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Re: GG:Intros

    I have to say I've been listening to GG's Gibbons/Byrd/Sweelink CD

I love those pieces, too. I grew up with early (pre-baroque) music in
the house, and it was wonderful to hear them through Gould. (The
Sweelinck touches me most, for some reason.)

    Do recordings by other artists exist and if so are
    GG's vastly different?

I've never heard other recordings of those particular pieces, but I've
heard lots of harpsichord recordings of early music (the recording below
has another Pavan & Galliard by Byrd), and as you might imagine, they're
not much like Gould ...

    The liner notes say that people criticized GG for not playing the

(probably the same people who didn't like him playing Bach et al. on the piano)

    pieces on a virginal-- what does one sound like? 

... goes and puts on the one virginal record he owns ... (excerpts from
`The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book', played by Blanche Winogron). it sounds
like a ``light'' harpsichord on the recording. Somewhere between a
clavichord and a harpsichord? But if I bet if you gave me a blindfold
test, I couldn't tell the difference. (Which says more about me than the
instruments :-)

Virginals generally have two manuals (``double virginals''), but stacked
one on top of each other, almost directly above, with several inches in
between. The whole instrument is usually 4-6 feet long, the keyboards
are about half of that (on the right, on every one I've seen). The
strings go the length of the instrument.

It was traditionally a instrument played by women (every period picture
I've seen has a woman playing it, and my recording is by a woman
:-). Perhaps some vague metaphorical resemblance to harps?

Here's an excerpt from the liner notes about the instruments used in
the recording:

  ... The combined range of the two levels of keyboard provides the player
  with a number of possibilities for tonal contrast without the aid of any
  mechanical devices, such as pedals or stops. The musical interest,
  however, is largely sustained by the skill and artistry of the player,
  who must create the illusion of dynamic change in most instances through
  touch, pacing, and clever finger action.

  Though the virginal can be described as the miniature form of the
  harpsichord from the point of view of jack action (the word ``virginal''
  in Elizabethan days was a generic term for any of the plucked keyboard
  instruments), there are nevertheless a number of important differences
  in construction between them, all of which affect the character of the
  ultimate sound. The most significant are: (1) the smaller rectangular
  chest of the virginals allows for a more advantageous point of contact
  of the plectra (the plucking device attached to the jacks activated by
  the keys) in relation to the bridge; and (2) the virginal has a single
  set of strings, whereas the larger instrument has at least three. While
  the multitude of stringing and mechanical means for ``registration''
  (i.e., color change) of the larger harpsichord make for greater variety
  of effect and seemingly richer sonorities, its basic sound governed by
  the longer strings and profusion of sympathetic vibration is quite
  removed from the clarify and sweetness so characteristic of the

  The charm of a good part of the repertoire for the latter instrument
  depends upon these very gualities which are inherent in the simpler
  construction. Yet it would be nonsense to say that virginal music was
  always performed on such an instrument even in Elizabethan days...

  -- Sydney Beck

Hope this helps a little,

(who owns one of three dolce melos (another early keyboard instrument)
in existence (as far as I know :-)