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Are there Clavichord lovers here?

Discussion in 'The Piano' started by MindenBlues, Aug 28, 2007.

  1. MindenBlues

    MindenBlues New Member Piano Society Artist

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    A statement from J.S.Bach brought my attention to the clavichord. I have read that among all keyboards it was the clavichord he loved the most and used to play it at night.

    So I checked about the features and advantages a clavichord has. It is so that it has not only large dynamic capabilities, moreover due to it's construction, it allows for applying pitch changes while pressing the key, so a vibrato through finger pressure is possible. Kind of "aftertouch" some digital keyboards have. So that is an advantage no church organ or other piano or other keyboards have.

    The drawback is that it is a very, very soft sounding instrument. But that can be an advantage too for practising music what was original designed for clavichord (Bach "piano" works e.g.). And if necessary, it could be amplified via microphone or recorded to normalized output level.

    Another advantage is that it can be transported in a normal car, since it weights about 30kg and is not large (a square box of about 1.40m long, 0.50m deep).

    The basic construction is very simple but effective: There is a brass part on the key what not hits the string like a hammer, instead that brass part (tangente) remains on the string(s) and because of that sound changes are possible through applying pressure while holding the key down.

    From what I heard so far it sounds well to me and I am thinking over buying a clavichord or probably buying a kit to build it on my own (there exist sources for buying kits).

    Has anyone experiences with clavichords? Or also interested in building an own clavichord?
     
  2. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I have heard of the Claivcord before. Never seen one or played one. Soler (the composer) has a view pieces for an unusual ensemble of a pipe organ and two clavicords. Look on Amazon or other places where you can buy CDs for Soler.

    It will be interesting to hear your creation, if you decide to build it. How much will it cost you?
     
  3. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I am not a lover of any early form of keyboard instrument, except perhaps one of these big resonant, full-blooded harpsichords. Could well be that the clavichord has some quaint possibilities, but I find the tone of early keyboard instruments (up to the time the first grands were conceived) decidely boring, dull, and unappealing. Of course many purists will disagree !

    My guess is that JSB simply 'loved this instrument above all' because it was the most advanced thing available at the time. I often think that early composers may have been frustrated by the technical and sonic limitations of their instruments - if so, the ambitious and not always very patient Bach would probably be no exception. All pure speculation of course, as is the phantasy of what might have happened if he'd had a modern grand to play on.

    What I don't understand is why any pianist with a gorgeous state-of-the-art Steinway grand would desire to dabble around on a clavichord. You going to wear a wig as well Olaf ? :p
     
  4. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I went to a clavichord concert a couple months ago. Your right about the sound, Olaf. One can hardly breath or move a muscle because it is so soft. And the man who played it built his own too.
     
  5. PJF

    PJF New Member Piano Society Artist

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    http://www.bostonclavichord.org/ There's some audio here. I found this piece (Mozart fantasy in D minor) most fitting. :arrow: http://www.bostonclavichord.org/recordi ... f_K397.mp3

    It has a fuzzy sound. I mean "fuzzy" in the textural sense (not as in want of a clarifier.) It reminds very much of a guitar. It also has a uniquely vocal quality unlike anything I've ever heard.

    I've never played a clavichord. I have played, and loved the wonderfully quirky sound of, the fortepiano; although the touch being so light, I was in constant fear of its fracture. :lol:

    PF
     
  6. MindenBlues

    MindenBlues New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Pete, thanks for that link, I really do like the Mozart interpretation on the clavichord, also because it shows the dynamic range capabilities.

    No, maybe just the opposit. The clavichord is probably the simplest keyboard construction even at Bach's time. However it is said to be the keyboard construction with the most expressive possibilities. And that is what attracts me - I never heard a clavichord live or played on one. I will try anytime in a shop where they sell the kits to build an own clavichord (unfortunately, the kit costs about 4.000,- Euro all together, very expensive, but with good quality wood and sonor quality (so it is said). Bach was a collector of plenty much keyboard instruments and had access to a church organ to play on. But at night he loved to play the clavichord, and also his son C.P.E. Bach prefered to clavichord too. So there MUST be something interesting about that, and I expect it is the very direct tone control. Surely Bach could let the thing sing, maybe only soft, but sing - and that is what all good performers tried in history and present on all instruments. The clavichord seems not the worst choice for that.

    Since the sound determining brass part is directly connected to the key, I expect that there is no limit regarding soft playing, one can hit the key in very slow motion. So (without having any practical experience) I expect huge dynamic capabilities because of that unlimited part regarding soft playing. Furthermore the pitch can be changed through applying pressure on the keys (maybe through wiggling on the keys too, I dunno?). So from my side it is the range of expression what gets my attention.
    It is also said that a clavichord needs very exact execution and finger control because of that direct one-to-one connection between key and string contact. Also the sound when the key is released can be controlled. Anyhow that all sounds interesting to me.

    You think wearing a wig would be better as running around without hairs? :cry: Ok, I know it was a joke...

    Regarding Bach, I really do think that this kind of music is very well suited to be played on more percussive but nevertheless expressive sounding instruments like the clavichord. I did play lately some WTC items on my digital keyboard with clavichord sound, sounded interesting to me. My Steinway will ever remain for Chopin, that's of course for sure!
    However I really can imagine that clavichord playing can create a certain intime atmosphere. I like the idea to be able to play late at night on a real instrument (no digital one), without the need to shut windows because of neighbours and without respect for children to not interfere their sleep. Whoever has a piano in the living room knows what I am speaking about. Have to try out!
     
  7. MindenBlues

    MindenBlues New Member Piano Society Artist

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    A litte excerpt from the book from C.P.E.Bach "Über die wahre Kunst das Klavier zu spielen", I try a translation from his German words:

    "The new forte pianos have (when they are well built) many advantages [...]. They serve well while playing alone or if the music is not put up too strong. However I do believe that a good clavichord (beside that it has a weaker tone) includes all that beauty too, and above that, it allows for vibrato (German: "Bebung") and carrying the notes, because I can give every note pressure also after hitting the key"

    The first Bach biograph Forkel (who interviewed also Bach's sons) wrote that the most part of the WTC and the 2- and 3-part Inventions was originally written for Clavichord.

    It can well be that Bach would use another keyboard instrument, like our modern grand, for his music nowadays (what Chris mentioned).
    However it can well be too, that he designed his music especially for the keyboards he had in mind and what he used, and that he would have written his music in another manner if he would have other keyboards. That of course are all speculations.
     
  8. PJF

    PJF New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I think the character of a certain musical period is as much a function of the possibilities of that period's instruments as the composer's wishes. There must have been a symbiotic relationship between composer and instrument, of course. For example, Chopin's preludes and etudes would have been impossible to compose for and perform on the clavichord. I suppose if Bach or Mozart would have had access to a modern grand, their music would have turned out quite differently! (as would have Chopin's music if he had "only" a clavichord)

    I wonder what the modern instrument of 500 years into the future will be! A piano of quartz with 120 keys? :lol: Or maybe there will be no pianos save those ancients in the Smithsonian. :cry:

    Pete
     

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