People often ask how I craft Sunday Baroque each week from the enormous array of options. I start with the general parameters of the baroque era — 1600-1750 — and extend it to include some of the music that led up to those years. There are many composers and compositions and many recordings of their works, including familiar “big names” and music, and less well-known musicians and music of the era. Some of those recordings employ “period” or historical instruments. Those can be antique instruments or modern reproductions modeled on the earlier ones, such as harpsichord, baroque flutes and oboes, and early ancestors of instruments such as chalumeau, dulcian, natural (valveless) trumpet, and viola da gamba. There are also many fine recordings of baroque era music played on modern instruments: piano, modern flute and oboe, guitar, cello, and modern valved brass instruments, to name just a few. Some performers even pick and choose from old and new, such as using a modern instrument with a baroque bow, or baroque flute with piano. To me, these many variables and appealing performances are to be celebrated, and I admire the artistry of all these talented performers!
The options are like a long and detailed restaurant menu, and just like placing a food order, you can’t (or shouldn’t) have it all at once! You choose from your personal tastes, hunger, budget, and mood. From my musical menu, my number one priority is to craft a radio program that sounds good to my ear and is entertaining to a broad audience: a main course with many side dishes and interesting spices. The vast array of recordings offers an opportunity to present texture, contrast and variety, and create an enjoyable and satisfying whole. So when you tune in for Sunday Baroque each week, you’ll hear a blend of outstanding performances on both modern and historical instruments, and performers who are at the top of their game in playing them. There’s no one “right” or “best” way that suits everyone, of course, but that’s how I approach it. In the end, I strive to serve an entertaining musical banquet to satisfy a large and diverse group. Bon appétit!