This past July an up-and-coming early music ensemble, Paper Kite, soared through Italy in its first ever concert tour. The ensemble - a quintet of soprano, two violins, cello, and harpsichord specializing in the 17th and 18th century cantata repertoire - takes its name from a letter written by Dr. Samuel Johnson to Georg Friedrich Händel.
After taking off only two years ago, Paper Kite has been tethered to success ever since. Finalists in both the Heinrich Schmelzer (Melk, Austria) and the Premio Selìfa (San Ginesino, Italy) competitions, the ensemble won 1st place at the Biagio Marini competition in Neuberg an der Donau (Germany). Further, they were an IYAP “Selected Promising Ensemble 2014” and performed in the Festival Oudemuziek Utrecht Fringe last year. As the group prepared for their first concert tour, I managed to sit down with them to discuss their successes and challenges.
Unlike many other ensembles, Paper Kite’s members are spread out across Europe: three of five members live in Cologne while cellist Guillermo Turina and violinist Antonio de Sarlo live in Barcelona and Florence respectively. “Getting together has been a challenge recently,” noted de Sarlo, but “It isn’t such a matter of travelling”-“it’s the scheduling!” pipes in Turina. Everyone has been balancing a busy freelance career on top of other commitments such as the heavy touring schedule of the European Union Baroque Orchestra. Generally the group meets once every month or so for a period which can only be described as “intense”. “We usually only have about four days together at a time,” says de Sarlo, “so in those days we use all the time available. We take breaks to eat and sleep, but that’s about it.”
Despite the distance, there are some tangible benefits to a multi-national operation and soprano Marie Heeschen sees the opportunities lying ahead. “While we are living apart, we’ve managed to develop networks in places we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise…. This tour is a good example [of our broader reach].” Furthermore, their separation allows them opportunities to quickly capitalize on research. Admittedly they haven’t been digging too deep for the most recent program, but de Sarlo notes that “our proximity to important music libraries means we can get access to unpublished music relatively quickly.”
Between July 3 and 9, Paper Kite performed in Florence, Montepulciano, San Ginesino, and Rome with a program centered on 17th century composer Johann Philippe Krieger (for details you can click here). Krieger, harpsichordist Felix Schönherr tells me, went on a grand tour of Italy from 1673-75. “Most of his stay was in Venice, where the eminent north-Italian music masters were. In our concept of the program, we tried to create a window into what he might have heard while he was there. In Venice, Krieger met and studied with a prominent German composer, Johann Rosenmüller, and would have encountered the music of Francesco Cavalli, and Giovanni Legrenzi.”
“It’s an exploration,” says de Sarlo on the program, “not much music from this time and place is often heard today. When we think of baroque Venice, we think of Monteverdi and Vivaldi, but they were generations apart.” However, the music isn’t unfamiliar to someone who has had some contact with the two Venetian greats. “In fact, you can make connections when you listen to this program,” says Schönherr, “not just with music that came before and comes after, but as the program progresses you can begin to pick out the influences of Legrenzi, Rosenmüller, and Cavalli in Krieger’s work.”
Premiering the program in such familiar surroundings was no doubt quite a success. An exploration into a repertoire which has been too long forgotten and one which I hope we will soon experience for ourselves as Paper Kite begins reaches for the sky.