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De Clavicordio II: Proceedings of the International Clavichord Symposium, Magnano, 21-23 September 1995.

The clavichord and its music are receiving unprecedented attention at the biennial conferences held at Magnano, Italy. A hitherto relatively minuscule literature is being significantly expanded by the papers delivered at these sessions, where they are illustrated in performance through demonstrations and recitals. The setting of the conference is unique, a twelfth-century church in a small Piemonte village in northern Italy, not far from the Swiss border. Both the spoken word and clavichord playing sound to excellent advantage in this ancient stone building. The published proceedings of the second conference print in revised and extended form twenty-three presentations that can be listed trader three main headings: broadly historical or philosophical; specific aspects of the clavichord repertory; and the organological, ranging from the broadly theoretical to the specifically constructional. The scope of coverage is impressive as can fairly be said of the mean quality as well.

One of the most ambitious presentations is Joel Speerstra's "Towards an Identification of the Clavichord Repertoire among C. P. E. Bach's Solo Keyboard Music." He presents his conclusions based on an analysis, printed in full, of various features of each and every work: title, key, ornamentation, dynamic markings, compositional techniques, range, date, place of composition, and title-page designation. This enormous labor culminated in his making sensible suggestions - not prescriptions, it should be noted - of the most suitable instrument for performance of each, harpsichord, clavichord, organ, or fortepiano, respectively. Beverly Woodward provides a supplement by discoursing on Bach's Versuch uber die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (Berlin, 1759-62) and the eighteen examples grouped in six sonatas that he composed to illustrate it. All too often the sonatas are sundered from the treatise proper, although they are essential constituents of Bach's pedagogy as applied in the essay. Paul Simmonds offers a similar survey of the keyboard works of Ernst Wilhelm Wolf, a prolific composer of sonatas in the time and style of C. P. E. Bach. Simmonds makes a strong case for a Wolf revival.

Christopher Hogwood presents a survey of late eighteenth-century works prescribing the use of Bebung, the vibrato possible on the clavichord alone among keyboard instruments, and the related portato or Tragen der Tone. Bernard Brauchli outlines the career of the hitherto obscure Saxon composer Franz Seydelmann (1748-1806) who, he contends, has been unjustly forgotten. Like most keyboard music of this type and period, his works would seem to straddle the transition from clavichord to early piano, lending themselves so well to both that one cannot decide in favor of either. Menno van Delft's essay surveys the works of Johann Gottfried Muthel, described quite accurately by him as "the clavichord composer." Best known as Johann Sebastian Bach's last pupil, Muthel created solo keyboard music in the more modern empfindsam style we associate with C. P. E. Bach but of even greater complexity. It would be an exaggeration to term it decadent. Jane Johnson's paper focuses on the sixteenth-century Iberian music labeled "for keyboard, harp and vihuela" that can so effectively be played on the clavichord. The works of such composers as Luis de Milan, Luys de Narvaez, and Alonso Mudarra can legitimately enlarge the repertory of the clavichord, remarkably like the vihuela in its flexibility. A curious paper by composer Jean-Jacques Dunki deals, on the other hand, with the difficulty of integrating the sounds of clavichord, piano, harpsichord, and celesta, as he attempted to do in his series of compositions for such keyboard ensembles entitled Tetrapteron.

A number of papers concern specific historical clavichords. Luigi-Fernando Tagliavini describes a curious eighteenth-century example, probably German, with unique constructional features. Bohuslav Cizek reports on no less than thirty-eight antique instruments in museums and other institutions in the Czech Republic. The restoration of the 1781 Egidius Heyne clavichord is described by Bernard Branchli and Jorg Gobeli, giving full details of its construction. Grant O'Brien writes on the preliminary study of tile 1796 Rackwitz clavichord in the Russell Collection, describing the instrument analytically in great detail and setting forth clearly the pros and cons of undertaking its restoration. Harm Vellguth offers what he modestly entitled "A Simple Stringing Method or an Ancient Craftsman's Trick?" as a method of calculating string ganges for clavichords. (This paper excited considerable heated discussion at the conference.) Koen Vermeij documents the preferences for various clavichord makers expressed by eighteenth-century connoisseurs of the instrument. Alan S. Caro shows how a computer database program can assist archiving information on historic keyboard instruments.

The post-eighteenth-century treatment of the clavichord in the music press of the nineteenth is the subject of Beverly J. Sing's essay. Richard Troeger's contribution discusses in full detail tile splendid large five-octave clavichords, a total of thirty-four, made under Arnold Dolmetsch's direction at the Chickering piano company in Boston between 1906 and 1910. They were all based on the Christian Gotthelf Hoffmann instrument of 1784, now in the Yale Collection. Other aspects of the revival period are treated in papers by Derek Adlam, John Barnes, and Bruce W. Glenny. Adlam relates how the revival of early instrument building in England, particularly the early work of Dolmetsch, was sparked by tile arts and crafts movement founded by William Morris. Barnes deals with the parallels between the harpsichord and clavichord revivals in our century, and provides a critical analysis of Dolmetsch's post-1912 four-octave clavichords, instruments that, in his opinion, "inhabited a world of unnatural restraint and artificial sensitivity" (p. 237). Glenny's contribution is concerned with Herbert Howell's 1927 collection Lambert's Clavichord, pieces harking back to the virginalists, dedicated to English notables of the day. This music was probably the first composed for clavichord in the twentieth century. An instrument made by Herbert Lambert of Bath inspired the work.

Thomas Friedemann Steiner informs us of a number of prominent eighteenth-century scientists and mathematicians in England, France, Germany, Sweden, and Russia who were interested in, and contributed to, the study of the clavichord. John Koster's presentation deals with the extremes of musical dynamics as they developed in the clavichord and early piano repertory: In the tradition of the more poetic German philosophers, Benedikt Claas places the clavichord in relation to what lie terms the "spiritual foundation of musical instruments."

The large softbound volume is well primed and illustrated. The text in English, which is replete with quotations in other languages, and set by Italian typesetters, is remarkably error free. The editors are to be congratulated on having published the proceedings so promptly, a singularly rare accomplishment.

HOWARD SCHOTT Boston, Massachusetts
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Author:Schott, Howard
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1997
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