Bruce Dickey has been largely responsible for the modern revival of one of the most fascinating instruments in the Renaissance and Baroque instrumentarium. Now living in Bologna, where he is a member of the modern incarnation of the Renaissance wind band Concerto Palatino, he returns to Northeast Ohio this month to teach at Oberlin’s Baroque Performance Institute and play in Monteverdi’s ‘Vespers of 1610’. We interviewed him over coffee last December when he was in Cleveland to play the Praetorius Christmas Vespers with Apollo’s Fire.
Daniel Hathaway: What was your first encounter with the cornetto?
Bruce Dickey: I was an undergraduate at Indiana University when I discovered the recorder and I discovered a group there that was playing recorders, shawms, krummhorns. One of the other players in the group was Michael Lynn, who’s now at Oberlin — we were two members of the wind component of that ensemble, and we were sitting one day in the rehearsal room with all the instruments hanging in a cupboard, and he pointed at the cornetto and said “that’s your instrument”. And I said, “No, no, no.” I was a trumpet student at the time and I looked at that mouthpiece and said, “I don’t want to do that”. It took a couple of years before I came around. I did play a few pieces on the cornetto. I shudder to think that there are probably still tapes lurking in the music library there. And then I went off to Basel to study the recorder and I ordered a plastic cornetto from Christopher Monk and took it with me to Basel and started to take some lessons from Edward Tarr.