Author Topic: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread  (Read 36567 times)

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Offline milk

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #20 on: January 19, 2012, 03:18:23 PM »
I'm sure I speak for all of the harpsichord fans on the board when I say that I'm thankful for the effort.
I was able to get a few of the files to download but not all of them. I liked what I heard. I'm not sure what the problem is - it may be something I'm doing
wrong. Anyway, thanks a lot. One way or another, I want to get a hold of this.

Offline (: premont :)

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #21 on: January 20, 2012, 01:44:47 AM »
So would you put Puyanas's French Partita (BWV 831), Walcha's English Suites, Kirkpatrick's Partitas  and the 1950s Goldbergs and AoF from  Leonhardt in the same category?

To some degree, but if I shall elaborate further, I need some time.
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Offline snyprrr

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #22 on: January 20, 2012, 09:40:37 AM »
I've got most things by Tiensuu, the Composer and performer, and Choinacka/Chojnacka (Maciek? ???), the two most distinguished players of the High Modernism.

Xenakis's chamber concerto L'Isle d'Goree may be the loveliest expression for this instrument in all of Modernism.
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Offline Geo Dude

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #23 on: January 20, 2012, 04:17:28 PM »
I've got most things by Tiensuu, the Composer and performer, and Choinacka/Chojnacka (Maciek? ???), the two most distinguished players of the High Modernism.

Xenakis's chamber concerto L'Isle d'Goree may be the loveliest expression for this instrument in all of Modernism.

I must admit that while I'm generally not a connoisseur of 20th century composers the idea of harpsichord works written by modernist composers is fascinating.  I'll make a point of looking up that Xenakis work on YouTube, or at least sampling it if that is not possible.  Any suggestions on recordings by the others you've mentioned that may be palatable to someone whose ears lean more toward 'traditional' tastes?

Offline Draško

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #24 on: January 20, 2012, 05:28:21 PM »
Jukka Tiensuu is Finnish composer and harpsichordist who recorded three colorfully titled CDs - The Fantastic, The Exuberant and The Frivolous Harpsichord which all mix modern and baroque harpsichord pieces. First two on Finlandia last on Ondine, shamefully all three out of print (but can be found on pirate downloading sites). They are superb way of getting into modern harpsichord repertoire.



http://www.amazon.com/Fantastic-Harpsichord-Corrette-Salvatore-Sciarrino/dp/B000009JRP
http://www.amazon.com/Jukka-Tiensuu-Exuberant-Harpsichord-Clavecin/dp/B000P3LEMA
http://www.amazon.com/Frivolous-Harpsichord-Salmenhaara-Franzpeter-Scarlatti/dp/B00000IYNZ

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Offline Que

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #25 on: January 21, 2012, 08:23:02 AM »
For that matter, while the harpsichord is usually tied in most minds to the baroque era, some early classical era material also employed the harpsichord -- Haydn keyboard sonata sets that many people have been enjoying lately come to mind.  Do any specialists have tips on classical era composers and recordings that employ the harpsichord?

Quite rightly CPE Bach has been recommended! :) I would seek out the concertos, particularly an older DHM recording of double concertos with Leonhardt and a brand new recording with the concertos Wq43 by Andreas Staier:




But there is more.... 8) I'll point out two sets by other composers that are particularly close to my heart. What they have in common is that both composers have a idiosyncratic style in which they  seek new ways with old means, which is typical of the period I guess. One set with clavichord music, possibly the most special clavichord recording I've ever come across, and one with harpsichord music.



My own comments from before:

Very nice, and it grows on me. Written in the "transitional" style, akin to Georg Benda & CPE Bach. Müthel's style is particularly willful, and I like that. The combination of the rather timid nature of the clavichord with such impulsive music, is an interesting touch in this respect. Van Delft gives it his best: propulsive and expressive. Another bonus: the clavichord is a notoriously difficult instrument to record, but that is a success here.

Samples HERE.

And a very beautiful and instructive essay (quoted partly) on this recording, the composer and the clavichord in general, by David Yearsly from Cornell University.

