Archive for the ‘harpsichord’ Category

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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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

Martin Skowroneck 1926-2014

May 14, 2014

© Tilman Skowroneck 2014. Last update to this post 2 July 2014.

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Martin Skowroneck, December 24, 2013. Photo © Jessica Skowroneck

It is my sad duty to announce that my father Martin Skowroneck, flautist and maker of harpsichords, recorders and baroque flutes, passed away this morning due to complications after heart surgery. He had been in hospital for four and a half difficult weeks. We, his nearest family, were able to say goodbye to him, and my mother was staying with him for the last two days and nights.

My mother and I would like to thank you for your overwhelming response, via various internet media, e mail, phone calls and ordinary mail. It means very much to us to know how he is remembered.

In sadness

Tilman Skowroneck

 

M. Marais Tombeau pour Mr. de Ste. Colombe

Wieland Kuijken viola da gamba, Tilman Skowroneck harpsichord. Recorded live 30 January 2005

The funeral service was on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, 12:00 at the

Kirche zu Oberneuland, Hohenkampsweg 6, 28355 Bremen

 

strings from waterloo

October 7, 2013

© Tilman Skowroneck 2013

I have mentioned this before. I am not convinced that a given harpsichord can be substantially improved by putting up some new strings.

In fact I am rather convinced of the opposite, which is that random changes to a given design (and the stringing of a harpsichord belongs, or should belong, to its maker’s design choices) not normally result in a major shift toward a better tone. The expectation that a harpsichord can be optimized by applying a number of relatively simple tricks, or by experimenting with some new string material, is usually rewarded by some kind of disappointment. In my experience, a truly noticeable shift in a harpsichord’s quality often goes in the other direction: it happens when the instrument is being neglected. Improvement is a much more hard-won thing, especially when the instrument is assembled and ready to be used.

So what I will discuss here below should be seen as an exception, as I am about to introduce an exceptionally well-suited string material which actually does, within reasonable limits, improve the tone and tuning properties of a harpsichord:

Over the past decade or so, Stephen Birkett  of the University of Waterloo, Canada, has researched the properties of historical iron strings, and has come up with a formula to produce iron wire with very similar properties. This so-called P-wire is now becoming available (here is some more information about it), and I have had the chance to test it in three quite different harpsichords with a Flemish-French mixed scaling (brass in the bass, and iron from the tenor upward). (more…)

teachers and students: transmission versus copying

March 30, 2013

© Tilman Skowroneck 2013

Gustav Leonhardt’s transcription of J.S. Bach’s Ciaccona

Musical transmission is a well-explored topic in the history of Western music. In a rare filmed appearance, pianist Edwin Fischer recited, more than explained, how it works: “Beethoven instructed Czerny how to play the Well-tempered Clavier; Czerny taught it to Liszt; Liszt taught it to Eugène d’Albert.” The clip is part of the documentary “The Art of Piano” (found at 1:07:31 of this YouTube video). To complete the lineage for the benefit of readers of our time: d’Albert taught Fischer, who was endorsing his then-new recording of Bach’s WTC.

In addition to being a great-great-grandpupil of Beethoven, Fischer was also a celebrated teacher. His statement about the musical lineage that authenticated his way of playing Bach can be seen as a statement about pedagogy rather than a display of vanity. It tells us that by the mid-20th century, the idea of a student imitating the example of his teacher was considered more than just valuable in a general sense.

To Fischer, the transmission of skills, knowledge and values from teacher to student in an unbroken tradition was profoundly meaningful: the essence of why one became a pupil, or later a teacher. This idea is not new. In France in the 1670s, J.L. Le Gallois suggested the same pedagogy of learning by imitation in his famous praise of Chambonnière’s way of playing: “in order to learn the pieces of each master, it is necessary to study them with the same masters who have composed them, or with their best pupils.”

For a student of harpsichord in Amsterdam in the 1980s, however, learning by imitation was not normally considered an option. On the contrary. (more…)