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J. S. Bach - The Universal Musician Masterworks for Clavichord - Derek Adlam

J. S. Bach - The Universal Musician Masterworks for Clavichord - Derek Adlam-Keyboard-Baroque
ID: GMCD7232 (EAN: 795754723229)  | 1 CD | DDD
Publi: 2001
Guild GmbH
BACH, Johann Sebastian
ADLAM, Derek
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Recorded: The Priory Church of Our Lady and St. Cuthbert, Worksop, Nottinghamshire on 1-4 January 2001 by kind permission of the Vicar, the Reverend Fr. Andrew Wagstaff SSC.

The instrument used in this recording.

The clavichord was made by Derek Adlam in 1982. It is a copy of an instrument of 1763 by Johann Adolph Hass, Hamburg, Russell Collection, Edinburgh.

Brass strung, the clavichord has a five octave compass of FF to f3, unfretted, with an additional 4 foot string in the bass. The pitch is a1 = 405Hz, an approximation of mid-18th century Hamburg pitch.

Tuning: a sixth-comma system is used (Young 2), allowing free modulation but retaining a sense of key and chord colour.

The Clavichord

The clavichord appeared in Europe towards the end of the 14th century. By 1404, the terms clavichordium and clavicymbalum described clearly distinct stringed keyboard instruments. Many 15th century representations of keyboard instruments appear in stained glass, carvings, and in paintings and manuscripts. No instruments survive from before 1480, the approximate date of an upright harpsichord in the museum of the Royal College of Music, London. No clavichord before about 1540 has come down to us, but many depictions, treatises and poems relating to the clavichord give us a clear view of these earliest instruments and their use.

The clavichord’s method of tone production is unlike any other stringed instrument. The strings pass over a bridge glued to a soundboard, and their opposite ends are wrapped in a ribbon of woollen cloth which prevents their vibration. The strings are sounded by metal blades called tangents, driven into the distal ends of the key levers. When a key is depressed, the tangent rises to strike the string and, remaining in contact with it while the finger rests on the key, defines its speaking length like a second bridge. The tangent also isolates the speaking section of the string from the damping material, leaving it free to vibrate. When a key is released and the tangent falls away from the string, the damping fabric can once again stop the string’s vibration.

>The singular feature of this simple system is that the tangent strikes the string at one end of its speaking length, i.e. a part of a string normally fixed. In striking the string at a non-vibrating part, the tangent can supply it with only a very small amount of energy. The tangent’s sudden but slight displacement of the string from its plane of rest, and a small shock wave which travels down it towards the bridge, cause it to vibrate and produce its sound.

What then is the advantage distinguishing the clavichord from the harpsichord? Despite the small sound, a clavichord player can achieve a considerable range of loud and soft tone. This effect was impossible to achieve on any other keyboard instrument by the fingers alone before the invention of the Florentine piano at the end of the 17th century. The clavichord player also is in contact with the string itself, so remains in control of the means of tone production. By varying the pressure, effects (including a vibrato) can be obtained which are achievable only on the clavichord. The instrument takes on some of the characteristic inflections and modulations of the human voice, an ideal instrumentalists have aimed at throughout the history of western music. Its intimacy of tone led to its association with personal expression and philosophical reflection. It became a spiritual confidant and comforter in times of distress.

Throughout the 17th century, use of the clavichord became more localized and especially in France, Italy and England, it gradually fell from favour. In these countries, schools of composition developed which exploited the rich tonal characteristics and potential for brilliant technical display of plucked keyboard instruments. In Germany, the clavichord remained highly important as a study and practice instrument, particularly for organists. It also suited a tendency towards spiritual introspection amongst German composers.

Despite the clavichord’s popularity in Germany, almost no music was written specifically for the instrument before the musical innovations of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sons and the growth of a new, expressive Empfindsamer Stil, the ‘style of sentiment’. We have no definite proof of Bach’s opinion of the clavichord beyond a statement by his first biographer, Johann Nikolaus Forkel, 1749-1818, whose information supposedly came from Bach’s sons:

"…. he considered the clavichord the best instrument for study and for any music performed in an intimate setting. He found it the most able to express his most refined thoughts …. [and] capable of so many subtleties within its small scale…."

