Do not expect, whether you are an amateur or a professional, to find any profound intention in these compositions, but rather an ingenious jesting with art by means of which you may attain freedom in harpsichord playing. … Perhaps they may please you, in which case I may more willingly obey further commands to gratify you in a simpler and more varied style. Be therefore kind rather than critical, and your pleasure will be the greater."
D. Scarlatti, in the preface to his Exercises for Harpsichord, 1738.
(Malcolm Boyd. 1986. Domenico Scarlatti: Master of Music.)
Wanda Landowska, who once said to another eminent Bach specialist, “You continue to play Bach your way, and I’ll continue to play him his way,” was also famous for her dramatic stage entrances. Harold Schonberg describes one such entrance in his book The Great Pianists:
Fifteen minutes before the start of the event the audience was already firmly in place. Mme. Landowska made everybody wait a good while before she decided to come out. Finally the stage door opened and The Presence approached.
It seemed to take her a good five minutes to walk the twenty or so feet to the instrument. Her palms were pressed together in prayer a la Durer, her eyes were cast to the heavens, and everybody realized she was in communion with J.S. Bach, getting some last minute coaching and encouragement. She looked like the keeper of the flame as, dressed in some kind of shapeless black covering, her feet shod in velvet ballet slippers, she levitated to the harpsichord. It was one of the great entrances of all time.
Bach / W Landowska, 1936: Partita No. 1 in B Flat major, BWV 825 - Vinyl LP Recording
I haven’t watched this yet, but I do remember posting Daria’s wonderful video of her playing Handel from the back of a truck while driving throughout Amsterdam.
WATCHING: TEDTalk from happy AMSTERDAM, talented Dutch pianist, Daria van den Bercken: A State of Wonder http://bit.ly/YRkkpp Rethinking how to share beautiful music
Great sounding instrument!
J.S. Bach - French Suite #2, BWV813 (Bob van Asperen) (by Trinitrotolaissance)
The viol sounds so otherworldly to me.
J.S. Bach - Sonata in G-Major for viol and harpsichord BWV 1027 - complete. I. Adagio, II. Allegro ma non tanto, III. Andante, IV. Allegro moderato. Simone Stella - harpsichord. Ernst Stolz - viola da gamba. (by ernststolz)
From 1752 to 1757 thirteen volumes of Scarlatti sonatas were copied out for the use of Queen Maria Barbara. They were carefully written in a rather large format like that of the Essercizi,widely spaced and decorated with colored inks. To this series were added two preliminary volumes that had been copied out in 1742 and in 1749, likewise decorated with colored inks. The volume of 1749 is even further illuminated with gold for the titles, tempo marks, and hand indications. All fifteen volumes were bound in red morocco with the combined arms of Spain and Portugal tooled in gold on the cover. I n 1835 the Queen’s set of Scarlatti sonatas was acquired by the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice. The fifteen manuscript volumes (the ‘Venice manuscripts’) contain 496 sonatas. (The volumes that have since been numbered XIV and XV are actually the earliest, from 1742 and 1749 respectively, that preceded the thirteen volumes of the series proper.)
An additional fifteen volumes, largely duplicating the Queen’s series, were copied out from 1752 to 1757, in part at least by the same copyist. They lack the colored decorations of the Queen’s set, and are bound up in plain leather. Now they are the property of the Sezione Musicale of the Biblioteca Palatina, housed in the Conservatorio Arrigo Boïto at Parma, (hence called ‘Parma manuscripts’). This set of manuscripts contains 463 sonatas. In a few cases their dates are earlier than those of the parallel Venice manuscripts. Among them are a few not contained in the Venice manuscripts, most notably the twelve sonatas that are apparently Scarlatti’s last. Together with the Essercizi,these two sets of manuscripts by the Queen’s copyists form the principal sources for all but a few of the 555 Scarlatti sonatas. Except for a few earlier pieces, the first thirteen volumes of the ‘Venice manuscripts’ appear to have been collected in approximately chronological order, and there is every indication that most of them were composed at this time.
In these two collections Scarlatti first shows the full range of his genius and at last demonstrates his full maturity. He was 67 years old. Yet a gradual change is still perceptible, a still further process of maturing that continues through the very last sonatas. The ‘ingenious jesting with art’ and the ‘happy freaks’ of the Esserciziand the sonatas of the intervening period have given way to a style of writing that renders the harpsichord sonata a full vehicle for the entire expression of Scarlatti’s personality and for the distillation of his entire life’s experience and fund of sentiment.
This music ranges from the courtly to the savage, from a wellnigh saccharine urbanity to an acrid violence. Its gaiety is all the more intense for an undertone of tragedy. Its moments of meditative melancholy are at times overwhelmed by a surge of extrovert operatic passion. Most particularly he has expressed that part of his life which was lived in Spain. There is hardly an aspect of Spanish life, of Spanish popular music and dance, that has not found itself a place in the microcosm that Scarlatti created with his sonatas. No Spanish composer, not even Manuel de Falla, has expressed the essence of his native land as completely as did the foreigner Scarlatti. He has captured the click of castanets, the strumming of guitars the thud of muffled drums, the harsh bitter wail of gypsy lament, the overwhelming gaiety of the village band, and above all the wiry tension of the Spanish dance."
English Suite No.3 In G Minor, BWV 808: Gavotte
Bob Van Asperen, harpsichord
A couple of great colour contrasts in the register changes between sections!
This is where I’ve been spending large chunks of my time the past few weeks, preparing for Saturday’s Bach-fest at the WCFSO. I’ll be leading the concert from this lovely harpsichord, built by North Carolina maker Richard Kingston and graciously loaned to us by the UNI School of Music. Among the many gems featured on the program is the piece I was working on over the weekend – Bach’s festive Cantata BWV 63, composed for Christmas 1714. [We are performing the duet ‘Ruft und fleht den Himmel an’ with Iowa vocalists Jeff Brich and Elisabeth Bieber.]
Stay tuned for more posts related to this concert; in the meantime hear the complete repertoire on Spotify.