Chamber Music from a Continental Immigrant

Still life with Baroque music. © Charles Thibo

Some people associate music with colors, but I have now repeatedly made the experience of associating music with wood. Baroque music composed by Heinrich von Biber matches the wood of the larch, Marin Marais nicely fits with beach and Jacob Kirkman, a composer I recently discovered.. well, cherry wood came to my mind, the material our cupboard is made of. What kind of synaesthesia would that give? A xylesthesia? And no, I am not out of my mind, not yet. I may get there however.

Kirkman is the name of a family of keyboard makers who had settled down in England in the first half of the 18th century. Jacob Kirkman came from the Alsace region (France) and partnered in the 1730s with the London based harpsichord maker Hermann Tabel, a Dutch immigrant. Upon Tabel’s death, he took over the workshop. He had two nephews, Abraham and Jacob, and while Abraham joined him in his business, Jacob the younger set out to become a keyboard player. For some time Jacob played the organ at St. George’s, Hanover Square.

The younger Jacob Kirkman composed a number of pieces for the harpsichord and for harpsichord and violin. The German harpsichord player Medea Bindewald and the Dutch violinist Nicolette Moonen have retrieved the scores and recorded during fall 2016 some of these pieces. The two musicians had chosen the Finchcocks Musical Museum in Kent (UK) to record the pieces on historic instruments, one of them made by the composer’s uncle. Unfortunately the museum has closed as the property, a Georgian manor, is being sold.

The Kirkman album has just been released (see the trailer with samples) and it is beautiful. Kirkman’s music exudes a lot of warmth, hence my association with red-brown cherry wood perhaps, and his melodies float like a feather in the air. His pieces remind me of some of Biber’s Sonata Representativa (the one with the cuckoo)  that I have presented in an earlier post. Kirkman’s music is playful, joyful, pleasing to the ear, but not superficial. And the fact that this music has only been resurrected recently makes the listener part of a journey off the beaten track. If I would have to pick a favourite or two: Sonata I in A Major and Sonata II in F Major, Op. 8.

This said, I was able to get in touch with Mrs. Bindewald through her fund-raising efforts and ask her a few questions about the her Kirkman CD Project. Tomorrow’s special post will feature an interview where the artist speaks about her efforts  to dig out Kirkman’s scores. She also reflects the relevance of Baroque music today and the challenge to produce a recording independently of the big labels.

© Charles Thibo

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de Chareli

Writer, photographer, piano student, music enthusiast. And a lot more. You are welcome to follow my blog.

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