Author Topic: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord  (Read 143319 times)

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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #20 on: April 29, 2007, 12:49:44 PM »
I thought that the very legato effects were the result of the clavichord having hammers that strike the strings rather than plectra of the harpsichord.  A harpsichord legato is a very different animal from the piano legato, but the clavichord is an instrument that has qualities of both, so I expected different tonal qualities. 

Even a clavichord has got a damping mechanism, which damps the sound of the string, when the key is released. And as far as we know, the normal touch on keyboard instruments in these days was non legato. So a clavichord player must take the action of his instrument into consideration when playing, in order to produce the effect of non-legato.
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Offline Bunny

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #21 on: April 29, 2007, 01:21:53 PM »
Even a clavichord has got a damping mechanism, which damps the sound of the string, when the key is released. And as far as we know, the normal touch on keyboard instruments in these days was non legato. So a clavichord player must take the action of his instrument into consideration when playing, in order to produce the effect of non-legato.


If the damping action works on a clavichord much as it works on a piano or harpsichord (the damper falls as soon as the key rises back after being depressed), then non legato (and I don't mean staccato) play would have been the easiest to accomplish as it would require no added motion.  The damper would fall as soon as the key rebounds.  To achieve legato play on the piano one keeps one key still depressed for a fraction of a second as the next is played so that the next note is played while the earlier one is still decaying.  That requires more effort than merely depressing the notes in sequence.  I'm not really sure what precisely is meant by the "normal" manner of play in the baroque period.  I think the musician would have used whatever techniques he could to exploit the full tonal range of his instrument, with more skilled players using more effects to greater advantage. 

Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #22 on: April 29, 2007, 02:44:05 PM »
The damping mechanism on the clavichord is different form the mechanism on the harpsichord and is a bit more difficult to explain (for me in english). This (from Wikepedia) may be helpful:

"In the clavichord strings run transversely from the hitchpin rail at the left-hand end to tuning pegs on the right. Towards the right end they pass over a curved wooden bridge. The action is simple, with the keys being levers with a small brass tangent at the far end. The strings, which are usually of brass, or else a combination of brass and iron, are usually arranged in pairs, like a lute or mandolin. When the key is pressed, the tangent strikes the strings above, causing them to sound in a similar fashion to the hammering technique on a guitar. Unlike in a piano action, the tangent does not rebound from the string; rather, it stays in contact with the string as long as the key is held, acting as both the nut and as the initiator of sound. The volume of the note can be changed by striking harder or softer, and the pitch can also be affected by varying the force of the tangent against the string (known as bebung). When the key is released, the tangent loses contact with the string and the vibration of the string is silenced by strips of damping cloth."

Non-legato even had a name (in German: Ordentliche Fortgehen), and was used when nothing else was specified, in the same way as the legato touch became the normal touch for piano playing in the course of the 19th century. In the baroque age the legato touch was most often used to bind small groups of notes together to stress the rhythm or as means of expression, but long periods of continuous legato playing was not used. The same is true of baroque organ touch. This is what much of the HIP movement is about.

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lukeottevanger

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #23 on: May 01, 2007, 05:26:03 AM »
Even a clavichord has got a damping mechanism, which damps the sound of the string, when the key is released. And as far as we know, the normal touch on keyboard instruments in these days was non legato. So a clavichord player must take the action of his instrument into consideration when playing, in order to produce the effect of non-legato.


The clavichord doesn't have a damping mechanism, nor does it have hammers - trust me, I've got one [a clavichord, that is, not a damping mechanism - you can hear my instrument playing my own compositions via links on my composer's thread, if you're brave enough ;D]. The easiest way to see its workings is by diagram-  let me try one - the dotted line represents the length of the string:

Pin--Cloth--------------------------------------------------------------Bridge-----Cloth----Tuning Pin


As you can see, only one end of the sounding length of the string is pre-defined (by the bridge); the other end is in its unplayed state muffled by the strip of light lint-like cloth through which all the strings pass. Therefore, the string, if plucked, produces only a relatively pitchless tone. The tangent (not hammer) which strikes the string near the left hand end therefore performs a dual function - to vibrate the string, thus creating the sound, but also to become one end of the string's sounding length. The fact that the point of impact is therefore right at the end of the string explains why a clavichord can only ever be a quiet instrument.

