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PLAYING THE BAROQUE HARPSICHORD, 2nd Edition

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This is an integrated collection of updated and expanded essays, some of them endorsed by leading harpsichordists. Some chapters are specific for the harpsichord, but many others apply to all the Baroque keyboard instruments, and some chapters are devoted to general Baroque music interpretation topics. Several colour figures are included, as well as musical examples from well-known Baroque works.

Thorough guidance is provided about ornamentation, articulation, tempi, registration, rhytmical alteration and further topics. These have been found to be useful to the modern performer of Baroque keyboard music, whether amateur, advanced student or professional player.

This expanded edition carries a complete history of the harpsichord, a full treatment of French Baroque dances, 30 new figures and many other improvements. Find below a published Review and a Preview. Please click on the button below for price details and to buy the book.

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Contents of PLAYING THE BAROQUE HARPSICHORD

  • THE HARPSICHORD REVIVAL
  • THE HARPSICHORD FAMILY AND HISTORY
  • HARPSICHORD ACTIONS AND KEYBOARD RANGES
  • BAROQUE FINGER MECHANICS
  • BAROQUE ARTICULATION
  • BASICS ON ESSENTIAL ORNAMENTS
  • PERFORMING THE NOTES INÉGALES
  • INÉGALES AND TRIPLETS IN BACH AND RAMEAU
  • TEMPI: AUTHENTICITY, RUBATO, TEMPI IN DIFFERENT COMPOSERS
  • PERFORMANCE OF FRENCH BAROQUE DANCES
  • HARPSICHORD STOP VOICING
  • REGISTRATION: USING THE STOPS IN DIFFERENT HARPSICHORD MODELS
  • REGISTRATION IN IMPORTANT BAROQUE HARPSICHORD WORKS
  • REPERTOIRE ISSUES: HARPSICHORD VS CLAVICHORD, ORGAN AND FORTEPIANO
  • A COMPLETE HARPSICHORD MULTILINGUAL DICTIONARY
  • LITERATURE CITED

Some important features of the book

—> The harpsichord: a concise history, main models and keyboard ranges (25 pages)
—> A concise explanation of articulation in early keyboards, with a list of sources and their implications (9 pages)
—> A presentation on ornaments, with a comprehensive Table and a full discussion of on-the-beat vs pre-beat (21 pages)
—> A detailed presentation covering all the different aspects of the performance of French notes inégales (23 pages)
—> An analysis of the relationship between inégales, triplets and overdotting in the works of Rameau and J.S. Bach (10 pages)
—> A new approach for the performance of préludes non mesurés. A general analysis of rubato in performance (4 pages)
—> A detailed analysis of Baroque French dances: rhythms, tempi and inégales (17 pages)
—> Finding the authentic tempo for Baroque pieces, exemplified in works by J.S. Bach, D. Scarlatti and Daquin (18 pages)
—> Harpsichord voicing: finding the proper and authentic loudness balance between the different harpsichord stops (11 pages)
—> A full treatment of harpsichord registration, backed by historical evidence, applied to works of different composers (31 pages)
—> Finding the ideal type of instrument for the complete works of Frescobaldi, J.S. Bach, Haydn and other composers (20 pages)
—> The most complete ever Multilingual Harpsichord Dictionary in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish (168 entries)

Why an eBook?

This book can be read on the screen of a PC, Mac and any device capable of showing documents in Adobe Acrobat v.6.0 format or later. It is also formatted for impeccable printing on Letter paper, A4 or A5 (two pages in an A4 sheet). Benefits of buying an eBook vs a ready-printed volume:
      • PRICE: 1/4th of the estimated price of a printed volume.
      • AVAILABILITY: an eBook is never out of print.
      • SECURITY: the reader can make a backup copy, so that the eBook cannot be lost or stolen.
      • PRINTING: if a printed volume is really needed, the reader can print it from any home computer.
      • MANY FIGURES: 110 figures (up from 77 in the 1st edition), many of them photos and/or in full-colour.
      • PORTABILITY: the reader can carry the book around in a laptop computer or other portable device.
      • INTERNAL LINKS: internal hyperlinks, allowing the reader to "jump" to other parts of the eBook and "jump back" as well..
      • WEB ADDRESSES: they allow the reader to access on the spot web pages referred to.

      •
REFERENCE: the reader interested in a particular topic can quickly search and find all the references to it in the eBook.
      •
TIMELINESS: you buy the eBook and receive it on the spot.
The size of the file is a few Megabytes: it downloads in a about a minute or two using an Internet broadband service.

Comments from readers

"Bravo! This is a major undertaking!"

