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HPSCHD-L  October 1999

HPSCHD-L October 1999

Subject:

Re: crossover musicians (was tuning devices)

From:

paul poletti <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Harpsichords and Related Topics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 8 Oct 1999 04:01:09 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (121 lines)

As far as I know, von Schoenveld was NOT a builder:

"Da wir nun zwei Originalinstrumentenmacher haben, so theilen wir unsere
Fortepiano in zween Klassen: die Walterischen und Streicherischen. Eben so
haben wir auch bei genauer Aufmerksamkeit zwei Klassen unter unsern
groessten Klavierspielern. Eine deiser Klassen liebt einen starken
Ohrenschmauss, das ist, ein gewaltiges Geraeusche; sie spielt daher sehr
reichtoenig, ausserordentlich geschwind, studirt die haeckeligsten Laeufe
und die schnellsten Oktavschlaege. Hiezu wird Gewalt und Nervenstaerke
erfordert; diese anzuwenden, ist man nicht maechtig genug, eine gewisse
Moderazion zu erhalten, und bedarf also eines Fortepianos, dessen Schwebung
nicht ueberschnapt."

If players THEN could break a fortepiano because they didn't have the
[physical, I assume] control needed to obtain a "certain degree of
moderation", how much more so would that be true today of those who study
"the choppiest of passage and the fastest pounding-out of octaves" on the
modern piano?

Well, Marc, don't take it personally. I know your playing, and your not one
of those to whom I'm referring. And you do (correct me if I'm wrong) at
least intend to somewhat specialize in FePo, nicht wahr? The types I'm
objecting to are those who really have no intention of altering the
technique of taking the FePo seriously, just adding it to their list of
"keyboard" instruments they are qualified to play. And those who really
couldn't care but are required to take a one year course before they can
carry on wailing away on the Steinway with Bartok or Rachmaninov.

You may have had no experience with broken strings, but I have. You haven't
sat on the edge of your seat for the last fifteen minutes of a concert
after somebody has broken one string, than the second and there's only one
thin little baby left between music and click click click, and still one
whole movement to go. Of course, you could say "the jerk deserves it" , but
the audience thinks, "Ah, see, fortepianos. . . untrustworthy old rattle
traps."

And your story about Jos' Clarke Wally only proves the point (don't know if
it's true, by the way). Some very big names are bangers. And believe me,
after you've pulled out all the loose bridge and nut pins in the treble and
replaced them with slightly larger sizes for the SECOND time to get the
instrument ringing again (the third or forth time there's nothing to do but
remove the soundboard and replace the bridge), you simply have no more
patience with any argument of ANY color that justifies this sort of abuse.
Especially when these types almost invariably play a lot of modern piano. I
know one serious offender who shall remain nameless who likes to practice
on a modern piano during the pause of a FePo concert! Said offender also
bashed all the pins loose on Chris Clarke's Fritz copy in one concert. I'm
not saying it's impossible to play both modern and FePo, it just going
against human nature. I mean, why do athletes specialize in various aspects
of the same sport? You train the body to do a certain job and it likes to
keep doing it. Again, I have to ask, what would Streicher have thought of
the weight and depth of a Steinway if he thought that a Broadwood was so
difficult? What was the playing, even the overly energetic (and the
abusive) playing, really like then?

I'm not interested in ideological streets, no exit or otherwise. I just
don't like re-leathering or repinning or restringing or all of the above
when it's simply not necessary. Yeah, ok, we can put in thicker steel
instead of brass pins, and string with modern wire, and use more durable
but less responsive leather, and beef up the hammer shanks, but then what
kind of ideological street are we traveling?

What are you trying to say, anyway Marc? Seems to me there's only two
possibilities:
Since many pianos by many makers HAVE been damaged by over-playing, we can
either
A) beef them up and try to make them durable for the "modern" hand
B) try to get the players to treat them better, i.e. to develop a
"historic" hand

What do you recommend?

You may not want to believe it because you're a sensitive player, but
believe me, in 1/2 hour (less, actually), an insensitive modern player with
a powerful technique can turn a nice fortepiano into a dead wreck. And the
privacy of a conservatory practice room is the perfect setting for this
sort of instrument rape. THAT is what I meant when I said historical
instruments should be reserved for those who specialize. IN A CONSERVATORY
SETTING, which is what the whole topic was in the first place. A
conservatory cannot hire touch police to sit 24 hours a day in the
fortepiano room, and requiring modern players who may have zero motivation
to learn anything from early instruments to play them for a year is a
recipe for disaster.

Walter Vermeulen has a classic story. He went to tune a harpsichord at the
Utrecht conservatory one day, and as he walked by the room with the Neupert
FePo he heard the most gawd-awful banging and thwanging. He went in and
asked the student what the bejeezus he was up to. The answer? He was a
modern piano student, and his teacher said his technique was too powerful,
hard and harsh (for modern piano), so he thought some time on the
fortepiano would "work it out of his system."(!)

Naturally, everybody's different, and it's always dangerous to make
generalizations, but the one thing I can say is that one group stands out
as ALWAYS making a beautiful tone and NEVER over-playing the instrument:
those who come from the clavichord. Those who come from or still play
modern piano are a mixed bag, some (like you) being sensitive, but many
being just plain bashers. Ergo, my conclusion, if you REALLY want to learn
fortepiano for all it's worth, and not mistreat it, specialize in early
keyboards, especially those who are touch sensitive (harpsichordists can be
bashers too. . . I shudder to think about a FePo under the hands of
Koopman!) And vice-versa, if you want to keep an instrument in good order,
don't let modern players play it unattended. Never!

Actually, come to think, Laurette would do much better to put those big
piano folks on a clavichord for a year. If you overplay a clavichord, it
just spits at you. Laurette also owns one of my pianos. I hope she never
loans it to the SF conservatory.

Anyway, I really am not sure what your saying, Marc. It almost seems as
though you're denying there is a problem here. I mean, this is exactly why
even motivated and sensitive players are rarely granted permission to play
on originals by museum curators, something you players are always
complaining about. Museum people have simply learned from their
experiences. Stanley Hoogland bashed the treble to death on Michael
Latcham's original Hoffman, something Michael has never forgiven him for
(rightly so). What do you recommend we do to solve this problem, Marc?
Simply calling it "fortepiano-as-victim" mentality or "cold-war vocabulary"
won't ever bring that treble back, I'm afraid. Have you got a suggestion?

Paul "We will bury you" Poletnevski

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