Profile

Kenneth Slowik

Curator

D.M.A, Johns Hopkins University M.M., Roosevelt University B.M., Chicago Musical College

Research Specialties 
  • Musical performance practices of Western "art music," from about 1600 to 1925
  • Organology
Projects 

Current Projects: As of July 30, 2004,I have just completed plans for the 28th season of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society's (SCMS) Museum concerts (for the 2004–05 season), and will be presenting those fifteenlectures and concerts during the course of the upcoming year. I am currently editing a Mahler recording in which I conductd the Smithsonian Chamber Players, and am writing accompanying notes for it. Past Projects: In addition to participating in the twenty-seven previous seasons of the SCMS, I have appeared with SCMS ensembles in hundreds of concerts presented in over twelve countries and thirty states in the United States. I have made dozens of radio and television broadcasts, made over fifty recordings, and have edited a good deal of music. A sampling of these activities appears in the following section. In the past twelve months, I have given papers at two international museum conferences (in Vienna and Paris) presented a series of lectures at St. John's College, Santa Fe, and taught at chamber music workshops in Canada and England, and at Oberlin College.

Awards, Honors, and Special Recognition 

Several of my recordings have won awards, including the British Music Retailers' Award for Excellence, France's Diapason d'Or for Chamber Music, Germany's Alte Musik Actuell's Record of the Year, and numerous "Record of the Month" awards from review publications in the United States, the UK, Europe, and Japan.

Professional Affiliations 
  • Early Music America (past board member)
  • Chamber Music America
  • The American Bach Society (advisory board member)
  • The Leipzig Bach-Gesellschaft

Publications

Symphony No. 4 in G Major (arranged for chamber orchestra by Erwin Stein) and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen [Songs of a Wayfarer] (arranged for chamber orchestra by Arnold Schönberg), by Gustav Mahler (dir.). The Smithsonian Chamber Players and Santa Fe Pro Musica, with Christine Brandes, soprano, and Susan Platts, mezzo-soprano. Dorian DOR-90315, 2003.

CD recording of two major Mahler works in arrangements made for Schönberg’s Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen [Society for Private Musical Performances], about 1920. The performances prominently feature the quartet of Nicolo Amati instruments from the Museum’s collection, and are based on study of annotated scores (discussed in Slowik’s accompanying essay) used by Willem Mengelberg, Mahler’s principle champion from 1904 to 1940.

Verklärte Nacht by Arnold Schoenberg; Adagietto by Gustav Maher; Quartetto Serioso, Op. 95 by Ludwig van Beethoven, arranged for string orchestra by Gustav Mahler (dir.). The Smithsonian Chamber Players. BMG/deutsche harmonia mundi 05472-77374-2, 1996.

CD recording of three string orchestra works from around the turn of the twentieth century, performed by an ensemble on instruments strung with gut strings and played in a period-appropriate manner. The differences between this historically-informed approach, based in part on the recordings and scores of work of Willem Mengelberg, Mahler’s principle champion from 1904 to 1940 and modern practices, are discussed in Slowik’s accompanying essay. The disk includes brief excerpts from two historical recordings of the Adagietto (one by Mengelberg, one by Bruno Walter), and a reading of Schoenberg’s program notes for Verklärte Nacht read by Richard Hoffmann, the composer’s secretary during the last three years of his life in Los Angeles.

Quintets, Opp. 38, 39, & 40 by Georges Onslow (cellist). The Smithsonian Chamber Players and L’Archibudelli. SONY Vivarte SK 64308, 1995.

CD recording of three of the thirty-four string quintets of Georges Onslow (called by no less discriminating a critic than Hector Berlioz “our French Beethoven”), played on five Stradivarius instruments from the Smithsonian collection: the Ole Bull and Greffuhle violins, the Axelrod viola, and the Servais and Marylebone cellos. Slowik’s cello colleague is the legendary Dutch cellist, Anner Bylsma, who is joined by his L’Archibudelli colleague, violinist Vera Beths. Slowik’s accompanying essay discusses the three works, paying particular attention to Onslow’s autobiographical Op. 38 quintet, subtitled “The Bullet.”

Metamorphosen by Richard Strauss; Serenade and Elegy by Edward Elgar; Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber (dir.). The Smithsonian Chamber Players. BMG/deutsche harmonia mundi 05472-77343-2, 1995.

CD recording of four important string orchestra works from the half-century before the end of the Second World War, performed by an ensemble whose instruments are strung with gut strings, played in a period-appropriate manner. The differences between this historically informed approach and modern practices are highlighted in Slowik’s accompanying essay, which also discusses the works and provides analytical insights, illustrated in special additional tracks on the CD, into the harmonic/motivic metamorphoses referred to in the Strauss title.

