Stringing the old and new together

By William Dart

The Lautten Compagney are backing the opera Xerxes. Photo / Supplied
The Lautten Compagney are backing the opera Xerxes. Photo / Supplied

Wolfgang Katschner, conductor of Xerxes and leader of the Lautten Compagney, says when the musicians are not backing an opera, they are in the concert hall themselves with programmes of Handel and their own Baroque-minimalist mix.

Why the lute?
This instrument is a little universal genius with a fascinating history and a wonderful sound. Not only does it have great solo repertoire, it can accompany singers or other instrumentalists in opera and concert.

What is the Early Music scene in Europe like these days?
It's grown so much over the last few years that Monteverdi or Handel are now mainstream classical. Now we can appreciate new connections between this older music and the 21st century, which might explain the great success of our Timeless programme, mixing the music of Tarquinio Merula and Philip Glass.

What are the advantages of playing your own programmes, out of the opera house?
Each has its own particular charms. To be able to work with the NBR New Zealand Opera as the orchestra for Xerxes is a unique event for us.

On our own concert stage we are the soloists and can create our own soundscapes in a tantalising encounter with the audience.

What is the special appeal of Handel?
Handel is one of the all-time greats, especially when it comes to portraying emotion in music. If I had to pick one highlight from Friday's Handel with Care concert, it could only be the whole programme.

What do a 17th century Italian and a present-day American composer have in common?
Baroque and minimalist music have a lot in common but, where Merula aspires to new forms and expressive possibilities, Glass strives for simplicity.

What other contemporary projects are you working on?
Our last collaboration was a concerto for saxophone quartet and strings written by English composer Sally Beamish, performed with the Raschèr Quartet. We're in discussion with this composer on further possible work.

What lies ahead?
In the coming years we will dedicate ourselves increasingly to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, to advance his works into the 21st century.

You're on a desert island - what music would make you forget about being rescued?
Heinrich Schütz's Symphoniae Sacrae III, Dowland's lute music, the Bach motets and Monteverdi's Orfeo. A whole universe of thoughts and feelings, perfect for combating solitude.

Auckland Arts Festival

What: Lautten Compagney - Handel with Care

Where and when: Auckland Town Hall, March 4 at 7.30pm

What: Lautten Compagney - Timeless

Where and when: Auckland Town Hall, March 8 at 7.30pmby William DartThe Lautten Compagney are backing the opera Xerxes.

- NZ Herald

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