Bart Kuijken: Cadenzas and Wit



I’ve spent the last few days with the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, photographing their many rehearsals and attending all three performances (the program focused one classical era repertoire—Saint Georges, C.P.E. Bach, Haydn, and Mozart).

It’s been a terrific experience, to say the least. There is a photo series forthcoming, but, for now, I’d like to make a point about something I heard throughout the run which made a lasting impression on me.

The orchestra’s artistic director, Bart Kuijken, was in fine form as both conductor and soloist. His performance of Mozart’s flute concerto in G-major was beautiful and poetic, yet I was unusually struck by the cadenzas.

Bart did not repeat himself once and, modeling himself on the practice of an 18th-century woodwind player, he played each with only a single breath. If there are reasons for why he’s considered one of the world’s greatest, this is one of them.

However, his ability to improvise cadenzas on one breath wasn’t as impressive as the character in which played them, each one lasting seconds—not enough time for a soliloquy, but just enough to quip on the music that preceded it. His unpredictable commentary was often humorous, which led me to a conclusion.

Cadenzas aren’t just about invention, they are expressions of wit and humor.

I don’t think I’ve necessarily been conscious of this in the past, whether creating my own or listening to another musician’s, but I feel like a secret has been revealed.

Better late than never.

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