Passing of Kenneth Cooper

On March 13th Music@Menlo lost one of its most beloved musicians, harpsichordist Kenneth Cooper. Ken literally opened Music@Menlo with his performance of Couperin’s Concert Royal No. 4, with oboist Allan Vogel and cellist Colin Carr, pictured above in Music@Menlo’s first rehearsal in Stent Hall in 2003, the festival’s inaugural season.

Although a consummate scholar and authority on Baroque performance traditions, Ken was the polar opposite of a stereotypical musicologist. On the contrary, Ken was more interested in bringing the music he loved to life in an extremely contemporary way, and while his performances breathed authenticity, they always made his listeners feel that the music was being freshly created in front of them. In his hands, the harpsichord was pushed beyond its conventional sound world, becoming a true continuo instrument that supplied not only chordal accompaniments, but scintillating ornamentation (never the same twice), occasional risqué harmonies, startling percussive effects, and often thunderous sonorities created by Ken’s liberal application of all ten fingers when the spirit moved him.

And the spirit moved him often – we might say, all the time. Ken was one of the most alive musicians in every way, as a colleague, a performer, and as a teacher. We all learned from him and are the better for it, and his electrifying presence on our stages will be dearly missed.

–David Finckel and Wu Han

In tribute to Ken and with gratitude for his gifts to music, we offer his performance of Vivaldi’s La Pastorella (“The Shepherdess”), with violinist Barry Shiffman, oboist Allan Vogel, flutist Carol Wincenc, and cellist Colin Carr.