This being the 300th anniversary of the invention of the piano, recordings of
the instrument will be flooding the market during the year. For the history-minded music lover, the small Lyrichord label has recently issued two CDs
that trace the evolution of the piano.
Each disc part of the label's Early Music Series, features a
predecessor of the piano, with expert performers in the period music that
shows off the instrument's particular qualities.
J.S. Bach: The Seven Toccatas, with
color="#003163">Richard Troegerplaying the clavichord, is also
the second volume in the label's Bach on Clavichord series. The CD
features up-close recordings that catch the smallest sonic nuances of the
The clavichord is a gentle-voiced keyboard, audible mostly to the player and
listeners within a few feet of him. Pressure from the keys is applied directly to
the strings and can be maintained (unlike the harpsichord and fortepiano),
allowing a variety of dynamic and color nuances. It even permits the player
to "bend" notes, such as a blues guitarist (though this is generally
considered a no-no in J.S. Bach's
music). Troeger plays expressively, with brilliant technique.
The Art of the Forte Piano, with John van
Buskirk, documents what pianos sounded like in the lifetimes of
color="#003163">Beethovenin the late 18th and early 19th
centuries. It features sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven,
color="#003163">Muzio Clementi color="#003163">Johann Christian Bach
color="#003163">Johann Christian Bach(son of Johann
Sebastian; friend and early model for Mozart).
The instrument is a lot smaller and more fragile than the modern concert
grand. Its keyboard had only about five octaves (the exact range varied
slightly from one model to another). Its structure was relatively fragile
(Beethoven used to destroy keyboards with the power of his playing). And
the voicing was frequently less homogeneous from one octave to another,
giving an added dimension to passages of dialogue between the left and
right hands. These performances are rendered in the appropriate period