Ahead of his Australian performances with Concerto Italiano, we ask the harpsichordist about his Italian leanings.
Was there a moment when you chose Baroque or Early Music over more mainstream classical music?
I think we’re talking about something like 35 years ago, probably. I’d been a modern piano student and one special day I played a harpsichord. I was really touched by the sound, and this is why in a very short time I decided to change and move to harpsichord full time, finishing my piano career. I did very few concerts with the piano. The sound of the harpsichord had such a very special meaning for me.
Did that lead you immediately into the Italian Baroque, or did you lean towards Bach and other harpsichord composers?
Italian music was very important to me and my friends, 30 years ago, it was very special. We were especially devoted to the 17th century. It was a fantastic discovery playing music by Frescobaldi, Fontana or Castello, it was very nice, very exciting – it was a new language for us. But of course, Bach as well played an enormous part in our day, listening or performing. I don’t remember a single day in my life where I didn’t listen to or play something by Bach.
You’ve always had a special relationship with the music of Monteverdi – which is what you are performing here in Australia. What draws you particularly to his music?
Yes, in Australia we’ll perform the Blessed Virgin Vespers, the ten vespers. Monteverdi was a very special composer. He was the first to approach the music starting from the text. He taught that the text is the main source of the emotion in the music. So his revolution, compared to the music of the previous century, is a completely new combination of expression of music and text together. It’s fantastic because when you study the words you see that the music is reflecting exactly the same attitude as the poetry.
How much of your time is spent now as a musical researcher? Do you divide your time between performance and looking at manuscripts in libraries?
It depends on what we need. At the moment I’m transcribing a collection of Roman motets from an original print. Today it’s very easy to find a good edition compared to 35 years ago. And especially on the net. You can get a lot of digital copies from libraries, so in fact you don’t need to travel. You can find almost everything.
Which other Italian composers do you think are interesting for people to explore?
There are a lot. Milani, Castello, Fontana… Alexander Scarlatti, for example, is a fantastic composer. There are plenty of recordings by Scarlatti, but unfortunately there are not a lot of his operas – he composed more than 100 of them – but I know many of the recordings of his sacred music and his fantastic cantatas.
Concerto Italiano perform at Perth International Arts Festival on February 29.