Friday, 2006 July 24th, 7PM
Black Head House
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN RIGA – GLASS HARMONICA!
THOMAS BLOCH (France)
Neeme Punder (flute, Estonia)
Olev Ainomäe (oboe, Estonia)
Tobias String Quartet (Estonia)
Program: Mozart – 250, Franklin – 300
Thomas Bloch, a specialist for rare instruments (Ondes Martenot, Glassharmonica, Cristal Baschet, various keyboards...), born in 1962 at Colmar (France), obtained 15 Music Academy awards (Colmar, Strasbourg, Paris), a First Prize at Paris Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique (ondes Martenot with Jeanne Loriod) and a Master in Musicology, Strasbourg University (with Marc Honegger and François Bernard Mâche).
To this day, he has given over 1900 performances in 20 countries and participated in about 40 recordings (Columbia, Emi, Sony, BMG, Polygram, K.617, Erato, Naxos...). They include both personal CDs (among others for NAXOS, one which includes original chamber music for glassharmonica with Maurice Bourgue (oboe), Rosamonde quartett, Philippe Bernold (flute), Marc Marder (bass), Fabrice di Falco (male soprano)... : Mozart, Beethoven, Donizetti...) and CDs with other artists all over the world. His latest records include Messiaen’s “Turangalîla Symphonie” (Classical Music Award 2002 -Midem- Cannes), for NAXOS (Polish National Radio Orchestra, Francois Weigel and Antoni Wit), considered as a reference for this work. For the new Milos Forman's long version movie "Amadeus", T. Bloch has recorded an extract of the Mozart's glass harmonica quintet (2002 - cinema, CD, DVD).
His music ranges from classical music and contemporary music to songs, jazz, rock (even hardcore), theater-music, film music and ballet music. He may be now the interpreter, now the composer, the arranger or the producer. He is also the owner of a digital recording studio. T. Bloch gives lectures, masterclasses, concerts and writes articles to popularize his instruments and the works composed for them and is a continuous incentive to others to compose musics of all styles for them (he plays about 10 new works every year). Since 1992, he has been teaching Ondes Martenot at Strasbourg Music Academy and, since the opening of the musical instruments Museum in Paris in January 1997 (Cité de la Musique - La Villette), he has been charged of presenting to the visitors and playing for them several instruments of the collection.
. He gives recitals, plays in chamber music orchestras and as a soloist with various orchestras. He has played at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Milano (Scala), Paris (more than 300 times : Cité de la Musique, Grande Halle de la Villette, Salle Pleyel, salle Gaveau, Radio France, Opera Bastille, Olympia, Chatelet, Louvre, festivals...), at Pablo Casals Festival, La Chaise Dieu Festival (three times), Lucerne Festival, in London, New York, Tokyo, Madrid, Budapest, Versailles Castle, Osaka, Boston, Helsinki, Bruxelles, Firenze (Maggio Musicale), Bologna, Philadelphia, Toulouse (a few times with Orchestre National du Capitole and conductor Michel Plasson since 1988), Aachen (Orlando Festival), Bonn, Montreal, Corning Museum of Glass, Prague, Lisbon, Barcelona, Stockholm, Warsaw (with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra)…
. He has played with Paul Sacher, John Cage, Marcel Landowski, Michel Plasson, Christoph Henkel, Marc Grauwels, Jean Fournet, Jeanne Loriod, Myung-Whun Chung, Antoni Wit, Michael Riesler, Philippe Sarde, Marie Laforêt, Arthur H, Zazie, Jacques Chailley, Phil Minton, Lindsay Cooper, Serge Baudo, Manu Dibango, Andras Adorjan, Vladimir Mendelssohn, Mark Foster, Arturo Tamayo, Roger Muraro, Jacques Mercier, Felix Carrasco, Bernard Wisson, Fred Frith, Michel Redolfi, the Orlando Quartet, Brussels Virtuosi, Alexander Balanescu, Coba (Björk’s accordeonist), the Bachibouzouk Band, the National Ballet of Bulgaria (R. Kirov), Etienne Rolin, Kent Carter, Manfred Honeck, Dennis Russel Davies, Radiohead… Since 1989, he plays in duets with male soprano singers (Fabrice di Falco, Patrick Husson).
Mozart and Freemasonry
There have been many Masonic composers throughout the centuries including such great names as Johann Christian Bach, Leopold Mozart, Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Niccolò Paganini, Charles Gounod, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Hector Berlioz, Giacomo Puccini, Franz Schubert, Jean Sibelius, George Gershwin, to name but a few, but perhaps the most famous was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – genius among all geniuses. Mozart’s Masonic connections are well documented. In Prague, Mozart visited the Masonic Loge zur Wahrheit und Einigkeit (‘Truth and Unity’), where his cantata Die Maurerfreude was performed and he promised his Masonic brothers that he would shortly be offering a better tribute to the Masonic spirit. He was referring to Die Zauberflöte (‘The Magic Flute’). In Oct 1791 Mozart was composing the Little Masonic Cantata for the dedication of the temple of the Loge zur Neugekronte Hoffnung (‘Newly Crowned Hope’) on 18th Nov, but his health was deteriorating rapidly. During a walk with his wife he spoke of death and his suspicion that he had been poisoned. However, 2 days later, just before his death, he was well enough to conduct his cantata.
