Harping on the Baroque

Marina Minkin sees the harpsichord has a "lyrical, even sensual instrument."

harpsichord 88 (photo credit: )
harpsichord 88
(photo credit: )
'I know that not many will agree with me," says harpsichordist Marina Minkin, "but I see the harpsichord as a lyrical, even sensual instrument, with rich possibilities for phrasing and coloring, and a full range of expression." For Minkin, who together with violinist Evgenia Epshtein and flautist Rami Tal will present a chamber program Saturday night at the intimate Tel Aviv Felicja Blumental Center, the harpsichord (the 16th to 18th century precursor of the piano) was love at first sound. "In my native Ukraine, I heard a recording of Ralf Kirkpatrick and it was an immediate 'click,'" recalls Minkin. "Today, I believe that only on the harpsichord - and not on the piano - am I able to express everything I feel for the Baroque music which I like so much." But it was only after immigrating to Israel in 1981 that she could study the instrument. "First, I studied piano with Michael Boguslavsky at the Jerusalem Music Academy, and then harpsichordist David Shemer returned from England and started to teach." Minkin continued her studies in Boston, receiving a Doctor of Musical Arts in historical performance. In the US, Minkin enjoyed a sensible career as a performer and teacher, winning several contests. She performed in concert halls in Boston, New England, New York and Israel, toured Europe, played with Israeli musicians and even inaugurated Ad Libitum - an early ensemble of her own. Yet two and a half years ago, she returned to Israel. "The right question would be 'What were you doing there for such a long time?'" smiles the musician when asked why she moved back. "After all, I intended to study for just a few years and then return. Yet it took me 15 years to get back, partly for family reasons. Of course, life in Boston was comfortable, but I like it here. You see, while I did have something of a devoted audience there, I don't think that my absence has made American music any poorer. I believe that what I do here is far more important." Besides teaching at the Shtriker Conservatory, Minkin finds herself lately playing a lot of contemporary music. "Although not that much has been composed, and not all those who have composed for the instrument have made the most of its rich possibilities, wonderful pieces by Ligeti, Martinu and Poulanc do exist." Currently, one of Minkin's projects is to record Israeli harpsichord music. "It was not that easy to find," she confides. "There are pieces by Yehezkel Braun, Yinam Leef and absolutely fantastic variations by Sergiu Natra. I believe that all these pieces are top-level compositions, and I hope the CD will be interesting. My aim from the very beginning was to show local composers how good the music for harpsichord can be, and so interest them in writing for it. [Composer] Yuri Brenner has already written a piece for the disc." Soon Minkin, together with the Tel Aviv Baroque trio (which includes recorder player Drora Bruck and Baroque cellist Orit Messer), will perform at the Montreal recorder music festival, where they will be premiering pieces by Israeli composers Lior Navok, Dina Smorgonskay and Yehezkel Braun. But before that Minkin, with violinist Evgenia Epshtein and flautist Rami Tal, will perform at Tel Aviv's Felicja Blumental music center this Saturday. The program features pieces by contemporary composers - Robert Starer, Walter Piston and Bohuslav Martinu - as well as Bach and Hayden. The concert starts at 8:30 p.m.