Introducing the Clavichord

This is the clavichord, again, there are
lots of different flavours of clavichord and this is kind of the wild card keyboard
instrument. It’s never really died out. Early examples from the 15th century are
quite similar in many ways to examples from the 18th century to the 19th
century and it didn’t need to be revived because there was still a hardcore of
enthusiasts building clavichords through the 20th century, in the 21st century.
It’s now achieving great popularity but as you can hear and see from this style
of instrument, it achieves great popularity but in very very small
circles, it’s an exceptionally quiet instrument. Here’s a very loud chord… …and
that’s it and this is quite a loud clavichord –
this is a copy of an instrument from about 1700, originally made in Leipzig
and this instrument is a certain flavour of clavichord called a fretted clavichord
and what that means is that certain notes share pairs of strings which means
that some notes combinations are not possible so I could take for example the
C, the B and the C sharp and they all share the same strings. This is a
triple fretted clavichord which is quite rare and what it means is that if I play
the C sharp, I then can’t play the C or the B because they all share the same
strings. What this means in practice is you have to be very, very careful and
very precise about your finger touch and we find theorists from the 18th century
particularly, talk about that when you’ve mastered the clavichord touch you can
play anything else, the fortepiano, the harpsichord, the organ –
really really wonderfully well and to a certain degree that’s absolutely true.
This little instrument though has a lot of expressivity even within it’s very
quiet dimensions. You can play sort of loud and soft you have certain degree of
control of which is rather nice and we also have
this amazing effect called the bebung whereby if I vary the pressure of my
finger when it’s playing the note I can alter the pitch of the string a little
bit and give myself a vibrato, a bit like a modern string player so
if I play a straight note it sounds like this… …if I play it with bebung it sounds like this and this is a very expressive thing that composers
knew and were writing for that’s only really possible on the clavichord