Harry Bicket goes for Baroque and beyond

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
October 5, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. — Harry Bicket is an organist, pianist, and harpsichordist as well as conductor. He's described as a 'Baroque Specialist' but tells me that's mainly by marketers, since his work extends far beyond the 18th century.

Though if you were able to hear him conducting last week in the Minnesota Opera's production of 'Orpheus and Eurydice' you might agree with those marketers that Bicket has a special touch that draws out just the right sound and quality from a modern orchestra - in this case the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra - presenting a concert absoluetly true to spirit of the age.

Bicket has extended his stay in Minnesota to conduct the SPCO in a concert of both Baroque and modern pieces.

On the SPCO program is one of the most spectacular soundscapes in a tightly woven form. It's a Chaconne by Henry Purcell Bicket calls "art concealing art."

There is also filler "curtain music" for an opera - "Les Boreades" - by one of the most innovative of all French Baroque composers, Jean-Philippe Rameau, complete with a wind machine - incidentally the only 'period' instrument in the orchestra as no changes have been made to this basic wooden barrel covered with canvas and spun by a crank to create the wind.

These pieces bookend two ethereal and mystical works from the 20th century, Arvo Part's "Tabula Rasa" and "Kiss on Wood" by Scottish composer James Macmillan. Both have a quality that takes us back to an earlier time - with Part it's to chant and the mysticism of the early church. MacMillan's work also reaches us - as Bicket describes - in a sort of subliminal way, much like the ecstasy of a religious ceremony.


Harry Bicket joined me briefly for a conversation about this concert just before he needed to catch a plane to Chicago to fill in for an ailing Riccardo Muti leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in symphonies by Mozart and Haydn. We all wish him good luck!

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