Forkel was one of a group of enthusiastic "Bachists" who continued to revere the works of Johann Sebastian and to promote the clavichord as an ideal instrument even in the face of the increasing popularity of the fortepiano. Even if Forkel’s report is not completely impartial, clavichords would without question have been used frequently in Bach’s household. It is appropriate to perform Bach’s keyboard music on the clavichord, even when the scale of a work seems to suggest a more powerful and extravert instrument. The scale of the instrument may be small, but its dynamic and expressive range can meet the requirements of music conceived on the largest scale. When heard with a receptive and unprejudiced ear, the clavichord’s limitations become insignificant.
BACH, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750) 
Toccata in G major BWV 916. 
1. Allegro; Adagio; Allegro e presto8:14
Capriccio sopra la lontananza de il fratro dilettissimo B-flat major BWV 992. 
2. I. Arioso. Adagio O His friends plead to prevent his departure)1:46
3. II. Fughetta O A representation of various calamities that might befall him in foreign parts)0:54
4. III. Adagiosissimo O A general Lamentation of the friends)2:50
5. IV. Andante O Realising that the departure cannot be avioded, here the friends say farewell)0:51
6. V. Aria di Postiglione. Allegro poco O The Postillion™s aria. Allegro poco1:11
7. VI. uga all™imitatione di Posta O Fugue in imitation of the Posthorn2:49
Prelude, Fugue & Allegro in E-flat major for Lautenwerk BWV 998. 
8. Prelude2:44
9. Fuga5:28
10. Allegro3:29
Suite in E minor for Lautenwerk BWV 996. 
11. I. Preludio; Pasaggio; Presto2:16
12. II. Allemande3:03
13. III. Courante2:13
14. IV. Sarabande2:29
15. V. Bourée1:13
16. VI. Gigue2:44
Fantasia & Fugue in A minor BWV 904. 
17. Fantasia3:18
18. Fuga4:53
Prelude & Fughetta in E minor BWV 900. 
19. Prćludium1:42
20. Fughetta3:16
Prelude & Fugue in B minor on a theme by T. Albinoni BWV 923 & BWV 951. 
21. Prćludium3:55
22. Fuga6:51
Prelude & Fughetta in G major BWV 902. 
23. Prćludium7:31
24. Fughetta1:14


The Works

With the exception of the two works probably written for the lute or lautenwerk (a gut strung harpsichord), all the pieces on this disc apparently date from Bach’s earlier years. The earliest is the Capriccio on the Departure of a Beloved Brother (Capriccio sopra la lontananza de il Fratro dilettissimo) BWV 992. The beloved brother of the title was long assumed to be Johann Sebastian’s younger brother Johann Jacob but it now seems likely that the dedicatee was a school friend, Georg Erdmann. This pushes the date of composition back from 1704 (when Johann Jacob enrolled as an oboist in Charles X’s army) to 1702 when Erdmann left St. Michael’s Latin School, Lüneburg where Johann Sebastian was a fellow student. The charming mixture of Latin and Italian in the title then takes on its proper significance.

The Capriccio is modelled on multi-sectional works with fanciful programmes such as Walther’s Hortulus Chelicus of 1688, Biber’s Mystery Sonatas (c.1675) and the Biblical Sonatas of 1700 by Kuhnau. Good though these models are, we also see that at 17 years, Bach effortlessly surpasses his mentors in imagery, wit and ingenuity, and that his skill in counterpoint is already highly developed. He uses a wide variety of forms (arioso prelude, fughetta, a chaconne in the style of Buxtehude or Böhm, aria, fugue) held together by programme headings written at the beginning of each movement.

The Toccata in G major, BWV 916, and Prelude and Fugue on a Theme of Tomaso Albinoni, BWV 923 and 951, both demonstrate young Bach’s interest in new Italian music. From composers such as Legrenzi, Albinoni and Corelli he absorbed Italianate singing lines and harmonic vigour, coherent part writing, consistent architectural forms, and the use of contrasting yet related musical episodes. His contrapuntal writing was guided by his study of Johann Adam Reinken’s fugues, particularly their use of double counterpoint.

Dating from Bach’s years in Arnstad (1703 - 1707), the Prelude BWV 923 gives vivid insight into his genius as an improviser at the keyboard, a skill for which he became famous all over Germany. Bach creates a scena full of flourishes and dramatic gestures. The listener is led through a labyrinth full of unexpected twists, turns and delayed resolutions until finally emerging into the broad daylight of the final chord. The following fugue (BWB 951) takes its theme from Albinoni’s Opus 1 of 1694. Here Bach demonstrates his skill in thematic permutation, never seeming to exhaust the potential of his theme but constantly discovering new implications, harmonies and possibilities, all thrown into relief by an unending variety of contrasting episodes.

In the Fantasy and Fugue BWV 904, we see Bach’s elevation of the fugue into a great art form. Statements of the first subject of a double fugue enter in order from treble to bass. The masterly design of this first section hardly prepares us for the entry of a chromatic second subject in stretto whose wonderful development finally leads to a recapitulation of the first subject now entering from bass to treble, while the second subject becomes its countersubject.

The Preludes and Fughette, BWV 900 and 902, show us Bach’s frequent way of writing pieces which seem finished, but whose material with revision might yield a richer work. That in E-minor survives only in this early form, but the fughetta in G-major (BWV 902/2) was later worked up into the A flat-major fugue for the second book of the Wohltemperierte Klavier.

The Suite in E-minor (BWV 996) and the Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E flat-major (BWV 998) may both have been written for the baroque lute or the Lautenwerk, a rare, gut strung harpsichord. The clavichord is perfectly suited to the expressive character of these pieces and would have been an acceptable, even expected alternative choice of instrument in Bach’s own time.


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