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Byrd: Harpsichord pieces/Leonhardt

David Vernier

Artistic Quality:

Sound Quality:

The harpsichord isn’t the most ingratiating instrument to listen to for long periods, but when you hear one that’s well-made–full-bodied, with a resonance that’s complementary and well-integrated across registers (no clangorous bass trying to meld with tinny treble), you’re in for what can be a very satisfying experience. And just how satisfying depends on the player and how he or she uses the particular instrument’s registers and stops, and how clearly the fingering articulates the rhythms, which means a knowledgable and skillful managing of the spaces between the notes as well as the notes themselves. Gustav Leonhardt needs no introduction to fans of the harpsichord or of early music in general; he’s one of the pioneers of modern technique and scholarship. And his instrument, a copy of the famous 1579 Lodewijk Theewes claviorgan by Malcolm Rose, is a magnificent example of 16th-century keyboard construction. This harpsichord can really make a sound–and the recording (you can really turn it up!) fully complements the instrument’s very personable timbre and room-filling dynamic range. Not that Byrd’s music is especially flamboyant–but the harpsichord’s substantial tone allows these 14 pieces to move easily from parlor to concert hall with no degradation of their subtle structures or genteel dance origins. There’s nothing overtly virtuosic in Byrd’s writing–but that’s the point. These works were for relatively ordinary folks to enjoy–and there’s no doubt that if you have any interest in harpsichord music at all, when you hear Leonhardt’s performances you will be among them. [1/12/2006]

Recording Details:

WILLIAM BYRD - Selected works for Harpsichord

    Soloists: Gustav Leonhardt (harpsichord)

  • Record Label: Alpha - 73
  • Medium: CD

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