Harpsichord playing and teaching
Harpsichord playing and teaching. The harpsichord is the keyboard instrument most often associated with early and Baroque music. In Canada harpsichordists perform with orchestras and chamber ensembles and also give solo recitals. Canadian harpsichordists and teachers have encouraged interest in contemporary as well as traditional repertoire in this country.
History of Harpsichord Playing in Canada
17th and 18th Centuries
Louis Jolliet, during his studies in France 1667-8, may have been the first Canadian to learn to play keyboard instruments. It is unlikely however that there was a harpsichord in Quebec on which he could play. Documents at the Hôpital général of Quebec City do testify, though, to the presence of a "master who showed how to play the harpsichord" in this city during the first decade of the 18th century, while the high government official René-Louis Chartier de Lotbinière possessed a spinet. The harpsichord belonging to merchant Jean-Baptiste Brousse and his wife Louise Alemand passed, in 1722, to their daughter Marie Louise, who married the merchant Charles Perthuis. In Montreal in 1748 Élizabeth Bégon, having become a widow, had to sell her harpsichord to Antoine Salvail de Trémont, commander of the port of Montreal. Possibly Pierre de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil, the last governor of New France, owned a harpsichord, and by the 1780s a Mr Davis, a Mr Hartog, 'heretofore Music Master at Montreal,' Signor Gaetano Franceschini, and Guillaume Mechtler all advertised as teachers in Quebec City. In 1780 Davis offered to teach in his home, so as to accommodate those who did not own instruments. In 1788 Woolsey & O'Hara advertised 'an elegant Harpsicord [sic] Piano Forte on a new construction,' and Frederick Glackemeyer offered to sell harpsichord strings and to repair and tune instruments. In 1791 a single-manual harpsichord built by Kirkman of London was auctioned at Quebec City, and two years later Glackemeyer advertised a used instrument. It may be assumed that the supply of harpsichords in Montreal, Halifax, and other cities was similar.
Canadian Harpsichord Scene 1950 - 2000s
During the second half of the 20th century the number of Canadian harpsichordists specializing in historical repertoire grew noticeably. Kenneth Gilbert, a former pupil of Ruggero Gerlin, after an initial career in Canada and the US where he played many recitals and initiated harpsichord classes at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal and McGill University, earned a reputation as a scholar and player of international renown, recording for international labels the complete harpsichord works of Bach, Rameau and Couperin, and editing the complete harpsichord works of Couperin, Rameau and other composers for the French publishers Heugel and Oiseau-Lyre. In addition to giving master-classes in every European country, he became the first Canadian to teach at the Paris Conservatoire and the Salzburg Mozarteum.
Denis Bédard, Hubert Bédard, Douglas Bodle, Hermel Bruneau, Glenn Gould (on occasion), John Grew, Martha Hagen, Kelsey and Rosabelle Jones, André Laberge, Bernard, Geneviève and Mireille Lagacé, Hugh McLean, Kenneth Meek, Lucien and Réjean Poirier, Denis Regnaud, Donald Thomson, Arnold Walter, Patrick Wedd, and Gerald Wheeler have been heard as soloists and in chamber groups. Bodle and Wedd both studied with Kraus. (In 1959 Bodle and Kraus performed a Bach Concerto for two harpsichords with the CBC Symphony Orchestra.) Regnaud and Bernard Lagacé were pupils of Isolde Ahlgrimm in Vienna. Bruneau studied and later taught at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Québec and in Chicoutimi, and toured for Jeunesses musicales of Canada (Youth and Music Canada). Joyce Redekop-Fink was a member 1963-70 of the Manitoba University Consort. Bradford Tracey made recordings, gave recitals in Canada, Europe, and the US, and performed on CBC radio.