He was probably a Freemason but no record exists of him joining a Lodge or attending meetings. However, he did write two letters, which could be taken to be Faternal greetings, while one of his teachers C G Neefe was a mason. Beethoven composed songs for Masonic purposes, “Maurerfragen” (‘Masonic Questions’) and “Der Freye Mann” (‘The Free Man’). He also had many Masonic friends among the composers. Surely, he must have been a Mason but unfortunately, we can not say for certain that he was a Mason.
On the other hand Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been called that. More than any other musician he reformed the size, the forms and the language of music. Many aspects of music, which we take for granted would simply not exist without him; the classical piano concerto, the clarinet as a member of the orchestra, the string quintet and the piano quartet are only a few inventions in the field of instrumental music.
Mozart’s desire to create unity and his intuition for drama were two most helpful qualities in the accomplishment of these incredible feats. His impulse to unify the two principle forms of sonata and fugue corresponded to ideas prevalent at the epoch: the ethos of Masonic Composers and their Music.
In 1791 on 15th Oct, Mozart was composing the Little Masonic Cantata for the dedication of the temple of the Loge zur Neugekronte Hoffnung (‘Newly Crowned Hope’) on 18th Nov, but his health was deteriorating rapidly. During a walk with his wife he spoke of death and his suspicion that he had been poisoned. However, two days later he was well enough to conduct his cantata, but a further 2 days later he was back in bed. He died on 4th Dec, to what was described as “severe military fever”. To this day no one is sure where he is buried. There had been a cholera epidemic in Vienna and the police had discouraged large and lengthy funerals. About a week after his death, a Vienna newspaper wrote that the swelling of his body after death led to the suspicion of his having being poisoned. This rumour proved persistent and 32 years later a rival composer attempted to cut his throat and, completely deranged, claimed that he had poisoned Mozart and wished to confess to the crime. Then in the mid-1920s another legend blamed the Viennese Masons, in revenge for the composer having betrayed some of their secrets in Die Zauberflöte. Another story believed to originate from Nazi Germany, Mozart was assassinated for having invaded the Temple of Solomon.
Benjamin Franklin and glass harmonica
Ben Franklin found simple beauty in simple tunes. He played several musical instruments, including the violin, harp, and guitar. His great interest in music lead him to build his own glass harmonica. This simple musical instrument was played by touching the edge of the spinning glass with dampened fingers. The harmonica’s beautiful tones appealed to many composers, including Mozart and Beethoven.
Benjamin Franklin was a fine amateur musician who was very knowledgeable in the history, theory, and harmony of music. He studied music as a Science, and practiced it as an Art. It is said that he could play violin, cello, harp, and guitar. When Franklin drew up plans for his home in Philadelphia, he specified a particular room for music and entertainment. It was on the third floor, painted blue, and became know as the Blue Room. It housed his musical instruments which included the glass harmonica, a viola da gamba, a Welsh harp, a harpsichord and a set of tuned bells to help him tune his harpsichord which he said “when properly tuned, it’s music exceeds what can be produced by common instruments, but (without the bells) too useless for me”.
He loved to play duets with his daughter, Sally, she on the harpsichord and he on his beloved glass harmonica. Of all the things Franklin accomplished, the harmonica gave him his greatest personal joy. Franklin loved to play Scottish songs as he felt their beauty lay in their simplicity.
Franklin loved to sing and often joined friends in evenings of song. He felt singing was a melodious way of speaking. He wrote lyrics to many songs which included an “Old Man’s Wish” and “My Plain Country Joan”, a song that extolled the virtues of his wife, Deborah.
Franklin attended many concerts in his lifetime, many in America but more in Europe where he spent over 28 years as Colonial representative in England and then in France as Ambassador. In fact, while in England in 1759, he attended the last concert of The Messiah conducted by Handel just eight days before the death of the composer. In his diary, Franklin wrote that he saw “the sublime old man, one of the sturdiest characters of modern times, led to the organ for the last time to conduct one of his works”.
The glass harmonica was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761. In 1757, while in England he attended a concert given on the wine glasses. He thought it was the sweetest sound he had ever heard but he wanted to hear more harmonies with his melody. Thus the glass harmonica was born and named by Franklin for a word taken from the musical Italian language. It has been said that if the harp is “the instrument of the Angels”, then the glass harmonica is “the voice of the Angels”.
Graduated size bowls with holes and corks in the center were put onto a horizontal spindle and rotated by a fly wheel and a foot pedal. Moistened fingers rubbed the edges to produce the beautiful sound. Franklin used a most unique way to identify the notes of the bowls. He painted the 7 “white keys” the 7 colors of the rainbow and the 5 “black keys”, white. The practice of gold banding was begun in 1785 by Karl Rollig.
The glass harmonica was an instant success. Marie Antoinette took lessons on it and Dr Mesmer, the famous hypnotist, used it to put his patients into a deeper trance. Composers started writing for it. The most famous are Mozart, Beethoven, Donizetti, Richard Strauss, and Saint-Saëns.
By the mid-1800s, it suddenly lost its popularity, and gradually vanished. Superstitions ran wild. Glass harmonicas were said to drive performers mad and evoke spirits of the dead because of its eerie and haunting sound. It had a rebirth in 1982 through the efforts of the late master glass blower named Gerhard Finkenbeiner, of Waltham, Massachusetts. The “new-old” glass harmonica is now reaching into many corners of the world and has moved into the 21st century.