Wen Yang © Tatiana Daubek
Wen Yang
© Tatiana Daubek
As part of Baroque Month, Bachtrack has been quizzing leading Baroque ensembles around the globe about the challenges of running a period instrument ensemble and how to build new audiences for their work. We also ask for some Baroque recommendations to introduce new listeners and which lesser-known composer they think deserves greater notice.

New York Baroque Incorporated (NYBI) is a conductorless orchestra of young players on period instruments in New York City, bringing vital, informed, and fresh performances of a wide range of 17th and 18th century repertoire, and creating a vibrant landscape for collaborations between historical performance and living composers. Since its creation, NYBI has received critical praise for its energy, virtuosity and entrepreneurship, and was lauded by The New York Times for its "do-it-yourself spirit.” Wen Yang, executive director of NYBI, took time to answer our questions. 

1. What is one of the main challenges of running a period ensemble today?

For us in New York City, the biggest challenge we face is that the market for early music is still relatively small. With the big number of European period-instrument ensembles that come through the city each season, there is relatively little space left for the major presenters and venues to present local groups. As a result, most early music groups in New York self-present concerts in smaller venues, which requires more marketing and advertising effort.

2. How do you bring in new audiences?

Early music is actually very diverse, as much as contemporary music. I believe there is more than one audience for early music, and people come to love it once they hear it. NYBI reaches out to different audiences by playing in unconventional venues such as bars and clubs. This is also a great opportunity for younger music lovers to check us out. Collaborations with living composers and artists from other field such as dance and drama is also a great way to bring new audiences.

New York Baroque Incorporated © Matthew Murphy
New York Baroque Incorporated
© Matthew Murphy

3. What piece would you recommend to introduce listeners to Baroque music?

Chances are everyone has heard plenty of Baroque music in their lives without even noticing it, in mundane settings like hotel lobbies and elevators. Part of NYBI’s effort is to re-introduce familiar Baroque repertoire such as Vivaldi concertos and Bach Brandenburg concertos with a “fresh” historically inspired sound on period instruments. I would also recommend listeners to check out Dario Castello’s Sonata Decimaquarta, Libro 2. It tells them all about the mentality of the Baroque: dramatic, fantastical and innovative. Also, anything written by Corelli!

4. Which lesser-known Baroque composer would you like to hear performed more often and why?

Johann David Heinichen, whose work is enjoying a resurgence of popularity in recent years. He worked for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen, who later appointed J.S. Bach Kapellmeister. His compositions are equally enjoyable to his better-known contemporaries. I hope audiences will get to hear his music more.

New York Baroque Incorporated © Matthew Murphy
New York Baroque Incorporated
© Matthew Murphy

5. What is your musical guilty pleasure? (For example, “when I’m not performing/listening to Heinrich Biber, I’m actually listening to Justin Bieber…”)

When I’m not listening to classical music, I find Radiohead, Björk, Sufjan Stevens, and Feist are often played on my Spotify.

6. Which section of the ensemble is first to the bar?

The violin section, but only because it takes them the least amount of time to pack up! 

7. What are your top five Baroque works?

 

Rameau’s Les Boréades:

 

Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (Dido's Lament):

 

Corelli’s 12 Violin Sonatas Op.5:

 

Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (Winter):

 

Bach’s Mass in B Minor:

 

Many thanks to Wen Yang for her responses.