Saturday, February 7, 2015

Thirty-Seven Years Ago Tonight...

... I performed my only faculty recital at University of St. Thomas-Houston, where I taught on the adjunct faculty at the time as (get this title) "Lecturer in Recorder."

18th cent. alto recorder
made by J. W. Oberlender the Elder, Nürnberg,
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Back then, UST was the only university in Houston that took recorder seriously enough to offer applied lessons for credit, though the others with music schools typically had someone on faculty who could teach it privately. There was no degree program in it even at UST, of course; that would confer too much dignity on a "child's toy." But by golly, I performed in the faculty early music ensemble, which, to no one's surprise, was named Aquinas Ensemble. Ah, those were the days!

NOTE about the pitch of the pictured instrument: the Met Museum online catalog lists this instrument as being "in F‑sharp." The maker certainly wouldn't have recognized it as such: he built either an alto in F, well high of our modern pitch, or an alto in G, about a half-step low of our pitch. In those days, different communities in Europe had different pitch standards, and it behooved a professional performer to own (or have access to) an assortment of instruments suited to the pitch standards of all the cities in which s/he performed. For better or worse, today's EM performers have emulated their predecessors, not because of community pitch standards, but because for historical and acoustic reasons, concerts are frequently performed at pitches other than today's standard. I own a set of Baroque recorders at A-440 (i.e., the note "A" sounds at the frequency 440 Hz), another set at A-415, several transverse flutes all at A-415 and one transverse flute at A-392, which in the late 17th and early 18th centuries was French court pitch (Louis XIII and XIV). It's a damned nuisance for the performer, but I have to admit the music sounds better played at something close to the pitch the composer heard three centuries ago.


  1. Replies
    1. :-) indeed, Michael... that recital was my shining hour as a soloist, and I don't think I'm bragging unduly in saying so. I was at my technical peak; it was all downhill from there. :-) And I had enough musical maturity to bring off a respectably difficult program at a respectably well-turned interpretation. If I could trade those days for these, I'd certainly be tempted!

  2. Everyone should be able to experience a personal perfection best at least once in a lifetime----what a feeling of accomplishment!

    1. Indeed it was, Michael, and the good vibes resonate through the years. I hope you've had such an experience, or more than one... may we live to see more of them!



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