Why does it have to come to this? A pianist, with an esteemed reputation, does a rope-a-dope– then verbally assaults the harpsichord to aggrandize the piano.
Did Bach see this coming?
Andras Schiff took the defensive when asked to explain playing J.S. on the pianoforte. (The event took place in New York City under the lights)
Schiff could have made his case on its own merits, but instead, went quickly on the OFFENSIVE, taking jabs at the harpsichord, crowding the poor thing into a corner.
Bach would have been astonished to hear falsehoods proliferated about the sacred family of keyboard members. Why would the “greatest composer of all times” favor the clavichord (miniature) over the more developed harpsichord?
Wait! The Heavyweight made no bones about the harpsichord being weak on crescendos. For heaven’s sakes “it couldn’t even resolve appoggiaturas gracefully without a clunk, or a Baltic delay.” (The latter sounded like an elephant)
Enter Elaine Comparone, world-renowned harpsichordist, who refusing to be pinned to the ropes, mustered the strength of Sampson to put this one away!
“OK, I’ve stood by long enough…The elephant in the room has obviously not spent much time with a harpsichord, and why should it? It has enough clout to make it on its own!
“Now a couple of bad calls need correction!!! (She eyed the referee with suspicion)
“The clavichord was NOT JS’s ‘favorite instrument.’ It was CPE’s favorite. (Ref’s decision: Round One goes to the Harpsichord!)
“No source anywhere attests to the clavichord being JS’s favorite. Burney says the clavichord was Bach’s favorite, but he was talking about CPE whom he heard play.”
Is this a TKO? The Elephant never forgets. How could this fudge of names happen so early in the match?
“And by the way, the Elephant talks about pedal harpsichords as if they were all around—just one of the garden variety keyboards that people had hanging around. No. They were practice instruments for organists when you didn’t want to heat up a whole church or get a bellows boy. They don’t work very well as instruments sonically, even when you get somebody who pushes the idea and plays the thing in public. Maybe you can get away with it on a recording, but in person, the feet and all that plucking action drowns out the rest of the instrument.”
Amen to that. The Elephant had miss-characterized PEDAL harpsichords without justification!
“Oh and the Elephant in the room talks about the distortion that a lot of harpsichordists engage in to create the illusion of diminuendo on the second note of an appoggiatura.
“His demonstration was really exaggerated, but OK, in his defense, I’ve heard ungodly distortions from harpsichordists, so I’ll concede the second round to the elephant!
“But for those of us who play the thing, we know we have to create illusions of crescendo, diminuendo because the harpsichord can’t do it. But that much exaggeration is not necessary to create the illusion.”
She put it squarely back in the elephant’s corner! But he was slipping now.
Third round went to the Harpsichord!
“HE thinks that by not using pedal he’s being more authentic, I guess, or is he trying to use what he thinks the harpsichordist has at his/her disposal?”
Referee rules the elephant was impersonating the harpsichord and called a foul. Whoa! He’s breaking up the two. They’re in a clench.
“Look, he’s chosen the piano! It can do just about everything. And those of us who have a genuine appreciation of the harpsichord, it’s the quality of sound that the thing gets that we love. It’s an acoustical phenomenon that’s very different from the elephant in the room. He’s using an all-purpose instrument that’s very serviceable. He’s never even tried to create the illusions that a harpsichordist works on. It’s one of the most fun, challenging things about it.. Truly, we discover, there are other things besides crescendo and diminuendo. Really!!”
THAT DID IT. The Elephant couldn’t take another round of perfectly timed, well-placed body blows.
It was a KNOCK-OUT! The Ref called it a night!
Bach’s Music flowed from inspired words!
And Brandenburg 5 followed!
Important Links RE: Elaine Comparone and the Harpsichord
The Harpsichord has a new lease on life!