Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review: Carsten Schmidt

Feb. 8, Richmond Public Library

Carsten Schmidt, packing an ornate and richly sonorous harpsichord – a Cornelis Bom instrument, dating from 2012, modeled after several Flemish harpsichords of the mid-17th century – gave a recital and tutorial to a full house in the first of two weekend performances, part of the Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia’s current season, exploring “Aspects of Time.”

The time frame here was the 1650s; the place, Paris. Schmidt imagined a meeting between the French keyboard master Louis Couperin and a traveler from Vienna, Johann Jakob Froberger. Whether such a meeting ever happened is not known, but would not have been unlikely, Schmidt said.

In any event, French harpsichord style, derived from lute music, and the Central European style, more akin to organ music, began to trade influences and techniques around this time, as Schmidt demonstrated in a succession of excerpts from works by Louis and François Couperin (Louis’ nephew) and Froberger.

The setting, the Richmond Public Library’s Gellman Room, is about the same size as the rooms in which this music was heard in its time, though Schmidt noted that the typical 17th-century audience would have been much smaller.

Close proximity to the instrument exposed a range of sound textures and colors that aren’t as audible (if audible at all) in a concert hall.

Schmidt’s performances were quite expressive – he never lets this music’s often elaborate ornamentation bury a melody or rhythmic pattern – and surprising in the dynamism he conjured from a keyboard whose loudness is unaffected by touch.

Carsten Schmidt performs works by Louis and François Couperin, Froberger, Bach and others in “The French Connection,” 4 p.m. Feb. 9 in a private home in Manakin-Sabot, Goochland County. Tickets: $30 (limited seating). Details: (804) 519-2098;