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The keys to history

Harpsichord musician to perform at UAlbany

— “It’s a historical instrument, but very much a living instrument,” he said. The Beatles used a harpsichord, and even modern acts like Vampire Weekend have worked it into songs, he said.

UAlbany is extremely fortunate to have a pair of excellent harpsichords, a French model and an Italian model, Schulenberg said. Although they were made in the 1960s, they are replicas of historic harpsichords, and Schulenberg is excited to play them.

He’ll give the crowd some background on the instruments, but he said he’s not planning a lecture.

“People are coming to hear music, not to hear me talk,” he said. “People don’t hear harpsichord music everyday.”

With that in mind, he’s planning a wide variety of music that cuts across 400 years. There will be a piece by the 16th-century English Renaissance composer William Byrd, one from about 1615 by Girolamo Frescobaldi that represents the beginning of the Baroque style in Italy, and two sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti from roughly a century later. Schulenberg will also perform the Italian Concerto by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Bach has been one of the focal points of Schulenberg’s career. He is considered one of the country’s leading experts on the Bach family, and “The Keyboard Music of J.S. Bach” is among the books he’s written. He said that when he hears a piece of modern music, he often thinks, “Well, that’s interesting, but how did Bach play it, or his contemporaries?”

Exploring that question is essentially the cornerstone of his teaching work. He said while looking at music while considering the tempo, instruments and other factors that influenced earlier generations, “you come up with ideas you would never get otherwise.”

When he’s not teaching, Schulenberg does spend a fair amount of time playing the harpsichord and other historic keyboard instruments. He and his wife, Mary Oleskiewicz, an international performer on the Baroque flute, play as a duo. Oleskiewicz teaches at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Although he maintains an apartment in New York City, Schulenberg also has a place in Boston with his wife. He called the arrangement “the best of both worlds.”

Adding Albany to his mix of cities only sweetens the pot, he said.

Tickets for Schulenberg’s show are $8 for the public and $4 for students, seniors and UAlbany faculty/staff and may be purchased through the Performing Arts Center Box Office. For more information, call the box office at 442-3997.

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