Baroque Hors d’œuvres with a Bach Main Course : Berkshire Bach Premières Kenneth Cooper’s Reconstruction of J. S. Bach’s Vergnügte Pleißen-Stadt S.216 (1728)

Mr. Cooper, who is best known for his zesty performances of Bach’s chamber music, is also a musicologist of no mean accomplishment. Besides preparing scholarly editions of harpsichord music, he has been, as of late, in the reconstruction business: finishing or recreating works by masters from mere fragments. Last year he reconstructed the violin part to Mozart’s Adagio Quasi FantasiaK.396/385f from an extant five measures in Mozart’s hand. He has also reconstructed the original cadenza for Beethoven’s B-flat piano concerto. Tonight, we heard a United States première of Mr. Cooper’s extensive reconstruction of a wedding cantata by J.S. Bach, listed in the Schmieder’s catalogue as #216.

Claudio Monteverdi, L’Incoronazione di Poppea at the Boston Early Music Festival, 2009

One of the happy results of the economic crisis—and there have been some—was this important and delightful production of one of the greatest of operas, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea. BEMF’s original plan, in keeping with their policy of devoting their operatic performances to spectacular stagings of rarely performed, ambitious works, was to present Antiochus und Stratonica (1708) by Christoph Graupner (1683-1760). At the very least Poppea would need only some forty odd people on stage, as opposed to over a hundred in the Graupner, and no machinery, large choruses, or dancers. Poppea was also BEMF’s first repetition of an opera: They staged it at the very first festival in 1981. BEMF has performed numerous important operas, but, if any opera deserves revisitation, it is Poppea. In fact, as brilliant and as successful as this production was, Poppea presents so many problems to specialists, as well as to audiences, that no single production can solve them all, and I can only hope that the people behind this production, above all Gilbert Blin and Ellen Hargis, as well as the musical principles, Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs, will have an opportunity to return to it at least once again in their careers, to develop and refine their insights, which were both intellectually trenchant as well as blessed with common sense of the best kind. The Seattle Ring, Caramoor’s Semiramide, and this Poppea show how much there is a lot to be gained by respecting the composer’s intentions and the conventions of his time. In my enthusiasm I saw the production twice. I’d venture to say that they got it right.

Claude Lorrain, Coast View with Aeneas and the Cumaean Sibyl, 1673. Pen and brown ink with gray and gray-brown wash and white heightening on blue paper, 7 1/2 by 10 inches The British Museum, London

Claude Lorrain Landscape Drawings from the British Museum at the Clark

Here in the Berkshires an exhibition of Claude Lorrain, “the Raphael of Landscape-painting,” as Horace Walpole called him, brings his work into especially sympathetic surroundings. The view from Pine Cobble, the steeper faces of Mt. Greylock, or its splendid waterfall remind us readily enough of the grander sights sketched by Claude and his fellow artists on their forays into the Roman Campagna. This natural beauty even nurtures a predilection for landscape, so that local galleries can subsist on landscapes, purveying local views for local walls. Even the Clark is susceptible, if you look over the exhibition schedule of the past few years, in which landscapes or seascapes by Klimt, Calame, Courbet, and Turner have been prominent. Far from cloying, or betraying undue self-absorption, Claude Lorraine: €”The Painter as Draftsman Drawings from the British Museum enhances this harmless local obsession with a comprehensive and coherent view of an artist whose cultural importance is undeniable, however one might discuss his stature as an artist. Claude’s influence has extended beyond art— among certain classes of British society, at least—into the shaping of whole environments and human life within them

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