Pianist Toma Popovici, 2001 Richmond Competition winner, performs on Tuesday, April 2, at the Tsai Performance Cente
Week of 29 March 2002 · Vol. V, No. 28


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Top baroque orchestra and chorus now resident at CFA

By Hope Green

In a move that substantially raises the profile of BU's historical performance program, three-time Grammy Award nominee Boston Baroque, widely regarded as America's leading baroque orchestra and chorus, has become a resident professional ensemble at the College of Fine Arts.


Martin Pearlman, Boston Baroque director, joined the CFA faculty this month. Photo by Susan Wilson


The partnership, which began March 1, will enable students to learn from, and perform with, top players of music from the baroque and classical periods.

As part of this new collaboration, CFA's school of music has appointed Martin Pearlman, the founding director of Boston Baroque, as a professor of music and the director of historical performance activities.

"This dual announcement comes at a wonderful moment in the history of the College of Fine Arts as the school of music looks to significantly increase its commitment to its historical performance program," says CFA Dean Jeffrey Babcock.

Boston Baroque, which produces an annual subscription series at Jordan Hall and Sanders Theatre, will maintain its independent identity and programming. The group joins the Muir String Quartet as a music ensemble in residence at CFA.

Pearlman now oversees the college's existing master's and doctoral programs in historical performance and harpsichord and directs CFA's historical performance ensemble. Orchestra members will serve as private instructors and chamber music coaches at CFA. They will also teach master classes and give special presentations and public performances on campus.
In addition, students will have opportunities to audition with the professional group.

"Boston Baroque has been around long enough that some of the first generation of players have gone out and started baroque orchestras elsewhere in the country," Pearlman says. "So part of the appeal of being in residence is that it gives us the chance to develop the next generation."

In time he hopes to expand the CFA ensemble into a period-instrument orchestra and build a collection of historical instruments. Initially these will not include anything too exotic -- no serpents or archlutes -- but even the basic baroque instruments are intriguingly constructed: wooden flutes, oboes, and bassoons from that era (circa 1600 to 1750) had less complicated fingerings than those of today, string instruments were made with gut strings instead of metal, and the pitch on a French horn was controlled entirely through the lips.

Pearlman says that he would like to offer non-music majors throughout the University, along with CFA students, a chance to perform on these instruments.

A Chicago native, Pearlman is a composer as well as a conductor. After majoring in composition at Cornell, he received a Fulbright grant to study harpsichord for a year in Amsterdam with Gustav Leonhardt, a world-renowned virtuoso on the instrument.

"He has been my greatest influence," Pearlman says. "He's a genius as a musician, and he also was one of the leaders in getting musicians in Europe to start playing on period instruments. It was just beginning to happen at the time I was studying with him, so it was very exciting."

After returning from Holland, Pearlman attended the graduate program in composition at Yale. Next he moved to Boston, at the time the national center of harpsichord playing, and in 1973 he went on to found Banchetto Musicale, now Boston Baroque, the first baroque orchestra in North America.

Since then Boston Baroque has earned international acclaim and recorded three Grammy-nominated CDs; in 1993 Pearlman had the distinction of being the only conductor from the period-instrument field ever to perform at a Grammy Awards ceremony.

Some of the orchestra's best-known players will participate in the CFA program, such as flautist Christopher Krueger and oboist Marc Schachman. Pearlman has begun recruiting participants for September, but even before the collaboration was officially announced, he had received queries about it from prospective students and faculty overseas.

"I just today got a call from a German trumpet player who has been on one of my recordings," Pearlman says. "There are some very exciting people who want to be involved with this.

"There are only a few sizable and successful programs in early music in the country right now," he adds, "and I think this is going to be among them."


29 March 2002
Boston University
Office of University Relations