The Global Search for Education: Bard Musicians Keep Music Vibrant During the Pandemic
This month on the Planet Classroom Network, audiences can screen musicians from Bard College Conservatory of Music, Isabela Cruz-Vespa, Tobias Timofeyev and Oleg Timofeyev — the Korona Konsort — synchronously perform the first movement of a Telemann Trio Sonata in A minor.
In this musical cover, the artists capture Georg Philipp’s unique composition. Their outside performance in what seems to be pajama pants and formal tops beautifully conveys the isolation many of us have had to endure with the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet, it won’t stop great musicians from playing marvelous pieces of work.
The Global Search for Education is pleased to welcome the Korona Konsort — Isabela Cruz-Vespa, Tobias Timofeyev and Oleg Timofeyev.
Your performance is lovely. How have you dealt with the fact that you couldn’t perform in front of a live audience during the pandemic? There is of course playing for online audiences but how would you compare the two experiences?
As musicians, all three of us had experience performing. Our ensemble, however, only came into being when, in March 2020, we suddenly found ourselves stuck in quarantine together. That is cut off from other people, caught in a strange new reality full of masks, Zoom meetings, and sourdough starters. Since Oleg is an expert on historically informed performance, we decided to use the time to explore Baroque music together. Not only was this a learning opportunity for Isabela and Tobias, but it also ended up being a great deal of fun. Spontaneously, we decided to make a video for the many other people who were having similar experiences. Live performance with an audience in a concert hall was no longer possible. But we connected to our audience through a different shared experience: that of the pandemic and quarantine, which millions of people suddenly had in common. As such we decided to call ourselves the Korona Konsort. While we hoped that viewers would enjoy the music we played in our videos, we also knew that they would understand the playful allusions to the moment in history we all found ourselves in.
It’s been amazing for audiences to watch musicians and artists all over the world even performing in their bedrooms. Does this have anything to do with the clothes you chose to wear?
Yes, absolutely. Musicians were performing in their bedrooms, as were lecturers, students, and anyone else who had to work from home. Many people’s work life was stuck in the video frame, which gave rise to topoi such as the one of the “Zoom shirt.” Our use of the pyjama pants is a variant of this. Another effect of this was that our world shrank to the size of your dwelling, which at the same time became more public than before. In addition to the video where we play the Telemann, we made several others that each featured a different corner of the domestic space in which we were stuck — turning our garage, our living room, and our kitchen into performance spaces. Naturally, we kept the signature dress-code of the Korona Konsort throughout all these videos.
Can you speak a little about the Telemann composition you perform. What do you think makes this piece of music so special? What kind of compositions inspire you?
Georg Phillip Telemann was a great master of ensemble music. In addition to interesting harmonies and engaging counterpoint, he really understood the dramatic potential of several (for example, three) instruments. This is why we found this Andante a wonderful playground for showing how our musical personalities can converse with each other, and how our three musical lines can be woven together in imaginative ways. We are especially interested in lesser–known pieces from various time periods and countries. Currently we are working on a new video featuring a selection of pieces by Isabella Leonarda, the first female composer known to publish sonatas.
Where do you see music performance going in the next 1- 15 years? What are your hopes and dreams for your music in the future?
As far as our vision of the future is concerned, there is little doubt these days that eventually the virus will be under control, if not completely gone from our existence. But the world will not return exactly to the pre-COVID state — some of the tendencies and art forms from the time of the Grand Pandemic are likely to stick around. For example, people had not realized before how much can be accomplished via Skype and Zoom, without physical contact. A lot of activities are likely to stay online. With this in mind, the Korona Konsort hopes to continue producing videos, experimenting with this art form, and exploring neglected repertoires.
C.M. Rubin with Oleg Timofeyev, Isabela Cruz-Vespa, and Tobias Timofeyev
Don’t miss Isabela Cruz-Vespa, Tobias Timofeyev, and Oleg Timofeyev — the Korona Konsort — perform the first movement of a Telemann Trio Sonata in A minor on Planet Classroom.