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BeginnersBach Mailing List

Just curious, how many people here are musicians.?

Steven Foss wrote (September 22, 2005):
Just curious, how many people are musicians, how many are keyboard players, and how many exclusively spin CDs (or in my case LPs).

Peter wrote (September 22, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] How wide is your definition of "musicians"? Do you include composers? Regarding players, do you include the whole gamut (sorry!) from renowned professionals down to humble amateurs at the local community orchestra? Interesting question, though.

Dani Andrés wrote (September 22, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] I play piano and compose non professionally. Bach's music is one of my favourites to listen and play, since counterpoint does wonders on one's hands, fingers and ears.

Steven Foss wrote (September 22, 2005):
[To Peter] I have a very wide definition of musicians. I by this mean anyone whether amateur (even a person who is just taking their first lessons)or professional of any instrument or singer, composers (I am one, too), orchestrators, and of course teachers.

I was curious as to how many people love Bach as listeners only who do so for the sheer joy, too.

I want to make my posts relevent and interesting without sounding pendantic or overly techincal and at the same time would not be accused of "dumbing down" the forum.

Steven Foss wrote (September 22, 2005):
[To Dani Andrés] It also does wonders for the mind. It expanded mine universe many fold.

Shelly wrote (September 22, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] Count me in this group - sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer joy!

Jack Botelho wrote (September 22, 2005):
[To Shelly] Thanks to those who are posting to this small list to keep it going and sharing some enthusiasm!

Currently, I'm experiencing some sheer joy listening to Josquin des Pres motet 'Benedicta es', but it was Bach who first and foremost introduced me to the wonderful world of counterpoint in music which certainly seems to stimulate cognitive thinking.

With regard to musicianship, I've only played parts of BWV 1006 and some of the cello suite preludes transcribed for classical guitar.

Steven Foss wrote (September 22, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] I (besides being a pianist, recorder player, harpsichordist, organist, composer) also dabbled in playing Bach on the Classical Guitar (beyond the Frederich Noad transcriptions)in my younger days (and no piano in the house).

Besides the Cello Suites, I found like many others that the Partita in E maj for solo Violin can be played straight from the sheet music.

Likewise, if you take the Chaconne in D minor and use the piano transcription for left hand alone by Johannes Brahms transposing up one whole tone into e minor to be very effective, too. Bach's pieces for Lautenwerk (e minor bouree is from this suite in e minor) and the Prelude,Fugue et al in Eb for lute works, too.)

Peter wrote (September 23, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] Count me in as a musician, then (I have, as a very lowly amateur, on a number of occasions, been observed behind a cello. A musician sounds a very grand title for me though!) We are just starting work on (OT) Purcell's Dido and Aeneas although we have played (or at least tried to play in the past) a number of works by JSB. There is such a lot of joy in not only playing (for the sheer uplifting to the spirit this gives) but also in trying to add what one feels at the moment of execution. I apologize if this sounds rather over the top but, as an amateur, doesn't this belong to Beginners (my emphasis) Bach? My dream is one of these days to play the 3rd Cello suite in public......ahhhh (Won't even think about the 6th!) I also listen to many of the JSB CDs I am privileged to own.

Sw Anandgyan wrote (September 23, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] That'd be the 'exclusively spinning CDs' here;

Baroque in the morning.
Rock in the afternoon.
Renaissance at night.

I work evening shift. I usually listen to six, seven CDs per day ... average.

Among recent acquisitions is Actus Tragicus, BWV 106 performed by I Barocchisti and Diego Fasolis. A much 'rougher' version than the Purcell Quartet one.

John Pike wrote (September 23, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] I am a serious amateur violinist. I play string quartets every week and in an ensemble with piano (piano trios, quartets or quintets) every month. I also perform as a soloist from time to time.

I used to tinkle with piano myself but no longer have the time.
I have also sung in various choirs in the past.

John Pike wrote (September 23, 2005):
[To Sw Anandgyan] Do you get a chance to sleep, Anandgyan?

Yours enviously

Jack Botelho wrote (September 24, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] That's a very impressive list of musical instruments and talents! I do find classical guitar to be quite frustrating to play due to proper posture required. I have large hands and like to utilize the pinkie fingers very much. My dream would be to construct clavichords for a living, and of course to play them but only in privacy. Today I attempted to listen to the Lyrichord release of the seven toccatas of JS Bach played by Richard Troeger, but once again ran into problems with the bravura employed. This should be a jewel of a recording from a specialist of the calibre of Troeger, but perhaps overspecialization with regard to execution of these pieces has led in this case to a kind of 'public execution' of the small instrument in not allowing the natural acoustics of the clavichord to sound, to 'breathe' or to 'sing' in this case. I suppose anyone who has played a musical instrument knows the feeling of performing 'brilliantly' but with unpleasant results for the listener. Perhaps being a musician of many different instruments in the tradition of the age in question, especially as a soloist, encourages one to pay more close attention to the actual 'sound' being produced by the particular instrument rather than only an extremely learned approach to musical 'execution'.

