Posts Tagged ‘baroque’

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

beryllium copper on the front page

April 26, 2012

© Tilman Skowroneck 2012

As the “searches” tab in my blog stats is telling me, many people are interested in the characteristics of  beryllium copper harpsichord wire in comparison to other materials. Some time ago, I have posted an explanation in the “Skowroneck harpsichords” tab of the sidebar (see my full text there), but I would like to pull the discussion to the front, and expand it.

As I have stated, beryllium copper is not the same as phosphor bronze (the latter doesn’t sound all that well, hence this whole discussion) although it looks very similar. It has similar characteristics to brass and can be used in harpsichords with a brass scaling, or in the bass of harpsichords with a mixed scaling. I also claim that,

beryllium copper of the kind best known to me also has a good sound. True, most people will have no possibility to make direct comparisons between the various materials – and “good” is a problematic term. I have tested brass and beryllium copper in one single instrument and monitored their properties over a time span of 15 years. I found beryllium copper to sound slightly “fuller” than the brass that is usually available today, but without compromising the appropriate overall “brassy” sound character. Together with the advantages listed above I personally prefer this material. As said above, however, these properties may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and not all beryllium copper appears to be as good as I describe here.

I am re-posting this here, because I should add that beryllium copper can be hardened just as other wire. This property might in fact be at the bottom of some negative judgments about its usefulness as harpsichord wire. (more…)

brahms’ handel or handel’s brahms?

February 19, 2011

© Tilman Skowroneck 2011

In anticipation of Murray Perahia’s new CD with Brahms’ Handel Variations, which I ordered minutes ago, a few thoughts about the tangles of performance practice in this work are in order.

These magnificent variations are based on an aria from Handel’s first keyboard suite in B-flat Major. Although Brahms – as we read in the article I linked to above – drew his inspiration mainly from the bass, the theme, with all its added and omitted twiddles, is Handel’s own. Now, how does the pianist have to approach these eight bars of Early Music? (more…)

how poetic is a gleaming soundboard?

January 24, 2010

I once helped to restore a two-manual Kirkman harpsichord from 1775. The exciting part of the work involved taking off the old and damaged bottom and extricating a total of 5 kg of assorted iron parts from the instrument’s interior. These included, for instance, a T-beam that an earlier restorer had attached between spine and cheek, parallel to the belly rail, in a misguided attempt to stabilize the sagging structure of the instrument.

Less exiting and rather messy was the removal of a thick layer of not original shellac from the soundboard. How do you scoop puddles of temporarily dissolved, but rapidly drying varnish out of a harpsichord? (more…)