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Bach, J S - Gulda Clavichord - Gulda, Friedrich


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“Pity, I'm back!” Friedrich Gulda and the clavichord In the 12th and 13th centuries, the clavichord evolved from the Greek monochord, an instrument that consisted of a soundboard above which a string was stretched and divided into the desired lengths by means of a moveable bridge. A more developed form was the polychord, which was fitted with several strings to allow for the simultaneous production of more than one note. The addition of keys to the instrument heralded the birth of the clavichord. At the far end of the key, a metal blade called a tangent would strike the string and make it vibrate. While holding down the key, the player can adjust the sound by means of a vibrato technique known as Bebung. On a fretted clavichord, a string is struck at various points by two or three keys, with different lengths of string giving off different notes. As a result, the instrument needs fewer strings than keys and can thus be accommodated in a small case. With his knowledge of music history, Gulda was of course aware that the clavichord was Bach’s favourite instrument alongside the organ and so it seemed fitting for him to perform Bach’s works on the clavichord. The first part of this recording presents Gulda playing a Widmayer clavichord, which has an intimate, refined sound, whereas the second part features a Neupert, which sounds more like a concert instrument. Gulda did much work with these two clavichords during the five years he spent preparing for his complete cycle of Mozart sonatas. He often had one in his hotel room and would be able to practise on it without causing disruption given that the instrument sounded very quiet when not amplified, so quiet in fact that the clavichord can normally be played only before a small audience and needs to be amplified for a concert performance. Gulda experimented with ways to tackle this problem for several years before eventually resolving to position microphones directly over the strings. Friedrich Gulda’s interest in the clavichord can be traced back to the early 1970s. He first became acquainted with Paul and Limpe Fuchs and their ensemble Anima-Sound at his festival in Ossiach in 1971. The Fuchs duo made totally new sounds on home-built instruments and thus immediately captivated Gulda, who was always keen to broaden his sonic spectrum. His instrumental arsenal, already comprising the piano, electric piano and recorders, was supplemented by the clavichord, which, at this early stage, Gulda amplified by hanging microphones above the sound holes. The “Anima years” had a lasting influence on Gulda’s outlook and are well documented by recordings. His incredibly vivid piano-playing style was intensified all the more by his fastidiously refined touch on the clavichord. The two disciplines thus had a wonderfully stimulating effect on one another. During my studies with Gulda, I could see for myself just how useful clavichord technique is for a pianist. Since the clavichord has no pedal, the player has to use sophisticated fingerings to link notes together in a smooth, flowing delivery. When applied on the piano, such fingerings ensure that the pedal is used only as a means of adding colour and not as a way of concealing poor technique. In the summer of 1973, as part of his Viktring music forum, Gulda played each and every piece of Bach’s Wohltemperiertes Clavier on the piano and clavichord in turn. I vividly remember an eight-day Gulda festival at the Petersbrunnhof centre of the arts in Salzburg. An introductory recital on the first evening, which saw Gulda present a kind of medley of the upcoming programme, was followed on the second day by a concert devoted to Bach’s clavichord works, featuring selected preludes and fugues from Das Wohltemperierte Clavier, the Sarabande from the third English Suite and the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue. During the afternoon rehearsal, Gulda asked me to come to the clavichord and play so that he could check the amplification in the room. I spontaneously started to play Bach’s Fantasy in C minor BWV 903, a piece that is full of challenges. When I finished playing it, Gulda (who knew me only as a pianist) gave me an affirmative nod, prompting me to move on to the Chromatic Fantasy. The transparent sound of the instrument lent itself beautifully to the old wooden hall of Petersbrunnhof. In attendance that evening was Gidon Kremer, who was thoroughly impressed by Gulda’s technique at the clavichord. Peter Cossé reported on this concert as follows: “The clavichord is driven by Gulda’s uncompromisingly feisty hands to generate the energy of a power plant […], the performer merged the contemplative sections (such as those found in the Prelude and Fugue in E flat minor from Book I) into a formalised dream, presenting Bach’s abstract train of thought as a musical diagram. Indeed, playing Bach with this fine balance of technique and intellect makes a refreshing change from the tentative, arduously strained style of clumsy harpsichordists”. Gulda’s sell-out concert at the Regensburg Reichssaal was reviewed in the Mittelbayerische Zeitung on June 20, 1979: “Gulda initially played various numbers from the second volume of Das Wohltemperierte Clavier, crowned in the second half by the great work in E flat minor, in which he held together the augmentations of the fugue with a vividness that suggests no-one but Gulda. The Italian Concerto was memorable; the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue sensational! Freely improvised arpeggios, runs, trills and other Baroque mannerisms were gradually converted into a jazz idiom. Bach’s music already had a swing to it simply because hardly any account is ever rhythmically spot-on. Now Gulda really was playing swing. He had previously performed a gavotte of his own that evolved from a “virtuous” Baroque piece into jazzy pyrotechnics. Everything sounded so natural and musically correct. Think how many jazzmen are needed in a combo or big band to play such a piece. He does it alone because he is a true musician.” In February 1980, Gulda devoted a concert at the Brucknerhaus in Linz to Bach’s clavichord works. Gerhard Ritschel commented at the end of his review in the Oberösterreichische Nachrichten: “Anyone aspiring to bring Bach alive again will have to look back to Gulda’s Bach and measure up to this benchmark. At the end, everyone acclaimed Gulda as an idol and kept wanting to hear more”. When giving his three concerts in Vienna in October 1978 (the recordings were released by MPS as Message from G.), Gulda used both the Widmayer and the Neupert clavichord not just for Bach but also as a means of adding significant colour to his settings of poems from Goethe’s anthology West–östlicher Divan, thus giving the clavichord a whole new dimension. Upon finishing one of his morning recitals of Bach meditations on the clavichord, during which he spent almost two hours wandering through this incredible cosmos of music, he quietly said: “Pity! I’m back.” Thomas Knapp, September 2017 Translation: Fred Maltby for JMB Translations, London
Fakta
Artikelnummer 0301063BC
Streckkod 0885470010632
Utgivningsdatum 2018-06-08
Kategori Klassiskt
Skivbolag Berlin Classics
Enhet CD
Antal enheter 1
Utövare
Artister Gulda, Friedrich
Kompositörer Bach, J S
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