The latest in the Pavlenko Chandley family news is that Sophia and I have acquired another Harpsichord that I am restoring so that we may use it in our two piano concerts for a “two harpsichord” addition to our repertoire! We are really excited about this because after our harpsichord purchase several years ago, Sophia and I have both come to love the unique sound and texture of this instrument that was widely popular during the Baroque period. I mean, I just have really come to love the quote by Wanda Landowska (the woman who famously revived the popularity of this instrument in the early twentieth century) when she says; “You play Bach your way, and I’ll play him his way.”
What she was referring to was the fact that Bach never composed on a modern day piano. Indeed, his notes span the normal five octaves (there is some variation on harpsichord keyboards) of the instrument, while the piano has a total of seven octaves. In addition, the ‘feel’ of the harpsichord is a complete shift in technique. This is mainly because the keys are much lighter, and they pluck the strings instead of hammering them. As a result, you cannot be sloppy at all with your technique on the harpsichord, because the keys have to be played separately, and they return to their rest position based on their weight and not a spring action. In other words, when you play a note on the harpsichord, you get an immediate return on the investment…you can only imagine how much fun this is for Sophia!
When I was at the music conservatory, and early in my career, I remember not paying much attention at all to this instrument, because in piano performance the focus is obviously on the best of modern day instruments and their technology. Over the years however, I have come to appreciate the history and context of the music, and to be quite frank, it wasn’t until Mozart’s time in the eighteen hundreds that the piano was looked at as the superior instrument (and even Mozart learned on the harpsichord). If you look at the picture of Sophia playing the piano in this blog, her harpsichord is featured behind her, showing some of the differences between the Steinway, and this beautiful delicate instrument.
If you have time, take a look at this video footage of Wanda Landowska. It’s the only known video of her playing her harpsichord, but look at her hands in the clip. She really plays each note distinctly and individually. Wanda Landowska
I have also attached this link of Karl Richter’s J.S.Bach Concerto for 2 Harpsichords in C minor BWV 1060 for your enjoyment. Sophia and I both look forward to a concert such as this soon! J.S. Bach 2 Harpsichords in C Minor