Anent the Pleyels ...
Wasn't it Shaw (possibly writing as Corno di Bassetto) who said
"The harpsichord was possessed of vices of tone of which a
harmonium would be ashamed."?
I've been implicated in "requilling" a Pleyel with plastic
recently. I was aware that I was despoiling an historic instrument,
but the work had been begun by another with some success, and
the owner (Irene Bostwick's last student) insisted that her only
objective was to make the beast as playable as possible. The
result is about what you'd expect; the box doesn't resonate
This all began with discussion of the favorite WTC recordings. I
seem to have the Landowska and, next to it on the Bad Joke shelf,
the Tony Newman sets (transfer this from recent discussions on the
Organ Net.) You can get through both books before teatime!
Book II is recorded on harpsichord and clavichord from Eric Herz,
and on a 6 stop _kistenorgel_ from Rieger of Austria. In some
cases there is a change of instrument between prelude and fugue.
Book I is on the closest instrument I know to the giant aesthetic
of Pleyel - the _Magnum Opus_, a three - manual project from a
Midwest builder, the only harpsichord I know of with a clutch
for gear changes.
The jacket reads: "Anthony Newman ... announces to the listener
in the first measures of Prelude No.1 that this recording is
going to be unlike any that has been done before. Each
repetition of the familiar broken chords is done on a contrasting
sound as Newman launches an exploration of fresh coloristic
and tonal combinations often resembling what an organist might
do with this music..."
To my ears, not only is the prelude monochromatic, but in the
antepenultimate measure there are only 15 sixteenth notes.
To return to the subject of Pleyel, it really is impossible to
play one like a harpsichord. The keys are of piano dimensions
in length, width, and weight, requiring either shoulder weight
or an explosice touch such as Landowska cultivated. The more
time one spends with these plucking pianos (the finest piano
I've ever seen, with double-thick ivories and elegant finish)
the more admiration one has for anyone who could undertake to
make music on them.
As Larry Palmer quotes Ehlers (via Malcolm Hamilton) in a
story originating in Seattle, "We are not all so great Artistes
as Wanda - 'Spaacially YOU!"
David Calhoun, Seattle