".. I bought your e-book Playing the Baroque Harpsichord and am thorougly enjoying it. Clear, detailed writing and lots of good illustrations. I will recommend it ...! "

"... You have done everything in such a logical manner and with such excellent method ... "

"... I enjoyed your book a great deal. ... I have just had all my questions about inégalité and more answered. It is a relief to find a work based on scientific thinking, and very clearly written. A surprisingly easy read, despite the wealth of information!"

"I have read your e-Books and benefitted greatly from each one."

"I strongly recommend Claudio's beautiful book.""

"If ever there was a book that delivers more than its title promises, this is it!" (from a reader of the 2nd ed.)

"This is an impressive piece of work, and certainly belongs on the shelf (or in the computer) of everyone who plays an early keyboard instrument." (from a leading harpsichord scholar reading the 2nd ed.)

Book Review in The British Clavichord Society Newsletter

Find below excerpts from the review written by the distinguised British harpsichordist Penelope Cave, published in The British Clavichord Society Newsletter, No.49, February 2011. This thorough and highly positive review contains some observations that I have addressed in a letter published in The British Clavichord Society Newsletter, No.50, June 2011. In the text below a few clarifications—not in the original review—have been inserted between curly brackets { }.

"Playing the Baroque Harpsichord is a mighty title, encompassing (if it were merely confined to the historical Baroque,
c.1600—1750, which it is not) one hundred and fifty years of instrument making and a panoply of composers and theorists.
It is a brave man who takes on these revered, controversial and puzzling historic figures, who have been interpreted and translated through the lens of each age including our own, and probably as often misunderstood. ... Dr Claudio Di Veroli ... , a statistician, ... also found time to give concerts on both harpsichord and organ and to publish two well-received books on unequal temperaments and early fingering, so he confidently embarks on this project with the same logical, scientific approach, in order to extract proof and results. He generously shares his ideas on speed, use of manuals, choice of stops and ... inégalité ... with illustrations, tables and coloured text boxes. His main interest is, indeed, in the ‘High Baroque’ of Bach, Couperin and Rameau, and he refers to both contemporary theorists and twentieth-century writers on Baroque practice. ...
     There are eight chapters, each sub-divided into sections; thus the first chapter, ‘Instruments and Actions’, consists of sections on the harpsichord family, how to choose between historical models, keyboard ranges, the jack, a section entitled ‘inexpressive keyboard’, and one on tuning and maintenance. His discussion of keyboard ranges, split keys and jacks is useful, and he demonstrates his theory of eleven stages of jack-action in a clear, coloured diagram, along with two more to explain string and jack alignment.
     Chapter 2, on finger mechanics and articulation ... Di Veroli has the gift of making you think ... His decided opinions on joining and detaching of notes, and his interpretations of what he calls the ‘ancients’ doings and documentation will certainly promote thought about the proportions of sound to silence within note-lengths, and possibly some healthy discussion.
     In Chapter 3, on ornamentation, Di Veroli offers, in his own words, a ‘comprehensive but succinct’ guide. ... useful comments that follow his ‘Table of Baroque Essential Ornaments’. ... There is a good section on Italianate embellishment and
{in Chapter 4} a long one on French inégalité ... Di Veroli is aware that ‘only experience—under a good guide—will show what to do, and ’ ... he rightly says ‘the modern musician often needs years of study to incorporate inégales in a musically-satisfying way.’
     The section on Bach’s use of triplets and sesquialter notation offers us more food for thought. I would say that Bach’s use of inégalité is well-covered elsewhere ..., but Di Veroli gives suggestions as to where and when it should be used in Bach’s keyboard works. ...
     
{In Chapter 5 on tempi} Di Veroli’s theory that slower tempi are desirable because ‘it is well documented that Baroque musicians rehearsed pretty little, if at all’, is one to enjoy. He gives some metronome speeds for Bach’s concertos and the Goldberg Variations, Scarlatti sonatas, and Daquin’s four suites.
    
 {Chapter 6 on harpsichord Voicing, like} Chapter 7, on harpsichord registration, is not for clavichord players {readers of the British Clavichord Society Newsletter}.
     Chapter 8 ... deals with repertoire issues. Di Veroli ... airs the arguments against the clavichord being of particular interest to
J. S. Bach. He admits that, for many players, all Bach’s keyboard works that are not specifically harpsichord pieces were conceived for the clavichord, and discusses why the kleine Präludien für Anfanger might have been intended for that instrument. He maintains, however, that most of the pieces in Book I of The Well Tempered Clavier are harpsichord music only, since most would be impossible on the common triple-fretted clavichords of the time. Of Book II, he says ‘unfretted clavichords were now fast becoming fashionable in German-speaking countries. The author finds that most pieces in the WTC II are compatible for any stringed keyboard ... [and his exceptions follow].’ His statistical argument against the well-known Organ Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565) being by Bach is a tour de force ... To finish the last chapter, he makes a list of Haydn’s sonatas and suggests suitable keyboards: this is not a new idea, but it is usefully constructed ...
     There are six appendices, all thoroughly practical. Among them is a multilingual dictionary, giving equivalent terms for wood types in six languages and parts of instruments and maintenance terms in five; a glossary giving definitions of each of these terms in English; an essay on logical methods; and finally a ‘musical-history puzzle’ or quiz question."

