Baroque opera, orchestral & ensemble director, imaginative continuo-player, Early Harp virtuoso, specialist in baroque gesture & Historical Action, investigator of Flow, Andrew Lawrence-King is the doyen of historical harping, one of the world’s leading performers of Early Music, and an internationally renowned scholar.
His pioneering recordings of Trabaci, Ribayaz, Handel and Carolan re-established the lost worlds of Italian, Spanish, Anglo-Welsh & Irish baroque harps; as co-director of Tragicomedia and director of The Harp Consort, he led a revolution in improvisation & continuo-playing; his research into Tactus has redefined our understanding of baroque rhythm; as guest director, he inspires musicians around the world to reach new levels of technical precision and stylish historicity with fun, energy and passion.
Andrew has directed at La Scala, Milan & Sydney Opera House and won Russia's highest theatrical award, the Golden Mask (2012) for Cavalieri’s 'Anima & Corpo'. His direction of Handel’s 'Orlando' (2019) won the Russian Eugene Onegin Award and has been nominated for another Golden Mask. During his long collaboration with Jordi Savall, he has won a Grammy (best ensemble 2011), the Spanish Premio de la Música in duet (2010) & trio (2011), and Australia’s Helpmann Award in duet (2013) & ensemble (2018). His recording of 'Earthly Angels' with soprano Kajsa Dahlbäck was YLE, the Finnish broadcasting company’s CD of the year (2018).
2017 saw the premieres of Andrew Lawrence-King’s first two operatic compositions: 'Kalevala: the Opera', setting the Finnish national epic to ancient traditional melodies; and 'Arianna a la recherche', a remake of Monteverdi’s lost 1608 masterpiece from Rinucini’s libretto and the surviving musical fragment, the famous Lamento. Andrew’s latest recording traces the roots of favourite Christmas carols from the Finnish 'Piae Cantiones' (1582) with the Helsinki Utopia Choir, released on Jordi Savall’s AliaVox Diversa label (2019).
From 2010-2015, Dr Lawrence-King was Senior Visiting Research Fellow for the Australian Centre for the History of Emotions. He is Professor of Early Harp and Continuo at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London and Director of Opera Omnia, Academy for Early Opera & Dance, Institute at Moscow State Theatre 'Natalya Sats'. He is currently working on an English translation of 'Il Corago', the anonymous c1630 guide for baroque opera directors. Inspired by 'Peter & the Wolf' and the 'Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra', his latest operatic composition, 'The Play of Music & Time: an Explorer’s Guide to Early Opera' will be premiered in 2020.
Andrew Lawrence-King directs The Harp Consort, combining state-of-the art early music performance with stylish improvisation & entertaining stage presentation; Il Corago, the production team for historical staging of early opera; the International Baroque Opera Studio and Opera Omnia Moscow.
Andrew's hobbies include marathon running, sailing, kayaking, fencing (modern epée & historical rapier) and Tai Chi. He is a qualified hypnotist.
I love your special way of playing old music.
I have all your CDs.
Your music is grounding and inspiration at the same time.
Now I feel like doing it myself.
Is it possible to buy a medieval harp?
Which harp do you recommend for a beginner? I am from Germany.
I look forward to your answer.
Thank you for your kind words. Of course you should buy a medieval harp and start to play! I’ve sent you an email with some suggestions. All best wishes, Andrew
Dear Mr. King,
recently I’ve discovered the CD ‘Luz Y Norte’. I really like the music and the performance and I enjoy listening to it.
I would love to sing the song “So ell encina” with my amateur choir. I did find a score for it on the internet, but this one differs from the beautiful version on your CD.
Can you tell me where I can find or buy it? Or is it possible to use your version?
with kind regards, Kirsten van Os (the Netherlands)
Dear Kirsten, Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you are enjoying “Luz y Norte”.
The song “So ell encina” has a renaissance text, but the melody is by 20th-century rock-legend John Paul Jones, and the arrangement for solo voice & continuo is mine.
I don’t think JPJ has published his version, and my copyright deal allows me to perform it myself with The Harp Consort or as a guest director, but I am otherwise not allowed to supply scores to other people.