Canadian Conservatory and University Instruction
Canadian music schools offering harpsichord instruction in 2005 include Memorial University, McGill University, Concordia University, Laval University, University of Montreal, University of Quebec at Montreal, University of Ottawa, Wilfrid Laurier University, Royal Conservatory of Music, University of Toronto, Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, York University, University of Western Ontario, Conservatoire de Québec, McMaster University, Brock University, University of Manitoba, Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts, Medicine Hat College, Prairie Bible College, University of Victoria, University of British Columbia and the Banff Center. Several of these schools offer undergraduate and graduate performance programs and have early music ensembles. The majority of them use the traditional historically based instrument rather than the metal-framed harpsichord.
19th - Mid-20th Centuries
With the rise in popularity of the pianoforte during the 19th century the harpsichord fell into disuse. It began to make a comeback in the 1880s when Érard, Pleyel and Gaveau in Paris, Chickering in Boston, and Dolmetsch in England (and in Boston and Paris as consultant to Chickering and Gaveau) gradually altered its design for modern use. In Canada in 1912 a harpsichordist named Laura Walker won a scholarship (for studies in Berlin) from the Ladies' Morning Musical Club of Montreal. On 21 Jan 1926 the world-renowned Wanda Landowska made what appears to have been her Canadian debut in a concert sponsored by the Women's Musical Club of Toronto. Landowska returned to Toronto during the spring of 1943 to perform, for CBC broadcast, the modern premieres of five C.P.E. Bach keyboard concertos that had been discovered in Toronto.
In the autumn of 1931 the T. Eaton Co bought a two-manual, seven-pedal Pleyel harpsichord for Eaton Auditorium in Toronto. The instrument was inaugurated 2 Feb 1932 in a Canadian debut performance by Frances Duncan Barwick (b Kalamazoo, Mich, 30 Jan 1909, d Ottawa 19 Nov 1984), a pupil of Marguerite Delcourt in Paris and the Dolmetsches in England. Barwick purchased the Eaton Pleyel during the early 1940s and used it to introduce the harpsichord to audiences in Ottawa and Montreal. On 30 Jan 1945 she played Bach's Concerto in D Minor and Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 with the Little Symphony of Montreal. She was active in chamber music in Ottawa, her residence after 1939.
In 1938 Greta Kraus arrived in Toronto from Vienna and soon established a reputation as a soloist, chamber musician, accompanist, and teacher. The first to play harpsichord (rather than piano) continuo for the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir's Bach performances during the 1940s, Kraus was for many years Canada's best-known and most active harpsichordist.
1980s - 2005
Since the 1980s Canada has seen the birth of many outstanding early music ensembles, concert series and festivals. This phenomenon has provided performance opportunities at home for many Canadian harpsichordists. CBC radio and television broadcasts, and commercial recordings on labels such as Analekta and Atma, have earned Canadian harpsichordists international reputations and invitations to perform abroad. Interest in harpsichord playing is further fostered through organizations such as Early Music Vancouver and the Toronto Centre for Early Music as well as events such as the Bach International Harpsichord Festival (Festival international de clavecin Bach), which was held in Montreal in 1997 and 1999, and festivals. The active harpsichord scene in Canada has also attracted foreign harpsichordists, some of whom became Canadian residents.
Among harpsichordists of note who have played in Canada are Huguette Dreyfus, Albert Fuller, Igor Kipnis, Gustav Leonhardt, Françoise Petit, Daniel Pinkham, Fernando Valenti, Robert Veyron-Lacroix, Ton Koopman, Skip Sempé, Christophe Rousset, Olivier Baumont and Blandine Rannou. The respected performer and harpsichord scholar Colin Tilney settled in Canada from England during the 1970s. Harpsichordist Hendrik Bouman of Musica Antiqua Köln taught at Concordia and Laval. The English-born Edward Norman came to Canada in 1967 and has been active in Halifax and Vancouver. The US-born John Whitelaw (a pupil of Kenneth Gilbert) resided in Canada 1967-71, won the Prix d'Europe in 1970, and went on to teach at the Royal Conservatory in Ghent.
