C.P.E. Bach Concertos: Lyra Baroque (Violetear Records)
"Making a recording is always a mirror, an unforgiving mirror. It makes you feel quite humble."
Jacques Ogg is a Dutch harpsichordist and a teacher at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. For the past 18 seasons, he's also served as the artistic director for Lyra Baroque, a period instrument ensemble based in Minnesota. They've just released their first recording in 13 years. It features three concertos by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Ogg says this ensemble has grown a lot over the years. Prominent soloists have also helped to raise its profile, including those that appear on this new recording.
"The most prominent soloist is Wilbert Hazelzet, and he is a Dutch traverso player. We have been playing together for nearly 50 years. We both teach at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, which is kind of a center for Early Music. And we have done already — I think in 2002 — one of the concertos which we now recorded. The one in G major."
You mentioned the instrument being traverso, so we should talk a little bit about that, because this is a period instrument ensemble.
"I often make a comparison with cooking — if you have the right ingredients, you get the best result. So if you have instruments that the composer had in mind when he wrote the pieces, I think you can reach the soul of the music in the best way.
"So a traverso or a flauto traversa — it's like a flute. But it is with a wooden flute. So there's no metal, except for the one key. The first instruments originated around 1700 actually of those flutes in France, and then they became very popular in the rest of Europe, especially at the court of Frederick the Great.
"And I think that the special sound is also influenced by the fact that some of the notes sound better than the others. So if you make a chromatic scale, the D, the lowest note, sounds good. The E flat does not. The E is better, the F is not so good. The F sharp is very good. So, every tone has its own character.
"In the G major concerto, the character is joyful. It is also extreme when it goes out of that tonality of G major. And so the G major concerto has an incredibly moving G minor middle movement. It is very sad and very — well, it's an emotionally beautiful piece."
You are featured on the work that opens this recording, the Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in C minor. Tell me a little bit about this piece.
"C minor is not a very happy tonality. So it opens with drive. The second movement is C major. It's fantastic — cantabile. It's an aria, actually. I feel it as an aria. It has one little moment where it goes to C minor, and that breaks your heart."
It's a beautiful concerto, as are all the works by C.P.E. Bach on this new recording with Jacques Ogg and Lyra Baroque.
To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.