Steven Foss wrote (September 25, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] If your dream is constructing Clavichords for a living, I would suggest starting with the Fretted (gebunden) kit by Zuckerman Harpsichords, it makes a fine instrument and introduces one to musical instrument construction on a simpler model. See:

Musical instrument makers usually make less money per annum than someone who is slinging burgers at MacDonalds. I would suggest that it would make a fine hobby, however.

Igor Kipnis used the Clavichord on one his LPs collections that were featuring music of different nationals schools (Austrian-German, French, Italian) back in the 1970's. (I guess E Power Biggs music of different nations on local organs may have been the inspiration for this set.)

Mr Kipnis's recomendation was to turn the volume down on the pieces featuring this instrument, as Clavichord's tones do not respond so well to amplification or certain characteristics of their sound were unfavorably exposed.

Considering that even the better built instruments (does not mean larger as smaller instruments can have more presence)could easily be drowned out by a conversation and the dynamic range (to the ear)is from ppp to mp at the loudest, your playback level of the toccatas by Bach should be likewise adjusted, ie from the very quiet to
barely inaudible.

This cannot fix an unartistic player who plays without feeling.

When given a choice, I personally prefer these (and similar works) played on the Harpsichord, it is my bias, however. I never could get turned on by the instrument. The Clavichord did outlast (barely) the harpsichord, but was also eclipsed by the Fortepianos in time.

I have played the Toccatas on Piano, Organ (without pedals), and on the Harpsichord and each these instruments seems to bring forth another unseen facet of these jewels.

I have not played them on the Clavichord for lack my being able to get my hands onto an instrument (a friend told me I did not miss much and referred to the instrument as a "box of flies,") I would say that Clavichords require the development of a very sure touch or the Vibrato or Bebung effect comes iplay unintentionally, (and thus were probably ideal beginner instruments).

There are some of K P E Bach Sonatas that have Bebung/Vibrato indications, but these are few in number. And yes the post J S Bach Generation did have quite a fascination with the 18th century 5 octave unfretted instrument.

My last point of reference is although through Forkel's biography (from K P E's reminisences of his father) states that the clavichord was J S Bach's favorite instrument, old Sebastion did not posess even one solitary clavichord in the inventory of instruments taken at the time of his death (as opposed to a number of harpsichords).

There is reference to the 3 practice Claviers (an instrument with 2 keyboards and a pedal to facilitate the practice of Organ away from the Church and the need to pay people to pump the bellows) given before J S Bach's passing to one of his sons. The term Clavier (being generic at this time) may have meant Clavichord or a Harpsichord with Pedal Harpsichord, the reference is not specific.

Jack Botelho wrote (September 26, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] Thanks for a most interesting, down-to-earth, and knowledgeable post, Steve. I just managed to read it before the group archives became temporarily unavailable.

From memory, then: yes, a dream to build clavichords for a living is 'pie in the sky' and to be quite honest, your post did encourage me with regard to it being suitable for a beginner who does not care for pianos. Apparently a fretted instrument of four octaves of earlier design limits the instrument to some 16 strings which makes it approachable to tune and of much lesser tension.

Anyway, your characterization of the clavichord being described by a friend as a "box of flies" really is quite something.

I look forward to reading your post on this again. Your knowledge, sense of humor and wit really makes this list come alive. It is a real honour (and I mean this seriously) to be able to converse with you via e-mail.

Yesterday I had the chance to listen to a recital by one of the (now) old timers of the harpsichord, Colin Tilney. I'll post some impressions in a further post.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 26, 2005):
< From memory, then: yes, a dream to build clavichords for a living is 'pie in the sky' and to be quite honest, your post did encourage me with regard to it being suitable for a beginner who does not care for pianos. Apparently a fretted instrument of four octaves of earlier design limits the instrument to some 16 strings which makes it approachable to tune and of much lesser tension. >
16?! I doubt it.... My fretted clavichord of 4.5 octaves has 80 strings. If it weren't double-strung, it would still have 40.

Anyway, I love playing on it, and not merely Baroque music. It's a great way to practice any music that's not heavily reliant on the pedal(s) -- since a clavichord doesn't have any. I have the instrument against a wall next to my daughter's room...and yes, it's quiet enough that I can practice on it without waking her up from her naps.

I did some clavichord recordings about 5 years ago, but they're unfortunately out of print. Lower half of the page at:
including some photos of the instrument on its page 2:

An article by me is in the forthcoming November issue of "Clavichord International":
That's about the way Bach's tuning interacts with clavichords.


Here is a funny little article I found in a 1962 magazine:
That article is a mess of sophomoric non-research!

