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Featured Album July 2023: András Schiff "Clavichord"

Featured Album July 2023: András Schiff "Clavichord"

It's about time we included a keyboard album as one of our monthly featured album, and what better than András Schiff's acclaimed new recording of J S Bach's music on the clavichord? This album has already been very popular with our customers, and we're very pleased to be featuring it during July. Read on for more information about the album!

J S Bach: Clavichord
András Schiff


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Featured Album July 2023: András Schiff Clavichord

From the artist's press release…

The sound of the clavichord is, says András Schiff, an invitation into “a new world, a quiet oasis in our noisy, troubled times. Thanks to the clavichord I now play and hear Bach differently.” An intimate and personal instrument – “a most gentle creature, ideal for playing alone” – it can also be, as Schiff notes, a demanding and unforgiving teacher. “On the clavichord we have only our fingers at our disposal, they must create the music with the finest gradations of touch.”  

The early keyboard works are emphasized here, bringing us closer to the sounds of Bach’s day, and the “cantabile art” of the clavichord. The album opens with the Capriccio sopra la lontananza del fratro dilettissmo, journeys through Inventions and Sinfonias, and concludes with an extraordinary account of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue.  

On this recording, Schiff’s first on the clavichord, he plays a replica of a 1743 Specken instrument, built by Belgian craftsman Joris Potvlieghe.  The album was recorded in the Kammermusik Saal of Bonn’s Beethoven-Haus and produced by Manfred Eicher.


Why The Early Music Shop loves "J S Bach: Clavichord":

Sir András Schiff is known primarily as a virtuoso of the piano, but on this 2023 recording, he turns his attention to the humble clavichord. Much of the music on this album was recorded previously on piano for Decca, but the intimacy of this new interpretation brings Bach’s favoured instrument to the fore. 

Intimate is an appropriate word, for the sound of the clavichord demands detailed listening and close attention to the subtleties of Schiff’s performance. The intimacy is echoed in Schiff’s choice of repertoire, with J S Bach’s sets of fifteen Inventions and Sinfonias forming the backbone of the recording; these two collections of pieces keep the recording engaging and fresh for the listener, with a new direction of interest with each short work. 

That’s not to suggest that Bach’s writing is in any way uninteresting; the polyphony for which he is so famed prevails and Schiff sounds as familiar as ever of the challenges of this music, yet the eminent beauty within it. The album’s two fugues (BWV 992 and BWV 903) are especially successful, with the instrument’s range and capabilities utilised to the maximum. The repertoire is endearing and, as expected from Schiff, the performance is innately musical.

Schiff makes the most of the relative expressive limitations of the clavichord by leaning into the subtle dynamic possibilities and, quite unique for an early keyboard, the possibility for a small vibrato. This creates an inviting sound world, hearing this music as the composer perhaps experienced it for the first time himself. The recording quality is superb, with a close-miked stereo sound capturing an incredible detail in the hands of producer Manfred Eicher.

A two-disc deluxe CD set with a generous booklet, this album is an attractive physical package which benefits from ECM’s usual attention to detail in design and presentation. Highly recommended for fans of Bach and the clavichord, but also those interested in exploring extreme keyboard virtuosity, this is a seminal recording for both the music and the instrument.


J S Bach: Clavichord is in stock at The Early Music Shop now - order online or buy from our Snape Maltings showroom!

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