Photo: matsuyuki (Flickr)
18th Century Harpsichords
At the beginning of the 18th century, the harpsichord was rapidly changing. Performers and composers pushed the limits of what existing harpsichords could do. Instrument builders responded by constructing larger instruments and adding more keys to expand the instrument’s range and tonal capacity. Some of these harpsichords were highly decorated with elaborate paintings on the soundboards, lids and casings, along with sophisticated woodworking, and gilded moldings. Two harpsichord restored to playing condition are featured on new recordings by Violaine Cochard and Frédérick Haas.
Violaine Cochard: Préludes et autre fantaisies
The harpsichord Violaine Cochard plays is an original single-manual by Johann Daniel Dulcken built around 1740 in Antwerp. It has a range of about five octaves (modern Steinway pianos have over a 7 octave range.) On this instrument, Cochard has recorded favorite bits and pieces from the Bach harpsichord repertoire in a program which comes across to listeners as refreshingly personal.
See a video of the Dulcken instrument.
Frédérick Haas: Goldberg Variations
For many harpsichordists, Bach’s Goldberg Variations are a defining work in the repertoire, and with this recording, Frédérick Haas adds his name to a long list of performers who have given remarkable interpretations of the work. Haas plays a French harpsichord built by Henri Hemsch in 1751. Among other things that distinguish French and German harpsichords, coupling systems and keyboard mechanisms require different kinds of touch and articulation from the player. The liner notes included with this recording put it best: Haas’ role as an interpreter is to make sure that his French harpsichord speaks decent German.