Quote
When snow blankets the ground the clavichord comes into its own. The world becomes quieter, or tries to, and this quietest of instruments finds its voice anew.

The clavichord demands great concentration of  listeners but rewards them with its unlimited dynamic shadings and expressive powers.  In this heightened state extraneous sounds come as a shock to the ear.  The clavichord is an instrument of introspection, but it can also be played for the enjoyment of a few listeners seated nearby; it requires a degree of stillness to which few people are accustomed.  J.S. Bach, who thought the clavichord was the most expressive of all instruments, “favored it for private musical entertainments.”  The most popular domestic keyboard instrument in 18th-century Germany, the clavichord could not compete with the flash and brilliance of the piano, which had largely displaced it in bourgeois homes by the early 19th century.

The clavichord is the most expressive of keyboard instruments and derives much of its beauty from the simplicity of its action — the mechanism for producing sound.  In contrast to the complex piano action with its array of levers, hammers, dampers, not to mention wippens, capstans and other exotic contrivances, the clavichord strikes the string in the most elegant and obvious way.  At one end the key is veneered in ebony, boxwood, bone or another traditional substance that is both beautiful to look at and hard enough to withstand the wear from years of fingertips against it.  Inside the instrument the key narrows to a thin strip on which is placed a small piece of brass — a tangent — that projects up from the end of the key about three-quarters of an inch.  When the finger depresses one end of the key the other end goes up, making the tangent strike the string.  At the hands of a skillful player, this simple action allows for minute dynamic shadings, abrupt accents, and even vibrato.

Johann Gottfried Müthel (1724-1788), the last of J. S. Bach’s students, was by all accounts a willful, melancholic genius and one of the greatest masters of the instrument.  Much of Müthel’s music, with its carefree passage work and ornaments that suddenly dissolve into reverie and pathos, would seem to bear out the scant biographical information that documents his moody character. Prone to introspection and even lassitude, Müthel produced a relatively small body of work.  An interesting recording of some of Müthel’s keyboard concertos and chamber works was made back in the 1990s by Music Alta Ripa of Hanover, Germany; the two CD-set gives you a sense not only of Müthel’s incredible dexterity of mind and hand, but of the elegant and often intense conversational mode that brings the keyboard into contact with other instruments in the bourgeois and noble drawing room where it was heard. One is amazed, even sometimes perplexed, at the frequent collision of the insouciant and the soul-searching that animates Müthel’s style.

No music reflects that pleasant paradox of art and nature so crucial to north German music of the 18th-century as much as Müthel’s. He was a musician, like so many others of his caliber, who apparently spent huge amounts of effort learning to act or play “naturally”; all should sound easy, but the level of detail and refinement is taken to such an extreme that things begin to sound like a critique of politeness: the manners are so refined they become almost scathing. The above-mentioned CD doesn't quite capture this manic decorum.

The finest recording of Müthel, indeed of clavichord music of any kind is that of the Dutch keyboard player Menno van Delft.   On this two CD set van Delft plays Müthel’s solo keyboard works, three sonatas and two sets of variations on a clavichord from Hamburg built in 1763 and now in the Russell Collection in Edinburgh; it is a sumptuously decorated instrument that was first bought by a wealthy Amsterdam family and was played on in their household by Mozart. Mozart also loved the clavichord, and doubtless loved this one, capable of such power and nuance, such bold outbursts and whispered asides.  Müthel’s music is fiendishly difficult both for its velocity and other acrobatics and for its hushed nuances. To hear van Delft make these demanding works his own is to begin to understand that Müthel at the perfect instrument is a unique musical experience: there is really nothing quite like it, and this recording is as impressive as it is moving.

