Greta Kraus' Contribution To Canadian Music Essay

Greta Kraus' Contribution To Canadian Music Essay

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In Canada, Greta Kraus is the uncontested doyenne of the early-music revival in general, and harpsichord playing in particular, but her accomplishments go far beyond the baroque repertoire. She has coached Canadian singers not only in baroque oratorios but in romantic German opera and lieder, and twentieth-century works. The composer R. Murray Schafer studied with her, and so did the keyboard artists Douglas Bodle, Elizabeth Keenan, Patrick Wedd, and Valerie Weeks and the singers Elizabeth Benson Guy, Mary Morrison, Gary Relyea, Roxolana Roslak, and Teresa Stratas. Countless other musicians have come to her for advice, and few if any of them would accept Kraus's theory that her value to Canadian music would have been slighter had the competition been stronger when she arrived on these shores.
"What attracts everyone is her complete immersion in the music; she finds things that others search for but can't find," says soprano Lois Marshall. "She certainly has more of that ability than anyone else in this city and, I would venture to say, than anyone else in this country or in North America. Even a pianist of the stature of Murray Perahia hangs on Greta's every word."
Kraus's contribution to Canadian music was recognized in October, 1990, when she was appointed to the Order of Canada. Among all the award's recipients, past and present, she is almost certainly the only one who can say that she sang for Sigmund Freud: when she was in her teens, she and her older sister were once invited by a Freud disciple to serenade the master on his birthday. "We sang and played and had great fun, and only many years later did I learn from Ernest Jones's biography of him that Freud was tone-deaf," she says with a laugh.
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... to give a lecture-recital to the Bach Society. Less than a week before the concert, Kraus got a phone call: Pessl had had an emergency summons back to New York and was insisting that Kraus do the recital for her. "You must be out of your mind," Kraus recalls telling her. "I've never touched a harpsichord." But she finally agreed and after the harpsichord was delivered to her house, something extraordinary happened. After five hours' practice every day for a week "I realized that this was my instrument. I had always felt inhibited at the piano, because I had never really conquered the problem of using my arm weight properly, but at the harpsichord I felt no inhibitions: its technique involves only the fingers, and good fingers I always had." After the concert Kraus's only thought was to get a harpsichord for herself. "I even gave up smoking to make a down payment."

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