HAYDN: “Acht Sauschneider müssen sein” (Eight good men, it takes no more) = Capriccio in G major on that Austrian folksong, Sonata in B minor, Variations in D major, Sonata in D major, Sonata in F major, Variations in F minor – Derek Adlam, clavichord – Guild GMCD 7260, 69:23 ****:
There are very few recordings of clavichord music, and to receive two almost simultaneously is very unusual, so let’s deal with them both: Christopher Hogwood is of course the founder of the Academy of Ancient Music and both conducts and performs at the keyboards internationally. He has been a passionate worker on behalf of the clavichord, having made the first recording of the complete My Ladye Nevell’s Booke, edited editions of 17th century clavichord music, and is currently editing music from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. The idea of his CD is to explore works Mozart probably intended foremost for the intimate clavichord – to be performed in a home setting. In additional he plays six of the selections on one of the actual clavichords upon which Mozart himself had played – which is on display in Mozart home in Salzburg. Two other clavichords are used in the recording.
The repertory selected by Hogwood is music which Mozart must have played on this quiet and expressive instrument, both in his childhood and at the end of his life. The subtle variations in touch which can be realized on the clavichord are due to the direct connection of the finger with the striking of each string, instead of losing any further control once the key is pressed, as with both fortepiano and harpsichord actions. One writer observed that the clavichord is “soft and responsive to every breath of the soul – you find the sounding-board of your heart.”
Some of the early Mozart sonatas seem to be intended primarily for the clavichord, and Hogwood selects K.381, which is the longest of the works on this disc. The Rondo in F K.494 is actually the final movement of another Mozart sonata. The Adagio for Glass Harmonica will probably be the most familiar of the Mozart tunes here; the conjecture is that since the composer didn’t own or play the delicate glass harmonica himself, he would have had to compose the work on his own clavichord. This is a sensitive and lovely recital which allows us to appreciate Mozart’s genius from a new, intimate angle.
The tuner of some of the clavichords on the Hogwood CD was Derek Adlam, who turns his clavichord attention to the music of Haydn for the Swiss label Guild. He feels that more of Haydn’s keyboard works would be appreciated is they were heard on the instrument which the composer used for his private music and study – the clavichord. Adlam points out that the heavier and thicker textures of the modern grand piano are just not suitable for the smaller-scale, lighter pieces of “quicksilver imagination” which were designed for early keyboard instruments. (For me a perfect example are the Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas. Even the sensitive hands of Gould or Horowitz are not successful in presenting these works on the grand piano.)
The Eight Good Men tune was a simple 18th century child’s counting song which Haydn used for a complex Capriccio which broke new ground in keyboard writing. His use of the corny tune can be compared with Beethoven’s use of Diabelli’s theme in constructing an impressive set of variations. The three early Haydn keyboard sonatas on the CD have bored me to death on piano, including playing one of them. However, on the clavichord they take on a new life. The note writer feels that the immediate response to touch of the clavichord makes it a more “rhetorical” keyboard instrument which can establish an articulated line more like a singer. The closing Variations alternates variations based on two different themes. They become gradually more ornate and of greater intensity as they progress, including some highly chromatic writing not normally expected of Haydn. The emotional depth of the Variations is suspected to have been a memorial to the early death of Haydn’s friend Mozart. By the way, don’t turn up the level too high on these clavichord recordings – you should be straining slightly to hear the music, just as you would were a performer playing the instrument in your listening room. The only person really hearing the instrument at full volume is the person playing it!
– John Sunier