Jack Botelho wrote (September 26, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< From memory, then: yes, a dream to build clavichords for a living is 'pie in the sky' and to be quite honest, your post did encourage me with regard to it being suitable for a beginner who does not care for pianos. Apparently a fretted instrument of four octaves of earlier design limits the instrument to some 16 strings which makes it approachable to tune and of much lesser tension. >>
You must be right. (below and previous post)
That information is taken from a discussion by Anthony Bains in The New Oxford Companion to Music (1983) describing a pre-17th century fretted instrument. Bains isn't wrong, it must be my mis-interpretation of the following passage: "Moreover, with only four strings per octave, tuning takes little time and the tension strain on the instrument is relatively small." (p.417)

For those of you laughing out there at some/all of my posts, please be aware, discussion can be fun and instructive especially when the experts speak up on some really interesting subjects. After all, we are still in the very early days of having recordings of early music on this instrument!

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 27, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] Aha! I see now that we're referring to several different types of fretted clavichords. I was talking about the 18th century manner of doing it, where there are at most two adjacent notes sharing a string. The note A gets its own string, and so do either D or E. The rest of the naturals lend themselves in one direction or other to a sharp or a flat. On this type, almost all of the Well-Tempered Clavier can be played...but there are still some problematic spots, especially in book 2, where some of the notes can't be properly played because the string is already in action playing a different note.

But you were referring to the 15th/16th century type, where there were three or even four (!) notes shared on a string. That type only allows melodies to be played, accompanied by the simplest triads in the simplest keys. Not much luck in counterpoint of more than two voices. Frescobaldi, Froberger, etc are right out because there are too many suspensions involving major 2nds, and the occasional minor 2nd.

All depends, of course, on what types of music one wants to play!

Steven Foss wrote (September 27, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] Although 16 strings sounds (excuse the pun)like a small number, it is not impossible in a single strung short octave bass instrument of less than 4 octave compass, but this would make an instrument that was suitable to only playing the music of the 16th century - without many conflicting accidentals, playing in remote keys, playing chords of 7ths or 9ths (major, minor, augmented, or diminished) or heaven forbid the "devil of musica" the tri tone (which Jimi Hendrix uses in the beginning of Purple Haze, although I don't know many clavichordist that frequently play that number on the fretted clavichord).

Clavichords survived in Scandinavia and in Spain/Iberian Peninsula into the early 19th century, and much of what can be played on a piano without pedals comes off very effectively. Likewise, Rossini like to train new sopranos with a harpsichord accompanying the singer.

Good to know that in Italy the "Sowing Machine" (as one lady described the harpsichord when I told her I played) was not chopped up for firewood as what happened to all the old confiscated instruments at the Paris Conservatoire of Music did.

Steven Foss wrote (September 27, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] very good description, also good observation as to suspensions in Froberger and Frescobaldi.

Steven Foss wrote (September 27, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] A good many types of fretted and unfretted Clavichords existed and co existed right up to the instruments "hibernation" during most of the 19th century.

The instrument I suggested Jack to build from Zuckerman has only this specification

Range 45 keys, C/E-c'''
Length 39 in. (99 cm)
Width 11.5 in. (29 cm)
Depth of case 4 in. (10 cm)
Weight 20 lbs.
Action 28 pairs of strings, primarily double-fretted,
maple naturals, cherry sharps.

Or 3/4 of the number of strings as opposed to your more ambitious instrument.

Has anyone ever looked at the fingering by Bach in W F Bach's Notebuechlein fsome of the preludes?

One harpsichord player believed these indications to be written exclusively for the clavichord and suggested that the left hand was fingered so as to keep an even pressure.

Igor Kipnis thought it was writing in this way to give the some illusion of dynamics through articulations.

I have my own theories on how Bach may have used fingering in his larger orchestral works and the WTC, but that must wait for another post.

Steven Foss wrote (September 27, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] The honour is all mine to converse and post amongst so many informed persons such as yourself for example. (Blushes) Thank you for the kind words, I wish all the groups I have posted were as polite, thoughtful, and kind.

Jack Botelho wrote (September 27, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] Thanks Steve! I'm sure glad as well Brad is still here. I'm aware that some of my own posts have been just far too opinionated and not appealing to the scholar and professional musician. My interest is mainly in the history of music. I also really hate attacking recordings. It hurts long after the 'sent' button is pushed. As a listener, I'm always looking for 'neutral' readings of music, because I simply cannot afford to keep buying all the latest releases of varying interpretations. That said, my appreciation of early music really accelerated when I had to 'live with' the recordings I already have. When I was adding to them on a weekly basis I had no time to really appreciate the fine recordings, which typically do not announce themselves as such because most of them were 'sleepers' initially.

Thanks for posting the specs on that particular clavichord! I really have to knuckle down and make some serious money, of which moral issues have been an obstacle.

Sorry to the others for the personal nature of this post. I have the Tilney recital impressions to post (a positive review) but it includes an attack (there were some bozos in the audience) so I'm hesitant to post it here.

John Pike wrote (September 27, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] I have the 2 clavichord recordings by Brad and very nice they are too. I heard a clavichord/organ/harpsichord recording of the WTC book 1 many years ago, and I did not greatly enjoy the clavichord on it. I thought the Harpsichord sounded far better. However, the recordings from Brad forced me to see the clavichord in a new light, and I found it a most pleasing sound.

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Last update: ýJanuary 31, 2006 ý09:14:15