Interview with Michael Borgstede

What is your personal background and how did you come to play the harpsichord?

In Germany – unlike in France, for example – it is unfortunately very rare for children to begin their musical education with the harpsichord. It was no different with me: so I first played modern piano, then started with the organ, but fell in love with the sound of the harpsichord at an early age. It must have been in primary school when I walked around the world with an old Walkman and listened to a recording of the Goldberg Variations with Kenneth Gilbert until the cassette was broken. I immediately fell in love with the sound of this instrument. And that’s how it has remained to this day. I listen to a wide variety of music, from Gregorian to hip hop, but my favourite instrument has remained the harpsichord.

Did you know Rolle’s works beforehand?

I must confess that I knew Johann Heinrich Rolle by name, but had never really looked at his music before. That was clearly a mistake. The two concertos we have now recorded are simply fantastic music. Tremendously stirring and very intense and touching in the slow movements.

What is special about these works, what distinguishes them?

Rolle is not only very well versed in composition, he is also a musical chameleon: he can of course do Baroque counterpoint, but he can also do Sturm und Drang and then he hovers again between gallantry and early classical music. He simply has a style all of his own. When you hear these pieces, you really don’t understand why the name Rolle is not to be found a little more often in concert programmes today.

What also makes working with Kölner Akademie special?

There are moments of happiness in chamber music when you hardly have to exchange a word with your chamber music partners during rehearsals and still understand each other. With the Kölner Akademie it was like that right from the start. Of course, they are all top instrumentalists and the playing level is very high. But that is not enough. You have to have a common musical idea and that was immediately the case with Michael as well as with the ensemble. I was sometimes amazed myself at how the orchestra instinctively understood every musical gesture I made, no matter whether I had played it completely differently the last time or whether I took spontaneous rhythmic liberties. This makes playing together a lot of fun and – I’m almost certain – you will be able to hear that.