BACH 740

Music for Bach's Domestic Keyboard Instruments

Gunnar JOHANSEN, Harpsichord
Martin NEARY, Pedal-harpsichord
Michael THOMAS, Clavichord and Claviorganum
Gergely SARKOZY, Lute and Lute-Harpsichord


1:   PEDAL-HARPSICHORD: CONCERTO in G Major, BWV 592 after Johann Ernst
     (Presto) / Grave / Presto
2:   CLAVICHORD: Fantasy in c minor - BWV 921
3:   CLAVICHORD: Fantasy in g minor - BWV 917

4:   HARPSICHORD: Prelude (BWV 923)
    and Fugue on a theme of Albinoni in b minor (BWV 951)
5:   CLAVICHORD: Air & 10 Variations in the Italian Manner - BWV 989

6:   LUTE: Fugue in g minor for Lute - BWV 1000
7:   LUTE-HARPSICHORD: Partita in c minor BWV 997
     Prelude / Fugue / Sarabande / Gigue / Double

8:   PEDAL-HARPSICHORD: Concerto for Solo Harpsichord (after Vivaldi) in a minor - BWV 593 (Allegro) / Adagio / Allegro

Our musical selection on this disc offers a number of important, perhaps unjustly neglected pieces from Bach's rich output for keyboard and/or lute. At the same time, we are using these pieces to demonstrate the different domestic keyboard instruments of Bach's time – his home in fact: the harpsichord with pedalboard, and the clavichord, together with the lute whose delicate sounds Bach sought in the lute-harpsichord.

The harpsichord was the baroque period's most popular domestic keyboard instrument, though the clavichord would be a close second. The harpsichord with the usual two manuals was a useful practice instrument for organists, and they were generally equipped with separate, organ-type pedalboards. The harpsichord's "pluck" was fixed and no variation of touch was possible, only dynamic variation through using different "stops" and/or combining, coupling-up keyboards.

The clavichord uses quite a different principle. The depression of the key strikes the string directly thus permitting variation of touch, as well as a form of vibrato.

The German harpsichords were relatively solid instruments with a rich tone. Even this did not satisfy Bach however, who sought the even richer tone colors of the lute and its bass relative the theorbo. Several instrument makers were building "lute-harpsichords" and Bach would eventually possess two such instruments. For more information on the lute-harpsichord check The Baroque Lute-Harpsichord: A Forgotten Instrument.

Our program offers the contrasting sounds of harpsichord, clavichord, lute and lute-harpsichord. Two of our performers are playing instruments built by themselves: Michael Thomas, clavichord, and Gergely Sarkozy, lute-harpsichord. Both are exceptional performers. Michael Thomas brings out to the full the delicacy, the vibrato, and the singing qualities of the clavichord, while the lute-harpsichord is quite riveting in its richness of sound.

Michael Thomas also plays the 1750 Clavi-organum, a combined organ-harpsichord producing the initial attack of the harpsichord with the sustaining power of the organ. An inscription above the upper manual states "This Organ and Harpsichord were a present from Beeston Long Esq. to his Sister Mrs. Drake".

Illustrated article: The Baroque German Harpsichord

Baroque Music Library