It should be noted also that the tangent is directly fixed to the end of the key and so, much more than a piano or harpsichord, where there is a mechanism in between, acts as a direct extension of the finger - if the finger shakes up and down, then so does the tangent, imparting vibrato (bebung) or even (though it's difficult to do) meaning one can bend the pitch of one not into an adjacent one, portamento-style. More importantly - the previous being only special effects and rarely used - the string will in theory continue to sound as long as the finger presses the key. In practice, however, the rate of decay is very fast and the sustain is therefore brief, which is why the clavichord can sometimes, especially in faster pieces, sound almost plucked.

No damping is required to prevent sympathetic vibration because, being only partially defined when unplayed, the strings will not vibrate. And no damping is required to stop the sound after the finger is released because as soon as the tangent leaves the string, the string reverts to its undefined state and stops ringing.


« Last Edit: May 01, 2007, 05:28:30 AM by lukeottevanger »

Offline Bunny

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #24 on: May 01, 2007, 07:21:20 AM »
Now that is a fine and lucid explanation!  Thanks, lukeottevanger

lukeottevanger

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #25 on: May 02, 2007, 01:39:33 AM »
Thank you, it was a pleasure. I suppose I should clarify that when Premont said the clavichord had a damping mechanism he was talking about the strip of cloth, and indeed, as I said it is that strip which causes the string to stop vibrating when the finger releases the key. My only quibble was that 1) it isn't a mechanism as such - the only mechanism on the instrument is the key+tangent itself; and 2) it is part of the string in its 'natural state', not an active agency which applies damping (as on the piano). But his description was accurate too, and it's really just playing with definitions to argue about what is a mechanism and what isn't!

Offline Bunny

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #26 on: May 02, 2007, 06:25:31 AM »
Yes, but I was trying to find dampers that rise and fall as on the piano or harpsichord and they don't exist on the clavichord.  Now the next thing I need to understand is the nature of the "tangent" which strikes the strings.  It's sometimes described as a metal hammer, but I'm not sure that is correct either. 

lukeottevanger

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #27 on: May 02, 2007, 06:29:03 AM »
No, it's simply a small metal rod which is inserted perpendicularly in the end of the shaft of the key. The protruding end, tapered to a blunt point, is what strikes the string.


lukeottevanger

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #28 on: May 02, 2007, 06:34:11 AM »
Here's a picture of my rather rough-looking clavichord. You can see the tangents sticking out of the ends of the keys; also the off-white strips of cloth at each end of the strings.

Offline Bunny

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #29 on: May 02, 2007, 06:52:45 AM »
Thanks for the picture.  Are you at all familiar with the instruments where the musician uses hammers held in the hands to strike the strings (such as the hammer dulcimer)?  They are generally descended from the zither.  I know that such instruments lack the sophistication of the clavichord, but I think perhaps the sound of such instruments will be very similar to that made by the clavichord.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2007, 06:56:13 AM by Bunny »

springrite

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #30 on: May 07, 2007, 09:51:46 AM »
Although I prefer my Bach on the piano, I do enjoy the occasional harpsichord recording and own quite a few that I like (have all the major works on harpsichord recordings). But I have to admit that, other than knowing that I dislike Landoska's super harpsichord sound, I am not good at distinguishing much differences between the playing and interpretation of different performers like I do the piano.

Online Que

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #31 on: August 07, 2007, 10:16:13 PM »
This recording of the Goldbergs is really superb and is a valuable addition to the ones I already have: Rousset (Decca), Frisch (Aplha), Ross (Warner/Erato).

Not to make your the lives of the non-European members miserable or anything: but this is an issue by the branch of Universal/Decca in Italy, where our Don picked it up. Available in Italy and at the French and German Amazons.

