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15.1.06

Ionarts Gets a New Toy

Mini-Critic listens to the Neupert harpsichordSomeone recently gave me a very nice late birthday present. A retired friend offered to pass along her harpsichord to the Ionarts household, an offer that, needless to say, we happily accepted. This instrument was dear to its owner, which made the gift even more touching, but had become a burden. The harpsichord was made by J. C. Neupert in Bamberg and purchased by its previous owner in Germany in the 1960s. When she came back to the United States, she had it transported by boat. The documents and manuals are all in German, which is a lot of fun. It is an example of Neupert's "Telemann" model, a one-manual harpsichord of four and a half octaves (54 keys), with 8' and 4' stops and a divided lute stop.

Once we had the harpsichord in its new location, I actually got to play it. It sounds so great! In spite of my playing, that is. Playing the harpsichord requires a special technique for a pianist or organist, as I knew before and truly appreciate now that I own one. As I played through some of the preludes and fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier, it was clear that the notes on the page meant something rather different at this keyboard than at my modern piano. You can bet that I will be acquiring lots of early keyboard music to play with my new toy, as much for the revelations of experiencing the music at this instrument as for the joy of playing it.

14 comments:

jfl said...

...I'm comin' over! (get the hot chocolate ready, too, if you please.)

Mark said...

Since it's German there should be beer christening.

Ariadne said...

count me "in"!

jfl said...

aaaargh... i can't believe a non-bavarian beat me to mentioning beer. or that i suggested hot chocoloate. i am embarrassed. it is of course the only way to christen it and also the preferred way to keep it at the right level of humidity. beer-tuning is an old tradition for german instrument makers!

Mark said...

Beer and chocolate, is good, ya?

jfl said...

actually, mark... it is pretty darn good, ja! wheat bear and a bar of chocolate - can't beat that for an evening snack!

rb said...

now I have cravings for beer and chocolate and well tempered clavier

oh my

Happy Late Birthday, Charles!

Anonymous said...

jfl, a bear for a snack? What's for dinner then?

jfl said...

... it is true: after a bear, I am usually not very hungry anymore. All I am left to do is wash it down with a beer! :)

Charles T. Downey said...

Postscript: when you live with a harpsichord for a while, you begin to see why the invention of the piano made it obsolete. In the future, I think I will only be allowed to tune the harpsichord, which you have to do fairly often, only when Mrs. Ionarts is out of the house.

Mark said...

or Mrs ionarts could consume lots of "bear" before hand.

Clayton said...

Charles: That explains why someone had to work on tuning the harpsichord for Jory Vinikour right before his concert and during intermission at the Peabody last November. I don't recall ever seeing that done at a piano recital. The tuner himself was a noted local harpsichordist. (I still like hearing the harpsichord very much and hope it will never be truly "obsolete.")

Charles T. Downey said...

Clayton, "obsolete" may be too strong a word, since I am happily playing one. But tuning it, too. Tuning it. A lot.

jfl said...

time for that climate controlled expansion of the house! it's great for the harpsichord and doubles as a gigantic humidor and gambling room!

poker, a few dominican robustos and harpsichord playing; a glorious way for a future charles/jens/mark/frank ionarts retirement community.