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Elaine Comparone (Harpsichord)

Born: Lawrence, Massachusetts, USA

The American harpsichordist, Elaine Comparone, was born into a family of musicians, and began piano studies at age four with her mother. As a child she played violin, flute (with her father as teacher), and pipe organ; but it was not until her student years at Brandeis University that she discovered and fell in love with the harpsichord. Her success with that instrument resulted in a Fulbright Fellowship to study with harpsichordist Isolde Ahlgrimm at the Academy of Music in Vienna.

Since her acclaimed New York recital debut as a Concert Artists Guild award winner, Elaine Comparone has maintained a multi-faceted career as soloist with orchestra and on the recital stage, chamber musician, recording artist, impresaria, choral director, teacher, arranger, and collaborator with choreographers, poets, and video artists. "Elaine Comparone Plays Red-Blooded Harpsichord" headlined The New York Times review of her debut and Pulitzer Prize-winner Donal Henahan called her a "harpsichordist with few equals"(The New York Times).

A recipient of Solo Recitalist and Recording Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, she has given solo recitals at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Merkin Hall, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie, 92nd Street YW-YMHA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dayton Art Institute, and the Library of Congress, to name a few. She has enjoyed guest appearances with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York Virtuosi Chamber Symphony, New York Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, and Stuttgarter Kammerorchester among others. Her collaboration with the New York Virtuosi included an annual series and residency at Columbia University's Miller Theatre. In October, 1993, she stepped in at the last minute to replace the harpsichordist of the all-woman Vivaldi Orchestra of Moscow for its first American tour and debut at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. Since 1974, when she won an unprecedented grant for the purchase of a van from the Rockefeller Fund for Music, she has taken her harpsichords to performances in every state of the continental USA as soloist, artist -in-residence, and founder/member of The Queen's Chamber Band, Trio Bell,Arte, and Bach with Pluck!.

As founder/director of Harpsichord Unlimited, a non-profit organization dedicated to stimulating interest in the harpsichord and teaching audiences about the instrument, its history, and its music, Elaine Comparone directs and performs in an annual series of chamber music concerts in New York City. The series features The Queen's Chamber Band, whose performances of early music and newly commissioned works at Merkin Hall and St. Peter's Church at CitiCorp Center celebrate Harpsichord Unlimited's 20th Anniversary this season (2006-2007).

Her avid interest in contemporary music has led to collaborations with many distinguished composers. 27 years after composing his First Harpsichord Sonata, Vincent Persichetti heard Elaine Comparone play and began to write again for the harpsichord, dedicating his Second and Third Harpsichord Sonatas to her. Lester Trimble composed his Harpsichord Concerto for her with a grant from the Rockefeller Fund for Music. In 1993, she traveled to Bratislava to record William Thomas McKinley's Fantasia con Variazioni with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra as part of an archival American music project. Robert Baksa's Fantasy Partita and Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings augment the list of major works she has inspired. For her eighth CD, she recorded Stephen Kemp's Harpsichord Concerto with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gerard Schwarz.

Among her recordings are Harpsichord Sonatas by Persichetti and Scarlatti (Laurel Record); Bach With Pluck!, Volumes I and II (ESSAY): The Entertainer: Rags and Marches by Scott Joplin and The Bueckeburg Bach (Premier); and, Viva l,Italia (4TAY). With Chilean video artist Juan Downey, she made a ground-breaking interactive video disc, "Bach's Fugue in B minor" for Voyager. Her performances of fugues in Downey's award-winning documentary J.S. Bach has been broadcast on PBS-TV nationwide.

Elaine Comparone enjoys standing at the harpsichord to play. She cites Vermeer paintings as an inspiration along with the fact that she is a member of the rock-and-roll generation. Under her direction, Hubbard Harpsichords, Inc. designed and built the tall, oak stand that elevates the instrument. Dubbed "the Brooklyn Bridge" by Hubbard technicians, the tall stand accommodates either her Hubbard or her Dowd harpsichord.

Source: Harpsichord Unlimited Website (Author: Gerry Kaplan, September 2004)
Contributed by
Teddy Kaufman (December 2006)

Elaine Comparone: Short Biography | The Queen's Chamber Band | Recordings of Vocal Works | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Elaine Comparone - Harpsichord, Director (Harpsichord Unlimited)


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