthews

An Interview with Byron Schenkman and Ingrid Matthews

What were your musical interests and experience before early music?  How did you first get introduced to historical performance practice?

Byron: I heard lots of classical music as a kid and also a lot of international folk music.  Most of the classical music I loved was from the eighteenth century — I remember hearing Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique at Tanglewood when I was eleven and hating it because it sounded too modern.  Many years later I learned that it was composed in 1830!

One of my childhood piano teachers was interested in clavichords.  Because she was my absolute heroine I became interested in them too.  A prized possession of my childhood was David Munrow’s book and two-record set “Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.”  I especially liked the sound of the virginals.  I also remember some early music performances my mother took me to, especially the Waverly Consort’s production of Le Roman de Fauvel.  It was wonderful!  I wish I still had the program because I think I’ve probably worked with some of the performers who were in that.

Ingrid: My parents are both classical musicians, and that (“classical”) is what I grew up with.  No pop music in our house ever!!  (actually, I remember my older sister sneaking around with Beatles tapes, which seemed terribly daring.)  From the time I could do it, Bach was always my favorite music to practice.  I remember crying when my piano teacher graduated me from a particular D major prelude that I really loved.  But I never stopped playing it– I still do!  My first real immersion into the baroque repertoire was (still on modern violin) when I got a fellowship to the Bach Aria Festival on Long Island when I was 18.  That repertoire– Bach arias with instrumental obbligato– was revelatory. Then when I fist held a baroque violin, at IU a few years later, the instrument itself felt so natural to me physically– truly like “my”instrument.  I loved learning for the first time about music as a rehtorical language, complete with punctuation, specific meaningful phrases, declamation, syntax.  Before that it had mostly been all about sound and vague expression of generic emotion.

When did you start working together as a duo?  What are some of your most memorable performing experiences together?

Byron: We met at the Early Music Institute at Indiana University in 1987.  Our first concert together was in a chamber music group called “La Coulicam” with Kim Pineda and Shelley Taylor.  Ingrid played the Muffat violin sonata (fabulously!) and we played the E Minor Telemann “Paris” Quartet.  After that we started playing duo concerts.  My favorites were when we played a lot of 17th-century Italian music.  We did that repertoire at the Berkeley Festival one year and also at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota (which at the time was called “The Shrine to Music Museum”).  We recorded our first disc together at “The Shrine” using their 17th-century Ridolfi harpsichord.  That harpsichord is still my all time favorite instrument (if I had to pick one).

Ingrid: I don’t remember the year…. 1988?  1987?  As for highlights, there are too many to count.  I feel incredibly fortunate to have a colleague to whom I can relate so deeply. Starting SBO was definitely a huge landmark in our work together.

Byron, you have recently been concentrating on modern piano, can you tell me more about that?  Can you compare this to playing harpsichord?

Byron: Playing modern piano is great fun!  I especially enjoy playing classical repertoire, applying a lot of what I’ve learned from all my work in historical performance — and playing Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, etc., after being steeped in the music of the century before.  I don’t have to back up from Brahms and Rachmaninov; I get to move forward from Telemann and C.P.E.Bach. I like the challenges of the later repertoire too.  One of my favorite performing experiences of the last few years was playing the Rachmaninov D Minor Trio on a chamber music concert in Boston with very few rehearsals and two great string players who I’d never worked with before.  It was terrifying and exhilarating — and what a devastatingly beautiful piece too (written as an elegy on the tragic death of Tchaikovsky).

Ingrid, did you play the violin from the very beginning of your musical career? What influenced you to play violin? Have you thought about playing any other instruments?

Ingrid: I played both piano and violin all through childhood.  Other instruments? Probably not at this point (although I did really enjoy taking some jazz violin lessons last year)…. I would love to be a singer in another life though!

What do you enjoy doing the most when you aren’t making music?

Byron: I love my home, being with my partner and with friends, being in Seattle, walking in our neighborhood, Friday evening services at my synagogue, and sometimes going out to the theater.

Ingrid: Painting, reading, being outside, playing with my incorrigible 6-year-old (and today is his birthday– the first day I can say that! He’s going to see his new kitty after school! …but I digress) Alex.

Tell me how you decide which pieces to play on a program, such as the one you’ll be performing on February 27 at Town Hall.

Byron: Sometimes we start with a particular piece or group of pieces we want to do; sometimes we start with a theme (say for example German composers before Bach).  This time we decided to do a few pieces which are old favorites of ours and add a few that are completely new to us.  And we wanted a program that would be joyful and festive and very immediately accessible.  I am really excited to be working with Ingrid again — she is one of the most inspiring musicians I’ve ever met and we have a very deep (perhaps even psychic) connection.  This program feels like a celebration and it will hopefully be the first of many more concerts together.

What’s on your iPod?

Byron: iPod?  I’m afraid I’m not quite there yet… but on my CD player the last 6 CDs I’ve listened to are: Bob Dylan “Blood on the Tracks”; The Rembrandt Trio “Piano Trios of Brahms and Dvorak”; “From Avenue A to the Great White Way:  Yiddish and American Popular Songs from 1914-1950”; Khevrisa “European Klezmer Music”; Ella Fitzgerald “The Intimate Ella”; Ronn McFarlane “Lute Music of John Dowland”.

Ingrid: Actually, I don’t have an iPod either!  But this is what I’ve been listening to lately: Schubert piano sonatas, Patsy Cline, Norah Jones, the King’s Noyse, Brahms clarinet sonatas, Ella Fitzgerald, Cesaria Evora.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Roz permalink
    March 2, 2010 12:07 PM

    It would be exciting for Byron and Ingrid to perform the same concert for the Festival Music Society. Indianapolis loves them as evidenced by their performing more than ten concerts here after I discovered them at the Boston Early Music Festival in 1993. Their ensemble was Zephyrus and I attended both of their concerts.

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