"Explorations in Synesthesia" - A Pairing of Harpsichord Music & Fine Wines

Monday, December 7, 2015 - 5:30pm
Joe Gascho, Harpsichordist, & Don Winkler, Wine Reviewer

Aberfoyle Baroque pushed new boundaries at its Soirée, “Explorations in Synesthesia”, on November 28, 2015. 

This was a serious, yet light-hearted, evening devoted to the “sensory pairing” of harpsichord music and fine wines.  Joe Gascho, harpsichordist and Professor at University of Michigan, and Don Winkler, wine reviewer and publisher of the International Wine Review, had worked together for some weeks prior to the event to identify and pair selections of music and wine.  The result was an unusual and delightful evening in which guests enjoyed exploring the depths of their auditory-gustatory synesthesia.

Joe Gascho displayed amazing musical versatility in performing a highly diverse program of pieces written for the harpsichord.  These ranged from William Byrd’s Pavan and Galliard in C (composed early 1600’s), to Jacques Duphly’s La Forqueray (composed mid 1700’s), to Takemitsu’s “Rain Dreaming” (composed 1986).   The selection of paired wines was similarly diverse, ranging from a South African Chenin Blanc, to a Californian Cuvée Brut 20, to an Italian Amaraone.   Joe and Don began each music-wine pairing with a brief explanation of the characteristics and sensory attributes of the music and wine, and the factors that led them to select that particular pairing.   While listening to each music selection, guests tasted the paired wine and, once the music was over, shared their perspectives on the pairing.

The evening ended on a high note with Don bringing out a wine which Joe had not tasted previously.  This was Spanish Oloroso Dulce Sherry, reputedly one of the world’s most complex wines.  Joe was asked to sample the Sherry together with the guests and then perform an improvisatory piece of music off-the-cuff.  His improvisation was hauntingly beautiful, utilizing the harpsichord’s buff stop and relying on momentary silences to draw out the instrument's full range and partials.  The improvisation paired marvelously with the silky smooth, deep complexity of the sherry.  

The Pairings:

Harpsichord Composition


Small Plate Serving

D. Scarlatti

Sonata in G minor, “Burlesca” K450


Gougéres with olives

T. Takemitsu

“Rain Dreaming”

Chenin Blanc (South Africa)

Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette & fresh thyme

J.S. Bach

French Suite No. 5 in G: Allemande, Sarabande, Gavotte

Sonoma Russian River Valley Champagne

Caviar on fingerling potatoes with sour cream

J. D’Anglebert

Suite No. 4 in D: Allemande, Sarabande, Gigue

Pinot Noir

Chicken satay with peanut dipping sauce

G.F. Handel

Passacaglia from Keyboard Suite No. 5 in G minor

Brunello di Montalcino

Wild mushroom risotto

J. Duphly

La Forqueray

Amarone della Valpolicella

Braised short rib with creamy mashed potatoes

W. Byrd

Pavan & Galliard in C

Riesling Ice Wine

Apple tart

Improvisation by Joseph Gascho

Oloroso Dulce Sherry

Orange and Almond Cake

Bleu & Manchego Cheeses