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Early Music Experts Share Tips for Idiomatic Playing on Modern Instruments

September 29, 2020

Lolly Lewis is on a mission to help amateur musicians share resources, develop greater opportunities for playing and performing, and improve their musicianship. Her Amateur Music Network was a natural outgrowth of her work as the producer of Community of Music Makers workshops for the San Francisco Symphony. AMN’s initial local focus was on supporting Bay Area musicians, but as organizations everywhere are discovering in the time of the pandemic, AMN has the potential to reach beyond regional boundaries via their online presence.

Three new workshop offerings in October should be of interest to early music enthusiasts everywhere who wish to perform works by Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn, and others in a more historically informed style without having to invest in new period instruments. Tagged “a new way to perform old music,” the Early Music for Modern Instruments program is a series of online workshops for skilled amateur musicians taught by early-music mentors Elizabeth Blumenstock (violin), Eric Zivian (piano and fortepiano), and William Skeen (cello).

With most of us still stuck at home, there’s never been a better time to expand our musical horizons. If you’ve worked hard on the standard classical path, you know the repertoire. Now you can learn new tools and approaches from early-music specialists that will give you even more appreciation of the music you love.”

Violinists can tune into the four At Home With Elizabeth Blumenstock sessions, Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. on Oct. 6, 13, 20, and 26. Blumenstock says, “When I first became interested in historically informed performance, I imagined that playing Baroque music would simply be a matter of playing the violin a little bit differently. I was right, but I was also so mistaken! It is more an attitude, a unique expressive commitment, and a joy. I am very much looking forward to being with all of you in our four sessions together, as we explore the fascinating history and meaningful practice of Baroque style.”

The founder and music director of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival hosts At Home with Eric Zivian on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 2 p.m. Zivian will provide an introduction to period pianos, and guide a hands-on, in-depth exploration of a passage from a Beethoven piano sonata.

Cellists should tune into At Home With William Skeen on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. The workshop will focus on the bowing. According the Skeen, “Bach’s Third Orchestral Suite can teach us everything we need to know about early 18th-century bowing and articulation.”  Using this great work as a template, Skeen will guide participants through his techniques for shaping bass lines using either Baroque or modern (Tourte-style) bow.

Musicians must register to participate (see links above) and each registrant will need their instrument and a computer or other device that is connected to the internet. Registered participants will receive a link and instructions about how to join the online session.

Paul Kotapish is the managing editor for SFCV.  You can learn more here or at guitarfish.net.

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