This weekend’s Baroque music performances may be as much a conversation as a concert.
Not that violinist Lorraine Glass-Harris and harpsichordist Aneta Panusz intend to talk much. But the music they’ve selected explores a period of European music where compositions described or debated a feeling as they were about melody and counterpoint rhythm.
“A lot of the compositions are from composers a generation before Bach,” Glass-Harris said. “These were the people who told Bach what the violin could do. He didn’t just invent himself. And the violin was a relatively new instrument at the time.”
The duo perform in Hamilton on Friday and Missoula on Sunday.
Panusz will perform a solo harpsichord piece by Bach that the composer wrote when he was around 15 years old. Titled “On the Departure of a Beloved Brother,” Panusz said it probably refers to one of Johann’s siblings who got a job as oboist in the royal court of Sweden.
“It’s very improvisatory and very descriptive,” Panusz said. “It doesn’t sound like Bach at all until the end, when it turns into an exquisite double fugue. He was so young, and he was already writing like this.”
Bach was also writing emotional passages that are particularly difficult to convey on a harpsichord. Where a modern piano hammer gives the player lots of dynamic control for loud and soft notes, the earlier harpsichord’s plucking action plays each string with the same force. Panusz makes use of a rare double harpsichord at the University Congregationalist Church that lets her add different timbres to her playing.
Glass-Harris brings her baroque violin and bows to the same task. Unlike today’s instruments, baroque violins play softer on gut, instead of metal, strings. The bows are much lighter, which allows for more delicate notes at the expense of volume.
“You sometimes think of playing where you give the audience all the notes they paid for,” Glass-Harris explained, playing a passage where every string rings clean. “But this is more like rhetoric, and it’s a real challenge for us to understand this cooler, more intellectual kind of performance. You’re describing emotions rather than acting them out. Sometimes notes fall away like a sigh.”
Violinist Glass-Harris recently retired after 43 years with the St. Louis Symphony. She’s also performed with the Southeast Baroque Trip, the Kingsbury Ensemble and numerous other ensembles and festival groups. With the St. Louis Symphony she was a featured soloist under conductor Leonard Slatkin, and studied with Indiana University violin master Josef Gingold. She has also played with the String Orchestra of the Rockies where her sister, Fern Glass Boyd, is musical director.
Panusz teaches piano and theory at the University of Montana School of Music, and regularly performs with the String Orchestra of the Rockies. She studied advanced music theory at the Krakow Music Academy in Poland and in workshops in Stuttgart, Germany.
The concerts feature Johan Schmelzer’s Sonata Prima from Unarum Fidium, Johann Schop’s Lachrime Pavan, J.S. Bach’s Selections from"On the Departure of a Beloved Brother,” Arcangelo Corelli’s Sonata in D minor, Opus 5, No. 7, Jacques Du Phly’s Pieces de Clavecin, and Jean-Baptiste Senaille’s Sonata No. 6 in G minor, Book 1.
Glass-Harris and Panusz perform twice in Montana this week. Their Hamilton performance takes place on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Ravalli County Museum, 205 Bedford St. The Missoula concert starts at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday in University Congregational Church, 405 University Ave.
Tickets for the Missoula concert are available at Rockin Rudy’s. Prices are $25 for adults and $15 for students/youth. Hamilton prices are $25 general admission and $20 for museum members. They are available at the Ravalli County Museum.