Penelope and Anne Crawford
Keeping it in the family
by James Leonard
The discovery of a new work by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi is big news. In his twenty-six years of life poor Pergolesi wrote only a handful of works, a disproportionate number of which have established themselves as masterpieces. But while the discovery of Pergolesi's teenage Concerto for Two Harpsichords is certainly musicological front-page news, the big reason to attend the Academy of Early Music gala concert at First Baptist Church on Sunday, February 3, is to hear it premiered by Penelope and Anne Crawford.
Penelope Crawford is, of course, already well known to local audiences as the fabulous continuo player for Ann Arbor's late and lamented early music ensemble Ars Musica. And Crawford's more recent work with Dutch violinist Jaap Schroeder and Ann Arbor's great cellist Enid Sutherland is even more accomplished and compelling than her earlier work. But while Crawford is a star in Ann Arbor's early music community, her daughter, Anne, is almost unknown. She graduated from Oberlin with a degree in harpsichord and later studied with Dutch harpsichordist Bob von Aspern, but has played only infrequently in Ann Arbor.
Having heard her perform, however, I can attest that Anne Crawford is a remarkable player: she has tremendous technique, complete control of color and dynamic contrast not an easy matter on the recalcitrant harpsichord and great sensitivity to the emotional nuances of the music she performs. And the opportunity to hear her perform with her mother is, I think, unprecedented. Fortunately, the Crawfords won't be limiting themselves to Pergolesi's less than wholly mature concerto they'll also perform Bach's magnificent Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C Minor. Although the piece is a transcription from a Bach concerto for oboe and violin, it's hard as it so often is with Bach transcriptions to tell which version came first. This piece sounds great both ways. With its virile opening movement, its sensitive Adagio, and its robust closing movement, it's a wholly mature example
of Bach at his considerable best.
In both pieces Anne Crawford plays first harpsichord while Penelope plays second. The rest of the ensemble is led by Ars Musica alum Daniel Foster on first violin. The program also features a Sammartini recorder concerto played by Beth Gilford and three smaller works by the seventeenth-century Italian composers Fontana, Uccellini, and Donati. The other big Bach highlight of the concert is his cantata for soprano, trumpet, and strings Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (Praise God in All Lands), featuring the well-known local soprano Lorna Hildebrandt and Baroque brass player Kiri Tollaksen.
[Originally published in February, 2002.]