Inexplicable things happen to me in London. Several years ago I made an early morning visit to Westminster Abbey, that great reliquary of historical memory, and found it almost empty and utterly silent, a rare state for one of the world’s great tourist magnets. I intended to spend a few quiet moments at the memorial stone of my favorite composer, George Frideric Handel (1685–1759), the great German-born composer, Italian-trained, and rightly claimed by England as their own.
Posted: 11/11/2011 by
Patrick Summers (Conductor, Xerxes)
As the lutenist in San Francisco Opera’s 2011 production of Xerxes, I play not only an unusual role in the orchestra, but also a number of unusual instruments not well known to many opera goers. While the traditional opera repertory is not often thought of as utilizing improvisation, baroque music has a rich history of it. Nowhere is this truer than in this production of Xerxes where the harpsichord and I make up what could essentially be called the rhythm section of the orchestra. We play from a bass line, much like what a cellist uses, but we have figured bass (numbers under the bass notes which tell us which harmonies to play) added to our parts. Similar to how a jazz pianist might accompany a song, both the harpsichord the lute family instruments play the harmony, which is improvised in keeping with musical content of the composer.
Posted: 11/05/2011 by
Michael Leopold (Theorbo, Arch Lute and Baroque Guitar, Xerxes)