Bach Keyboard Preference- Proof is Quite Surprising

Bach keyboard preference is the harpsichord

Bach Keyboard Preference- Proof is Quite Surprising. We will consider the harpsichord v. the clavichord. All kinds of keyboard falsehoods were spread in the 19th century. Inaccuracies affected keyboard virtuosos, piano teachers and, of course,  instrument builders.

During Bach’s later years,  a new style began brewing.The new style rebelled against counterpoint.  J.S. Bach’s son, Karl Philipp Emanuel, was in favor of change. He advocated the galant style. In music, galant refers to the style which was fashionable from the 1720’s to the 1770’s. The clavichord was well suited to the galant style. This movement featured return to simplicity. It advocated immediacy of appeal.  The style ignored the complexity of the late Baroque era. This meant simpler, more song-like melodies. The sweeter and quieter sound of the clavichord was suited to this style.  The style had decreased use of polyphony.  It favored short, periodic phrases. Harmonic vocabulary was quite limited. It emphasized the tonic and dominant triads. A clear distinction was made between soloist and accompaniment.

Bach Keyboard Preference Favors the Harpsichord

Bach keyboard preference
There is a world of difference between a harpsichord and a clavichord.

No matter how ingrained a style may seem, its life is limited. Of course, that rule applies to today: It holds for popular styles in America as well as the rest of the world. Consider this: In Baroque times  many composers wrote sweet or expressive music for the harpsichord. They included Rameau, Couperin and Frescobaldi. Titles, for example, included: Les Tendres Plaints, La Reine des Coeurs, Canzone, etc. However, Bach also composed music of force and fury. That was more suited to the harpsichord. The harpsichord was flexible. It could be either sweet sounding or furious,

Proof Positive of the Bach Keyboard Preference

After Bach’s death an actual inventory of musical instruments in his home was made.  In the realm of keyboard instruments he had: (1) Five harpsichords. (2) One spinet. (3) He even gave three-pedal harpsichords to Johann Christian before his death. In the inventory not even one clavichord is mentioned. The value of his harpsichords amounted to one-third the value of his entire estate. The entire estate was valued at 1122 rt. 16 gr. My source is Landowska on Music:Collected, edited and translated by Denise Restout assisted by Robert Hawkins. Conclusion: Every keyboard has a personality in the same manner as every person. Incidentally, I have a few openings for piano lessons in Sarasota.

Bach Keyboard Preference:picture of Wanda Landowska on DSOworks
Wanda Landowska

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