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Thread: Harpsichord, Clavichord, Spinet,...

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    Senior Member Daniel's Avatar
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    For myself I am addicted to old authentic instruments.

    I was in a museum (German museum in Munich - huuuuuuuuuuge) not long ago. Of course i went the instrumental section :P In the part of Keyboard instruments there were harpsichords, fortepianos, spinets, clavichords, up to your modern grand piano.

    It was a museum yes, but i had the chance to listen to them live (a woman played to me exclusively B) ) It was wonderful, because i am such a freak of old instruments. Unfortunetly i couldnt touch them myself :unsure: .

    What i love with that instruments: The harpsichord has such a great touch (you feel the string which is picked, it is so real, a direct contact). The Clavichord has a charming sound. The first possibily for dynamics. I love fortepiano recordings with Haydn sonatas. Actually i think pieces were easier to play with the grand pianos around 1900. Seems to be a little less key size and not that deep like sometimes today.

    You like them too?

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    I've played (what little I can) on a harpsichord, since I have access to about 3...love it! The others I'm not familiar with...
    <span style='color:green'><span style='font-family:Optima'>Music is what feelings sound like...Anon</span>.</span>

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    I love&#33; playing on Harpsichord&#33;
    The sound and mechanism is really fascinating like what u said, Daniel.
    But what impresses me more are the artworks done on them Look at the early Gerogian carvings( I think they&#39;re chippendale carvings ), and the scenaric paintings on the covers. Wow&#33;&#33;&#33; Esp. when they paint cherubs on it, I can&#39;t get enough of it.
    I don&#39;t think anyone below 70 would have played a spinet or clavichord b4...I don&#39;t think they&#39;ll let u play in intrumental museum.
    I wonder how they feel like.

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    Senior Member Daniel's Avatar
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    But what impresses me more are the artworks done on them Look at the early Gerogian carvings( I think they&#39;re chippendale carvings ), and the scenaric paintings on the covers. Wow&#33;&#33;&#33;
    I got the book with full size pics to my birthday, so hard to show it here , but i searched te web for nice pics of paintings inside, some examples:
    http://www.i-way.co.uk/~storrs/gifs/single.gif
    http://websquad.com/harpsichord/carr/carr2.jpg
    http://images.amazon.com/images/P/02...1.LZZZZZZZ.jpg
    http://www.claviantica.com/Neapsale_o_file...studio_thmb.jpg
    http://www.mkg-hamburg.de/english/Inhalt/s...bel/cembalo.jpg
    I don&#39;t think anyone below 70 would have played a spinet or clavichord b4...I don&#39;t think they&#39;ll let u play in intrumental museum.
    I wonder how they feel like.
    I dont think i could play either, but i was so near&#33; but i could listen to them, that was great

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    ...cool pics&#33;...
    <span style='color:green'><span style='font-family:Optima'>Music is what feelings sound like...Anon</span>.</span>

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    I dont think i could play either, but i was so near&#33; but i could listen to them, that was great
    Lucky you&#33;
    We can only ponder. It must have been an eye opening experience&#33;

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    Senior Member Daniel's Avatar
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    Yes it was&#33;&#33;

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    Since yr the only one who heard all of em.. Do u mind sharing with us how each of em felt and their characterics? I&#39;m really dying curious to know. Like what type of sound, the touch, how do u go about playing it? I&#39;m sure the curator fill u in on all these. PLease?

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    Senior Member Daniel's Avatar
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    Oh yes...where to start....

    There were old spinets and virginals: little in size, keys small and tone very low, mostly used for house music. The Clavichord is amazing, so it also has little tone, you can make dynamical differencies, though not big, but you can. The size is also not big, the wood looked very old , but loved it. These instruments make you feel like in 16 th century :wub:

    Then the harpsichords, two manuals, one manuals, registration from 4&#39; up to 16&#39; i remember. There were pedal cembali (nice mechanisme like a lever to change registrations...) You know i love that tone picking the string, and when you leave the key this little "bing", that big feeling if a great polyhony is flowing through your heart and through your fingers and you have the direct relation to the string...wonderful

    Then these fortepianos, the tone is developed since the Clavichord, the tone is not that silver clear like in grands today, it is warm, lovely and every key has his OWN life, amazing. Sometimes the limit is near to be intune or unpure, but only near.
    The size is very near to todays pianos. You can imagine Haydn, Mozart playing it.

