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Mus 352 Reading Report Article 3

Mus 352 Reading Report Article 3 - eighteenth century...

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eighteenth century brought the triangle, the cymbals, the side-drum!! and the bass-drum into orchestral use. But Mersenne (Harmonic Universelle, Paris, 1636-7, II, iii, 175, and vi, 47 ff.) describes the triangle, a sort of xylophone, and the 'Jew's Harp', along with castanets and clappers and a variety of bells in different sizes. For a fine overall study see James Blades, Percussion Instruments and their History, London, 1970; New and Revised edition, 1984. 570 CHAPTER LXIV Keyboards 1. THE HARPSICHORD (a) The starting-point for the harpsichord is its touch. Piano touch is in many ways quite different, and can make even a good harpsichord sound unsonorous. A bad harpsichord may be unavoidably unsonorous. (730) Joachim Quantz, Essay, Berlin, 1752, XVII, vi, 18: 'Experience confirms that if two players of unequal abilities play on the same harpsichord, the tone will be far better in the case of the better player. There can be no reason for this except the difference in their touch.' (b) The ideal approach is to feel the keys before depressing them. This is not peculiar to the harpsichord: pianists, especially those whose tradition descends along the great Czerny and Leschetizky line, recognise the same ideal. In practice, it cannot be done above a certain speed, but there is a certain feline smoothness which comes very near to it. The opposite to this is throwing the hands at the keys from a height, which sends the jacks up too violently for the quills to take a proper hold on the strings before plucking them. The result is a quite remarkably hard, metallic and jangling tone. (731) Fran9ois Couperin, UArt de toucher le clavecin, Paris, 1716, ed. of 1717, p. 7: 'The sweetness of the touch depends on holding the fingers as near to the keys as possible . . . a hand which falls from a height gives a drier stroke than if it touches from close; and the quill draws a harder sound from the string.' (732) Jean-Philippe Rameau, Pieces de clavecin, Paris [1724], preface on finger-technique: 'The greater movement should never be made except where the lesser will not suffice . . . even when the hand has to be moved to a certain part of the keyboard, it is still necessary for the finger used to drop on to the key by its own movement alone. 'The fingers must drop on to the keys and not hit them . . . never weight the touch of your fingers by the effort of your hand.' This technique is much facilitated by an easy position at the key- board, the elbows hanging loose, and the fingers curved each to the 571
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572 extent required to compensate for its difference in length. From Girolamo Diruta (// Transilvano, Venice, 1597) to Jean-Philippc Rameau (he. cit. [1724]) we read descriptions of these points which vary only in detail. The following later accounts are particularly vivid. (733) Dr. Charles Burney, An account of the Musical Performances . . . in Commemoration of Handel, London, 1785, p.
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