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MMD > Archives > April 2016 > 2016.04.14 > 05Prev  Next

Seek Ampico 65233G "Well Tempered Clavier"
By Douglas Heckrotte

[ Ref. 160410 MMDigest and subsequent

Interestingly, the pieces are actually from The Well-Tempered
Clavier, which suggests a little something about the editors
at Ampico and their intended customers back in 1925.  Ref. 

Here is a poor recording of my original copy, done today with
a Push-Here-Dummy Canon SD750 digital camera: 

  Ampico 65233-G
  Preludes and Fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavichord by Bach
  No. 2, C Minor and No. 5, D Major
  played by Milton Suskind and recorded in November 1925

The piano is a 6'-4" 1920 Knabe with an early Ampico A system freshly
rebuilt by Alan Lightcap, for the second time in only 96 years!
I have not compared this recording, as played 'live' on my piano,
with phonograph recordings on piano or harpsichord.  Certainly,
a harpsichord would only be capable of variations in tone or volume
by switching stops.

The perfectly ordinary 15th-century Italian harpsichord seen in the
background in my YouTube video was the sort used for continuo work
and not as well-favored for solo work.  Bach practiced at home on
a two-manual harpsichord with several stops and a pedal board
harpsichord on the floor.  His harpsichord preference for performance
would have been a large two-manual instrument, with a large sound as
compared with other schools of harpsichord making like the Italian,
earlier French or Flemish.

Comments I read here about the tuning of harpsichords versus pianos
need a little clarification.  Before Bach and his Well-Tempered
Clavier, tuning a keyboard instrument so that you could play in any
key was a task rendered impossible by mathematics.  If you tune
perfect fifths and go around the whole circle of fifths until you get
back to where you started, you will end up sharp by about a quarter
step.  This 'Comma of Pythagoras' was the bane of tuners, musicians,
and philosophers who would have been happier had the mathematics been

But all the 3:2 ratios of frequency in the circle of fifths don't
add up to 1:2.  Mistuning just a smidge -- tempering the tuning --
distributes the 'Comma' evenly around the keyboard.  And, it's
imperceptible to most of us.  Bach was the first composer to take
advantage of this useful trick with his Well-Tempered Clavier and,
of course, his incredible organ works.

Doug Heckrotte
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [delete ".geentroep" to reply]

(Message sent Thu 14 Apr 2016, 19:46:22 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  65233G, Ampico, Clavier, Seek, Tempered, Well

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