Monica Huggett, the Baroque violinist who has achieved something of rock-star status in the early-music world, has been appointed as artistic director of Juilliard’s new Historical Performance program. As the head of the program, which begins in the fall of 2009, Ms. Huggett will oversee a faculty of eight teachers, all of whom are considered leading experts in their fields, and lead a series of performances of period-instrument ensembles at Juilliard.
In announcing Ms. Huggett’s appointment last month, President Joseph W. Polisi said: “We feel enormously fortunate to have Monica Huggett as the artistic director of our new Historical Performance program. Monica brings to her new position a wealth of experience and creativity that ensures Juilliard’s new venture in historical performance studies will be grounded in a dedication to performance excellence and scholarly integrity. Along with her distinguished colleagues who make up the faculty of our new program, we look to Monica to create an environment at Juilliard that will allow the serious study of music from 1600 to the early 19th century to flourish throughout the institution.”
In addition to her role as artistic director, Ms. Huggett, who has been a central figure of the early-music scene in Europe and the United States for almost 30 years as a soloist, chamber musician, and educator, will teach studio lessons.
“I am absolutely thrilled by the invitation to be the artistic director of the new program,” Ms. Huggett said in an e-mail. “For me, the Juilliard name has always been synonymous with the highest standards of music performance, and the quality of teaching at Juilliard is legendary. My new position gives me the rare and wonderful opportunity to work with a level of raw talent that I would never find anywhere else.”
In its inaugural season, 12 to 14 instrumentalists will be enrolled in Historical Performance, a two-year, tuition-free program open to master’s degree and Graduate Diploma candidates and designed both for students with substantial experience in historically informed practice and for those who wish to develop new skills and ideas.
Students will take weekly lessons from one of the distinguished faculty members who have been chosen to join the fledgling program. They are Cynthia Roberts, violin and viola; Phoebe Carrai, cello; Robert Nairn, double bass/violone; Sandra Miller, flute; Gonzalo Ruiz, oboe; Dominic Teresi, bassoon; Kenneth Weiss, harpsichord; and violinist Robert Mealy, who will serve as chamber music coach. “With such outstanding musicians as faculty colleagues,” Ms. Huggett said, “I am so much looking forward to working with brilliantly gifted young players and helping them to develop into passionate, curious, and communicative musicians.”
Passionate and communicative performances are the very qualities for which Ms. Huggett is best known. Critics have consistently praised her combination of extraordinary technique, clarity of tone, and intuitive approach to the music.
Ms. Huggett, 55, was born in London, where she studied violin with Manoug Parikian at the Royal Academy of Music. It was there that she discovered her affinity for Baroque violin and period-instrument performance. Pursuing this passion led to her holding key posts with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, the Academy of Ancient Music, and the English Concert, as well as founding her own, widely praised London-based ensemble, Sonnerie. She is currently the artistic director of the Portland (Oregon) Baroque Orchestra and the Irish Baroque Orchestra, posts she will continue to hold while working at Juilliard, and performs frequently as a solo violinist around the world. Her discography, on many of the major labels, numbers in the hundreds. She is especially renowned for her performances and award-winning recordings of J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin and the Violin Sonatas of Heinrich Biber.
She shared her expertise on the Bach partitas and sonatas with Juilliard violinists in a master class at the School in February 2008. Reporting on that class for The Juilliard Journal, writer Ann Miller quoted Ms. Huggett as saying, “Sometimes I wish I had been Eric Clapton!” Ms. Miller then wrote, “Although Ms. Huggett was joking, the statement revealed her keen sense of humor and offered insights into her philosophy regarding the performance of Baroque music.”
Preparation for the Historical Performance program started in earnest about two years ago, as the School began to acquire the necessary period instruments. In addition to Juilliard’s 13 existing harpsichords, a fortepiano, and a selection of existing and newly refitted period string instruments, the School has purchased two new traverso flutes, oboes, bassoons, a new Baroque double bass, a second fortepiano, and a host of Baroque bows. These instruments are being built for the School by an international roster of instrument makers, all of whom supply leading soloists, ensembles, and conservatories with period instruments.
As a precursor to the program, in March 2008 the conductor and early-music specialist William Christie and members of his ensemble, Les Arts Florissants, were at Juilliard for the first of two weeklong residencies. This coming March, Mr. Christie and Les Arts Florissants are to return to Juilliard for part two of the residency, which will include a public master class on March 27 that will focus on the music of Handel. Earlier in the spring semester, on February 24, the viol player and conductor Jordi Savall will give a master class on Baroque solo and chamber music, featuring mostly cello. Both Mr. Christie and Mr. Savall have agreed to become regular guest teachers at Juilliard once the new Historical Performance program begins.
Asked what she anticipates bringing to the program, Ms. Huggett replied: “I think the unique thing I can bring is my passionate interest in the social and cultural context of music composition and performance in the Baroque era. I envision seminars on the everyday lives of the composers; on the relationships between composers and their patrons; and on the meaning of each manuscript: Is it an autograph manuscript? A copy from a later period? The first published version or a revised or edited version? Was it written for amateurs or did the composer write it for himself to play? How does the sound change with the winding of the string or with the length and curvature of the bow?, and so on. An in-depth understanding of these social and mechanical aspects of the music are the contextual keys to appropriate preparation for authentic performance of early music, and I look forward to incorporating these considerations into the development of the curriculum and into our teaching.”