In spite of his solitary nature, Müthel had many admirers and his music was disseminated even as far as London. The 18th-century traveler Charles Burney visited the most legendary of the clavichordists, C. P. E. Bach (J. S. Bach's second son), in Hamburg in 1772 and described a transcendent clavichord performance in his host’s house in which Bach’s “eyes were fixed, his under lip fell, and drops of effervescence distilled from his countenance.”
Burney did not make it far enough east to meet Müthel in Riga, but he ordered the German’s mighty duet in E-flat for two keyboards; the title page of this 1771 publication lists piano, harpsichord, or clavichord, but clearly the latter is the perfect instrument for the piece, especially since it calls for so much of the vibrato specific to the clavichord.  Burney performed the piece often for his winter concerts in London, describing it as his “big gun.”
At the final pages of the third volume of his European  travels published in the 1770s, Burney turned to a Müthel  inhabiting the farthest frontier of musical civilization:

"When a student upon the keyed instruments has vanquished all difficulties to be found in the lessons of Handel, Scarlatti, Schobert, Eckart and C.P.E. Bach; and, like Alexander lament that nothing more remains to conquer, I would recommend to him, as an exercise for patience and preservation, the compositions of Müthel; which are so full of novelty, taste, grace and contrivance, that I should not hesitate to rank them among the greatest productions of the present age. Extraordinary as are the genius and performance of this musician, he is but little known in Germany.”

It was difficult to get Müthel to play even for his circle of devotees, which included Johann Herder. He would relent only when “thickest snow covered the ground” of the Baltic city of Riga, where he spent his professional career. Only when the outside world was muffled could his innermost thoughts and feelings be expressed in the fullness of silence.  The clank and clatter of horseshoes on cobblestone were intolerable intrusions.

[...]

To play the clavichord is constantly to be reminded of what, on reflection, seems obvious:  that once the world was a much quieter place.  Müthel would have been happy for all this snow, but not snow blowers.


My second recommendation is a set with the complete solo harpsichord by Georg Anton (Jiří Antonín) Benda.

My previous comments:

Previous impressions are once again confirmed: very interesting music - which is getting more delightful now I've progressed to the really mature sonatas nos. 10-12 on disc 3, and really excellent performances - beautifully recorded. Bulgarian Sylvia Georgieva, musically educated in Prague, plays two double manual harpsichords: one after Johannes Ruckers (1624) and one after Michael Mietke (ca. 1710)


This is a 4CD set of the complete harpsichord sonatas.
           Click picture for samples at jpc

(tip: is used to be available cheaply at Berkshire Record Outlet)

Sorry for the long post! :o :)

Q
À chacun son goût.

Offline PaulSC

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #26 on: January 21, 2012, 08:58:08 AM »
On the contrary, THANK YOU for the long and informative post. I bough the Benda set on your recommendation sometime ago, so I will now give serious consideration to the Muthel!
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Offline PaulSC

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #27 on: January 21, 2012, 06:02:24 PM »
I've enjoyed following all this discussion of recordings of the six keyboard partitas. The only recordings I know well are the three I own: Suzuki, Parmentier, and Haugsand. I enjoy all three, but it's hard to sum up their virtues in brief descriptions. The appeal of the Suzuki set for me is partly the instrument he plays (with a wonderfully sinewy tone), and the energy and joy that his performances convey.

I've just placed an order for the Lars Ulrik Mortensen. I liked a lot of what I heard in previews, and I am a sucker for his bold use of the lute stop (also a feature of his Goldberg Variations). Verlet on naïve also sounds intriguing in the previews; the tuning of her instrument is significantly more pungent than others I've heard.

But back to this lute stop business. It's an instrumental color that I'm always delighted to hear, which prompts me to ask for recommendations of harpsichord recordings in which it is used to especially good effect. (A few that come to mind: Mortensen's Goldberg Variations, as noted above; Vartolo's Goldberg Variations; and a Scarlatti recital by Joseph Payne on Turnabout.)

Perhaps surprisingly, I've never been entirely happy with the lute harpsichord. There is something too squeaky-clean about the sound of Keith Hill's instruments in particular, based on what I've heard from Robert Hill and Lisa Crawford. I suspect I would get along better with John Paul's Bach series. But I wonder if fatigue would set in listening to such a distinctive sound; the lute stop has the advantage of being deployed more sparingly as a special coloration in the context of the harpsichord performance.

