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Re: GG: Harpsichord Playing

On 24 Apr 1996 PHILIP.GARON@hq.doe.gov wrote:

>      > There is a commercial recording of GG doing four of the Handel 
>      > harpsichord suites.  I am not very fond of it, but then-I am
>      > not very fond of the harpsichord.
>      Wasn't it Sir Thomas Beecham who said that the sound of the 
>      harpsichord reminded him of two skeletons copulating on a tin 
>      roof?

Yes, but remember: the early-20th-century metal-framed harpsichords which
Beecham knew were bad examples of harpsichords.  Those particular
instruments *did* sound thin and dull and clattery, compared with
well-kept antiques or modern reproductions.  The revivalist builders (e.g.
Pleyel, Sperrhake) tried to reinvent and "improve" designs which didn't
need such evolution.  Beecham was right to speak ill of these instruments. 
Just about the only similarity between them and good harpsichords is that
both pluck the strings. 

And Gould's recording of Handel on a heavy Wittmayer (whose keys he pounds
mercilessly) also gives harpsichord and harpsichord playing a bad name. 
It's interesting to hear as an example of imaginative music-making, but it
certainly doesn't resemble harpsichord technique or harpsichordistic
expressivity in any way other than coincidental. 

Condemnation of the harpsichord on the evidence of Beecham's comment and
Gould's playing is like tasting soggy microwaved Cost-Cutter fish sticks
and concluding, "I don't like fish." 

Bradley Lehman, bpl@umich.edu       http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/