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Unusual Harpsichord Recording?

Hello Fminor,

For all you people who like Gould's Handel CD, of which I am one, perhaps
the following CD from Parmentier (Again I mention his name) from the
friendly shop of the Musical Offering would be of interest.

Jim (always eager to send an email to Fminor)

Edward Parmentier
Recorded Manchester, Michigan. Peter Nothnagle, engineer; Joseph Spencer,
producer DDD 69'29" $15.98
special limited-time price: $12.78
see first review
Johann Kaspar Kerll: Two Toccatas
Melchior Schildt: Paduana Lachrymae (after John Dowland)
Heinrich Scheidemann: Praeambulum - Galliardas - Jesu wollst uns weisen
Matthias Weckmann: Toccata in D - Canzon - Suite in C minor
Johann Krieger: Fuga
Dieterich Buxtehude: Toccata in G minor - Suite in F - Variations on Rofilis
Georg Böhm: Suite in D - Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ

Harpsichord by Keith Hill, Manchester, Michigan, after Zell, Hamburg.

The seventeenth-century Stylus phantasticus was the equivalent of a
no-holds-barred jam session- whatever works, do it! Edward Parmentier
follows that mandate, playing one of Keith Hill's most exotic instruments,
with a highly spiced meantone tuning applied. The result is the harpsichord
equivalent of Thai food: sweet, hot and spicy, aromatic, intensely
interesting, always surprising, and real good.

The composers represented bridge a century-wide gap between two poles: the
composers Jan Sweelinck, "the father of Hamburg organists", and Samuel
Scheidt, who discarded the old German organ tablature in favor of 'modern'
staff notation, both working around Ca. 1600; and the young Johann Sebastian
Bach, who would singlehandedly create the modern virtuoso repertoire. Many
of the composers' names are unfamiliar; much of their music is not available
in print, let alone on recording.

Many of these pieces have not been recorded before, especially on
harpsichord. Much of this music is viewed as suitable for any keyboard
instrument of the time; comparing these with good recordings of the same
pieces on organs of the period, I am impressed with their suitability for
the harpsichord, and with Parmentier's conspicuous talent for finding their
"harpsichord voice." Taken together, the seven composers represented form a
chain of first-hand acquaintance and professional relationship stretching
from Sweelinck and Scheidt to Bach.

If all that sounds like learned musicological blather, fear not: the music
is the message, and the message is vitality and excitement and color. This
is an extremely enjoyable CD that needs no historical justification, but can
be marvelled at and savored, without apparent limit. It is a unique document
that will not soon be matched.

17th Century German Harpsichord Music
The Stylus Phantasticus
Music of Kerll, Schildt, Scheidemann, Weckmann, Krieger, Buxtehude, and Böhm
Edward Parmentier, harpsichord (Keith Hill, after Christian Zell, Hamburg)
Tuning: Quarter-comma meantone
Wildboar 9202 $15.98
This is an extraordinary harpsichord recording, in several ways:
First, the repertoire is some of the least performed and recorded music of
any era. At the beginning of the period covered, around 1600, Germany was
still basing most of its music, keyboard included, upon Italian models.
Moreover, the Germans were still laboring with the old German keyboard
tablature, an awkward and cumbersome notation compared with the staff
notation already in use in Italy. Why the Germans were slow to emulate the
Italians' notation along with their music is a study waiting to be

In the earliest works on this program, it is easy to identify the composers'
models-- the English lutenists in Melchior Schildt's Pavana (after Dowland's
Lachrymae); Sweelinck and the Dutch organists in Scheidemann's chorale
settings; and Frescobaldi in the Toccatas of Kerll and Weckmann. The
experienced listener will sense the spirit of Froberger in all the music
from mid-century onward. As the program proceeds through the century, the
appearance of the French suite with its dance movements seems quite sudden
and daring, put into context. Throughout, the German genius inculcates its
imported models with a new vigor and intellectual rigor, just as Bach was to
do (in spades!) after the period here covered.

The energy and sound of this disc are quite apart from any I've experienced
before. Figures tumble out as though some barrier has just released them;
melodies seduce as though sung by the sultriest of singers; and bold
statements are made, attesting to the strength and character of the
composer, and the performer along with him.

The tuning is stated to be quarter-comma meantone, the standard tuning for
much of the period covered. And yet the sound of the harpsichord is so
colorful, so sweet, so seductive, one wonders how such tones could be wrung
from a mere harpsichord. Parmentier's phrasing and expression mirror the
harpsichord's colorful speech perfectly-- eloquent, seductive, concise.

One of Wildboar's earliest CDs, "Seventeenth Century French Harpsichord
Music", also with Parmentier, stands as a partner in more than title to this
later Wildboar effort, despite the dozen years that separate their release
dates. The older disc is memorable for its use of "1/3 comma meantone", a
tuning possessed of a surpassing sweetness- when it is sweet- and a truly
shocking dissonance when it is not. The new German CD's harpsichord is
almost as sweet in its tonal colors, but the flashes of discord that
characterize the French disc never materialize. Instead, drama is generated
through movement and gesture. Nonetheless, these two CDs are united by their
exquisite displays of color; I know of no other harpsichord CDs that
approach these Wildboar discs in this domain.