Another member joins the
harpsichordists’ century club
Virginia Pleasants, harpsichordist, clavichordist, and fortepianist, celebrates her 100th birthday on May 9, 2011. Born in Ohio, she attended Wittenberg University and completed her baccalaureate degree (with a major in piano) at the College-Conservatory of the University of Cincinnati. After private piano study in New York City, she won a first prize in the MacDowell Competition for Chamber Music.
Joining her husband, music critic Henry Pleasants, in Europe at the end of World War II, the couple lived in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany until settling in London in 1967. There Henry wrote music criticism for the International Herald-Tribune and Virginia served for twenty years as an adjunct lecturer at Cambridge University. Her frequent recitals of early music and her gift for keeping in touch with a wide circle of interested friends kept Virginia in the forefront of the British early musical scene. In turn she kept many, including readers of The Diapason, better informed about interesting happenings across the Atlantic. Pleasants’ discography includes four discs of Haydn Sonatas for The Haydn Society, and Quincy Porter’s Harpsichord Concerto, issued by Composers Recordings Incorporated.
Four years after the death of her husband in 2000, Virginia came “home” to Philadelphia. In 2002 she joined several friends in dedicatory festivities for Richard Kingston’s 300th harpsichord, playing music of Zipoli, Blow, Croft, Domenico Scarlatti, and Hungarian composer Tibor Serly. A longtime member of the Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society, Virginia gave a memorable lecture-recital on the fortepiano works of Philadelphia composer Alexander Reinagle for the Society’s 2007 conclave at the University of North Texas in Denton.
With her attainment of the century mark, Virginia Pleasants joins a select group of revival harpsichordists, including Marcelle de Lacour and Virginia Mackie. More research may be needed, but it seems that daily practicing, especially on a plucking instrument, might be considered beneficial for a long, as well as happy, life.
Comments and news items are always welcome. Address them to Dr. Larry Palmer, Division of Music, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275. E-mails to [email protected].