My first impressions, but I feel there is more to discover.
Having heard Dantone's recent WTC (Arts), this is quite different - not wild but a rather sober and contemplative approach with moderate tempi. This is emphasized by the choice of instrument: a copy of a harpsichord by Christian Zell made in Hamburg 1728, with a clear and very direct sound. Not nearly as rich as the instrument Rousset uses (a Parisian Hemsch from 1751). Dantone is sober, but also elegant and spicy in his firmly structured and crisp playing, prominent desynchronisation in the opening aria.


AUDIO CLIPS (low quality  :-\)

Q
« Last Edit: October 28, 2009, 01:44:18 PM by Que »
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Don

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #32 on: August 08, 2007, 11:58:41 AM »
Que:

What did you think of Dantone's repeats?

Online Que

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #33 on: August 09, 2007, 08:17:32 AM »
Que:

What did you think of Dantone's repeats?

Do you have the embellishments in mind?
No problem with that - makes it spicey and interesting. :)
He has a rather "free" style anyway.

Q
« Last Edit: August 09, 2007, 09:22:26 AM by Que »
À chacun son goût.

Online Que

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #34 on: September 03, 2007, 12:06:07 AM »
I am considering to purchase this recording that was made by Radio Canada.
Any comments & advice?



Q
À chacun son goût.

Offline stingo

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #35 on: September 03, 2007, 07:49:44 AM »
Pierre Hantai is a favorite of mine. His Opus 111 recording of the Goldbergs remains a favorite of mine (especially so since it was that disc that first presented the work to me). His Mirare recording is of similar quality.


Online Que

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #36 on: September 04, 2007, 09:56:26 PM »
Pierre Hantai is a favorite of mine. His Opus 111 recording of the Goldbergs remains a favorite of mine (especially so since it was that disc that first presented the work to me). His Mirare recording is of similar quality.


Both recordings are regarded highly, and I can understand why.
But in the past they didn't agree with me because of Hantaï rather idiosyncratic, willful style. Perhaps I should return to them - Dantone's recording (few pasts above) is also in a rather "free" style. :)

BTW do you know Hantaï's WTC Book I (also on Mirare) and what do you think of it?

Q
À chacun son goût.

Tancata

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #37 on: September 05, 2007, 03:15:57 AM »
BTW do you know Hantaï's WTC Book I (also on Mirare) and what do you think of it?

I have this and I like it a lot. But, it's in that same "wilfull" style you don't seem to like, so be careful...

Offline stingo

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #38 on: September 05, 2007, 08:12:49 AM »
Both recordings are regarded highly, and I can understand why.
But in the past they didn't agree with me because of Hantaï rather idiosyncratic, willful style. Perhaps I should return to them - Dantone's recording (few pasts above) is also in a rather "free" style. :)

BTW do you know Hantaï's WTC Book I (also on Mirare) and what do you think of it?

Q

I have it but haven't listened to it enough to form an opinion. Perhaps I'll rectify that soon.

Don

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Re: Bach on the harpsichord, lute-harpsichord, clavichord
« Reply #39 on: September 05, 2007, 09:26:31 AM »
Both recordings are regarded highly, and I can understand why.
But in the past they didn't agree with me because of Hantaï rather idiosyncratic, willful style. Perhaps I should return to them - Dantone's recording (few pasts above) is also in a rather "free" style. :)

BTW do you know Hantaï's WTC Book I (also on Mirare) and what do you think of it?

Q

I find Hantai's first recording of the Goldbergs very exuberant and youthful; the more recent one on Mirare is quite different - exhibits greater maturity and poignancy.  Both are among my favorites.

I also have Hantai's WTC Bk. 1 and don't care for it as much as his two Goldbergs.  Specifically, I don't like the "wet" sonics that can submerge the upper voices.  I should point out that I haven't listened to this set at all in the past couple of years; maybe I'd change my opinion if I heard it again.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2007, 09:31:02 AM by Don »

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