View Poll Results: Bach: harpsichord vs. piano

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  • Harpsichord

    90 43.69%
  • Piano

    116 56.31%
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Thread: Bach: Harpsichord or Piano

  1. #376
    Senior Member Dorsetmike's Avatar
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    For me harpsichord, preferably pedal harpsichord, I first saw and heard one many years ago played by Michael Austin then organist at Wimborne minster, he had it in his home. Most of Bach's organ works can be played on a pedal harpsichord, to me a few even sound better than when played on some organs.
    One of my favourites is BWV 582


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  3. #377
    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alydon View Post
    The strange thing is Bach's keyboard music sounds as though it was composed for the piano, the cross-over is amazing. The concertos still seem better on the harpsichord but works like the WTC seem to have a greater emotional depth on the piano. I always fine the Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue only works best on the harpsichord, and never fails to astound.
    well I think WTC played on piano sounds plain weird.. As is the case with most other Bach keyboard works. The piano makes the bass lines muddy and pianists play them soft like a "baroque angel" (https://youtu.be/oaODna4KVcM?t=15m58s) on the modern piano, which is probably not Bach actually would have wanted them played.
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Sep-27-2018 at 20:03.

  4. #378
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    garibolt writes, "I have to go with clavichord. So much more richness than harpsichord, but still avoids the sustaining quality of a modern piano. Plus it's likely what Bach would have played on much of the time."

    My understanding is that clavichords were used more at home in Bach's Germany, within the intimacy of a family living room, & not at concerts, where they wouldn't project well. For this reason, there is no way that Bach played a clavichord down at Cafe Zimmermann's, for instance (indeed, we know that he played a harpsichord at the coffee house). Plus, Bach owned two lute harpsichords, and it's possible that he played those instruments often at home, maybe even more so than his clavichord & harpsichord (that is, when he wasn't playing the violin).

    As to which instrument I prefer--I think that if a Bach lover truly seeks to understand the content & style of this music, they have to listen to it played on a harpsichord, or lute harpsichord (or clavichord), extensively. The Goldberg Variations, for example, are specifically composed for a two manual (French) harpsichord--it says so on the title page. If nothing else, there's no other way to come to terms with which pianists most deeply understand the content & style of Bach's keyboard works--via what are essentially transcriptions made for a modern grand--and who is way off the mark, like the crazy Canadian. In other words, I don't think that a listener can adequately see how odd a certain pianist's choices may be, unless they know this music very well--via a variety of different interpretations on the instrument or instruments that Bach specifically tailored his keyboard music to.

    For example, pianist Andras Schiff's recording of the English Suites won a Grammy award, and is generally highly regarded--I gather. Yet, if you listen to Bob Van Asperen or Christophe Rousset play the English Suites on a harpsichord, I expect you'll begin to see that Schiff makes some unusual choices, interpretatively (along with some rather contrived ornamentation): which are unlikely what Bach had in mind, either interpretatively or stylistically. It might surprise some people, but I think that pianist Ivo Pogorelich is better informed about this music than Schiff. Indeed, Pogorelich's English Suite No. 2 has more in common with Rousset's interpretation on the harpsichord than might be expected. Though I imagine some will laugh at this comment. But, here they are for comparison:

    Christophe Rousset English Suite No. 2:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYRwKcliRVw

    Ivo Pogorelich English Suite No. 2:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BojPbhE816c

    Alicia de Larrocha (who likewise understands the style of this music better than most pianists):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5R68FPiIek

    Andras Schiff English Suite No. 2:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmTS...=RDdmTSdFYa7-s

    Glenn Gould (who I admit I like more in the English Suites than in the French Suites, where he can get truly bizarre in certain movements):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJb8...G3-4U&index=25

    In addition, I find that pianist turned harpsichordist turned back to pianist, Virginia Black, plays the 6 Partitas differently, and in a more informed way, than many other pianists I've heard in these works (as much as I like what Maria Tipo, Dubravka Tomsic, Dinu Lipatti & others do with this music, interpretatively):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRhT...9M7UREgBWjDfPX

    For comparison, here's what the excellent harpsichordist Pasal Dubreuil does with the 6 Partitas:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDcu...Dck8zEy-qsZQgY

    Another interesting comparison to make is Gustav Leonhardt's French Suites to pianist Edward Aldwell's, as I likewise find Aldwell to be better informed about the content & style of the French Suites than many other pianists:

    Leonhardt:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BERPd4eh1h4

    Aldwell:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoQ5T8hELII
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHvIl9gwXF8

    Though my favorite recording of the French Suites is Bob van Asperen's:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shAg4vgpFpA

    In summation, I'm very glad to have both piano & harpsichord recordings of Bach's keyboard works. Since I like to go back and forth, it somehow makes the music more interesting & varied to me, just as long as the pianist is informed, & plays with taste & temperament.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Sep-27-2018 at 21:46.

