ABERFOYLE BAROQUE’S MISSION is to promote the harpsichord through performance and education
Jessica Honigberg and Carolyn Winter launched Aberfoyle Baroque aiming to promote the harpsichord through performance and education in the greater Washington DC metropolitan area. They believe this magnificent and versatile instrument should be enjoyed by a wider audience than is currently the case.
To share the delights of the harpsichord with audiences, Aberfoyle Baroque showcases North America’s finest harpsichord artists in small soirées, the best venue in which to enjoy this marvelous instrument and the music written for it. Our audiences enjoy dazzling and virtuosic performances in intimate settings, sumptuous seated dinners with fine wines, and the opportunity to interact with the artists. On occasion, performances are paired with other arts, including Baroque dance, poetry readings, and art showings.
Jessica is a pianist and piano teacher. She has run a private piano studio in Washington DC since 1996, sharing her passion for the instrument with students of all ages. She grew up in a home with a Zuckermann single-manual “Z-box” harpsichord, built from a kit by her father on a dare, and after years of focusing on the repertoire of later centuries, she is returning to one of her earliest loves: the music of the Baroque. Jessica is also a visual artist in the Classical Realist style.
Carolyn, after a long career at the World Bank in international development, now devotes her energies to her music interests. She is a committed pianist and student of the harpsichord. She brings her management skills and extensive international network to Aberfoyle Baroque. Carolyn has a PhD in Public Policy from the University of Southern California, and an earlier degree in Music History from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
ABERFOYLE BAROQUE’S INSTRUMENTS
Aberfoyle Baroque’s Soireés are performed on two very fine harpsichords, both built in the 1970s by William Dowd, the esteemed “Dean” of American harpsichord building. The fine tone, general stability, and reliable construction of Dowd harpsichords have been the benchmark for American harpsichord builders. In Masterclasses, these harpsichords are often partnered with two exceptional Steinway pianos.
The William Dowd Harpsichord Opus 241, 1972
William Dowd built Opus 241 in 1972 under commission to John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet. The instrument is a French double manual, built after a Ruckers Ravalement, enlarged by 5 centimeters over the prototype. It is an 8’,8’, 4’ with 61 notes (FF-f”’) and a buff stop. It transposes A15/A440, and is particularly notable for its clear, singing tone and exceptional sustain.
This magnificent instrument is an important example of the American harpsichord “early revival” style, retaining its original deep green and red finish and extensive gilding on its Louis XVI-style stand. The soundboard decoration was done by painter Faith Forbes under commission to William Dowd.
John Lewis, who commissioned Opus 241, was the principal artist and composer in the renowned Modern Jazz Quartet. Classically trained, his strong interest in 17th-18th Century harmonies and melodies greatly influenced his jazz compositions. He was a pioneer of the “Third Stream Jazz” movement which integrated European classical practices with jazz’s improvisational and big-band features. Lewis frequently incorporated fugues in his compositions and included classical instrumentation; Opus 241 features in a number of the Modern Jazz Quartet’s recordings. As a devotee of Bach, John Lewis, with his wife, Mirjana Lewis, recorded several improvisational compositions based on Bach’s works. Among these is “The Chess Game” (Vols 1 & 2), based on The Goldberg Variations, and issued by Philips in 1984. Another is “The Bridge Game”, based on “The Well-Tempered Clavier”, and issued by Polygram Records in 1990.
The William Dowd Harpsichord, Opus 349 after Blanchet, 1976
Opus 349 was made by Dowd in 1976 after 18th-century harpsichords built by the Blanchet family in Paris, France. This was William Dowd’s preferred style of harpsichord. The Blanchet family were active from the late 17th century and were at the center of the French harpsichord world for over a century. The family’s renown began with Nicolas Blanchet (c1660 – 1731), who was recognized as a master instrument maker in 1689. Nicolas’ son, Francois-Étienne Blanchet, built for a prestigious customer base; Francois Couperin owned a Blanchet.
Aberfoyle Baroque’s instrument is a double-manual, FF-f”’, transposing A415/A440, 8’ 8’ 4’, with buff stop, and has a particularly warm, bell-like tone. It is a serenely handsome instrument with a grey-green case, traditional gold banding, and a trestle stand. It has a reverse keyboard with arcaded keyfronts, and an elaborately painted soundboard by well-known harpsichord painter Sheridan Germann. Before coming to Aberfoyle Baroque the harpsichord featured in many early music concerts and operas in the Washington DC metropolitan area.
Aberfoyle Baroque’s Steinway Model B and a Steinway Model L Pianos
The 6' 11' Model B is an exceptional black ebony grand dating from 1977. It was completely rebuilt in 2012 with original Steinway parts. It is a wonderfully balanced and versatile piano and its light and highly responsive touch, together with its deep, mellow tone, make it a true joy to play. It performs equally well in intimate settings and mid-size venues.
The Model L is a 5’ 10.5” grand built in 1981 in New York. It has a rich bass, a clear, articulate treble and a responsive action. It is particularly well-suited for use in intimate, smaller-scale settings such as the Master Classes offered by Aberfoyle Baroque.