Thursday, July 26, 2007

室內音樂: 大鍵琴〔鋼琴的前身〕/ Chamber Music: Harpsichord

After the enjoyable Gala Opening Concert with Angela Hewitt and Daniel Müller-Schott last Saturday, I reviewed the 112 events of this year's Chamberfest and discovered that the program is full of performances that would appeal to even a chamber music non-connoisseur like myself. So, on Sunday evening, I found myself again in another old church listening to Mr. Thomas Annand, the Director of Music there, playing Bach's The Art of the Fugue賦格藝術with his Harpsichord 大鍵琴

While a lot of classical music we hear are played by the piano鋼琴, many of the older pieces were actually written for the Harpsichord before the piano was invented. The two instruments might look alike from a distance but they are quite different. For one thing, the strings of the Harpsichord are being plucked instead of hit and the original keyboard instrument was considered more like a piece of furniture as compared to say a gigantic stand-alone grand piano with legs. The sound from a Harpsichord is actually closer to that of a guitar結他, another plucked instrument.

As to our performer Mr. Thomas Annand, according to the Chamberfest brochure, he is also organist and harpsichordist for the National Arts Centre Orchestra and Thirteen Strings, and co-founder and conductor of Capital BrassWorks. He has been featured at the International Congress of Organists, Carmel Bach Festival, and Boston Early Music Festival. At the beginning of the performance, he engaged the audience by explaining the structure of Bach's Art of the Fugue. He then captured the audience's attention with his technical mastery of the Harpsichord. Waves and waves of music just flowed from his finger tips through the Harpsichord and up to the stained glass windows and wooden ceiling of the old church. Without even knowing it myself, I was seeing polynomial equations, converging and diverging infinite series, and all kinds of mathematical variables, constants, formulae, and transformations. I actually did not quite understand what was going on and why the music would have that kind of imagery impacts on me. Was it because of my engineering, science and technology mind? It was only after my friend explained to me later that I realize what Mr. Annand meant by Bach's musical "structure", There is actually an intricate link between the old master's music works and mathematics !!!

Having heard my story and looking at the pictures, some of you might be tempted to buy one of those beautiful Harpsichords for your living room to replace that old sofa of yours. Come to think of it, may be one for the cottage to show off to your high school buddies during intermission of the Ultimate Fighters. As luck would have it, there is a Harpsichord maker in Montreal who is one of the few in the world who knows how to hand-make just what you want. How much you ask? Well, as they say, if you have to ask, you probably can't afford it. For a mere CDN$20,000 to $30,000, you can own one of these beauties. Of course, special in-laid art work, paintings, optional features and shipping are extra. But again, if you are as skillful and passionate about music as Mr. Thomas Annand, I am sure money is just a means to an end.

(有關攝影图片 / Photo credit: Wikipedia)

其它資料 / Other info:

1. Harpsichord / 大鍵琴

2. Hand-made Harpsichords by Yves Beaupré of Montrél, Canada and price list / 加拿大滿地可手做大鍵琴工匠及價目表

3. German composer Johann Sebastian Bach / 德國作曲家約翰·塞巴斯蒂安·巴赫 (巴哈)巴赫

4. The Art of the Fuque (German: Die Kunst der Fuge), BWV 1080 (unfinished work by Johann Sebastian Bach / 賦格藝術 (約翰·塞巴斯蒂安·巴赫 或巴哈之未完傑作)賦æ


vicky said...

Harpsichord is actually 好睇唔好使, normally piano needs to tune once or twice a year, but harpsichord have to tune anytime due to the temperature change, i have seen Trevor Pinnock busily tuning during the intermission in his own recital!

Hong Kong 寸金尺土, very difficult to afford this luxuary instrument.

The two in your pictures are very elegent.

Josefina said...


紗繪 said...

Glenn Gould能夠在鋼琴上奏出完美無暇的大鍵琴音樂,令我為之敬佩~

Anonymous said...

I like the Art of Fugue!

But I like the string quartet version more than harpsichord. Recently I have bought a new version by Fretwork, and viol consort. Interesting.

Ruth Tam said...

I am not a fan of baroque music but my husband is. He plays also the harpsichord, besides the piano.

I don't mind listen to harpsichord once in a while but it's not as exciting as the piano.

微豆 said...

Vicky: The relatively "simple" one I saw at the concert was in the Cdn$25,000 range. So I am sure the two elegant ones in the pic must cost a fortune. I never thought of the tuning aspect. You are right, the temperature change will expand or contract the lengths of the strings and therefore affect the sound. As to ownership, both money and space count, not just in HK but also here in Canada.

微豆 said...

Josefina: Harpsichord 音樂沒有grand piano 那么 "full-bodied",但有其獨特的古樂器風味。

微豆 said...

紗繪: In Canada, the year 2007 is dedicated by many music lovers to celebate the 75th anniversary of Glenn Gould (he was born in 1932). He was such a genius and unfortunately died so young.

Some of his music can be heard at:

微豆 said...

古思哲: It was the first time I heard The Art of Fugue and I did find it fascinating. I would keep an eye out on the one you mentioned. Thanks for sharing :)

微豆 said...

Ruth: As I know little abt music, I just go by my instinct. Piano sounds better to me too, but I think that's because I am used to it (先入為主?). Anyway, I admire people who have music talent and know how to play the instruments. Too bad I never lean to play anything :(

紗繪 said...

原來加拿大慶祝Uncle Glenn75週年呀~
沒有錯:Glenn Gould自音樂課經老師介紹後,很喜歡他的Bach跟那張私家椅,演奏的忘我程度,自得奇樂咁.
所以,我改稱他為Uncle Glenn,多親切的稱呼呢~哈哈.

Eden said...

Wow, all of you are so talented. I once wanted to learn to play the guitar but gave up as my fingers are pretty short ... can't reach the chords ! hahaa ... just kidding.

微豆 said...

紗繪: 哈! Uncle Glenn 真是親切啊!!

微豆 said...

Eden: Welcome back !!! I visited your site a few times, but I guess you have been away.

As reporter, I agree with you that many of my blog friends here are talented and know a lot abt music !!

紗繪 said...

好像Uncle Glenn演奏的goldberg variation,還是大師中的大師首選.

微豆都改稱Uncle glenn吧~

Eden said...

Thanks 微豆 ... gee i've been busy & lazy actually ...

You r a reporter ? Ah ... that explains the fluency in your language & writings ! =)

微豆 said...

紗繪: Uncle Glenn? I know a few people with Glen/Glenn as their first or last name. But somehow this English name doesn't go well in French. Bonjour, je voudrais vous présenter mon oncle Glen/Glenn. Hmmmm .... Thanks for your thoughts anyway !!

微豆 said...

Eden: My work does intersect with professionals in the communications field. So I work with but not for the media. It was in the context of writing the blog on the Chamberfest that I was "reporting". While not deserving your compliments, I do wish to express my appreciation. Look forward to talking to you here and at your place !!

紗繪 said...

我叫Uncle Glenn的話,也總是那班朋友認識Gould Gould才會講的.

微豆 said...

紗繪: "Bonjour, je voudrais vous présenter mon oncle Glen/Glenn."

意譯: 您好,我想介紹給各位,我的叔叔,格闌。

Good day, I would like to present to you my uncle Glen/Glenn.

yuen luk luk said...

I prefer piano music more than harpsichord, the sound from the harpsichord is too mechanical.

微豆 said...

Yuen Luk Luk: I am no musician but would venture to postulate that the grand piano has a richer sound than a harpsichord because of its bigger size (more space for resonance??) I am just guessing.

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