By Sebastian Spreng, Visual Artist and Classical Music Writer
He comes to Miami directly from Basel and has nothing to do with Art Basel, but rather with a diametrically opposed and equally valuable art form. Since January, Argentine Pedro Memelsdorff has been at the helm of the famous Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, a music academy and research institution founded by Paul Sacher in 1933 that focuses on early music and historically informed performance.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1959 and a resident of Europe since 1977, the flutist, conductor, scholar and teacher is a major figure in that discipline. After longs stays in Bologna and Amsterdam, Memelsdorff has returned as director and conductor to the Swiss city (now linked to Miami by the December international art fair) where he first studied music.
In 1987, Memelsdorff founded Mala Punica (Latin for “pomegranate,” a symbol of mystery, fertility and discord), a group of international musicians that specializes in secular and sacred medieval polyphonic music; both ars nova and its counterpart, the intricate ars subtilior (subtle art), and in what he calls “the musical avant-garde of that period.” His long collaboration with figures of the stature of Jordi Savall and Andreas Staier also contributed to his rise to world-class prominence.
Memelsdorff is scheduled to conduct the ensemble – graced with no fewer than eight Diapasons d’Or from French music critics and boasting hundreds of international performances – on Monday, March 4, as part of the Miami Bach Society’s Tropical Baroque Music Festival XIV. The program, titled Italian Avant-Gardes Around 1400, celebrates the Italian theme of this year’s festival with works by Paolo da Firenze, Matteo da Perugia and Johannes Ciconia.
It’s unpredictable, emotional music, fascinating in its beauty as in its unearthly dissonances, dissonances in which tensions, conflicts and the originality of the dawn of the Renaissance come together. For Memelsdorff, an eminent performer, musical archeologist, industrious deconstructor and tireless researcher, “it’s neither chamber music nor solo music; it’s all one.”
Next Monday’s event is not to be missed by anyone who wants to discover, explore and enjoy music so old it proves amazingly fresh and, above all, modern.