Master class

Kenneth Gilbert, harpsichord and organ

Private music lessons

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Kenneth Gilbert — Teacher, harpsichordist, organist

Olivier Baumont — Harpsichordist, organist (student)

Olivier Bernager — A collection proposed by

François Manceaux — A collection by

Program notes

In this masterclass, Kenneth Gilbert renews acquaintance with a former student who has since become an established performer, Olivier Baumont. There follows a fascinating dialogue focusing on both the harpsichord and the organ, two instruments which the Canadian artist plays with the same skill.

Two men, Kenneth Gilbert, in his prime, slow of speech and sure of himself, and Olivier Baumont, a younger artist, tousled and profound, are sitting at a period harpsichord discussing Couperin, Bach, and Froberger. The master gives his point of view in a soft, steady voice. It is in his character to say things from an objective distance: his approach is at once encyclopaedic and practical. He is as familiar with the nuances of language as with those of music. And so a large part of this "lesson" focuses on a remarkable notion, difficult to pin down: good taste, the bon goût repeatedly mentioned in the commentaries of Couperin. How should we interpret something that already eluded his contemporaries? How can we, with our knowledge of today, however exhaustive it may be, find that golden mean which the most refined composers of the "Grand siècle", men like Couperin, Marais, D'Anglebert, fixed as their ultimate goal? The answer lies in the subtle details of interpretation: the speed of a trill, the turn of a phrase, a particular ornament.

The beauty of this film is to make us sense the relativity of things. Wisely, its subject implies that we must be prudent in taking what history had bequeathed us. Modestly, je acknowledges: "There is no Kenneth Gilbert School... But maybe there is an attitude that consists in seeking a personal interaction with the works, of course within the bounds of style, of good taste." What a contrast with the rigid image that has too often been associated with the pioneers of the Baroque revival of the 1980s!

Private music lessons: twelve hugely influential programmes broadcast by French television between 1987 and 1991. The guiding principle for Olivier Bernager and François Manceaux was to capture the art of the leading performers of our time, live in concert but also and above all in a teaching environment.

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