Music Before 1800 Announces 46th Season

Creative programming is anchored by four streamed hour-long concerts in the spring, and free online lectures.

NYC’s longest-running early music series Music Before 1800 has announced its 46th season. Forced to postpone and rethink its original plans, the series delivers a shorter, more local, and more varied season ahead. Starting in May, the series streams four hour-long concerts filmed primarily in Music Before 1800’s long-time home-base (and acoustically superb) Corpus Christi Church. The concerts will be professionally filmed and edited for streaming, and will be accompanied by a live post-concert Q&A. The series also presents three free online lectures starting early in 2021.


Streams @ 4PM
*Streaming with online live q&A

May 2 /// Diderot String Quartet
From Russia with Love: String Quartets for Catherine the Great

May 23 /// Aya Hamada
Portraits et Caractères: Couperin, Rameau, Duphly

Jun. 13 /// Peter Sykes
Byways and Backwaters: German Harpsichord Music Not by J. S. Bach

Jun. 27 /// Martin Bernstein & Justin Taylor
Plein Jeu

Free Online Lectures

Feb. 14 /// Louise Basbas with Henry Lee
Le nuove musiche: 45 Years of New Performances of Music Before 1800

Mar. 7 /// Tina Chancey
Machaut Meets Fairbanks: The Utterly Terrifying Art of Devising Early Music Silent Film Scores

Apr. 11 /// Susan Hellauer with Clifton Boyd
Jim Crow and Zip Coon: The Musical Invention and Persistence of American Blackface Characters 

TICKETS:   212-666-9266
Subscriptions and single tickets are available beginning in March, 2021. 

On May 2, Diderot String Quartet performs quartets by Anton Titz (1742-1811) and Haydn in their program From Russia with Love: String Quartets for Catherine the Great. On May 23  and June 13, harpsichordist Aya Hamada’s Portraits et Caractères: Couperin, Rameau, Duphly will be complemented by Peter SykesByways and Backwaters: German Harpsichord Music Not by J. S. Bach. On June 27 the season concludes with Martin Bernstein (recorder), and Justin Taylor (harpsichord), sharing music ranging from Louis Couperin and Jacques Boyvin to François Francœur and Jean-Baptiste Forqueray.

Starting in February, the series will offer three free online lectures. Music Before 1800 founder and director Louise Basbas will discuss the series’ 45-year history and the ever-evolving landscape of early music in NYC and beyond. Tina Chancey will take a deep dive into early music in silent film. Finally, in April, Susan Hellauer (a founding member of Anonymous 4) and music theorist Clifton Boyd examine the persistence of American blackface characters. 

Some upcoming plans relate directly to this season’s online lectures. In summer 2021, the series will cross the 1800 barrier with outdoor park concerts of vernacular and diverse American music, masterminded by Susan Hellauer, Jane Alden, and Henry Lee. Early in 2022, the series presents Tina Chancey’s Hesperus perform The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Lon Chaney, 1923) with a medieval live music “soundtrack.”

The immediate and long-range future will have familiar and new elements but will include both live and virtual components. For MB1800 that means the full spectrum of repertoire, beginning with medieval music. Louise Basbas especially looks forward to engaging wonderful artists whose events were recently cancelled: Machaut by the Czech Republic’s Tiburtina, Ockeghem by Boston’s Blue Heron, Christmas music from the Western Hemisphere by Houston’s Ars Lyrica, and Bach and forebears by Belgium’s Vox Luminis.

MB1800, a NYC institution, is the city’s longest-running (and first independent) series devoted exclusively to early music. Since the series’ inception, concerts have been presented at Corpus Christi Church in Morningside Heights, giving audiences a uniquely satisfying experience. Louise Basbas is the founder and director of the series. The New Yorker praised MB1800, calling it “the essential series” and “Gotham’s flagship early-music presenter.” Time Out New York remarked: “The resonant acoustics of Corpus Christi Church will deliver you into your own personal solitude…. Few other venues can claim this fusion of strong programming and quality auditory surroundings.”

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