Many Canadian harpsichordists have become noteworthy in the latter part of the 20th century and into the early 2000s.
Mary O'Keeffe performs traditional and contemporary harpsichord repertoire. In 2001 she was coordinator of Harpsichord Then and Now/Le Clavecin d'hier et d'aujourd'hui festival at Bishop's University. She teaches harpsichord at Memorial University.
Richard Paré was a founding member of and records with Les Violons du Roy. He teaches harpsichord at Laval University. Olivier Fortin, also from Quebec City, founded Ensemble Masque in 1998. He teaches at the Conservatoire de Musique du Québec. Hank Knox teaches harpsichord and is director of the early music program at McGill University. He is a founding member of Ensemble Arion. Catherine Perrin is harpsichordist for I Musici. Christopher Jackson is director of the award-winning Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal. Luc Beauséjour is a major recitalist and recording artist who was named performer of the year by the Conseil québécois de la musique in 2003. In 1994 he founded and became artistic director of the Montreal ensemble Clavecin en concert. Alexander Weimann and his Ensemble Caprice came originally from Germany and are now based in Montreal. Johanne Couture is a scholar of 17th-century French harpsichord music. Josée April, a pupil of John Grew, teaches at the Conservatoire de Québec in Rimouski. Vivienne Spiteri, also a pupil of John Grew, works in the field of new music on historical-copy instruments. She performs and records internationally and has commissioned new works for harpsichord. Geneviève Soly is an authority on the composer Christoph Graupner. She received the Opus Prize in 1997 from the Conseil québécois de la musique and is music director of Ensemble des Idées heureuses.
Among notable performers based in Ottawa is Thomas Annand, who plays harpsichord for the National Arts Centre Orchestra and Thirteen Strings. Noted for his playing of Bach and Buxtehude, he appears in festivals internationally and records with various ensembles. Marie Bouchard performs with Tafelmusik and for the Ottawa Chamber Music Society. Karen Holmes has taught harpsichord at the University of Ottawa since 1973. In Toronto, Charlotte Nediger has been principal harpsichordist of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra since 1980. She specializes in orchestral continuo playing and teaches at Tafelmusik's Summer Institute. Elizabeth Keenan has performed with Opera Atelier. She taught at the Royal Conservatory of Music and York University. Paul Jenkins is a member of the Toronto Consort. Stephanie Martin, former harpsichordist with the Arbor Oak Trio, plays harpsichord with the Aradia ensemble and directs early music ensembles at York University. Hamilton's Michael Jarvis performs and records as both soloist and continuo player, and is director of the Baroque Players of Hamilton. Cécile Desrosiers is a performer based in St Catharines, where she teaches harpsichord at Brock University. In London, Sandra Mangsen is a frequent performer and a scholar of Baroque music. She teaches at the University of Western Ontario. Cynthia Hiebert performs both traditional and contemporary music for harpsichord and teaches at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Eric Lussier has performed throughout Canada and abroad. He is the founding director of Winnipeg's MusickBarock Ensemble (originally the Harpsichord Association of Manitoba) and teaches at the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts. Noted harpsichord recitalist and scholar Erich Schwandt retired from teaching at the University of Victoria. Colin Tilney, now in Victoria, was a founding member and harpsichordist of Les Coucous Bénévoles, and has taught harpsichord at several schools. Valerie Weeks, grand-prize winner in the CBC Talent Festival in 1978 (the first year in which harpsichordists were admitted to that competition), performs and also works as a music therapist in Vancouver. Doreen Oke plays and records with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and La Cetra and in the Vancouver Early Music festival and Festival Vancouver. She teaches harpsichord at the University of British Columbia. Martha Brickman, a pupil of Gilbert in Montreal, has won awards, performed in Canada, Europe, and the US, and taught harpsichord at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal and Laval University before settling in Vancouver.