Of Heaven and Earth – Publick Musick with Laura Heimes, Mischa Bouvier
Publick Musick, a Baroque group that plays on period instruments, is joining forces with renowned early music singers, soprano Laura Heimes and baritone Mischa Bouvier, to create a program “Of Heaven and Earth.” The concert is November 13th, at 4pm in Christ Church. Here’s an interview with Christopher Haritatos (cello) and Boel Gildholm (violin), who lead Publick Musick. Click HERE for tickets, starting at $10 for students.
Publick Musick is a flexible lineup. Tell us about who is playing on this one.
CH: The vocalists are of course Laura Heimes, a wonderful soprano, especially for early music. She actually grew up in the Rochester area, and she has family here, but now lives in Philadelphia. She comes back to sing here quite frequently, with various groups, not just Publick Musick.
(Bouvier) I believe will actually be making his Rochester debut… We’re really looking forward to having both of them here.
The violins are Boel and Mary Riccardi; they play very well together, and she’s our usual second violinist. All three of us studied together in Northern Germany in the 90’s, so we love this repertoire.
BG: Some of these pieces are ones that I got to know my first year there, and I’ve been dreaming of putting them in a concert for many years.
CH: Yes, and I’m playing baroque cello, and there are three violas de gamba. Christel Thielmann, who teaches at Eastman, Rosamund Morley who is coming from New York City and Cora Swenson Lee.
You have an organist as well, correct?
CH: Actually two! Basically, they’re taking turns. They are Naomi Gregory, and Edoardo Bellotti, who also teaches at Eastman.
There are two organs in (Christ) Church, and there is one piece in which they will both play, but they won’t play at the same time.
BG: Naomi will be doing the main continuo playing –
CH: Yes, and Edorado will be doing the solo organ pieces.
Can you tell us a little bit about of the some the pieces you’re playing?
CH: I think the first one we should mention is the one mentioned in the press release, “Wie liegt die Stadt so wüste” by Matthias Weckmann, who is one of the greatest German composers of the 17th century, and this a particularly wonderful and beautiful piece he wrote. So we tried to build the program around that.
Franz Tunder wrote the first piece on the program, and he was a friend of Weckmann’s. Actually, he was the predecessor of Dietrich Buxtehude… Buxtehude was better known, but Tunder wrote some really gorgeous music as well. That piece, “An Wasserflüssen Babylon,” is a soprano solo piece, with five-voice string consort. In English, that is “By the waters of Babylon.”
One of the interesting things about the music of Northern Germany at this time is that instead of violas da gamba, or a violin band, like a string quartet, they also mixed them, which is what we have throughout this whole program… It’s a gorgeous sound.
Most of the texts throughout this whole program are Biblical –
BG: All are Old Testament except one.
CH: It’s mostly Psalms.
Then an organ toccatta by Weckmann, who was a wonderful organist as well as a composer, and that will be played on the Craighead-Saunders organ, which is a unique thing in the Western Hemisphere, to have to faithful copy of a German-baroque instrument at a local church. That’s pretty cool.
CH: Next is a piece by Heinrich Schütz.
BG: Schütz is of course the most famous and influential on our program. He was the best 17th-century composer in Germany, who brought the “new Italian style” pioneered by Monteverdi, to Germany. He traveled to Venice several times, and worked with Monteverdi. The pieces we have on the program by him are concerti in that Italian style.
CH: Schütz was Weckmann’s teacher.
BG: They traveled to Denmark, and this was during the Thirty Years’ War, so things weren’t so great in Germany, so they actually worked in Denmark for a few years, where it wasn’t so bad.
CH: There is also one piece on the program that is just for the string consort. It’s a little earlier, but it’s a very beautiful and chromatic suite.
So how did you land Heimes and Bouvier for this concert? What makes them so suited to performing this music?
BG: To answer the first question, we’ve known Laurie for many years, and Mischa came highly recommended by her and other baritones we’ve worked with before. We always go with personal recommendation.
CH: Laura has sung with Publick Musick before, even before we were running it, and with many different ensembles before. It’s always a pleasure working with her.
BG: They have a lot of experience with early music, and the styles of singing in that period. There’s a lot of work that goes into that… With different techniques –
CH: There’s a lot we can say on that actually. First of all, this kind of music, more than some other styles, the music is very closely tied to the text. That is one of aspects of the Italian style that Schütz brought, the idea the music should serve the text, and express the words.
The first piece on the second half of the program, called “Aus der Tieffen,” or “Out of the deep,” by Christoph Bernhard, it starts with the soprano, singing so low that it emulates struggling, then rises up in this glorious arc.
BG: It’s almost a two-octave run in the first few measures. It comes from the depths. That’s very challenging.
The music is very melismatic and with all the word painting, what are some challenges on the singer and the instrumentalists of performing this music?