    Grand pianos around the beginning 19th century are interesting. The keys are little smaller, some mm, makes it easier to play Liszt .... The tone is veryyyy nice, really i prefer them to many grand pianos from today&#33; It is crystall clear, but have also this touching own life i mentioned before. That is one point which i miss sometimes today. This own life of instruments, that you can feel that they live, and this exists by all old instruments, you feel they ARE music, played by music loving people, and you must feel familiar with them

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    I fell in love with the prettiest little brown baby grand piano when we were piano shopping way back when...but it was &#036;4000...and more than we needed...and it would&#39;ve taken up the greater portion of our living room...LOL...

    ...but it sure was pretty...(except for one stain left from a glass than someone had thoughtlessly put on it at one point...*grrr*)...
    <span style='color:green'><span style='font-family:Optima'>Music is what feelings sound like...Anon</span>.</span>

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    There were pedal cembali (nice mechanisme like a lever to change registrations...)
    Wow&#33; Thank you Daniel, that was certainly enriching for me. I didn&#39;t even know about the pedal thing.
    How I wished I was there for the trip also. Wow&#33; Imagine that&#33; 16th century.
    I&#39;m sure it does affect yr playing of Bach now that u heard the harpsichord and spinet and so on. I think the sound will affect yr touch also, do u think so?
    Do u play yr Bach more crisp now? Or do u hear the harpsichord sound whenever u look at Bach&#39;s scores now?

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    Senior Member Daniel's Avatar
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    In fact it has influenced me, but i was also before that a fan of authentic recordings and so on, so it was for me also very enriching. Unfortunetly i couldn&#39;t try the touch, but i could see it and can think how it feel.

    About Bach: I think it is very important to make first an overview about the original instruments, the way to use them, ornaments to that time and other perfomance related things to get an impressed how Bach played them himself and wanted them to be played. On the other hand you should also go in progres (i am sure Bach would have agreed) and integrate this knowledge to modern instruments and performances. The background is really useful and i think a must.

    Authentic recordings have the same status like modern intepretations (if both convince you), they show you the piece from many facettes and both give us other views and i think both are worth to be listened to.

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    Default harpsichord

    Oh, the harpsichord was my first instrument I ever played! I didn't start on piano, I started on harpsichord. You see, I didn't like the piano's tone colour ( sounds too thin and percussive to me ), and I just wanted to play harpsichord, so I found a teacher who would teach me from the beggining on one. I eventuallly switched to viola though. I still love the sensation of playing harpsichord more than piano; you have so much more control.
    As for the touch, I can only explain it by explaining what happened when I tried piano. I tried to play- nothing! No sound! I tried a little harder- still nothing! Not even the faintest pianissimo! So I hammered the keys hard with my fingers- and about a mezzopiano sound came out. After a little while I got a hold of it, but it still threw me. The volume went up and down, seemingly out of control, and the response was so slow, and you had to push the keys so hard I wondered if pianists fingers broke frequently Still, the sound I made was fairly soft annd "mushy"
    This possibly explains what I think when I hear pianist first try harpsichord; it sounds as though they're going to kill the instrument
    Though I wish someone would invent a proper modern concert harpsichord, not just reproduce early instruments ( for some reason they gave up after early mistakes, instead of carrying on ).

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    Senior Member Daniel's Avatar
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    I find it interesting, you started with harpsichord. So you did learn to play "agogic" at first to get this what you would call "colourfull" with piano? I think two worlds...in harpsichord you think more horizontally than vertically when touching the keys? ...if you understand what I mean.... What harpsichord were you practising on?

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    I practiced on an Italian model single manual harpsichord and a virginal. There was another one, with a short octave, that I never practiced on, because the short octave confused me.
    With the harpsichord, everything tends to sound stoccato, so you have to use an almost extreme legato to get a good tone ( you are nearly holding two keys down at once ). Naturally, when this is applied to the piano it sounds mushy.
    I find that the "plucked" sound of the harpsichord sounds richer than the "hammered" tone of the piano. But this is most likely due to individual taste. However, I love the contrabass octave on the pano, it sounds so dissonant and threatening.
    godzilla

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