Concerts Royaux and Pièces à deux clavecins by François Couperin (viola da gamba and harpsichord). The Smithsonian Chamber Players. BMG/deutsche harmonia mundi 05472-77327-2, 1994.

CD recording of works (discussed in Slowik’s accompanying essay) by François Couperin “le Grand,” one of the most important of French baroque composers. The recording features two harpsichords from the Smithsonian collection, one made in 1760 by Benoist Stehlin of Paris, the other a modern copy of an 18th-century harpsichord by Etienne Blanchet made on a commission from the Smithsonian by William Dowd of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Trio in E-flat Major, D929 and Sonatensatz, D28 by Franz Schubert (cellist). The Castle Trio. Virgin Classics CDC 7-59303-2, 1993.

CD recording of one half of Schubert’s output for piano trio, performed on period instruments by the Castle Trio. The Trio’s Grammy Award-winning pianist Lambert Orkis uses a copy of an 1824 Graf fortepiano made by Rod Regier, who has subsequently done extensive restoration work on the Smithsonian’s own Graf instrument. Slowik’s accompanying essay discusses the works and the last years of Schubert’s life.

The Complete Piano Trios of Ludwig van Beethoven (cellist). The Castle Trio. Vol. 1, Virgin Classics VC 7-91126-2, 1990; vol. 2, Virgin Classics VC 7-91442-2, 1991; vol. 3, Virgin Classics VC 7-59220-2, 1993; vol. 4, Smithsonian Collection of Recordings ND 036, 1989.

The first period-instrument CD recording of the complete Beethoven piano trios, played by the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society’s Castle Trio. The Trio’s Grammy Award-winning pianist Lambert Orkis uses five different fortepianos, illustrating the rapid development of the instrument during Beethoven’s lifetime, including one made by Conrad Graf (maker of Beethoven’s last piano) now in the Smithsonian collection. Slowik’s accompanying essays discuss the music, the instruments, and the Castle Trio’s approach to the works, which was influenced by Beethoven pupil Carl Czerny’s treatise, "On the Proper Performance of Beethoven’s Works for the Pianoforte."

Octet, Op. 20, by Felix Mendelssohn; Octet, Op. 17, by Neils Gade (cellist). Smithsonian Chamber Players and L’Archibudelli. SONY Vivarte SK 48307, 1992.

CD recording, played on eight Stradivarius instruments from the collections of the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress (including the Smithsonian’s Ole Bull and Greffuhle violins, the Axelrod viola, and the Servais and Marylebone cellos), of Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet, arguably the most important work of its kind in the string repertoire, paired with his pupil Neils Gade’s similarly scored but little-known masterpiece. John Newsom, Chief of the Music Division of the Library of Congress, where Mendelssohn’s autograph score to the Octet resides, has contributed an accompanying essay discussing the works.

String Quintets, Op. 11, Nos. 4–6 by Luigi Boccherini (cellist). The Smithsonian Chamber Players. BMG/deutsche harmonia mundi RD77159, 1991.

CD recording of three of Luigi Boccherini’s 126 string quintets, played on five Stradivarius instruments from the Smithsonian collection: the Ole Bull and Greffuhle violins, the Axelrod viola, and the Servais and Marylebone cellos. Slowik’s cellist colleague is the legendary Dutch cellist and Boccherini specialist, Anner Bylsma. The recording includes the famous A-major Menuet used in the soundtrack to the original film The Ladykillers. Slowik’s accompanying essay discusses Boccherini’s singular importance in non-Viennese Classical-period chamber music.

Quintet in C Major, D956 by Franz Schubert (cellist). Smithsonian Chamber Players and L’Archibudelli. SONY Vivarte SK 46669, 1991.

CD recording of the great cello quintet of Schubert, played on five Stradivarius instruments, including the Ole Bull and Greffuhle violins, the Axelrod viola, and the Servais and Marylebone cellos from the Smithsonian collection. Slowik’s cello colleague is the legendary Dutch cellist, Anner Bylsma, who is joined by his L’Archibudelli colleague violinist Vera Beths, soloists in the recording of the Schubert Rondo for solo violin and strings that rounds out this CD.

Pièces à deux violes of 1686 by Marin Marais (viola da gamba). The Smithsonian Chamber Players. BMG/deutsche harmonia mundi 77146-2-RC, 1990.

