Verschenen: Johan Hofmann's eerste solo CD op zijn eigen label 'ENIGMA'.


Some thoughts on Enigma


Enigma - without questions, nothing new is to be expected


The productions of the Enigma label are born from a heartfelt curiosity and enthusiasm for the intimate relation both a composer and performing musician have with the instrument used to convey their art. A special focus is on the instrumental music of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. The recordings distinguish themselves in an uncompromising approach towards the instruments used and performance practice.


Nowadays a treasure of excellent and inspired recordings is available. In many performances however one sees an a-synchronicity, for example playing Monteverdi on a typical late eighteenth century violin. Or playing renaissance harpsichord music on late seventeenth instruments with enlarged compass, and an altered disposition and pitch. How musically convincing these recordings are indeed, Enigma feels the urge to view matters in the actual sequence of time in which art works were conceived. Key is the choice of instruments. 


The fact of the matter is that these went through many changes in the course of time and the final state of the instruments is sometimes far away from what it originally was. Irrespective of the type of instrument, in the course of time one sees fundamental changes in for example compass, stringing, intonation, tuning and volume. But these instruments in their original state where just those instruments on which for example composers like Frescobaldi or Couperin developed their art.


Enigma is re-examining established conventions in performance practice and choice of instrument. Musicians performing under the Enigma label always try to approach instruments in their original design, without later adaptations, constantly asking questions. And these experiences show that when one looks at the combination of instrument and composition in the right perspective in time, seemingly strange or difficult details suddenly make sense. And most interestingly it changes the musical end result. Not because the instruments in their original design are better or worse, but because they are different.


Music is like poetry. A composer’s mastery is in the syntax, punctuation, connotations of his writing. Especially in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, a composition takes place within a tight framework. Within this framework however, composers tried to explore all possibilities. The same goes for the instruments used.

Given the tools of the time both instruments and compositions were used and explored to (and over) the cutting edge. Always focussing on the larger scale of things, the architecture of a piece, but at the same time indulging in the elegance of details in music and instrument building. Enigma advocates the same approach in recording. It all starts with the combination of a thorough knowledge of the historically informed performance practice and intuition. In this way letting the instrument tell the performer how to convey his message in the most pure and convincing way. Foremost not for the sheer sake of musicology, but this approach is merely a means towards an end. And in the end it’s all about beauty.


Bert Kiewiet & Johan Hofmann