Finally, is this terminology correct?
- Lute stop or buff stop: applies a rail wrapped in leather or other material to the strings near the pin block to produce a muted lute-like tone
- Lute register: a set of strings activated by plectra made of leather or a similar material
- Nazard: the strings are plucked by a set of jacks positioned very close to the pin block

The nazard is easy to recognize, if not to love. It is heard for example in Andreas Staier's recording of Goldberg Variation 15. But I'm not sure I would recognize the difference between a lute stop and a lute register (assuming I've got the terminology straight above). 
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Offline PaulSC

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #28 on: January 21, 2012, 06:07:37 PM »
Ha! While I was busy writing that, you moderator with good intentions appears to have moved all the Bach partitas discussion to a Bach-specific thread.

But please keep my post here, because I didn't have that much to contribute to the Bach discussion and I'd really appreciate some responses to my lute-stop and related questions…
Musik ist ein unerschöpfliches Meer. — Joseph Riepel

Online Mandryka

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #29 on: January 21, 2012, 10:52:37 PM »
I must admit that while I'm generally not a connoisseur of 20th century composers the idea of harpsichord works written by modernist composers is fascinating.  I'll make a point of looking up that Xenakis work on YouTube, or at least sampling it if that is not possible.  Any suggestions on recordings by the others you've mentioned that may be palatable to someone whose ears lean more toward 'traditional' tastes?

Be sure to hear Landowska playing Poulenc's Concert Champetre
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #30 on: January 22, 2012, 03:15:57 AM »
Perhaps surprisingly, I've never been entirely happy with the lute harpsichord. There is something too squeaky-clean about the sound of Keith Hill's instruments in particular, based on what I've heard from Robert Hill and Lisa Crawford

Do you think of Elisabeth Farr?

Quote from: PaulSC
I suspect I would get along better with John Paul's Bach series. But I wonder if fatigue would set in listening to such a distinctive sound; the lute stop has the advantage of being deployed more sparingly as a special coloration in the context of the harpsichord performance.
I do not recommend the recordings of John Paul. Despite good intentions the result is questionable. The instrument he uses virtually emasculates the music. This may be acceptable in some of the French suites, but for the Partitas, the English suites and the French Ouverture Hill´s instruments would have been far superior.

Quote from: PaulSC
Finally, is this terminology correct?

- Lute stop or buff stop: applies a rail wrapped in leather or other material to the strings near the pin block to produce a muted lute-like tone
- Lute register: a set of strings activated by plectra made of leather or a similar material
- Nazard: the strings are plucked by a set of jacks positioned very close to the pin block
Yes.
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Offline Geo Dude

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #31 on: January 22, 2012, 05:07:30 AM »
I've just placed an order for the Lars Ulrik Mortensen. I liked a lot of what I heard in previews, and I am a sucker for his bold use of the lute stop (also a feature of his Goldberg Variations).

Where did you order the Mortensen?  I'm certainly interested in a player that makes good use of the lute stop.

Offline milk

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #32 on: January 22, 2012, 05:27:29 AM »
Where did you order the Mortensen?  I'm certainly interested in a player that makes good use of the lute stop.
His Buxtehude harpsichord cycle is fantastic.

Offline Geo Dude

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #33 on: January 22, 2012, 05:30:44 AM »
His Buxtehude harpsichord cycle is fantastic.

Based on the listening I've done on YouTube it is indeed fantastic.  Unfortunately, it's also out of print (or so it seems) which means I'll have to acquire it slowly.

EDIT:  Are you referring to the set on DaCapo or the set he is working on for Naxos?
« Last Edit: January 22, 2012, 05:33:16 AM by Geo Dude »

Offline milk

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #34 on: January 22, 2012, 05:32:09 AM »
Based on the listening I've done on YouTube it is indeed fantastic.  Unfortunately, it's also out of print (or so it seems) which means I'll have to acquire it slowly.
I think I got mine from itunes.

Offline Que

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #35 on: January 22, 2012, 05:38:22 AM »
Based on the listening I've done on YouTube it is indeed fantastic.  Unfortunately, it's also out of print (or so it seems) which means I'll have to acquire it slowly.

