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.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Yes I really DO need yet another harpsichord

On Monday, Samantha and I traveled very early in the morning on the Eurostar to Genoa, arriving about noon, and wewere picked up by our friend Enrico Gatti. Enrico had owned a cembalo brisee - a "folding harpsichord" and I had agreed to purchase it from him. He was moving to a larger home and had plans to buy a full-size harpsichord. Even though my husband Dongsok and I own - I think I lost count a while ago - at least 6? harpsichords, I felt that this one, which is incredibly easy to transport (would be easily moved via minicab taxi, or subway, or regular train) would give me even more flexibilty for my jobs, and in addition, was a true Italian-sounding harpsichord, necessary for so much of our ARTEK repertoire. What is a folding harpsichord you ask? Well, it is in three pieces, though the keyboard connects seamlessly. The smallest piece detaches and, turned around, fits into the middle piece. Then the whole thing folds in half and has a padded carrying case. In fact, it's a 17th-century idea - Below is a picture of an original folding harpsichord from the Brussels museum we visited earlier in the summer.

When I agreed to buy the cembalo, I had visions of taking it with me back to the plane, or - better yet! taking a boat home with it...Alas, no boats sailing from italy to NYC in August. And considering the plane, I'd have to have a fiberglass travel case made for it - something that will be much easier and cheaper to do in the US. So I decided to ship it air cargo through my harpsichord builder friend Mario del Grosso, whose home and workshop are located in Genoa.

Enrico brought the instrument from Piacenza to Genoa, then picked us up at the train. At Mario's house, his wife made a delicious Ligurian-style lunch of gnocchi with pesto and fish. Yum! I also took a look at Mario's current project, a large instrument that might be an original French harpsichord, with beautiful chinoiserie decoration. Interesting...

Back at the train station, we caught a local train to Torino, where we spent the night. I had booked an inexpensive hotel room advertised as "50 meters from the train station". Now - we were traveling with 2 large rolling suitcases, 1 small rolling suitcase that attaches to a larger one (but very heavy despite small), two backpacks, and shoulder bags. Oy! Stuff for 6 weeks! Lots of sheet music, CDs, electronic gizmos (so we can make those videos & pictures), and of course a different charger and wires for each. (How do those add up to SO MUCH weight?) So we set off, asking directions from a stranger how to get to this particular hotel. He said "Driving or walking?" (which should have been a clue, geez, so dumb!) Got the directions, starting walking....and walking...and walking...asked directions 4 times as we went & each time was reassured that we were going the correct way, just a little further...

Finally, we arrived at our hotel. At least one and a half miles walk, I'd say; it took nearly an hour. With all those bags, oh yes. And guess what? It WAS 50 meters fromt he train station. The OTHER one in Torino. In fact, the one we needed in the morning for our Eurostar to Paris. HA! Here is an example of a greater power looking out for us: I did NOT realize that there couldd be two train stations in Torino (the abbreviations on the tickets being quite cryptic). Had we booked close to the main station - where one would assume the Eurostar leaves from - we would have gotten up the next morning, gone to that station and realized - wrong one! and probably too late to get to the right station to catch the Eurostar. Besides all that exercise walking to the hotel is awfully good for walking off gnocchi pounds...

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