Music from the Royal Courts of Europe

Music is everywhere today, but at one time only privileged aristocrats had access to performances by professionals on fine instruments. Now anyone may listen to the music of Bach, Couperin and Weiss played live, and in a place ideally suited to its enjoyment. Early Music Studio presents a concert of music intended for royalty, played on period instruments by Susan Adams and Clive Titmuss, at Bottega on Saturday, November 17 at 7:30 p.m.

These geniuses knew how to appeal to that noble audience; they understood that to succeed, music needs a sense of occasion and it must tempt the senses as well as stimulate the brain. They made sure that the instruments for which they composed were exquisite works of art in their own right. They and their listeners understood that beautifully crafted pieces must be scaled for the room where they would be heard, and that the music must unfold in near silence. This concert brings all of these features together.

In the 18th Century there was no traffic, no noisy fans, no buzzing light fixtures. Everyone knew that to hear a harpsichord or a lute properly, it had to be very, very quiet. Early Music Studio musicians Adams and Titmuss have turned to a new place in their quest for a noise-free space: Bottega, an architectural masterpiece in the pastures of Southeast Kelowna. The building is surrounded by rural land, but conveniently just outside the urban bustle. Pesky air handling and traffic noises which plague most modern buildings are eliminated, creating an ideal environment designed for the appreciation of musical masterworks.

In the 1720’s, when Bach was just a young man, he occupied a position as the head musician of the Elector of Weimar, who was fanatical in his devotion to music. Bach wrote many of his most memorable pieces while employed there, and they were played at small gatherings of the family and the Court. During this period, he wrote much music for the harpsichord, and the famous solo Violin and Cello Suites. They have become enduring monuments of Western civilization.

Bach wrote an astonishing quantity of music for his favourite instruments: keyboards and the string family, but just a little for the lute, an instrument he admired but could not play. He invented a special keyboard instrument with gut strings that imitated the lute, and arranged some of his favourite violin and cello music for it. It has been a life-long undertaking for the Studio’s Clive Titmuss to add more music to this small repertoire and to create instruments that serve the demands of Bach’s music.

Early in his life, he became famous and advanced his career by evaluating and showing off new keyboard instruments, according to accounts of those who witnessed his skill. Many of his compositions bear the marks of starting out as brilliant improvisations. Harpsichord player Susan Adams plays one of these pieces, a Toccata which shows how cleverly Bach succeeded in incorporating his inventive nature in finished works.

Silvius Leopold Weiss was a Bach contemporary and lute composer whose genius came to light relatively recently. Like Bach, his skill in composition and improvisation became legendary in his own time. Once the highest paid performer at any court in Germany, Weiss wrote over 500 pieces for the lute, but his music was only revived when the art of lute-playing was newly re-discovered.

Titmuss debuts one of his newest lutes, made from rare Brazilian rosewood and old-growth maple and spruce from Southern Germany. Requiring nearly a year to construct, the instrument is inspired by a lute by Johann Christian Hoffman, employed by Bach to make unusual and experimental instruments for his orchestra in Leipzig.

Like Bach and Weiss, Francois Couperin wrote his sparkling music to seduce the ear of an aristocratic audience. Conceived especially for the two-manual harpsichord, Couperin’s music must have amazed his listeners with its surprising harmonies, melodic turns and virtuosic flourishes. As harpsichordist Susan Adams explains, “Couperin’s music reflects his understanding of the harpsichord, and the social whirl of the French court. He personalized his pieces by creating musical pictures of characters from his everyday experience. From portraits of young lords and princesses to animals and plants, his pieces mold the sparkling sound of the instrument into an idealized picture of courtly life and love.”

Enjoy the experience of hearing subtle and beautiful early music as it was intended, in Kelowna’s newest and most exciting venue.

As an added bonus, we will be showcasing more than 30 original acrylic paintings by Kelowna artist Kyle Poirier. The 10-inch by 10-inch art works on canvas are from his “100 for 100” series and will be incorporated into the stage backdrop to compliment the audible art of the music.

For ticket reservations and information about the concert, call 250-769-2884. Purchase advance tickets at Mosaic Books on Bernard and online at

This concert is funded in part by a grant from the City of Kelowna through Cultural Services.

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