Gwendolyn Toth

Gwendolyn Toth is the director of the New York City-based early music ensemble, ARTEK, and a soloist on early keyboards (organ, harpsichord, fortepiano). She is married to harpsichordist Dongsok Shin, and they have three children.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bye-bye Benedict

In summer 2009 Dongsok and I purchased an antique fortepiano (circa 1785) from a wonderful gentleman on the Upper West Side. Although the instrument was playing, we didn't feel it was living up to the potential sound it should be making. We had some initial work done on it by Marco DeLellis, piano restorer in Queens. It became clear from what he found and from what we researched on our European travels that the instrument was almost certainly made by Karl Benedict of Graz, Austria; probably had restorations in the 1940s and 1970s; and has a replacement the soundboard which likely dates from the 1940s work, with too much thickness and incorrect bridge placement.
So, today we shipped the piano back to Marco for a new soundboard of correct historical design, to match the soundboard on the other original Benedict pianos we have visited in Ptuj, Slovenia, and Ashburnham, Massachusetts.
In a few months, the Benedict piano will be back, ready for concerts!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Every week should be like this one

We've just finished concerts in Princeton and New York City, madrigals of Marenzio and Monteverdi. Oh what heaven. Such beautiful music...I only wish we could have done 10 performances instead of 2. Why aren't Monteverdi's Book 6 accompanied madrigals done more often? It's a big mystery to me. And Marenzio...he's on a different but equally lovely planet. Such flexibility with rhythm and text...

We had a wonderful plan: one 6-part madrigal, and many 5-part madrigals. Six singers. Oh, but then one got sick...then there were five...doesn't that sound like a children's song? (or maybe that back of the bus one about beer bottles????) We missed our Michael's lovely resonant tenor. But, in true trouper fashion, all the singers - and one instrumentalist/singer, who sang just as marvelously - pitched in to save the day. Each person was originally to have had one madrigal "off". Our rehearsal schedule was planned around various people arriving & leaving early. So, when it became essential that the singers all sing every number, we also had even less time to rehearse - can't rehearse a 5-part piece with 4 singers! In one piece, nearly everyone had to learn a new part. (I'm not saying which one.) Dear singers, you are all such good musicians and colleagues. Such a privilege to work with you all.

Check out the video below for a delectable taste of those fabulous Baci in Marenzio's Baci Soavi. In the words of one fan: "It was like listening to pure gold."

Update December 1, 2010 - A letter from a fan:
“The ARTEK concert at All Saints in Princeton was the best we heard this entire year. The selection of pieces on the program was most intriguing, and Marenzio was definitely a discovery for us. The playing of the instrumental parts – impeccable as always, but also done with finesse which was magnified by the lovely acoustics of this sanctuary. And then those two stunning voices! Laurie Heimes and Barbara Hollinshead were absolutely superb. I could not believe how well their voices blended, alone and together in perfect harmony, with all the details of musical intricacy and linguistic diction executed with utmost care. This is not to say that we did not savor the vocal ensemble as a whole. Those five-part and six-part madrigals were like an exquisite dish on a holiday platter. Well, what more can I say? Heartfelt thanks for a wonderful experience!” – Professor Karlfried Froehlich, Germany