Can you remember the first time you heard someone playing your instrument properly?
My first contact with the sound of the harpsichord was with a recording of the Bach sonatas for violin and harpsichord but the first immersion was the work and recordings of Wanda Landowska.
Where, when and whom it was?
I had been obsessed with the 1960’s recording of Horowitz playing Scarlatti and on my 14th birthday, my closest friend gave me Landowska’s recordings of Scarlatti and Bach.
What was it that made you think this was something you wanted to do yourself?
I did not like it AT ALL for the first 3 or 4 days. But like magic, on the 5th day I thought it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. I put thumb tacks on the hammers of my upright piano to approximate the clarity of the harpsichord and from that moment I have always felt this about the harpsichord.
Did you receive a lot of encouragement from your family, or were they less enthusiastic than you?
My family did not like the sound at all. The encouragement for the harpsichord was spotty and mostly not there.
Who were your musical heroes growing up, in particular on your instrument?
Without question, Arthur Rubinstein playing anything. But once I heard Landowska, it was she who “owned” me. Her vitality and urgency. As the years progressed, I got to know the work of Ralph Kirkpatrick and Gustav Leonhardt.
If you had to explain the sound of your instrument to someone who had never heard it, how would you do so?
I would say that there is a surface shimmer to the sound, something like glistening gold but that this surface encases a resonance of depth and spaciousness.
Do you listen to recordings of other players for pleasure?
Some of them, YES. And at 72, I recognize that the quality of harpsichord performance has increased over the decades. There are many young players who have genius and who delight me in their vision of this large and rich repertory.
What about your own recordings – whether commercial or private?
Sometimes I give a listen. For the most part, the further I get away from them, the more I like them. If I listen too close to the recording session I hear my struggle and doubt to get where I want to go with the music. I become keenly aware of my own limitations. BUT, if after 10 years I listen, then I hear what I did accomplish and forget the effort to get there. That can give me a sense of delight and make me say “Oh, this is not bad.”
If you ever stopped playing your own instrument would you still be a musician, and if so what would be your next choice of instrument?
I love the way the harpsichord feels under my fingers. I find it supremely sensitive to subtlety and detailed utterance. The question strikes me as if you are asking…If I were to leave my husband, would I look for another?
Is there anything you really hate about your own choice of instrument, or that makes you jealous of other musicians?
I hate having to move the harpsichord before and after each performance. Other than that? no. I adore the harpsichord in its many national and chronological stages.
Would you encourage others to have a go at learning to play your instrument?
It depends on what they want from an interaction with music. The need to tune regularly and to keep your instrument in good working order is a tall order. Pianos are easier…But if, like me, you are enamored of the sound…yes indeed. GO for it.
Any regrets, after so many years learning your craft?
IF there are regrets the pale alongside the gratitude I feel for having been able to dedicate my life to this music, this art. Other than the satisfaction of the music itself, and the instrument, and the connection it has given me to performing colleagues and listening audiences, I have the impression that with harpsichord under my hand, I’ve spent a life reaching for beauty and trying to communicate this beauty with so many people. NOPE, no regrets.