Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Hankering for Harpischord

Back in graduate school, I switched from the piano to the harpsichord due to a great love for Baroque music, in particular, the keyboard of JS Bach. Playing his harpsichord works on a piano, while enjoyable, just never felt fully "authentic" for my compulsive standards, much as reading, say, the Living Bible doesn't quite compare with the Greek New Testament, even though you get the "same notes" and the "same tune," but without the nuances and subtleties.

My suffering harpsichord teacher [who upon first hearing my efforts to play the harpsichord like a piano player who thought he would immediately conquer the new instrument stated that she desired to run out of the room screaming] got a key for me to have access to the university's rather expensive French double-manual harpsichord. On this magnificent instrument, I often practiced from midnight 'til 3am or so.

During this time, I became very technically adept on the harpsichord, but, due to ever-increasing stage-fright --- an irrationality that conspires against me to this very day --- I went back to the piano, where I felt I had a larger margin for error when performing.

This love affair with the harpsichord lasted about three years. However, I moved near the end of graduate school to another close-by town, and my LCMS parish had a very nice baby grand that begged to have Chopin played. Even Bach sounded good on this piano with the parish's high ceilings ennobling the acoustics. I surrendered my harpsichord room key back to the Music Dept at the university, and, having scratched the harpsichord itch, was happy with Chopin and doing baroque on the piano. Basically, was the best thing about my LCMS parish was the sound doctrine, the godly pastor, and fellow Lutherans --- or was it was the combination of piano and high ceilings!

However, over the last few weeks, for whatever reason, I've re-developed a harpsichord hankering. Diane asked what I'd like for Christmas. Well, here are some pictures of what the PP would like to find under the tree. Take careful note, and you don't have to wrap it for me:


This double-manual beauty just screams to have some three- or four-voice fugues played on it. Perhaps a partita or two, not to mention a few "English" suites and a few "French" suites. Then we could play that lovely A-Major site by Handel with the frolicking gigue. Perhaps we could let our French side come out with some D'Angelbert and Forqueray. We could cross the channel once again with some tunes of Purcell. Of course, the experience wouldn't be complete without some charming and prismatic Protestantista [or even a Papista] to lavish all sorts of superlatives on the harpsichordist. But we're getting a bit off topic now...

Here's a front view of the double-manual beauty. It's only $35,000 or so. After checking beween the sofa cushions, we're only $34,999.68 away from the goal.

This is when I'm tempted to wish that success theology were true. Perhaps that Prayer of Jabez book was right after all...it wouldn't hurt to try once, would it? Perhaps the Turkoman can send me one of those "How To Get What You Pray For" books or gizmos or lucky charms he sells at his Christian bookstore. :-)

11 Comments:

Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

I absolutely love the harpsichord. One of my favorite albums is devoted to harpsichord music by Scarlatti, Bach, and Philips.

I understand that classical music makes you smarter and I need all the help I can get.

Sunday, December 11, 2005 7:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Diane said...

I think that's a little out of my price range for a Christmas gift. And, even if we pooled money from both of our couches, we would probably only be $34,998 short.

Any other suggestions?

Sunday, December 11, 2005 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

This only fuels the theory that Jonathan and I just might be the same person.

As for Diane, I get you a $600 snowblower and you can't even get me a $35000 instrument? I feel so used.

Sunday, December 11, 2005 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

You absolutely must listen to my last Credo podcast:

http://www.reformedcatholicism.com/podcasts/podcastCredo-10-29-05.mp3

Sunday, December 11, 2005 4:40:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Kevin --- is it supposed to take several minutes to download? It seems to take a long time on my [fast] computer.

Sunday, December 11, 2005 4:57:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Never mind, it was saved quickly the second time through.

Sunday, December 11, 2005 5:06:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

OK, I believe the main thing in that 20 minute podcast is the piano vs harpischord analogy you make at about the tenth or eleventh minute.

I confess my ignorance on what harpsichord piece was played. It sounded somewhat Italian in style, somewhat French.

Sunday, December 11, 2005 5:38:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

Rameau - Les Cyclopes
Pieces de Clavessin (1724)

And for this post...yes, the music in the middle was what I thought you might enjoy. :)

Sunday, December 11, 2005 7:02:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Ah, I have that book by Rameau in a Doverback edition. It is obvious too that I never cracked the book open, otherwise I would've known the answer. It couldn't have been JS Bach.

Well, theological differences aside, I can say you have good taste in muzak!

Sunday, December 11, 2005 8:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the best harpsichord recording of Bach's 48 (Well-Tempered Clavier, for anyone reading who may not know the nick-name)? In your opinion if you harbor one. Or just a good recording if you know of one. I always hear Kenneth Gilbert, but that is such a thunderous sound.

Monday, December 12, 2005 12:59:00 AM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Ton Koopman on a Flemish model harpsichord, published under the Erato line. Great liner notes too.

Monday, December 12, 2005 9:49:00 AM  

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