The centerpiece of my trip back East this past weekend was meeting up with Elaine Comparone in her acoustically magnificent West Side apartment.
Two splendid harpsichords of incomparable beauty, a custom made Dowd and Hubbard, graced a divinely resonant space with a cathedral high ceiling. And with a snap of my fingers I ignited a bright and brilliant reverb that musicians lust after in the presence of responsive musical instruments such as these:
It was this same fire, that lit up another space and captured my attention a year before. A Facebook link had led me to Comparone’s “red-blooded” harpsichord playing as she stood, no less, in the musical spotlight. (Hubbard Harpsichords, Unlimited, designed a tall oak stand in consultation with Elaine, that elevates the instrument to required height) It had been “dubbed” the “Brooklyn Bridge” by technicians. Talk about innovation.
Comparone performing Scarlatti Sonata, K. 517 in D minor:
Gushing with enthusiasm, I found Elaine’s You Tube Channel and raced to “Subscribe,” be-“friend” and “like” just about anything she had uploaded including the works of J.S. Bach, Rameau, Couperin, Scarlatti, among other composers. Soon enough I found the Queen’s Chamber Band, her majesty’s ensemble of fine local musicians who perform early music and newly commissioned works as part of an ongoing concert series. Harpsichord Unlimited, the non-profit umbrella organization, in which Comparone serves as Director, is “dedicated to stimulating interest in the harpsichord and teaching audiences about the instrument.”
A ground breaker is a good description of Elaine Comparone and her efforts to lift the harpsichord out of obscurity and into light of day. Just soaking up an afternoon in the life of this towering artist has inspired me to learn a bunch more Scarlatti sonatas, side-stepping the desired medium, of course, until I can well afford to order a custom designed Hubbard or Dowd from Massachusetts.
Hey, who on earth is pretending to play the Hubbard? What a daunting task with those black notes subbing in for white ones. And the whites raised up where the blacks are normally found. A dizzying panoply of keys, closely spaced, with an unfamiliar touch. I’d need a ton of practicing to get things rolling.
For now I think I’ll defer to a pro……