All best wishes from Tallinn,
Dear Mr Andrew Lawrence King,
My name is Edith Oberson, I’m a french harpist and I’m working on the historical harp strings colours. Sylvia Crawford gave me your name thinking you could help me more. I haven’t find your email so here I am writing on your blog. If you have time, I can explain you more by mail the subject of my research. Thank you in advanced answering me on my email.
Dear Edith Oberson,
You didn’t supply your email, so I can only answer you here. You can find my email contacts from my website http://www.MusicTime.ee
I look forward to hearing from you!
I would like to know if it’s possible to order your translation of il corago ? Do you any knowledges about percussions on stage or dances in italian opéra of 17th century (like in France)?
Il Corago will appear one day, but I still have quite a long way to go!
Your question about on-stage percussion is very interesting, and the short answer is that I don’t have much information. But a starting-point would be the use of musicians “on stage”, in the sense of “being visible to the audience” in Monteverdi’s ‘Orfeo’, and [contrariwise] the use of the violin-band out of sight to create ‘sound effects’ in Combattimento.
The whole question of percussion needs a lot more investigation. Right now, most of us performers are caught between vague suggestions of wide-spread use of un-notated percussion (on one side) and narrow/minimal specific indications (on the other side). A lot of what sounds good to us in modern-day performance rests on an uncertain foundation of historical evidence, some of it is contradicted by the small amount of evidence we do have. Payment records can settle the question for orchestral players, but the idea that dancers might have played opens up a whole other world of possibilities. And, starting at the very beginning, we know that a dancing singer played tambourine in the 1589 Intermedi Ballo di gran Duca.
Much more needs to be done, and I suspect that some brave new work might already be going on, in this area. Let’s look for it…
I would like to know if it’s possible to order your translation of il corago ?
Thank you so much for your blogs – as a conductor, singer and teacher I find them hugely useful.
I’m studying choral conducting and am wondering how to approach Monteverdi’s use of fermatas (say, in the ‘Beatus Vir’) from a tactus point of view?
Thank you for your comment and your kind words.
My reply would be that Monteverdi’s fermata show that something is ending. They do not imply any disruption to the Tactus. They do not imply that the note in question should be held extra long.
A good example is Orfeo (1609 print) Act IV chorus “Pietade” where most of the 6 staves (5 voices plus BC) have a fermata, but the 1st tenor and BC have no fermata, rather a custos: these two parts continue, everyone else stops. It would make no sense for Tactus to be altered for some voices and not for others: it would not make sense for the other voices to hold their last note extra long whilst the 1st tenor tried to continue with his solo!
This use of fermata has continued from the medieval/renaissance meaning of the symbol as Signum Congruentiae, the sign of coming together in a consonance, i.e. the end of a phrase. In renaissance polyphony, I consider that passages of several notes, all with ‘fermata’ signs are NOT in free tempo. Rather the repeated signs show the singers that every note is a consonance, i.e. that the voices are (exceptionally) moving in homophony.
For Monteverdi’s fermatas at the end of phrases, I usually tell singers: this semicircle and dot sign tells you that the note is written long like this semicircle, but is sung short like this dot!
“Last note short” is one of my of-repeated coaching instructions: modern singers have a tendency to hold last notes long as a default. But the last note is nearly always a Bad Syllable, and finishing it early gives time to breathe and be on time with the beginning of the next phrase.
If one is singing polyphony from part-books, with Tactus, but without a score-wielding conductor, then this sign is useful (in that it helps you understand that you and your colleagues should have reached the end of a phrase simultaneously), but does not allow you to mess around with timing without causing a train-wreck. Most modern interpretations of fermata as “pause” rely on a conductor and/or on everyone having a score: neither of those practices are historical.
Gracias!!! Que linda explicacion. Abrazos.
Hello! My name is Vladislav Shavrov. I’m a student of Academy if Choral art in Moscow, bariton. Say me please, how can I study in “Opera Omnia”, and develop my skills? Do you have some kind of education for young singers? Besides, I adore baroque music. Thanks for you responding!
We just finished Baroque Opera Studio, and we will have further events during the winter season. Watch the Opera Omnia Facebook page for details.
See you soon, I hope!
Long time since we met at your wonderful concert in Berlin (French Church), if you remember?
I had some questions about 17th-century harp images by Rembrandt and De Geyn, and about Dutch harpists in Holland at that time.
How can U contact you?
