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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 3 (1997) No. 1

De Clavicordio II: Proceedings of the International Clavichord Symposium, Magnano, 21-23 September 1995. Edited by Bernard Brauchli, Susan Brauchli, and Alberto Galazzo. Magnano: Musica Antica a Magnano, 1996. [Vendor: Edizioni Gariazzo, 161 Via Milano, I-13069 Vigliano Biellese (BI), Italy; fax (39) 015 81 15 76.] [274, xii pp. Lire 90.000 ($54).]

Reviewed by David Harris*

1. Introduction

2. Individual Essays

3. Conclusion

1. Introduction

1.1 The clavichord has become rare enough that we tend to forget how prevalent it was in earlier centuries. It continues nevertheless to have its devotees, who cherish its capacity for expressive response. De Clavicordio II, containing the papers of the second symposium at Magnano, is a beautifully printed volume replete with photographs, facsimiles, charts and diagrams; publication was supported by the Fondation Willy Brauchli.

2. Individual Essays

2.1 As might be expected, the twenty-three papers demonstrate different levels of substance; not all of them are scholarly. Among the more important is Beverly Woodward’s paper on “The Probestücke and C.P.E. Bach’s Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen,” which surveys the publication history of these companion volumes that are no longer available in print from the same publisher. Another valuable contribution is Bohuslav Cízek’s “Clavichords in the Czech Lands”; it recounts the considerable history of Czech clavichord making and includes a list of surviving Czech clavichords together with their present location.

2.2 By far the longest paper is Joel Speerstra’s attempt to determine which of C.P.E. Bach’s 342 keyboard works were intended for clavichord; it includes an elaborate table listing all of them together with Speerstra’s conclusions. These conclusions will not convince all readers, particularly those sensitive to factors that resist reduction to a database. Speerstra’s analysis of compositional factors is particularly susceptible to tendentious reasoning; and he would like to believe that C.P.E. Bach used the word Clavier exclusively to indicate the clavichord (though his table does recognize the fortepiano as a possibility as well).

2.3 There are appreciations of clavichord music composed by Ernst Wilhelm Wolf (by Paul Simmonds), Johann Gottfried Müthel (by Menno van Delft), Franz Seydelmann (by Bernard Brauchli), and Herbert Howells (by Bruce W. Glenny). Christopher Hogwood surveys the repertoire in general and offers a brief history of Bebung, both as described in treatises beginning with C. P. E. Bach’s Versuch (1753) and as notated with a series of dots under a slur in early editions. Hogwood reminds us also of the distinction between Bebung (repeated pressure on the same key) and Tragen der Töne (pressure on each of several keys in turn).

2.4 Perhaps of interest only to some specialists are the papers devoted to specific historical instruments and the problems of restoring these, papers presented by Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini, Grant O’Brien, and Bernard Brauchli together with Jörg Gobeli. In other papers, Derek Adlam and Richard Troeger discuss the revival of clavichord building in England and the United States, and the role of Arnold Dolmetsch in this. John Barnes, in “The Parallel Between the Harpsichord and Clavichord Revivals in the Twentieth Century,” suggests that the reason why Dolmetsch’s smaller clavichords of his own design found more favor than his larger Hass copies is that “they are easier for pianists to play .. . . and, most importantly, they responded better to vibrato.” According to Barnes, the clavichord’s capacity for “vibrato” was its most appealing feature for twentieth-century musicians.

3. Conclusion

3.1 For anyone interested in the clavichord but unable to attend the symposium, the papers collected in De Clavicordio II offer valuable insight into current thought and research concerning the instrument and its music.

*David Harris (DH4521R@ACAD.DRAKE.EDU) is the Levitt Professor of Music History and Harpsichord at Drake University.

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