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Contributed by Leon W. Couch on 04/12/2011
Assistant Professor of Music Leon W. Couch III was one of two guest artists at the Fifth Annual Keyboard Festival at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. He gave two public lectures, a masterclass, and a solo recital.
As the first presenter of the festival, Dr. Couch gave an invited lecture on his research, musical-rhetorical analysis, to the Heidelberg academic community: "Buxtehude's Music and Performance Practice". He first summarized Baroque concepts about music and attitudes towards music performance; and, then Couch demonstrated various approaches captured in recent recordings of selected seventeenth-century north-German keyboard works. Both faculty and students engaged in debates over interpretation.
Earlier, Dr. Couch presented a lecture entitled "Dressing in Style: Approaching Composition with a 'Baroque Attitude'" to music-theory students at Heidelberg University. He presented ideas from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century composition and keyboard manuals, such as that by Neidt; and, he supplemented such historical sources with recent scholarship in the area (such as Joel Speerstra's 2004 study of the clavichord and Little/Jenne's 2009 study of Baroque dance). Couch trained the students in the keyboard variation suite, using a handout developed for first-year music students and by exhibiting examples composed by his former students. Then, Couch expanded the ideas to aria writing and performance practice, using another handout and songs written by his students.
On Saturday, Dr. Couch taught a three-hour masterclass, with local organists as far as Toledo participating and attending. (There were also some curious community members, students composers, and others present as well.) Couch shared his performance-practice opinions about the stylus phantasicus with a HU freshman Melissa Flowers, who played Buxtehude's brilliant Praeludium in D, BuxWV 139. The topics ranged from vivid registrations to imaginative pacing to varied articulation to convincing musical gestures to stylish improvisation. Couch then worked with Grant Wohl, an advanced highschool student from Toledo, on Gigout's Toccata in B Minor. Couch concentrated on efficient physical movement ("piano" and Alexander technique) and its connection to musical expression; and, Couch also helped participants perceive the phrase structure and drama hidden within the perpetual sixteenth-note figuration of the Romantic toccata. Last, HU senior Chris Beach performed Buxtehude's famous Praeludium in C, BuxWV 137. Here, Couch helped the HU student bring out diverse characters and moods of the toccata textures, while showing the observers how to express but yet control the "wild side" of the stylus phantasticus. Afterwards for about thirty minutes, Couch showed some Romantic "keyboard tricks" he uses to play the "Aria" from Vierne's Sixth Symphony.
Sunday, Dr. Couch presented a diverse recital with works spanning the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. The program included masterworks by Dieterich Buxtehude, Johannes Pachelbel, J. S. Bach, Janet Linker, and Louis Vierne, including two movements from Vierne's infamously difficult Sixth Symphony. The first half of the program provided many examples of the topics and approaches taught in the lectures and masterclass. The verbal program notes seemed to keep people laughing.
The other invited artist was Michael Chertock, a concert artist and piano professor from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. This regarded performer also presented a solo recital and a masterclass.
The festival was sponsored by Heidelberg University and the Toledo chapter of the American Guild of Organists. The events were organized by Pierre van der Westhuizen and Joan McConnell, both on staff at HU.
A PSA: http://beta320.advertiser-tribune.com/page/content.detail/id/535991/Keyboard-Festival-this-weekend.html?nav=5062
Also see ProfCouch.us/ .