Hoping to hear,
Bob van Asperen
Dear Mr. King,
Thank you ever so much for your divine music. It is some of the most beautiful I have ever heard.
I am a composer/inventor/woodwind artist. I have recently invented an instrument, The Infinitone, which won last year’s Guthman New Musical Instrument Competition. It a saxophone-like instrument that I designed to be able to play in any imaginable tuning system.
Tuning systems are my area of primary exploration. I heard your Secret of the Semitone album, and am in awe of its wondrous beauty. Firstly because of your performance, but also the temperament helps tremendously when compared to other modern renditions. Can you please tell me which temperament you have used? Thank you for your music and help!!!
Dear Subhraag Singh,
Thank you for your message, the information about your fascinating Infinitone project, and your kind words.
For “Secret of the Semitones”, I used a modified meantone temperament, part of the extended family described by the period term “temperament ordinaire”. The particular recipe, facilitated by the stringing of the harp with two extra ‘black notes’ per octave, was quarter-comma meantone for the white notes, also for C# Eb F# Bb. The extra strings of the harp provided also correctly tuned meantone D# and A#. G#/Ab was tempered, right in the middle between the two correct meantone enharmonics. This gave a large number of correctly tuned intervals, with “half a wolf” either side of G#/Ab (considering fifths/fourths and also thirds either side of this particular note).
There are other ways to apply the ordinaire principle, but the basic idea is that you tune a lot of meantone, and temper just a few black notes. On instruments with only 5 black notes, I often use an ordinaire with G#/Ab and D#/Eb both tempered, depending on the music to be played. One can also quickly adjust one or two black notes per octave, between Suites (each suite being all in one tonality).
Within Early Music, as you know, there is a lot of debate about temperament, dominated by keyboard players. See the Facebook “Anti Vallotti” page, for example. I care about temperament, but I feel that some of the debate is too narrow (let’s focus on music, not tuning!) and much of it seems to me mis-directed. For me, the crucial underlying question is not “how shall I tune my harpsichord” [most likely, you’ll have to make some comprimises since most music exceeds the possibilities of a standard keyboard), but rather “what is this culture’s aesthetic of tuning”.
Too often, the mid-baroque change from quarter-comma meantone (and ordinaire, etc) to sixth-comma and circulating temperaments is viewed only through the lens of increasing use of remote tonalities. This confines the argument to keyboards, and avoids the wider question: if you had enough keys and strings, what would your *ideal* temperament be? What is the ideal that singers and violins (for example) should strive for? Sometimes, keyboard players even try to force singers and violins into the straitjacket of their out-of-tune circulating temperaments: this is manifestly absurd and (thankfully) is ruled out in period sources.
My hunch (research and evidence are needed) is that there was an aesthetic change, in which the softly tempered major third of sixth-comma came to be preferred to the stark clarity of quarter-comma, in which the melodic smoothness of sixth-comma triumphed over the jagged contrasts of quarter-comma. This is an artistic subtlety which could be meaningful to singers and string-players. And (as a bonus) it also helped keyboard players by opening up the gateway to circulating temperaments.
This distinction, between aesthetic choices and clavicentric compromises, is clearer when we look at the (as yet, incompletely understood) change circa 1500 from Pythagorean to Meantone. Late medieval “pythagorean” usually had pure fifths for the white notes and Bb, but pure thirds for C# and F#. This creates an amazing sonority, with uncomprisingly pure chords in some places (e.g. D major) and shatteringly out-on-tune thirds in others (e.g. C major). The change to meantone seems to indicate an aesthetic change favouring pure thirds (i.e. good-sounding triads) over anything else: the purity of bare fifths, even linear smoothness are sacrificed on the altar of the triad. It’s not about accessing a greater number of tonalities, it’s about getting a greater number of good-sounding triads in the same number of tonalities. Here the message for singers and gambists is clear: abandon your medieval love of fifths, and embrace the major third!
I guess you have already ploughed through Vincenzo Galilei, as he struggles to reconcile the demands of melodic and harmonic intervals. Again, his awareness of melody seems to point to an aesthetic sensitivity missing from today’s keyboard-players’ discussions, which focus almost exclusively on the harmonic implications of temperament.
What do you think?
Glorious Cavalieri in Durham last night: congratulations!