Poll

Bach-Vivaldi/Concerto for 4 Keyboards (say). Do you prefer it played on...

modern piano?
5 (27.8%)
harpsichord?
13 (72.2%)

Total Members Voted: 18

Author Topic: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)  (Read 1376 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline North Star

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 15993
  • Location: Kuopio, Finland
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #20 on: February 18, 2017, 08:06:12 AM »
Also worth considering:  the harpsichord has never been mass produced in the way that the piano has come to be, so the instrument makers have made any variety of instruments . . . at least one of my buddy Paul's instruments is quite easy for two chaps to carry about.  So that four harpsichords on stage plus a modest compliment of strings players will not necessarily require an enormous stage.
Yes, a lot less metal in those harpsichords.
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius

My photographs on Flickr

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 44819
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, Frescobaldi, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Chopin, Haydn, Henning
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #21 on: February 18, 2017, 08:21:58 AM »
Yes, a lot less metal in those harpsichords.

I know my back is grateful!
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline North Star

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 15993
  • Location: Kuopio, Finland
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #22 on: February 18, 2017, 09:08:30 AM »
I know my back is grateful!
You don't lift a grand piano with your back, though.
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius

My photographs on Flickr

Offline Florestan

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 13932
  • Mihai, King of Romania (1921 - 2017)
  • Location: Bucharest, Romania
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #23 on: February 18, 2017, 09:16:40 AM »
You don't lift a grand piano with your back, though.

Regele şi Patria!

Offline James

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1382
  • Currently Listening to:
    from JS Bach to Stockhausen
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #24 on: February 18, 2017, 09:24:07 AM »
I don't care for the piece in question, so it doesn't matter either way.
"The crowd is the gathering place of the weakest; true creation is a solitary act." - Bukowski

Offline North Star

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 15993
  • Location: Kuopio, Finland
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #25 on: February 18, 2017, 09:25:26 AM »
I don't care for the piece in question, so it doesn't matter either way.
Thanks for your contribution.
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius

My photographs on Flickr

Online Jeffrey Smith

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 10609
    • Flickr photostream
  • Location: Florida
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #26 on: February 18, 2017, 11:27:28 AM »
It is good to remember that for any composer of any era, choice of instrumentation is about availability, and is not always about some heartfelt preference or hard line aesthetic choice.

The reason Bach wrote these concerti for harpsichord is because it was the loudest available plinkety-plonk keyboard instrument of his dayhe infinitely preferred the clavichord, with its capacity to play dynamics.  The Clavichord, at its fullest, can barely be heard across a small and very quiet room.  It was not, then, out of love for the sound of the harpsichord that Bach wrote these concert works for it, but rather he had no choice of another instrument if the instrument was to be heard at all in a room.  If the old Thuringian had had pick-up bars and amplification, the harpsichord concerti may well have all ended up clavichord concerti, and along with that possibility, perhaps more of a dialogue of different musical material and other instruments, (not just strings) would have been part of their fabric. 

All the Bach harpsichord concerti have string ensemble accompaniments which are wholly obbligato / continuo-like, i.e. they are nothing but doubled support for the harmony of the keyboard part(s) without any additional or 'other' musical material (ergo "no dialogue" as later became usual and expected of the form).  With these Bach concerti, the strings are present to act only as a sustain cushion to counter the fast-decay sound production of the harpsichord (canny, that J.S.); likewise, longer-held trills on the instrument are not an ornament; they are a practical solution to sustain longer duration notes which would not sound enough after being played.  [While most of the concerti were written with the string parts appearing at the same time as the keyboard parts, it is known of the two harpsichord Concerto in C Major that Bach wrote the obbligato string parts later.]

Performances of these on contemporary pianos could, more than a little in theory, be done without the obbligato strings and suffer no loss of musical material; this is especially true when the concerto is for multiple keyboards, though we are so used to the combined texture, it may seem a bit odd.