CD recording of Marais’s two suites for two bass viols and continuo. In his accompanying essay, Slowik discusses the suites in general and the fact that the opening of the Tombeau from the G Major suite later served Johanm Sebastian Bach as the model for the chorus which begins the St. Matthew Passion. Slowik’s Smithsonian Chamber Players colleagues on this disk are Jaap ter Linden, viola da gamba, and Konrad Junghänel, theorbo.

St. John Passion, BWV 245, by Johann Sebastian Bach (dir.). The Smithsonian Chamber Players and Smithsonian Chamber Chorus. Smithsonian Collection of Recordings ND0381, 1990.

CD recording of Bach’s dramatic narrative of the Passion According to St. John, played on period instruments and sung by a 12-voice chorus of soloists. The two discs can be programmed to allow listeners to compare the standard version of the work with the version Bach re-wrote for a 1725 performance. Slowik’s extensive accompanying essay has been cited as among the best of its kind for the detailed introduction it provides to the work’s history and structure.

String Quartets Op. 54, Nos. 1 & 2 by Joseph Haydn (cellist). The Smithson String Quartet. BMG/deutsche harmonia mundi 77106-2-RG, 1989.

CD recording of two great middle-period Haydn string quartets, played on period instruments by the Smithson String Quartet—Jaap Schroeder and Marilyn McDonald, violins; Judson Griffin, viola; and Kenneth Slowik, cello—resident artists of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society from 1982–1991. Slowik’s accompanying essay discusses the works and their dedicatee, Johann Tost.

The Twelve Trio Sonatas of Op. 3 by Arcangelo Corelli (cello). The Smithsonian Chamber Players. Smithsonian Collection of Recordings ND 035, 1989.

The first CD recording made on period instruments of the complete trio sonatas of Corelli’s Op. 3. Slowik’s Smithsonian Chamber Players colleagues are violinists Jaap Schroeder and Marilyn McDonald, theorbo player Konrad Junghänel, and organist James Weaver. In the accompanying essay, Slowik discusses Corelli’s widespread influence at the end of the seventeenth century and the history of the Op. 3 sonatas.

String Quartets, Op. 18, Nos. 1–6 by Ludwig van Beethoven (cellist). The Smithson String Quartet. BMG/deutsche harmonia mundi 77029-2-RC, 1988.

The first period-instrument CD recordings of Beethoven’s early Op. 18 quartets, the initial six of his eventual sixteen string quartets, performed by the Smithson String Quartet—Jaap Schroeder and Marilyn McDonald, violins; Judson Griffin, viola; and Kenneth Slowik, cello—resident artists of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society from 1982–1991. Slowik’s accompanying essay discusses the works and their relationship to the late quartets of Haydn and Mozart.

Adrien-François Servais, Souvenirs and Caprices (cello). The Smithsonian Chamber Players. EMI CDC 7-49009-2, 1988.

CD recording featuring famed Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma, with the Smithsonian Chamber Players, performing works of 19th-century Belgian cellist Adrien-François Servais on the very cello Servais used for the bulk of his career, the magnificent 1701 Stradivarius cello, known as the “Servais," from the Smithsonian’s collection. Servais’s career and acquisition of the cello are traced in Slowik’s accompanying essay.

Sonatas for Piano and Violoncello, Op. 5, Nos 1 & 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven (cellist, with James Weaver, fortepianist). Smithsonian Collection of Recordings ND 0323, 1988.

CD recording of the first two of Beethoven’s five sonatas for piano and violoncello. Slowik’s accompanying essay discusses the genesis of these works and cellist Jean Pierre Duport’s contributions to them.

Trio in G Minor, Op. 15 by Bedrich Smetana; Dumky Trio by Antonin Dvorák (cellist). The Castle Trio. Smithsonian Collection of Recordings ND 034, 1988.

CD recording of two major late-19th-century Czech piano trios, played by the Castle Trio on the Smithsonian’s 1892 “Paderewski” Steinway piano and “Marlebone” Stradivarius cello, plus an Andrea Guarneri violin. Slowik’s accompanying essay discusses the works and the performance practice approach taken in preparing the recording.

String Quartets Op. 77, Nos. 1 & 2 and Op. 103 (cellist). The Smithson String Quartet. EMI CDC 7-49003-2, 1988.

CD recording of the last three of Haydn’s sixty-eight string quartets, played on period instruments by the Smithson String Quartet—Jaap Schroeder and Marilyn McDonald, violins; Judson Griffin, viola; and Kenneth Slowik, cello—resident artists of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society from 1982–1991. Slowik’s accompanying essay discusses the works and their relationship to the Op. 18 quartets of Beethoven.