Polyphonic techniques in the Keyboard music of William Byrd
2023-2024 (May - June)
Andreas Staier has dedicated his artistic career to the study of historic keyboard instruments. He has been performing as soloist in many of the most prestigious concert venues worldwide, and collaborated with a large number of prominent colleagues, as well in orchestral as in chamber music formations. A large number of recordings, by now surely more than 50, bears witness of the wide range of his repertoire. His special focus, and love, is dedicated to three composers whose works have accompanied him for many years by now: William Byrd, Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Schubert. In the last years, his interest has also been in composition. An opus of six pieces for harpsichord – „Anklänge…“ – has been published in January 2023.
A few years ago, I recorded a programme of 17th-century harpsichord music centered around melancholy as a musical phenomenon. Its title was taken from a lamento by Johann Jacob Froberger: Plainte faite à Londres, pour passer la mélancolie, composed around 1660. It pays hommage to the deep affinity between music and melancholy. Especially the second half of the title, pour passer la mélancolie, evokes a multitude of associations: to pass or live through melancholy, even to indulge in it, but also to leave it behind – all of this unfolds in time, and is therefore specifically accessible to music, the art of time going by. But music is at the same time the art of mathematical proportion, reminding us of Dürer‘s etching Melencolia I, which shows, among many other objects, an hourglass, yet also mathematical and geometrical tools and a magic square. I plan to write a composition which confronts the notion of time passing by with a rather rigorous organization of form and material, derived from Dürer‘s magic square. My piece will be for piano, clarinet and violoncello, for my friends, the members of the ensemble Trio Catch. Each of these instruments highlights a different aspect of musical time: on piano, like on all stringed keyboard instruments, sounds invariably fade away (sic transit Gloria mundi…) a clarinet can go imperceptibly from silence towards the softest sound and back again into silence; on violoncello, up- and down-bow can convey the association of in- and exhaling. – As a forth element, I might add percussion because it can make musical time be experienced in yet different ways: from sudden, brief explosions to, as it were, eternal sounds, seemingly standing still.