The DaCapo recordings have been reissued on Naxos:



PS there is a new kid on the block in the guise of a new complete set on Brilliant played by Simone Stella - haven't heard it.

Q
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Offline Geo Dude

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #36 on: January 22, 2012, 05:42:02 AM »
The DaCapo recordings have been reissued on Naxos:



PS there is a new kid on the block in the guise of a new complete set on Brilliant played by Simone Stella - haven't heard it.

Q

Wonderful!  I wasn't aware that that was a reissue.  I'm aware of the Stella and will probably be ordering that soon.

Offline Leo K.

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #37 on: January 22, 2012, 06:28:50 AM »
The DaCapo recordings have been reissued on Naxos:



PS there is a new kid on the block in the guise of a new complete set on Brilliant played by Simone Stella - haven't heard it.

Q

Thanks for the heads up on these!  8)

Offline (: premont :)

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #38 on: January 22, 2012, 09:59:52 AM »
So would you put Puyanas's French Partita (BWV 831), Walcha's English Suites, Kirkpatrick's Partitas  and the 1950s Goldbergs and AoF from  Leonhardt in the same category? I mean, I know they didn't record on instruments as colourful as Wolfe's and Landowska's. But in terms of articulation?


To begin with Wanda Landowska: I consider her an artist, who tried to adapt piano-aestetics to harpsichord-playing (a kind of reversed Glen Gould –  he tried to adapt harpsichord aestetics to piano-playing). She exerted great influence, and many harpsichordists in the 1950es and 1960es thought like her obviously of the piano, when they played (what they thought was) a harpsichord (f.i. George Malcolm, Frank Pelleg), and also the young Leonhardt. But considering the fact that his recordings  for Vanguard of the AoF and Goldbergs  were made in 1952, when he was about 24 years old, I would not expect him to have elaborated any individual Bach style yet. But already in the mid 50es he had in principle thought out his well known informed style and had begun to play period instruments or copies.
I do not know  much about  Puyana – but he was a pupil of Landowska as was Kirkpatrick. I think brilliance was his primary aim, and his sense of style limited.

Walcha and Kirkpatrick were both individualists, who created their own harpsichord style. Nor did they play on period harpsichords. Well, Walcha recorded the WTC for DG in the early 70es on period harpsichords, but his touch is an organists  touch, which has not much in common with period harpsichord touch (or Landowska´s touch for that matter).

Walchas point of departure was first and foremost  the score (and the fact that he was an organist not a pianist), and he invented his own Bach style, relative uninformed and rather litteral (true to the score) with his own system of articulation and using much 16F, as he was used to on the organ.  His changes of registration were few and aimed – like in his organ playing  –  at  the displaying of the overall structure of the work. He retired too early to think of changing his style (1977).but part of the picture is, that he maintained to the end of his life (1991) a critical attitude towards the HIP movement.  Elderly people often think they know better.

Kirkpatrick is in my opinion one of the first harpsichordists to create a playing style with the harpsichord as his point of departure. Other than that he was a relatively informed musician, and I do not hear many hints of Landowska in his playing.  His articulation was varied and sensitive for his age. He used much 16F, but his changes of registration were few and aimed like Walcha´s at the displaying  of  the musical structure, and not at piano-derived “expressivity”. 
« Last Edit: January 22, 2012, 01:04:26 PM by (: premont :) »
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Offline PaulSC

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Re: General Harpsichord and Clavichord Thread
« Reply #39 on: January 22, 2012, 10:16:30 AM »

Do you think of Elisabeth Farr?
Yes indeed, and I'm impressed that you figured this out in spite of my misremembering both her first and her last name!

Quote
I do not recommend the recordings of John Paul. Despite good intentions the result is questionable. The instrument he uses virtually emasculates the music. This may be acceptable in some of the French suites, but for the Partitas, the English suites and the French Ouverture Hill´s instruments would have been far superior.
Thanks. I haven't even spent much time previewing John Paul's recordings. It seems as if the lute harpsichord just isn't for me.
Musik ist ein unerschöpfliches Meer. — Joseph Riepel

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