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  6. #379
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    Well since Bach himself never was a "one instrument" kinda composer hence the WTC for example, I personally cannot judge his music based on a specific instrument only and disregard any other. I feel like the piano is the greatest achievement and invention of mankind, and it's the final ultimate form of keyboard instruments in terms of dynamics and pitch range, and can bring out the beauty of Bach's work to its fullest and give it justice. I personally love and cherish past keyboard instruments that were available at Bach's time such as the clavichord, harpsichord, lautenwerck, or spinet, and organs, and many others. However, the richness of his compositions makes it beautiful wherever it's played and whenever.
    Last edited by Orfeas; Nov-28-2018 at 04:08.

  7. #380
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I much prefer the sound of the piano. I'll be honest, I've never got on with the weedy, nasal sound of the harpsichord. Like Beecham (supposedly opined) i find the harsichord sound akin to “skeletons copulating on a tin roof. I much prefer the sustain and dynamics of the piano. Just my opinion so dont shoot me.

  8. #381
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Some harpsichords sound worse than others. I bought the harpsy WTC on Naxos. Sounded the best to my ears.
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  10. #382
    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    piano 100% for me.
    It sounds beautiful and can be played in a variety of ways.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

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  12. #383
    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    There are two main differences between the instruments for me: (1) the dynamic changes are far more possible on the piano than the harpsichord, and that can either be a strength or weakness. Listen to the first variation of the Goldberg Variations on the piano. Most pianists jump on it full force with a jarring double-forte and play the hell out of it, which, quite frankly, I have never cared for. On harpsichord, strings are not struck but are plucked... and the volume of the first variations is never jarring, at least to my ears, and I consider this far more in keeping with Bach's intentions and much preferable... That's a huge change, and on a great sounding harpsichord can be marvelous because the plucking of the strings seems to pull the sound out of the instrument rather than beating the b'jesus out of the strings on the piano. (2) However, most pianos are better sounding than most harpsichords, IMO, the latter so often sounding tense, nervous, and too-closely miked. With a harpsichord sound as beautiful as the following, there are special qualities of subtly, delicacy and refinement that I just love:



    GBV No. 1 on harpsichord, essentially no dramatic change in dynamics:



    Beating the hell out of it and galloping on piano at a double-forte:



    Nevertheless, I consider Bach playable under both instruments with a sensitive performer, great sounding instrument, and well-recorded without it sounding like the microphone is buried within the bowels of the harpsichord. And I do not believe that the harpsichord should ever have a nervous sound... and yet some players will rattle on unconsciously in a way that would make coffee nervious and as if they don't notice. Bah Humbug!
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Nov-29-2018 at 00:35.
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  14. #384
    Senior Member Harmonie's Avatar
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    Harpsichord all of the way! Not only is it time-period accurate (which is important to me, because I really love the sound of instruments of the Baroque style), but, to be honest, I prefer the sound of the harpsichord over the piano altogether.
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  15. #385
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    personally not fond of the jangly sound of harpsicord so much prefer piano.

  16. #386
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    I voted piano but I've been listening to some of Bob van Asperen's recordings and I think I'm starting to be swayed. If only his music was easier to find. I listened to his French Suites on Youtube and it may be the best recording of them I've heard, went to look for the CD and it's damn near $100 on Amazon. Couldn't find it anywhere else. I hear his teacher Gustav Leonhardt is supposed to be good too, so I'll have to look into his interpretations. van Asperen's tone is something else though. Never heard a harpsichord sound that good.

    On piano, I've been a big fan of Schiff, especially his more recent recordings for ECM. I like Angela Hewitt's Well-Tempered Clavier, and Ivo Pogorelich's two English Suites he recorded for DG in the 80s. Glenn Gould is how I got into Bach's keyboard music in the first place, so haters of his clearly idiosyncratic style can take my opinion with as many grains of salt as necessary.

  17. #387
    Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Lautenwerck (lute-harpeichord)

  18. #388
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    I voted piano but I've been listening to some of Bob van Asperen's recordings and I think I'm starting to be swayed. If only his music was easier to find. I listened to his French Suites on Youtube and it may be the best recording of them I've heard, went to look for the CD and it's damn near $100 on Amazon. Couldn't find it anywhere else. I hear his teacher Gustav Leonhardt is supposed to be good too, so I'll have to look into his interpretations. van Asperen's tone is something else though. Never heard a harpsichord sound that good.

    On piano, I've been a big fan of Schiff, especially his more recent recordings for ECM. I like Angela Hewitt's Well-Tempered Clavier, and Ivo Pogorelich's two English Suites he recorded for DG in the 80s. Glenn Gould is how I got into Bach's keyboard music in the first place, so haters of his clearly idiosyncratic style can take my opinion with as many grains of salt as necessary.
    Ignacio Prego recorded The Goldberg Variations using the same harpsichord as Asperen used for the French Suites, if not the same then very similar. And Jory Vinikour recorded Bach’s keyboard partitas on a copy of the harpsichord. I rather like the latter, even though it's a bit severe.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Yesterday at 19:35.

  19. #389
    Senior Member Allerius's Avatar
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    C'mon people, we all now that J.S. Bach's pieces were actually made to be played on an 8-bit keyboard:

    Last edited by Allerius; Yesterday at 20:04.
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