A NEW TOOL FOR KEYBOARD ENSEMBLE AND EXPRESSION
Joel Speerstra & Ulrika Davidsson
Ibo Ortgies, archival research
The Duo-Clavichord was finished in 2014 and is a new take on an old tool. It is a clavichord with two keyboards directly across from each other in the same box, based on a single keyboard instrument by Silbermann, a favorite builder of Bach’s second son, Carl Philipp Emanuel. Bach and his children and students wrote complex and exciting repertoire for two keyboards unlike anything seen before or since. Will the new Duo-Clavichord encourage early keyboard musicians to play more in ensemble together? What happens to their musicianship, their improvisation skills, and their understanding of this repertoire when they work with this instrument? As discussed in the Survey of the field, some considerable work needs to be exerted to build a clear picture of the source situation for this repertoire. The Bach scholar Peter Woolney takes up the problem, saying that we know two-keyboard repertoire had a “special meaning” for the J. S. Bach family (2000, 16). Then he points to a letter from Johann Nikolaus Bach from 1728, that mentions two clavichords that will sound beautifully together and also recommends repertoire to play on them together, apparently with a pedagogical motivation (Schulze 1989, 242). This mention is fifty years before the famous works for two keyboards by Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel, suggesting that the tradition may be longer than we thought. The GOArt researcher Ibo Ortgies will work with this question as a key member of this work package.
The clavichord itself as a phenomenon has certain affordances that other keyboard instruments do not have. It is the only historical keyboard instrument before the invention of the piano where it was possible to control dynamics of individual notes through touch, but this affordance comes at a technical price. Because each pair of strings must be lifted a little bit every time a note is played, making an ergonomic and well-controlled technique a necessity for tone production, it has always been prized as an important teacher for the other keyboard instruments. Here, too, a duo-instrument may allow students meeting clavichord technique for the first time to be less intimidated and more playful and confident if the first steps of clavichord technique are made into a game for two rather than a lone campaign.