up next: Radio 3’s ‘In Tune’ and the Wigmore Hall

The next week plays host to some pretty interesting things in life, including an appearance on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune and a New Generation Artists solo recital at London’s Wigmore Hall. Both venues have played important rôles in my introduction to the musical life of the United Kingdom since I arrived here a year and a half ago. In my first season in the U.K., I had the honour of appearing as soloist with The English Concert at the Wigmore Hall in harpsichord concerti by J.S. Bach and Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, and later that year I appeared live on In Tune playing Francis Poulenc’s Concert Champêtre with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. It’s safe to say that I’m coming back to both places as an old friend and with fond memories.

On Thursday afternoon on In Tune, Sean and I will be talking about the upcoming recital at the Wigmore and I’ll be playing some works by Girolamo Frescobaldi and Scarlatti fils; on next Monday’s recital, I’ll be playing Bach’s Second Partita (the one with the beastly last movement), Handel’s Suite in F-Major, three sonatas by Scarlatti, and the little-known Suite from Capriccio by Richard Strauss – yes, Richard Strauss! More on this fascinating piece later.

But for now, let’s talk about dear old Handel. I’ve always heard that if you say you won’t ever do something, chances are (with some exceptions, to be sure) that you’ll end up doing it. Case in point – I always said I’d never live in California, and I ended up going to university there. I also told myself I’d never play Handel, and that’s gone the way of California. My friend Erik Bosgraaf asked me – backstage before we went out to play some Handel – once why I wasn’t really taken with George Frederick H. My response: because he’s not Bach! Well, a few composers who are also not Bach include: Wagner, Rameau, Schoenberg, Webern, Bellini, Haydn…in short, composers whose music I like very much.

There are very few composers or artists of any medium who wake up in the morning and decide to redeem humanity even if no one else is listening (Bach dealt with this a lot). On the other hand, to say that Handel did what he did only for public adulation and money would be shortchanging the composer of some truly beautiful music. Sometimes we pick pieces to play in our recitals based on personal challenges – I see the first public performance on my part of a work by Handel as being a response to that – in other words, I’m ready to take that challenge and see what I make of it.