This interview originally aired on January 15, 2020. We rebroadcast it on May 6, 2020.
Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
Whatever happened to cellist Ofra Harnoy? She made 42 recordings and was touring 10 months out of the year two decades ago. Then, she fell off the classical radar.
In talking with Ofra recently, she told me she took time off to raise two beautiful children and to care for her late mother who became ill with leukemia.
When Ofra was ready to return to her busy performing schedule, she discovered she had developed a serious shoulder injury that required major reconstructive surgery.
Then, something magical happened. She was reunited with her childhood sweetheart, Mike Herriott. Mike, to whom she's now married, is also a professional musician. And he played a very important role in Ofra's recovery.
"It was strange because after we got back together, I actually had the courage to start practicing again after the long recovery that I endured," Harnoy says. "I was starting basically with just two minutes a day, not knowing how long it would take me to regain my strength. But, within a few months, I realized, Oh, my goodness! I'm completely back and stronger than ever! And very excited to come back to my career.
Ofra Harnoy is reactivating her career with a new recording with her husband. It's called Back to Bach.
How did the two of you come to the conclusion that you wanted to make a recording together?
"One day, when I was in this stage of coming back to playing, he pulled out his trumpet and we took out some music and we said, 'Let's see what it feels like to play together.' And neither of us could believe the musical connection that we had. I mean, we think exactly the same musically. We breathe the same musically. And that was like, 'Wow. We need to do something with this.'
"I actually wanted to do some of the things that I'd recorded or played earlier on in my career, but I wanted to also do some Baroque music that I never had a chance to record or play. And we had all kinds of really interesting ideas, because Mike doesn't just play the trumpet. He plays all the brass instruments and double bass and piano. So, the things that I previously recorded with organ, he had the idea of making a brass choir.
"And then I had the idea that since all this multi-tracking stuff is available, why don't I do things like the Telemann duet and play both cello parts? I'd played each one in the past, but it's so exciting to be able to explore the interplay between the two instruments and actually be able to do that as one person.
"That led to other ideas as this evolved. I'd wake up in the middle of the night and have brilliant ideas of that beautiful choral piece, the Allegri 'Miserere.' How would that sound with cellos instead of voices?"
With the nine cellos featuring you on all nine cello parts, it creates this incredible fabric, almost as if you could just lay out on a cloud and have this sense of security and safety. Was that what you were hoping when you put it together?
"Definitely. That's a great way to describe it. I knew the piece really well as a choir piece. I'd listened to it for many, many years and found it so haunting and beautiful. I wasn't sure what the result would be, but I really did want to recreate all the different voices.
"What's amazing is we actually spent 12 hours a day for almost a month together in the studio, and we worked so well together. And obviously this 'Miserere' is testament to that because I am so thrilled with the result."
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.