BG: It all ties into the text. A lot of we do as the violins is play the same text as the singers do.
CH: The same notes.
BG: Yes, the same shape.
CH: You basically have to play the words. You have to shape the notes vocally, as the singers do. And the singers have to be able to do that as well, which is truer than in later music. They have to not just express the emotional content of the text, but use word accentuation with the meaning of each individual word. Like “depths” is usually a very low note.
More on Heimes and Bouvier:
Baritone Mischa Bouvier has been praised for his “extraordinary and varied background” and “rare vocal and interpretive gifts” (San Francisco Classical Voice), “beautiful tone” ([Q]onStage], and “rich timbre” and “fine sense of line” (New York Times). He continues to impact audiences with his keen musicality and remarkable communicative ability.
Mischa’s recent performances have included the New York premiere of Jocelyn Hagen’s amass with Musica Sacra at Lincoln Center; Arvo Pärt’s Passio (Evangelisti) for the “collected stories” series at Zankel Hall, curated by David Lang and conducted by Julian Wachner; Apollo in Handel’s Apollo e Dafne and Polyphemus in Handel’s Acis and Galatea with the American Bach Soloists; the role of Dr. P in Michael Lyman’s opera The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and New York Live Arts; Fauré’s Requiem and Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs with the Princeton Glee Club; Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with Iván Fischer and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Stern Auditorium, and with Helmuth Rilling and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico at the Festival Casals; and recitals throughout the United States, and in Europe and Asia.
Other highlights include Handel’s Messiah with the American Bach Soloists at Grace Cathedral and the Mondavi Center; the premiere of Bryan Page’s song cycle The Edith Poems at Strathmore; Bach’s St. John Passion (Pilate and arias) with the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys under the direction of the late John Scott; the role of Lucifer in Handel’s La Resurrezione with the Helicon Ensemble at the Morgan Library and Yale University; the role of Malatesta in Don Pasquale with Opera in the Heights and Bronx Opera; the premiere of songs by several living Swedish composers with the Mirror Visions Ensemble in Paris; the role of Alwan in Mohammed Fairouz’s opera Sumeida’s Song at Zankel Hall; performances with the Alabama Symphony (Messiah), the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (Brahms’s Requiem), the Colorado Symphony (Messiah) and the Stamford Symphony (Mozart’s Requiem); and a Boston Symphony Hall debut singing the role of Jigger Craigin in a semi-staged performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops.
Mischa was born and raised in Alabama. He rides horses, likes to bush hog, and co-owns Pignut BBQ in Berlin.
Praised for her “sparkle and humor, radiance and magnetism” and hailed for “a voice equally velvety up and down the registers,” soprano Laura Heimes is widely regarded as an artist of great versatility, with repertoire ranging from the Renaissance to the 21st century. She has collaborated with many of the leading figures in early music, including Andrew Lawrence-King, Julianne Baird, Tempeste di Mare, The King’s Noyse, Paul O’Dette, Chatham Baroque, Apollo’s Fire, The New York Collegium, The Publick Musick, Pegasus Early Music, Brandywine Baroque, Trinity Consort, and Piffaro – The Renaissance Band, a group with whom she has toured the United States. She has been heard at the Boston, Connecticut and Indianapolis Early Music Festivals, at the Oregon and Philadelphia Bach Festivals under the baton of Helmuth Rilling, at the Carmel Bach Festival under Bruno Weil, and in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil in concerts of Bach and Handel. With the Philadelphia Orchestra she appeared as Mrs. Nordstrom in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. December 2003 marked her Carnegie Hall debut in Handel’s Messiah with the Masterwork Chorus.
Founded in 1995, and under the artistic leadership of violinist Boel Gidholm and cellist Christopher Haritatos since 2011, Publick Musick is a Rochester-based period-instrument ensemble that enriches the cultural landscape of Western New York by producing and presenting vibrant, historically informed performances of music from the 17th and 18th centuries and beyond. In our informal and engaging concerts, we perform well-known masterpieces, as well as sharing with our audiences the excitement of discovering and bringing to life unknown gems from the past. Our performers are nationally and internationally renowned Early Music professionals both from the local area and from further afield.
Highlights from the last few seasons include programs of rarely heard 17th-century German Christmas and Easter music, involving the audience in sing-along chorales; popular annual performances with the Italian Baroque Organ at the Memorial Art Gallery; a performance at the Eastman School of Music’s Women in Music Festival of music of Isabella Leonarda, a 17th century Ursuline nun; a recital of the works of composers of African descent from the 18th through the 20th centuries; performances of chamber music of the Classical era using pianos modeled on those of the 18th century; and a concert of Bach Cantatas with Eastman’s Craighead-Saunders organ in Christ Church Rochester.