Harpsichordist Nickolai Sheikov gave the first of a new series of concerts Sunday afternoon, October 18, at First Church, Boston, in the intimate acoustic space of the auditorium. The Bulgarian-born harpsichordist, studying with John Gibbons, recently completed his master’s degree at New England Conservatory. Sheikov was playing on a splendid Hubbard French double harpsichord supplied for this series of Sunday afternoon concerts by Hendrik Broekman from Hubbard Harpsichords.
Sheikov presented a very appealing program. Beginning with one of 2009 birthday boy Henry Purcell’s suites, he attached a short and sweet Ground ( a musical piece comparable to a chaconne) from another Zimmerman Purcell catalog number. It’s also the Handel year, and he played very well a major suite from 1720. The first half of this recital ended with the four duets from the Art of Fugue, strange and wondrous pieces from the late J. S. Bach.
Sheikov favors certain composers from the 17th and 18th centuries: Bach and Scarlatti, of course, but also Frescobaldi and Louis Couperin, uncle of the more famous François Couperin from the prominent French family of keyboardists. The second half of the recital focused on some of these. Particularly noteworthy was the performer’s improvisational way with Frescobaldi. It’s unusual to hear Louis Couperin these days, well represented by the Suite in d minor. Sheikov ended with one Scarlatti sonata, the a minor K. 54.
This new series is unusual in having an initial corporate sponsor, Hubbard Harpsichords, located in Framingham. Hendrik Broekman and Paul Cienniwa will be playing the remaining harpsichord recitals. Audrey Cienniwa will offer some Bach cello suites next month. The countertenor Raphaël Pongy will be heard in April next year and, in June, string quartets of Haydn and Mozart.
Sheikov is an excellent harpsichordist, but it would be good if occasionally smiled.