The Orgelbüchlein as pedal clavichord music

Charlston, T. (2022) The Orgelbüchlein as pedal clavichord music. Harpsichord & Fortepiano, 27 (1) pp. 11-15. ISSN 0953-0797 (print)


Based on the practical experience of playing the pedal clavichord, this article revisits central European Baroque organ music and considers it from a new perspective: that of the string – activated and sustained by the finger through the tangent of the clavichord key – rather than the sounding pipe. The pedal clavichord is very demanding to play. It can teach the organist how to sustain musical ideas, listen and react. Its unique touch (by which the player must actively sustain the tone at all times), clarity in the tenor and bass, historically acknowledged appropriateness in polyphony, and greater responsiveness to rhythmic nuance, and vocal and instrumental effects, can all feedback positively into organ playing. Apart from the technical and training aspects of the Orgelbüchlein, it brings many new and apposite insights into organ music and organ performance including dynamic and phrasing, breathing and vocality, string playing as inspiration for rhythm and musical nuance, generally playing notes fuller (with tone), especially in the pedals, and thinking (and feeling) the music from the bass upwards.

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