Piano vs. Harpsichord

When it comes to classical music written for the harpsichord, I stay away from piano transcriptions. Ugh!

Why? Because composers like Byrd, Couperin, Scarlatti, Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn, and Mozart knew what the harpsichord was good for; they knew what they were doing when they wrote for it.

For a few reasons, most bad, lots of harpsichord music from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical periods has been rearranged for the modern piano. But the music doesn’t sound or feel the way it should because it was conceived for a different instrument; it doesn’t excite the gut or lift the spirit the way the compser meant it to. Try to imagine what Bach’s concerto for four harpsichords would sound like on four pianos and you’ll see what I mean.

By the same token, music conceived for the piano doesn’t sound right on the harpsichord. Try to imagine what the Rach III or Tschaikovsky’s 1st piano concerto would sound like if soloed on the harpsichord and you’ll see what I mean.

Probably Glen Gould plays Bach on the piano as well as anyone could; he’s good at what he does and his intentions are honorable, but he’s off base. People like Hogwood, Pinnock, Wallfish (the husband), Kipnis, Koopman, Landowska, and Leonhardt hit homers because they make music sound they way the composer meant it to sound; they make it mean what the composer meant it to mean.

Why are we never satisfied with the staus quo? Why are we always trying to improve on what’s already perfect?

2011, Decision Consulting, Inc. (DCI). All rights reserved. All copies must include this copyright statement.

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