Music review: BLEMF Harpsichordist Curtis Pavey BLEMF kicks off with intimate concert By Peter Jacobi H-T Music Reviewer May 26, 2017 Wylie House Museum is a former Bloomington home with history in its sinews. It is an intimate place, and into its quarters came an intimate event Wednesday evening featuring a fine young musician playing an intimate historical instrument.
The onetime home turned more intimate when enough folks arrived to fill what must have been the entire Wylie House’s first floor: the living and dining rooms and foyer. Filled is the proper word. Those in charge kept adding chairs, and when there were no more to add, quite a few of the visitors were left to stand throughout an event lasting in excess of an hour. They did so patiently; not a one that I could see, and I sat near the front door, left before the end.
The occasion was the opening of the awaited Bloomington Early Music Festival 2017, or BLEMF as we’ve come to more intimately call it. Chosen to open the five-day, nine-event celebration was Curtis Pavey, at the moment still a master’s student in Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and its Historical Performance Institute. He plays the piano and organ and harpsichord, the last of which he used for his Wednesday program. On that instrument, he proved himself to be an artist of considerable finish and even more promise.
Nothing he performed during his concert of delightful music from the 17th and 18th centuries, almost all of it either written by Italians or influenced by the musical styles of Italy in those centuries, lacked the necessary flavors or colors or touches or technical requirements that Baroque composers used to express themselves. Mr. Pavey may be young and may still be a master’s student, but he is already a master of the harpsichord, an instrument that asks of its users that they not only know how to smoothly use the keys but to imbue them with dollops of personality, an act far harder to accomplish, I’d say, than on the other keyboard music-makers he plays. He is an accomplished musician and contributed to his musicianship spoken comments — helpfully instructive, informal and succinct — that reinforced what he was trying to accomplish with his gifts for performing.
Pavey opened with a couple of charming toccatas by Girolamo Frescobaldi, laden with fugal enrichments, and followed them with the toccata of a German influenced by the Italians, Frescobaldi’s eminent German contemporary, Johann Jakob Froberger. To all these, Pavey gave grace and felicity. As he did to the Suite in A Minor of Louis Couperin, still another contemporary, part of whose composition honors the preceding item with a movement titled “Prelude l’imitation de Mr. Froberger,” followed with expectations of the period: an Allemande, Courante and Sarabande, all of them delivered with aplomb.
Two spirited Sonatas in A Major, K. 101 and 268, by the renowned 18th-century Italian Domenico Scarlatti, were played with bounteous verve. And then, Pavey focused on Bach, his “Italian Concerto,” towering above all the previous for its vitality and complexity. Bach described the music as “Keyboard Practice Consisting in a Concerto after the Italian Taste and an Overture after the French Manner for a Harpsichord with Two Manuals, Composed for Music Lovers to Refresh Their Spirits.”
It is all that, an attempt to imitate what an orchestra can accomplish. As such, it accomplishes quite a lot and does give the harpsichordist a profusion of challenges, all of which recitalist Pavey took excellent care of. He provided a fine reading that brought immediate cheers, fully deserved, from the audience.
His intimate concert in an intimate setting proved a pleasant way to spend a midweek evening and a promising start for BLEMF 2017.