first and last – 60 years (and a few) of skowroneck harpsichords

March 11, 2019

© Tilman Skowroneck 2019

Just as I was writing that Martin Skowroneck’s unfinished harpsichord no. 90 now reaches completion in the Oldenburg workshop of Dietrich Hein (see also here), Menno van Delft sent me pictures of the first Skowroneck harpsichord, which is on display in the Berlin instrument collection.

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(Photo: Menno van Delft 2019)

So this is “no. 1”, a rather ambitious project with a 16′, 2x 8′, 4′ and buff stop, built in 1953. According to Martin Skowroneck (Cembalobau; Harpsichord Construction (Bergkirchen: Bochinsky, 2003), 261–62), this instrument is very globally based on a sketch of harpsichord no. 316 (known as “Bach-Cembalo” at the time) in the Berlin collection (which explains why it looks more or less historical in shape and especially, why it has this particular disposition). The inner construction is more or less modern (in want of better information at the time), with heavy frame members in ash, ribs under the bridge and a thin 4′ hitchpin rail. The boards for the case had to be prepared at a machine pool in Bremen, to be carried on foot across town for assembly in the basement of Skowroneck’s rented house in the Gravelottestraße. Knowing only this story, I was quite astonished to see such a neatly finished and gleaming harpsichord-shaped object on Menno’s photo!

Fast forward sixty years, to harpsichord no. 90. Read the rest of this entry »

new CD now commercially available

June 12, 2018

© Tilman Skowroneck 2018

As I have written previously, I made a new solo recording in June 2015. It is now available on CD, produced by the German label TYXart. The official announcements are here (German) and here (English). Listening examples can be found here. The CD is available worldwide, for instance at amazon.com. If you already have this disk, why not go there and leave a review?

The initial reviews were very positive. See my “reviews” page for a few examples.

The complete track list follows below: Read the rest of this entry »

cembalophilia? cembalophilia.

May 3, 2016

© Tilman Skowroneck 2016

The Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies, in partnership with the 2016 Berkeley Festival & Exhibition, organises “Cembalophilia: Hidden Histories of the Harpsichord”, a mini-festival with concerts and lectures, which will take place in the Berkeley City Club June 6-8, 2016 (see also the poster below for more information; I will participate in the Tribute to Alan Curtis).

I love the title “Cembalophilia.” Is this even a thing, one might wonder, and yes, be assured, it can be a thing. People do love good harpsichords and their repertoire, and good harpsichordists.

Often they don’t even know it, however, which may be why we usually play for smaller audiences than we feel we should. But this is also why – as I may have written before – after a recital audience members always come forward and want to learn more about the harpsichord on stage. “I had no idea there was so much variation in this instrument!” we frequently hear at that point.

Another recent harpsichord mini-festival in Göteborg, Sweden (see this entry)  has convinced me of two things:

First, it is and remains worthwhile to invest energy, time (and money) in live events that showcase harpsichords and their players. A harpsichord is not just a historically appropriate choice for a given repertoire. A good harpsichord offers an astonishingly wide range of expressive possibilities; it can be a friend and ally to the player, and it can move audiences to tears.

Second, all this needs to be said, and not only done by playing. Some people imagine that harpsichord lovers actually feel they need to defend  their instrument. But a fighty attitude is not what I have in mind here. Gone are the angry days, when the historical harpsichord had to battle against the revival harpsichord of a 20th-century design; and also the Bachian conflict between piano lovers and harpsichord lovers has become stale, mostly thanks to the great amount of excellent, serious and unfazed Bach players on both sides. The real “enemy” these days, it seems to me, is the audiences’ increasing loss of interest in live performances, which for our instrument especially is a sad thing: harpsichords do not sound very convincing out of a laptop speaker. So we must keep telling people that it is the laptop speaker that’s bad, not our instrument; that they should come to the next concert instead.


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Keyboard Perspectives VIII (2015) now available

May 2, 2016

© Tilman Skowroneck 2016

Volume VIII is the second volume of the Yearbook of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies Keyboard Perspectives of which I have been the guest editor. It is dedicated to combination keyboard instruments and their repertoire.

My preface and a table of contents can be found here. The volume can be ordered by sending an email to info@westfield.org.

Harpsichord mini-festival in Göteborg

April 1, 2016

Göteborgs Cembalofestival will take place April 15-17. Workshops at the beginning of the first day April 15 (in Swedish) are held at Högskolan för scen och musik, all other events are at the Haga church, including the lecture Roman och den neapolitanska stilen i Sverige by Anna Paradiso Laurin on April 16, 10.00-11.30

The concerts are:

April 15, 6:00 pm: joint recital featuring Ulrika Davidsson, Tilman Skowroneck, Joel Speerstra, Andreas Edlund, Jan Karlsson Delemark

April 16, 12:00, Anna Paradiso Laurin (J H Roman, D Scarlatti och P D Paradies)

April 16, 18:00, Skip Sempé (L Couperin, F Couperin, A Forqueray, J-P Rameau, L Marchand et al)

April 17, 11:00, high mass, with Johanna Thür, harpsichord and organ, and Eva Maria Thür, cello

Link to the poster (PDF): Affisch Cembalo 2016b

Martin Skowroneck obituary published

October 12, 2015

© Tilman Skowroneck 2015, updated 2 May 2016.

My new article “Remembering Martin Skowroneck (1926-2014)” is now available in the most recent issue of the yearbook of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies,

Keyboard Perspectives Vol. VII/2014, pp. 147-164 (table of contents and editor’s preface here).

The article includes a “List of Large Keyboard Instruments by Martin Skowroneck”. This will be my only article-length Skowroneck-obituary.

Keyboard Perspectives can be ordered directly by sending an e-mail to info@westfield.org.

The remainder of this very promising Vol. VII, edited by Tom Beghin, is dedicated to Beethoven’s Hammerklavier sonata Op. 106.

new recordings

July 7, 2015

© Tilman Skowroneck 2015

On 22 and 23 June 2015 I had the pleasure to record a mixed program of Froberger, Louis Couperin and Rameau (the first suite, which I hadn’t previously recorded) in the quiet and lovely church of Jonsered close to Gothenburg. Further below are some sneak clips (music edits done, but perhaps not the ultimate final tonal balance). The recording was made by Herwin Troje. As always, please contact me for permission before sharing these links.

The instrument, a little unexpectedly, is a one-manual brass-strung harpsichord after German originals, with a 392-415 keyboard.

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Temperaments used: a ‘French ordinaire’ variation and Rameau (which, really, is another ‘French ordinaire’ variation), at a=392Hz. The project was initiated by the instrument’s owner Bengt Nässén.

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Johann Jakob Froberger (1616—1667)

Toccata VI in A minor

Gigue

Lamentation, faite sur la tres douloreuse Mort de Sa Majeste Imperiale, Ferdinand le Troisieme

Louis Couperin (c. 1626—1661)

Prélude in D minor

Allemande

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683—1764)

Prélude