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András Schiff/J.S. Bach - Clavichord (ECM)

24 January 2023

Though it’s been disputed, it’s said that composer Johann Sebastian Bach preferred the clavichord over the harpsichord or the piano as an instrument for his compositions. Regardless of whether or not it’s true, it can’t be denied that Bach’s sophisticated pieces sound great coming from the instrument – especially when performed by András Schiff. Born in Hungary but a long-standing resident of Great Britain, Schiff is one of the foremost interpreters of Bach on the clavichord. At the keyboard of a fretless instrument (as opposed to the more common fretted variety), Schiff plays selections from a variety of Bach works, including Cappriccio sopra la lontananza del fratello dilettissimo, Four Duets, Ricercar à 3, Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, and various Inventions and Sinfonias. Somewhere between a harpsichord and a hammer dulcimer, the clavichord possesses a sound a bit earthier than a concert grand piano, making these tunes sound like they’d be as at home in a parlor or even a tavern as a concert hall. Schiff takes advantage of the fretless clavichord’s wide range with jaunty fingerings and flourishes that remind us that, as moving and thought-provoking as it often is, music can also be fun, especially when channeled by a master musician.