Indomitably funny, sprite, and at times extraordinarily bombastic for such a small woman, Marion Verbruggen presented a recorder masterclass that was educational and entertaining for the trained musician and aficionado alike.
Part of the charm of Verbruggen’s tutelage was watching the precision in which she excised her students’ performances—teasing out an ornamental and quite alive reading of what is often drudged and static. Navigating the space wrought from Verbruggen’s encouragement, students were free to be, and performances were transformed like trepidatious cats—stretching and breathing in their new found freedom.
This was not a class for traditionalists. In fact, at times, some of Verbruggen’s more liberal suggestions—her incessant devotion to the French, for example—made for a worthy squirm or two. “I know Bach was a Calvinist, but at the same time he liked partying,” she evinced.
While there is something nice in the application of theory and interpretation relegated to music beyond the Baroque era, something quaint about a deep and expressionistic reading of music whose lofty reputation often distances its listener, there is something to be said for the exactness of a piece of early music when it is pallid and regimented. After all, an artist can still be emotive and concise while upholding the tenants of tone and tempo. Too liberal a reading of early music will discount its upbringing under the rigid, parental guidance of the church and monarchy in the hopes of making the music accessible again.
“It doesn’t mean you have to behave,” Verbruggen chided a student, ironically, as she stood under the austere precipice of Loper Chapel’s cold, brass cross and stained menagerie like a disobedient child convincing her friend to try cigarettes for the first time. Perhaps this is why Verbruggen’s masterclass was such a delight—don’t we all like misbehaving once in awhile?