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Albert Fuller (Harpsichord)

Born: July 21, 1926 - Washington, D.C., USA
Died: September 22, 2007 - Manhattan, New York, USA

The American influential harpsichordist, conductor, teacher and author, Albert Fuller, studied organ with Paul Callaway at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where he was a boy soprano. He might easily have been drawn to opera, and spent months listening to the 1939 Tullio Serafin recording of the Verdi Requiem. He also said he was drawn to conga recordings early on, but his real passion was the keyboard. He attended classes at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities. He studied harpsichord with Ralph Kirkpatrick at Yale University and also theory there with Paul Hindemith, graduating with a M.Mus. in 1954. He then went to Paris on a Ditson fellowship.

Upon his return to the USA, Albert Fuller made his New York recital debut in 1957, and his European debut followed in 1959. He spent much of the next decade touring in Europe and the USA, and building an estimable discography that helped establish him as a colourful, imaginative performer. In the 1960's and 1970's, when the period-instrument revival was gathering force, he was one of several early-music specialists who helped build an audience for Baroque music in New York, training two generations of performers in the early music technique and interpretation. In the 1980's, he became interested in performances of 19th-century repertory using original instruments - fortepianos, as well as violins, violas and cellos using gut strings - and he regularly coached younger players in the art of historical performance.

In 1964 Albert Fuller became a professor of harpsichord at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. He simultaneously taught organ for 11 years. He also was on the faculty of Yale University from 1976 to 1979. In 1972, he founded the Aston Magna Foundation, which included an annual summer festival and institute in Great Barrington, Mass., and an ensemble, which he conducted from the harpsichord. He expanded the organization's mission in 1978, when he founded the Aston Magna Academies, a forum where musicians, scholars and aestheticians could exchange ideas. He broke with Aston Magna in 1983, when the foundationís board resisted his desire to delve into the 19th-century repertory. In 1985, he set up the Helicon Foundation, named after the mountain where Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory, conceived the Nine Muses. Like Aston Magna, the foundation spawned its own flexible ensemble, which covered everything from chamber music to works for orchestra and chorus, presented at concerts and symposiums.

French music, which he studied in Paris in the mid-1950's, was one of his specialties, and his recordings of music by Rameau are particularly well-regarded. But he was also a sensitive and eloquent interpreter of Bach, Häandel and Scarlatti, and his 1977 recording of Bachís Brandenburg Concertos, with his Aston Magna ensemble, the first American traversal of the set on period instruments, was for many years a high-water mark of the early music discography.

Like many early-music specialists, Albert Fuller devoted himself to producing authoritative editions of 17th-century works and to keeping track of musicological discoveries and developments. But he insisted that the performances informed by musicological study reflect something of a modern musicianís inner life. "The authenticity Iím interested in," he told The New York Times in 1989, ďis our contemporary sense of the reality of the past, and what the music we have inherited has to do with us today. I believe that music is a window into the unconscious, and the miracle of it is that it lets us get close to what Beethoven, Bach and Mozart were thinking." He was also the author of Alice Tully: An Intimate Portrait (1999) and translated Hugues Cuénod With a Nimble Voice: Conversations With François Hundry (1999).

Albert Fuller Albert Fuller died on September 22, 2007 at his home in Manhattan, age 81. The cause was complications of congestive heart failure, James Roe, the artistic director of the Helicon Foundation, said. No immediate family members survive.

Source: Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Juilliard Journal Online Website; NY Time Obituary (September 2007)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (December 2006, September 2007)

Albert Fuller: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works






BWV 508, BWV 509, BWV 517 [w/ tenor Hugues Cuénod]

Paul Boepple


BWV 232

Links to other Sites

Albert Fuller (Juilliard Journal Online)

Albert Fuller, Conductor and Champion of Early Music, Dies at 81 (NY Times)

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