I like the harpsichord. Consequently I tend to like harpsichord concertos
and solo works for harpsichord. But that is not to say that
I am indiscriminate when it comes to the instrument. I’ll be
as bored as anyone if a second-rate work is given the monotonous
cembalo treatment. But whether 20th century
composition or Galant-style concerto, I’ll be intrigued enough
to give it a listen.
gave way to proper enjoyment when I listened to Johann Gottfried
Wilhelm Palschau’s two harpsichord concertos in C and D-major.
There is little known about J.G.W. Palschau himself. He was
born around 21 December 1741, but we don’t know where, except
most likely in Denmark. We know he died in St. Petersburg, but
not exactly when … except probably in 1813 or 1815. He published
these concertos, the only ones known to exist, in 1771 but may
well have written them before 1768. He was a child prodigy but
did not quite turn out to be a Danish Mozart.
music is C.P.E. Bach-ish - more guarded and cautious than some
of the wilder, fanciful compositions of the time. Indeed, more
than a Galant-style concerto, it sounds like a ‘Concert Reminiscence’
of a Bach harpsichord concerto.
Schulz is ‘famous’ at all, it is for his composition of the
song “Der Mond ist Aufgegangen” (“The Moon has Risen”), probably
sung by every German above at one point in his or her childhood.
The critical reception in 1779 of Schulz’s Six diverses pièces
pour le clavecin ou le piano forte stated that they were
“among the best piano pieces of our time […] in the manner of
Bach and not unworthy of him.” There is little to add to that,
more than 200 years later except perhaps the caution that Schulz,
a Bach-student by second degree - his teacher J.P. Kirnberger
was taught by Bach - often doesn’t actually sound much like J.S.
Bach. The pieces pinpoint and reflect the time when the harpsichord
was left behind in favor of the fortepiano. The admittedly (J.S.)
Bachian Preludio showcases specifically the older instrument.
Other pieces were probably intended for the fortepiano abilities
and sound accordingly different. There’s no harm in hearing them
all on the harpsichord, though, played so expertly by Lars Ulrik
Mortensen – who also leads Concerto
Copenhagen in the Palschau concertos.
recorded sound is exemplary and catches the harpsichord with a
warm glow but never leaves smudges.
Jens F. Laurson