 


PLAYING THE BAROQUE HARPSICHORD: book preview

Over the years my writings have dealt with Baroque keyboard playing, especially for solo works of the main middle-to-late-Baroque French and German keyboard repertoire. Those essays and papers have received encouraging comments from internationally-renowned performers (such as Gustav Leonhardt and Igor Kipnis) and are now available here .... fully revised, updated, expanded and used as the backbone over which this new book has been written. … Though written mainly for the harpsichordist, this book is also addressed to the clavichordist and organist. ... and the differences between the three types of keyboard instruments are discussed.

                          

The only drawback of having a single manual instrument is that the player fails to develop the skills needed to play a two-manual one. But from an interpretation point of view … the … ideal general-purpose instrument …. The modern performer has to decide whether he prefers a 8'+4' or a 8'+8' instrument … Pros and cons of the two dispositions: … Should the harpsichordist purchase a finished instrument or build one from a "kit"? Some high-quality kits, when assembled by well-trained and dedicated amateurs, have proved to be excellent instruments … Drawings of the traditional jack's plucking and damping action often show as few as four stages. … [however] the jack's action actually consists of as many as eleven—or even twelve!— distinct stages ...

Wanda Landowska invented a playing technique … curving to a maximum the small phalanxes … we often read that J.S. Bach … curved the whole fingers … always leaving their keys by curving inwards … Which of the two ways should be considered the typical Baroque keyboard technique? … Legato, non-legato, detached and staccato … are quite precise in Baroque keyboards… it is paramount to establish which was the "basic" or "default" articulation. …

Essential Ornaments … For most of the Baroque ornaments, the list of things … to check when playing, especially for beginners, is long but quite uniform: examples … accents … beat … length … speed …

                                           

Baroque trills and mordents before the beat … Prof. Frederick Neumann's treatise on ornamentation makes fascinating reading. Perhaps less obvious is his tendency to … leads the unsuspecting reader into agreeing with a—demonstrably—erroneous solution. …

When facing a new French Baroque piece, even well-informed and experienced performers wonder:
          1. Should I use inégales in this composer's music?
          
          2. Should I play inégales in this particular piece?
                              3. Which notes should be inégales?
                                        4. How inégales should they be?
                                                  5. Which passages should I single out for different degrees of inégalité?
Performing the inégales: CONSISTENCY … ARTICULATION … SLURS … DEGREE OF INEGALITÉ … SYMBOLS … DEFAULT INEQUALITY … FLEXIBILITY … STAGGERED INÉGALES …REGISTRATION …The conclusion is that slurred pairs in Baroque French music …

The performance of inégales in Bach yields more than one uncertainty … Let us now review for inégales Bach's major harpsichord pieces….

Rameau merged both styles, featuring triplets in pieces with inégales. In the typical duplet+triplet+inégal situation the solution is simple …

                                                

Baroque evidence for rubato .... … such an approach does not tell us how the ancient harpsichordists played, but rather how some modern musicians try to concoct general rules from obvious exceptions. In order to … get an adequate and authentic tempo for a piece, let us review three traditional and time-tested methods:

No Baroque source deals with harpsichord registration in any detail. … Had one asked, say, François Couperin … Even though direct evidence is rare, there is instead plenty of indirect evidence, and significant conclusions can be reached, as explained below. …The expressive use of the two manuals is employed by Bach in all the [six] possible ways…

REPERTOIRE ISSUES: This chapter clarifies questions about the type of keyboard instrument intended in Baroque works, especially when the instrument was not clearly identified in the score … Bach's famous organ Toccata and Fugue in d minor: ... a harpsichord work by J.P. Kellner?

! It may come as a surprise to find below no less than twelve different uses for the two manuals when playing Baroque music on a double harpsichord. ...

 

 

Playing the Baroque Harpsichord is a self-contained work. No additional files are needed to read it, understand it, enjoy it and/or put the advice into practice. An Errata sheet is available for the 1st edition.

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