It was early in life that this passionate musician felt drawn to her parents’ piano—and today, she’s a frequently requested soloist, an enthusiastic continuo player, and a professor of harpsichord at the Institute of Early Music and Historical Performance Practice at the Anton Bruckner Private University of Upper Austria.
“…technique and lyricism of which only few are capable…” were the words chosen by the Spanish music magazine Scherzo to describe the exceptional harpsichordist Anne Marie Dragosits in 2017. Dragosits, a native of Tyrol, has made doing what she loves into a career: “It was out of pure passion that I concentrated on the harpsichord, without any belief that I’d actually have a realistic shot at living from it as a musician.” But nowadays, she travels the world as an oft-invited soloist and as a member of numerous ensembles such as the prizewinning formation “vivante”.
The myriad colours of the harpsichord, which she originally took up as a minor while studying recorder at the mdw, soon had her captivated—though Dragosits spent two years studying piano and recorder and even considered switching to voice. She ultimately decided to major in harpsichord instead, with her mentor at the mdw—Prof. Wolfgang Glüxam—having opened her ears to the numerous and rich facets of this captivating instrument. These days, she’s still very grateful for the experience that she gathered playing treble parts and singing. “The way I was spread out back then really benefits me today: especially in continuo playing, being well acquainted with all of the roles involved in chamber music is a huge plus.”
Advanced studies took her to Ton Koopman and Tini Mathot at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. “For me as a musician,” she explains, “it’s always been exhilarating and uplifting to step into a unfamiliar world—first going from Tyrol to Vienna, and later on from Vienna to The Hague.” It’s therefore no surprise that the opportunity to set out on hitherto untrodden paths is one of the things that fascinates her about early music. The amount of still-undiscovered repertoire and the abundance of themes that have yet to be fully researched excite her every bit as much as does her field of work’s stylistic diversity and improvisatory approach.
As a continuo player, I enjoy participating in different kinds of formations ranging from intimate chamber ensembles to large orchestras.
Anne Marie Dragosits
The fact that the harpsichord is still viewed as a non-dynamic instrument is something that, for Dragosits, doesn’t really compute. “Sure, its dynamic amplitude is less than that of the piano—but on a good instrument, you absolutely can produce clearly audible dynamic nuances simply by varying the attack. And by making use of articulation, phrasing, subtle timing tricks, and registration, we’re able to create all kinds of sounds—from delicate and sweet to wild and noisy.” The success of her solo programmes on original harpsichords located throughout Europe offer the clearest proof of these impressive instruments’ compelling liveliness. ”Particularly when it comes to dynamics and tone colour, these old instruments—some of which have been vibrating for centuries—can easily do things that I then try to coax out of replicas,” explains Dragosits. “The originals help you realise just how many colours are possible.”
Her love for period harpsichords can be heard on her numerous recordings. “In putting together my solo programmes, I take my inspiration from original harpsichords and their sounds, dig into the music’s context and style, and always look for some kind of concept.” All this is made clear by her latest CD, Le Clavecin Mythologique, which features French high baroque programme music about mythological figures and themes performed on an original harpsichord from 1787 by Pascal Taskin at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg. It’s at this museum that she’ll also be realising her next project: a recording on a German instrument built by Christian Zell in 1728.
This autumn—a bit later than planned due to COVID-19—will see the publication of her first book, the theme of which was central to her master’s degree thesis at the mdw and also the subject of her artistic doctorate, which she earned through the docARTES programme at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Her biography of Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger (1580–1651), an early baroque theorbist and composer, is being published in German by the Italian publisher Libreria Musicale Italiana (LIM). And Anne Marie Dragosits adds that she’ll soon be presenting her (in part quite surprising) research findings in workshops and lectures on Kapsperger and his diverse vocal music.
Back then in Vienna, the early music offerings were very thin. But that’s now changing in a big way!
Anne Marie Dragosits