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Why study Harpsichord today

 

   Why study harpsichord in these days? Or rather, why study ancient music? There is more than one answer of course. I’d like to tell you my reasons, based on my personal experience. The study of the harpsichord, especially for a pianist, undoubtedly has many advantages. From a technical point of view, managing the keyboard of a harpsichord is not as easy as that of a piano, since the keys have a completely different touch: for a pianist they are thinner, seem to be softer and definitely require much more control.

  

Besides, when you play harpsichord you don’t use the weight of the arm (to play chords, for example) because you don’t need it; you have to use the so-called “finger-technique”. Using only your fingers, you have to press the keys, balance the polyphony, and reproduce perfectly an immense variety of touch from “superlegato” to “very staccato” and every other articulation your music needs. Thanks to this meticulous work (that sometimes requires many years of intense study) you will be able to decide exactly what you want from your fingers, what kind of sound you expect from every single note, and you will develop an incredible control and precision on the piano too. This technique was commonly used by musicians like Bach or Mozart, for example, and it’s worth trying to acquire more familiarity with the way they played, especially when you are about to play the music they wrote.

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        Harpsichord class with Tai

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    Messiah - December 2011, Bangkok

   There is also another aspect you should not underestimate in the study of ancient music: the educational side. Musicians generally approach this music with a standardized way of study, often consisting of an approximate reading of the notes with a superficial knowledge of the characteristics of the piece, without real understanding of the music itself. When you study ancient music you have to take care of manifold factors: harmony, knowledge of the historical period and of the composer, type of instrument used in that context, “affect” of the piece, and treatises of the time that show us the convention and style of music in that era and in that country; in the case of Baroque music (but we should also include music commonly classified as Galant or Classical), we must not forget the relevance of rhetoric in musical composition and performance (do you know the etymology of J. S. Bach Inventio?), and the totally different perspective of any XVIII c. performer or composer, compared with a modern counterpart.


   Some of these elements are included in the phrase “historically informed practice”, some have to be rediscovered each time we approach any piece of music of the past. The appropriate way to study and understand any piece of music should be applied to any period, and often the study of ancient music may offer the correct incentive.

   The harpsichord is widely played in Europe. At present, many conservatories and universities can offer ancient music courses. Not only harpsichord, but baroque strings, baroque flute, ancient polyphony, and so on; in many countries you can also find makers of harpsichords and other ancient instruments.

  

If you live in Thailand and you wish to experience harpsichord playing, you may consider this chance (for the first time in this country):


- at Assumption University (ABAC) you can choose harpsichord as major (4 years) or minor (2 years) instrument, or simply as a free elective (one semester);


- at Yamaha Music School (Fortune Town, Ratchadapisek Rd. - MRT Phra Ram 9 exit 1).


During classes, students will have the chance to practice on my instruments: a spinet (a small harpsichord) and a large two-keyboard harpsichord. For further info don’t hesitate to contact me directly at info@albertofirrincieli.it

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   Harpsichord solo performance

   Yamaha Music school - May 2012. Bangkok

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   Harpsichord and SRCO orchestra

   Rehearsal at Sala Suphasiri Sopha - September 2012 - Bangkok

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   Harpsichord and SRCO orchestra -

   Yamaha Music School, July 2010 - Bangkok