Music at Your Finger Tips
EACH TIME I HEAR Jory Vinikour play the harpsichord, I marvel at his speed, precision, and complexity. As his body sits nearly motionless, his arms and especially his extremely busy fingers carry the musical load. To say that he demonstrates dexterity is an understatement.
Jory’s recent concert at the Simons Center Recital Hall, as part of the College’s Monday Night Series, was another marvel of music making, and another chance to savor the sounds of the harpsichord—an acquired taste to be sure.
It certainly helped early on in the program to have Jory play J.S. Bach’s “Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue,” BWV 903, whose relentless torrent of notes lets forth a remarkable tapestry of sound as only Bach can provide. Even if you are familiar with this piece played on piano, there are colors and nuances that emerge from the instrument that Bach himself played and composed for.
I later asked Jory, “What do piano students stand to learn from the harpsichord?” and the first thing he said was “the colors.” It was something he kept repeating as we talked; that the spectrum of coloration is so much broader on the harpsichord. He described a pianist friend of his sitting down at the harpsichord for the first time, pressing a key, and his hand instinctively jumping away from the keyboard. The reason? Because there are no hammers; when you press a key, it lifts a “jack” that causes a “quill” to pluck the string—all with a delicate touch.
After the Bach, Jory jumped to the 20th century and played “Spiders” by Ned Rorem (b. 1923). It was not as startling a transition as you might think, and it was interesting to hear a Baroque keyboard instrument rendering modern music.
This was followed by another modern piece, “Admiring Yoro Waterfall” by Graham Lynch (b. 1957), which the composer dedicated to Jory. It was a remarkably vivid depiction of a familiar Japanese scene. Again, it seemed to be the colors of the harpsichord that were so able to convey Japan’s unique combination of water, tranquility, and culture.
Jory, who is a recognized master Baroque keyboard player, happens to love contemporary compositions and is known for playing them, so it was no surprise that he played a third modern piece. “Hungarian Rock” by Gyorgy Ligeti (1932–2006) proved to be a chaconne-like piece with a lively and entertaining Jazz lilt.
True to the instrument’s origins and Jory’s classical training, he then slipped with facility and joy back to the Baroque with four sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757). With tremendous flourishes of virtuosity, Jory answered Scarlatti’s call in four works that seriously test a player’s physical and musical limits across the entire keyboard.
This was the third year in a row that Jory has played in Charleston. Yet another instance of world-class talent on our doorstep due to Steve Rosenberg and the College of Charleston School of the Arts.