The Sound of the Italian Harpsichord Martha Goldstein, Harpsichord PAN 101 Stereo

Side one

J.J. Froberger:  Lamentation          C major   Mean-tone   3 sharps, 2 flats       6:01
J.J. Froberger:  Fantasy              E minor   Mean-tone   5 sharps                4:00
J. S. Bach:      Italian Concerto     F major   Werkmeister Temperament #1         12:49
                                 1st movement (no tempo indicated)

Side two

D. Zipoli:       Largo                  B minor Mean-tone        6 sharps             3:54
D. Zipoli:       Gavotte                B minor Mean-tone        6 sharps             2:23
G. B. Pescetti   Allegretto             C major Mean-tone        3 sharps,2 flats     2:57
G. B. Pescetti   Presto                 C minor Mean-tone        1 sharp, 4 flats     2:19
D. Scarlatti:    Allegretto             D minor Mean-tone        3 sharps,2 flats     4:21
D. Scarlatti:    Presto E major         Mean-tone                5 sharps             2:57

The typical Italian harpsichord has one keyboard and two registers of strings at the 8' pitch. The construction is very light - approximately 50 pounds. In the era of the harpsichord (1500-1800) the most common instrument was the Italian, which prevailed throughout Europe. Why so, since today it is seldom heard?

It was the earliest design. It was the cheapest and lightest and easiest to build. Moreover it was mobile.

Studies by W. Thomas and j. I. K. Rhodes (docu­mented in the "Galpin Society journal” March 1967) suggests that many Italian instrument were strung with bronze wire of low tin content.

The pitch A-440 is consistent with bronze stringing. In his book "The Interpretation of Early Music" (p. 443) Robert Donington claims that generally for harpsichords and viols A-440 was reasonably close to some Baroque practice. Tunings about a semi-tone lower were also common. Brass stringing was also used.

According to C.P.E. Bach in his book "The Art of Keyboard Playing," the style for non-cantabile playing is detaché unless there are phrasing marks to the contrary. Specifically a note is to be held one half its indicated value. This style, as well as other articulations are very clear on the Italian harpsichord. Because of this clarity, it is natural to play fast movements faster, and the Italian harpsichord demands the virtu­osity that culminated in Domenico Scarlatti.

The Italians were fond of tuning their instruments by the so-called Mean-tone temperament. In Mean-tone tuning sharps and flats are different. (Ab is not the same as G#). In this system one can play freely only in 8 keys. In these keys however the harmony is more con­sonant than in the equal temperament in use today. Al­though the remaining keys are so dissonant as to be generally unusable, they can sometimes be used with good effect. The Pescetti “Presto,’ for example, goes through 10 keys. At times, during a concert, the harpsichord had to be retuned. Because of this annoyance, well-temperament became fashionable.

J. S. Bach often modulates through too many keys for the Mean-tone system. For Bach we may need a "well-tempering." This is a tuning in which one can play almost without distress in every key. Equal temperament (our customary tuning) is a well-tempering in which all keys are equally consonant. j. S. Bach was apparently not in favor of equal temperament. (Reference for this may be found in the book "Tuning and Temperament" by J. M. Barbour.) His tuning practice is however unknown. The tuning used for the Italian Concerto is due to A. Werkmeister, whom Bach admired, and was published in 1690. It may be found in the above mentioned book of Barbour under Werkmeister 1. In this tuning the keys of C, F. and G are virtually as smooth as just tuning. The roughness in the tuning increases with the number of accidentals in the key signature.

The first side of this record presents music influenced by the Italian style. The second side, Italian music.

J. J. Froberger, 1616-1667, was a student of Frescobaldi in Rome from 1637 to 1641. The Lamentation, an Allemande from his Suite for Harpsichord in C major, was written on the death of Ferdinand IV in 1654. The Fantasy No. 2 in E minor, in the Phrygian mode, is presented so that harpsichord buffs can compare sounds with a "Stradi­varius" among harpsichords made by Jan Ruckers in 1640. The Fantasy is played on the Ruckers by Gustav Leon­hardt and is available on a CD by Harmonia Mundi (7923), entitled "Froberger:Harpsichord Music."

J. S. Bach was so impressed by Italian instrumental music that he made numerous transcriptions of Italian chamber music to the organ and harpsichord. Quite possibly the popular Italian Concerto grew out of these labors.

The Italian music presented here was chosen to illus­trate the performing flexibility of the Italian harpsichord. Domenico Zipoli, 1688-1726, was born in Prato and died in Cordoba. He was organist in the Jesuit churches in Rome and Cordoba, Argentina. All the music by which he is known was first published in Rome in 1716. Giovanni Battista Pescetti, 1704-1766, was born and died in Venice. His main occupation was in writing, directing, and pro­ducing operas. He was director of Covent Garden Theatre and the King's Theatre, London 1739-1740. The present harpsichord work is from a set of Sonatas first published in London in 1739. Domenico Scarlatti, 1685-1757, was born in Naples and died in Madrid. The Scarlattis were a famous musical family of Italy like the Bachs of Germany. Domenico, the most famous, was a harpsichordist and composer, and to judge from his music, a virtuoso per­former. Many regard him as the founder of modern key­board technique.

The instrument used here was built by Glenn D. White in 1973 from a design evolved by him and Lutz Bungart of "The In­strument Workshop," formerly of Seattle and now in Ashland, OR. Very thin spruce was used for the case and the soundboard is of old and well-seasoned Douglas fir. There are two 8 foot registers of phosphor-bronze, disposed on one keyboard.

Although Italian in design and structure, the decora­tion of this harpsichord is more in the Flemish tradition, since the case is painted and gilded and the soundboard is painted.

Martha Goldstein has Artist diplomas from the Peabody Conservatory and the Juilliard School of Music. She has concertized in the United States, North Africa, Middle East, and Europe, and has taught at the Peabody Conser­vatory and the Cornish School.

® 1973 Pandora Recordings
Library of Congress Catalog LC 73-750964