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The Making of “Baroque Marvels”

By Julia Bogorad-Kogan

This week is the first of our new Creative Lead concerts, in which a member of the orchestra curates the music on a program and leads the week of rehearsals. Principal Flute Julia Bogorad-Kogan is the first of these creative leads, and we asked her to share her thoughts.

Would I curate a concert, they asked me. Curate a concert? This was a new concept for me. I knew about curating at a museum; I have a good friend who was a curator at the National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C. I looked up what it means to curate: “to select, organize, and look after a group of items; to collect.”

So what do I like to collect? I made a “collection” of my favorite flute music, which I recorded, along with bassoon and harpsichord, on an album called Handel Flute Sonatas. These beautiful pieces are just a sampling of the thousands of gems written for the flute in the baroque era, from around 1600 to 1750. In fact, this period was considered a “Golden Age” for the flute. But I didn’t want my collection to focus on just me. I had at my disposal the formidable talents of my colleagues in The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra! I vowed to find inventive and virtuosic music that would show them off—music for small groups of musicians, or chamber music—which was designed to fit in a palace chamber or a large room. I found a cornucopia of such works by the great masters of the Baroque period, written for a great variety of instruments: flutes, oboes, trumpets, violins. I imagined the great masters such as J.S. Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann, with their powdered wigs, waistcoats and knee breeches, in the employ of the kings and dukes who presided over those palace chambers. They produced some splendid chamber music, some of which I incorporated into my collection.

But wait—were these composers all men? I did some more digging. In fact, we’re now rediscovering some previously overlooked women composers who wrote in the courts, in convents, and as freelancers, who wrote some of the greatest music you’ve probably never heard.

Take Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, the first woman to compose opera in France, and Isabella Leonarda, whose musical talent was compared to the military prowess of Emperor Leopold I. I added some of their music to my collection.

You can hear the resulting program, Baroque Marvels, on this weekend’s concerts.

As a preview, here is some of the flute music by the Baroque composer Georg Frideric Handel, which I recorded on my album: