Question: As I was playing through your Italian Concerto [for solo harpsichord], the "Baroque musician" in me felt inclined to realise the bass line at sight (with just basic chords to harmonically fill out the ritornello sections), and to embellish/ornament upon the melodic line in repeated sections. This made me wonder about what you, the composer, would want in performance practice.

My notation accurately represents the notes I play when performing my compositions, and I would appreciate if you approach my scores in principle under the same terms, that is 'à la lettre' [to the letter].

Couperin, so aware that musicians might take liberties with his work unless he was quite explicit, took great pains to write his scores in great detail  Ideally, a composition should be able to fly on its own wings with the written score as its sole source and key. My personal work ethos with regard to the score throughout my career has been and is based firstly on respect and understanding of the score and its author, and only secondly on self-expression.

Professionally, when I feel reluctance with any score, historical or contemporary, I know that I have to leave it alone and simply 'walk out'. What right do I have to play somebody's creation with my 'corrections'?

Indeed, occasionally I receive ‘new-baroque’ scores on my desktop to which I cannot fully adhere. Therefore I will not touch them (it's all about respect), unless my comments are solicited and modifications made which I can support. Only then would I consider performing the piece.

Regrettably, I have heard in concert an early music performer proudly add his variations to Mozart's 'Ah, vous dirai-je maman' without making his licence explicit either in the programme or in a verbal announcement. This is simply not on,  regardless of whether it is an excellent addition or not, and in this particular case it definitely marred the piece thereby doing a great disservice to the public and Mozart's genius. One should have the courage of presenting one's music under one's own name rather than hiding behind obscure historical performance practices of which Mozart would be the first to condemn.

To come back to your concrete questions, in the ritornello sections no chords are necessary in my composition or I would have written them into the score. I composed the solo version of the piece before the one with the orchestral accompaniment and, as such, it is not a reduction of the latter. As for ornaments, of course, these are play-things in the hands of any baroque performer; for their application there are no 'rules and regulations' apart from the famous 'bon goût'.

©Hendrik Bouman, 2012



        THE SCORE: Interpreting my Baroque and Classic Compositions