They are all categorically still chamber music, dependent upon being played in smaller rooms, not vast halls, where they are performed (live, anyway) then being much of a consideration when it comes to the balance of number of strings w the solo keyboard(s) and the size of the room in which they are performed.  Recordings of these render all matters of hall size / audibility moot, of course.

To support your argument, pull out the set of Bach concertos performed by Moroney and others: it has performances of the four keyboard concerto done both with and without the strings.

The three and four keyboard concertos have been recorded with chamber organs as the solo instrument, by Vernet with Alain and others (on Ligia, may well be OOP).

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 44819
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, Frescobaldi, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Chopin, Haydn, Henning
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #27 on: February 18, 2017, 12:22:56 PM »
You don't lift a grand piano with your back, though.

I have never been guilty of that degree of folly 8)
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 44819
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, Frescobaldi, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Chopin, Haydn, Henning
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #28 on: February 18, 2017, 12:23:35 PM »
Thanks for your contribution.

I know I was hanging on the question of whether James cared.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline eljr

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 697
  • The problem with listening...
    • The ejlr "listening to" log.
  • Location: NYC
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #29 on: February 20, 2017, 07:05:47 AM »
I see no option for "it depends on my mood that day."  ;)
“You practice and you get better. It’s very simple.”
Philip Glass

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 44819
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, Frescobaldi, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Chopin, Haydn, Henning
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #30 on: February 20, 2017, 07:08:41 AM »
I see no option for "it depends on my mood that day."  ;)

You're already fitting right in!  8)
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline jochanaan

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 4702
    • Musician, Music Instructor and Piano Tuner
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #31 on: February 24, 2017, 11:21:16 AM »
If harpsichords are used, it is essential to use period strings, and no more than were usually present in Baroque times.  It is absurd to expect period harpsichords to project over sixty-plus modern strings! ::) For that matter, four modern pianos would find it hard to project above, say, the complete Berlin Philharmonic strings...
Imagination + discipline = creativity

Offline Ghost Sonata

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1007
  • "Because I could not stop for Death..."
  • Location: USA
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #32 on: February 24, 2017, 11:32:48 AM »
I have never been guilty of that degree of folly 8)

I have a friend who did, and survived, and who now carries the weight of that deed's reputation (inspired by the love of a woman, a modern dance teacher whose piano was the instrument in question).  It didn't work out, but her beautiful daughter now looks on him with awe...
I like Conor71's "I  like old Music" signature.

Offline ørfeo

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 5297
    • A musical diary
  • Location: Canberra, Australia
  • Currently Listening to:
    Whatever's listed in my blog.
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #33 on: February 28, 2017, 01:55:37 AM »
To be honest I've never done a direct comparison for this work - I only have it on harpsichords.

But I've become convinced by some other experiences that harpsichord is the way to go in orchestral music as a general principle. The balance and timbre makes a lot more sense when instruments are used that more closely resemble what the composer envisaged.

For solo keyboard music, by contrast, I still much prefer a modern piano.
I am now working on a discography of the works of Vagn Holmboe. Please visit and also contribute!

Offline JRJoseph

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 25
  • Location: NYC
  • Currently Listening to:
    Baroque to some modern
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #34 on: March 20, 2017, 02:32:23 PM »
The jangling of four harpsichords after five minutes drives me nuts.  I had a friend who would yell. shout and curse if he heard one harpsichord.  Again. I say it takes all kinds.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 44819
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, Frescobaldi, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Chopin, Haydn, Henning
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #35 on: March 20, 2017, 03:21:11 PM »


The jangling of four harpsichords after five minutes drives me nuts.

Good to know!  8)

Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Scion7

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2008
  • "A vér az élet."
  • Location: Borgó Pass
Re: Modern Piano or Harpsichord? :-)
« Reply #36 on: March 20, 2017, 03:54:42 PM »
The jangling of four harpsichords after five minutes drives me nuts.

A Clockwork Orange, part deux ... . . . .
Your barricades lie broken ... your enemies lord.

Buying Music From Amazon?
Please consider using these links. A small percentage of every sale using these links is passed on to GMG and helps keep this forum online.
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK