In preparation for their upcoming Music at Kohl Mansion performance, The Aulos Ensemble oboist Marc Schachman took some time to talk with MAKM Honorary Chair Sandy Wilson of the Alexander String Quartet.
Sandy Wilson: We are all looking forward so much to the Aulos Ensemble’s program at Kohl Mansion. The holiday season is upon us and the setting in Burlingame, as you well know from your previous visits, is beautifully conducive to a festive program. Can you tell us a little about what we may expect to hear in this holiday concert and how you curated this particular program?
Marc Schachman: This will be the group’s third visit to Kohl Mansion. Just two seasons ago, we played our French instrumental Christmas concert “Joyeux Noel” and the setting with the tree and the decorations, as well as the previously mentioned wonderful acoustics, was indeed memorable. The concert was a great success, and we were invited back rather quickly to do another Christmas concert. So in this case we had to come up with something of a different program, and Patricia Moy asked if we’d do our program “An Evening in the Home of JS Bach”. The program has no direct ties to Christmas—it’s actually a fascinating look into what music would have been like in Bach’s home, with pieces by his various children (who had huge careers in the 18th century, in some cases that eclipsed that of his father at that time!) and the master himself. Particularly interesting is a selection of pieces from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach (his wife) which contains some of his most famous melodies in versions that are different from those we encounter more frequently.
SW: Touring at any time of the year is a vexing chore for professional musicians, but in the case of the Aulos Ensemble, for three of your members at least, could this be construed as something of a homecoming?
MS: Yes! In my case, it will give my parents a chance to hear our group again and they’ll bring friends. And finally Linda’s and my son, Toby (27) moved to Oakland just this past fall, so we look forward to seeing him for awhile and having 3 generations of Schachman’s at Kohl Mansion on Sunday!
SW: In the regular routine of your ensemble, how frequently are you able to gather and prepare for your concertizing and touring obligations? As a string quartet member, my ASQ colleagues and I find it pretty much mandatory to work every day regardless, and obviously, this can prove both liberating but also a meaningful constriction. But, I wonder how, in case of the Aulos Ensemble, the benefits of being less routinely tethered to each other, and the ability to work independently of each other on unrelated projects may enable you to find rejuvenation and refreshment within?
MS: Unlike your quartet and others, Aulos is very much a “part-time” group. We see each other constantly in the various early music orchestras that we all play in (in addition to Philharmonia, there’s the Handel and Haydn Society and Boston Baroque in Boston and The American Classical Orchestra in NYC that many of us take part in) but we get together as Aulos for specific projects. When we began, this “early music industry” didn’t really exist, and we were trying to learn how to play together, master the old instruments, and learn repertoire, and we used to rehearse 2 or 3 times every week. That seems like light years away, now. Especially as we’ve played together so long, and we’ve “learned” that the most gratifying way to perform our literature together involves a good deal of improvisation. What we try and do is get together to rehearse once or twice to go over whatever pieces we’re going to be performing, and ‘set ourselves up’ to actually create performances on the spot. We try and usually succeed in surprising ourselves at times during our concerts!
SW: Is there anything in particular that you would like to share with your audience in anticipation of Sunday’s program or perhaps, something that they might like to listen to as they look forward to your concert?
MS: As far as something to listen for, there may be a couple of things. As I mentioned, improvisation is an essential part of what we do as performers of 17th and 18th-century music. We will be constantly varying repeats of sections, and Arthur (harpsichord) totally improvises his right hand (the practice of basso continuo). The difference between what he’ll do all evening and then change for the last piece of the concert (JC Bach Quintet) where he has a written out obbligato (like a mini-concerto for harpsichord) should be very evident. And in the AMB Notebook, everyone will immediately recognize the various little pieces—but be surprised by the guises that they’re dressed in. We arrange these pieces (as Bach and his children doubtless would have done) and they’re a lot of fun.
SW: Lastly, and a question that I have posed to all of the ensembles so far who have traveled to Burlingame to help us celebrate Music at Kohl’s 30th Anniversary Season: What in particular are you looking forward to during your sojourn here (I don’t know how short it will be)?
MS: We all have various reasons to look forward to this trip. We’ll spend two days in Occidental (Redwoods and Wine) and try to sneak in a little tasting. We all enjoy great food, and the Bay Area has no shortage of that—though we seem to be able to eat well just about wherever we go! The rest of the group is getting out west a day ahead of the concerts for a little R and R, but I have a Messiah performance I can’t avoid on Wednesday night here in NYC, so we’ll fly early on Thursday morning. But at least I’ll stay an extra day when it’s over to enjoy family and friends.
The Aulos Ensemble Performs at Music at Kohl Mansion:
Sunday, December 16, 2012 – 7 pm
An Evening in the Home of J.S. Bach
Music by Vivaldi, J.S. Bach, Georg Philip Telemann, C.P.E. Bach and Johann Christian Bach
Back by popular demand, New York’s distinguished early-instrument ensemble celebrates the holidays with a program that might have been enjoyed in a salon concert at the Bach home, featuring music by Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philip Telemann, C.P.E. Bach and Johann Christian Bach.