“WHATEVER music I do, I have to fall in love with it to do it,” declares Trevor Pinnock as he prepares to return to Sheffield again next week to perform Bach harpsichord music at a Music in the Round concert in the Crucible Studio.
We are talking about the celebrated musician’s wide music interests prompted by the release shortly of his latest recording: chamber music arrangements of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and Debussy’s ‘Faun’ prelude.
“I’ve always had a wide range of musical interests,” states the musician who will be forever associated with Baroque music as a harpsichordist and conductor, especially his work with the period instrument English Concert, which he founded and directed for three decades until 2003.
“Back in the 1960s and 70s, I realised that there was something that needed doing in Baroque music and I wanted to do it. It became my passion for 30 years and was a very important part of my life, pioneering the use of original instruments. It was a ‘great mission’ I had, but it wasn’t the only part of my life. I did other things as well, although not a huge amount of it.
“When I knew it was time for me to leave, to move forward into something new it was like jumping off the edge of a cliff into more or less the unknown and, as the years have gone on, all sorts of changes have taken place.
“What I’m beginning to realise is there can’t possibly be time to explore all the things that interest me, so I have to select very carefully what I’m doing but I do lead an enormously varied life now.”
Having just come back from conducting Don Giovanni in Houston, after his “little patch of solo recitals (including the one in Sheffield),” he returns to the Royal Academy Music to continue a project with top students which entails performing and recording chamber ensemble arrangements made for private concerts put on by Schoenberg of which the Mahler/ Debussy recording is the first fruit.
“It’s amazing what you hear from these works when they’re reduced down to an ensemble of 15 or 17 players,” notes the globally renowned musician.
After the RAM, he reunites with the Portuguese pianist Maria-Joao Pires for Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto and Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll after a previous Mozart/ Beethoven collaboration.
And he is also planning a series of concerts for an almost finished, 350-seat theatre being built at the side of the Globe Theatre in London.
“It’s all tremendously varied,” reiterates the former Canterbury Cathedral boy chorister who, as a two-year-old was so taken by the sound of a seaside brass band, he insisted on getting out of his pushchair to dance to the music and wouldn’t let his parents take him home until it had stopped playing.
When he was last in Sheffield at the end of 2006, it was to make landmark recordings of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos in the City Hall Ballroom with a specially formed period instrumental ensemble drawn from across Europe to celebrate his 60th birthday.
A number of previous engagements in the city had come about as one half of a mutual admiration society with Peter Cropper that had existed since he joined the Lindsay Quartet for a performance of Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet in Stoke-on-Trent – playing a piano, of course.
How does he react to the fairly common practice of Bach’s harpsichord music played on a piano?
“Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. If it sounds good and if it’s done with proper respect, I think some of it works very well on the piano in the right hands, and some is less suited to the sound of that instrument.”
Having performed and recorded just about all Bach’s solo harpsichord music, there is a notable absentee in both spheres of activity, the mighty Well-Tempered Klavier?
“Oh yes, I’ve never climbed that mountain – so there’s still things to do in life. I know quite a lot of it already and it often comes to mind, but I’m not thinking about it right at the moment.”
For his recital on Wednesday he has selected pieces to illustrate how Bach’s writing for the harpsichord evolved, beginning with two early works.
Starting with the first of Bach’s seven solo transcriptions of Vivaldi violin concertos, Op 3 No 9, he follows it with the Toccata in E minor “which is very much in the North German improvisatory style of Buxtehude,” observes the world famous harpsichord player.
The first of two contrasting suites, French Suite in E (No 6), then serves as a bridge to the Partita in D (No 4), the six Partitas being works where “Bach showed everything that he could do; finding different ways of setting all the conventional movements of a suite, and some others as well!”