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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    





ON A TANGENT, 1200-1599

1 "Galliardo (Philips)"
2 "Mit ganczem Willen (Paumann)"
3 "Elend, du hast umfangen mich (Paumann)"
4 "Estampie (anonymous c1325)"
5 "Basse dance 7 (Attaingnant)"
6 "En avois (anonymous 15th century)"
7 "Christ ist erstanden (12th-15th C)"
8 "Quando claro (anonymous 16th century)"
9 "Holloyne pardye (Anonymous)"
10 "Wie möcht ich frölich werden (Neusidler)"
11 "Guardame las vacas (Narvaez)"
12 "Ricercar 3 in G (Luys Milan)"
13 "Fantasia X imitating Ludovico (Mudarra)"
14 "Fantasia 67 in F (Luys Milan)"
15 "Mille regretz (Josquin-Narvaez)"
16 "A point (Thomas Tallis)"
17 "A pavyon (Newman)"
18 "Alman de la nonette (van Soldt)"
19 "Fantasia (Sancta Maria)"
20 "Suonata prima (Banchieri)"
21 "O vos omnes (Victoria, Lehman)"
22 "Song of the Birds (Catalan folk song)"


ON A COTANGENT, 1600-1999

1 "Song 13 (Orlando Gibbons)"
2 "Lobt Gott den Herren (Vulpius)"
3 "Amarilli mia bella (Caccini-Philips)"
4 "Wunderbarer König (17th C chorale)"
5 "Wer nur den lieben Gott...(Georg Böhm)"
6 "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (3 vers)"
7 "Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten...(Pachelbel)"
8 "Warum betrübst du dich (Pachelbel)"
9 "Minuets in G major and G minor (Bach)"
10 "Jesu meine Freude (Walther)"
11 "Polonaise 1 in G minor (CPE Bach)"
12 "Polonaise 2 in G major (CPE Bach)"
13 "Polonaise 3 in G minor (CPE Bach)"
14 "Tombeau de Mlle Gaultier (D Gaultier)"
15 "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (Lehman)"
16 "Kremser; Grosser Gott, wir loben dich"
17 "The foggy morn (Irish traditional)"
18 "The piper o'er the meadows straying"
19 "Le petit negre (Debussy)"
20 "Sakura canons (trad Japanese, Lehman)"
21 "Dona nobis pacem (traditional round)"

Bradley Lehman, clavichord
Rec: Dayton VA, July 6-8, 1999.
MP3.COM 70078 (1) 70125 (2)




Bradley Lehman is a proponent of the clavichord, and here has produced and recorded two CDs on this unique instrument. As he says in his liner notes, "The clavichord is the simplest keyboard instrument, dating from as early as the 14th Century. Its expression ranges from gentle delicacy to fiery abruptness. It is well suited to most of the keyboard literature without pedal, and (as demonstrated here) to music borrowed from other instruments. Its most popular use historically has been as a home instrument, especially for practice by organists and harpsichordists."

Indeed, Bach is said to have used clavichords to practice at home, and organists often practiced on clavichords as well, since an organ is not something you could play outside of a church. The clavichord has a unique sound, somewhere between a steel-stringed guitar and a harpsichord. Yet it a very soft instrument, because the strings are struck rather than plucked. As Lehman points out, "For an accurate representation of the clavichord's tone, please set your volume controls VERY LOW. The clavichord is an especially quiet instrument, producing barely a whisper of sound. If the playback volume is too high, some of these performances sound far more intense than they are in real life!"

The first disc, On a Tangent, presents a selection of pieces from 1200 - 1599. Not all of these pieces were intended to be played on the clavichord; actually, very little music was expressly written for this instrument. At the time, it was sufficient to say that a given piece was written for the keyboard, and those playing it could use a harpsichord, clavichord, spinet, virginal or other instrument.

Some of the works on this disc are lively, such as the admirable Quando claro, a brief, rapid improvised dance piece. You can almost imagine the characters of a Breughel painting spinning around in joy to this music, or to other dance pieces, such as Holloyne pardye, which, according to the liner notes, is 16th century rough-and-ready Halloween party music. These pieces give the disc a lively, festive atmosphere. In fact, it sounds as though Lehman searches above all to create an atmosphere - the sequence and choice of pieces is intended to act as a more global discourse presenting a variety of music.

Some of the works are slower, more delicate, such as Guardame las vacas, a series of variations on a folk song, which has the tone of much Elizabethan lute music, or the Ricercar (Fantasia) 3 in G, by Luys Milan, which recalls some of Byrd's keyboard music.

The second disc, On a Cotangent, contains a wider variety of pieces. It stretches from 1600 to 1999, and ranges from a piece by Orlando Gibbons to traditional Irish songs, to compositions by Lehman himself. The long set of variations by Georg Böhm, Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, is a fine example of how baroque music can fit the clavichord perfectly. The dynamics and texture of the piece make it sound as though it was truly written for this instrument.

O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden is an arrangement of three settings of the same text: a four-part vocal version from Bach's Christmas Oratorio, an organ prelude by Johann Pachelbel, and an organ harmonization from Samuel Scheidt's Görlitzer Tabulaturbuch (1650). This is a beautiful arrangement, showing the variety of manners in which the same text was approached in the baroque period.

There are familiar pieces, such as the Minuets in G and G Minor from Anna Magdalena Bach's keyboard book (written by Christian Petzold). Most students of keyboard music have played these pieces, and, on the clavichord, they take on a much more homey sound, which is probably similar to that heard in Bach's house.

The Three Polonaises by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach are works by Bach's best-known son, who was a proponent of the clavichord, and who wrote a great deal of music expressly for this instrument.

There are other more contemporary pieces, showing the full range of the clavichord - a traditional Irish song, The Foggy Morn, a traditional Japanese song, Sakura canons, arranged by Lehman, and a rag by Debussy, Le petit nègre.

All in all, these two discs are fine examples of the little-known instrument, the clavichord. Its unique sound is indeed something that all music-lovers should discover. Bradley Lehman gives two wonderful anthologies of music for this instrument, which are delightful in both melody and sound. These self-produced discs also show the excellent quality that can be obtained by individuals with talent and appropriate technical conditions. I give these discs a very high recommendation, and hope that more listeners will discover this instrument.

Kirk McElhearn

CONTACT DETAILS

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/cds.html


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