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An Element of Faith

The harpsichord is inextricably tied to the eccentricity and experimentation of the historical performance movement. Any hot new recording of baroque repertoire would be incomplete without a first-rate instrument. But the harpsichord can seem almost comically limited: as any pianist will be happy to tell you, you can walk over to harpsichord and hit a […]

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Out of the Piano’s Shadow

“I like leather,” the famous harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková once said. Amid the harpsichord’s renaissance in the 20th century, a debate arose as to the materials that should be used for the plucking mechanism (plectra): leather or quill? While historically inspired instruments use quill or Delrin imitation, the material of choice for plectra in larger, piano-like […]

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Windows

It starts with the name. He gets irritated when you ask about it. Americans can’t pronounce the “ij” in “Bijlsma,” but the U.S. market is important, so marketing had the last word. He settles for “Bylsma.” He’s Dutch. In 1959, he won the International Pablo Casals Cello Competition, the Nobel Prize for cellists. When he […]

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In Three Dimensions

Some art works live off the music of Bach like parasites. They sample him, stage him, ritualize him, dance to him—and often end up sucking the original work dry of its life blood. These semi-new works rarely hold their own in the face of the original. Instead they are banal, merely decorative, or kitsch. But […]

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Forgotten Worlds

Actus Humanus, a festival of early music in Gdańsk, Poland, ended on December 17. I was there for the final concert, which featured the harpsichordist Christophe Rousset, the soprano Ann Hallenberg, and the period band Les Talens Lyriques. The repertoire was vocal and instrumental music inspired by the Academy Award-winning film on the life of […]

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A Long Way

The harpsichordist and ensemble leader William Christie could quite easily be mistaken for a patrician, 1960s-era CIA operative out of Norman Mailer’s novel Harlot’s Ghost. Yesterday morning, he was wearing a fitted black suit, blue shirt, beige pocket square, and polka dot socks, and spoke in aristocratic American English that clearly recalled his days studying […]

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Juste

While this might not be the moment that all of us have been waiting for, it’s certainly titillating to catalogue another casualty report in the Harpsichord Wars. In March, Mahan Esfahani hurled a set of observations (some say accusations) against the mainstream harpsichord world, among them shortsightedness, conservatism, as well as a pervasive fear of […]

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Adding To The Pantheon

I met the keyboard player and early music savant Ton Koopman one wan, gray morning in the northern German city of Lübeck, where he was performing in a festival dedicated to the baroque organist and composer Dietrich Buxtehude. He wore a dark blue blazer, a light blue shirt, round glasses, and pants the color of […]

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Cross Pollination

Recently, I spoke with the keyboardist Kristian Bezuidenhout by phone. His demeanor was gentle without being apologetic: while ironing his shirts, he talked about the music of Bach with immense sincerity. But his programming often includes music by other composers, particularly Bach’s contemporaries. I was interested to find out why. VAN: In an upcoming concert, […]

Posted inOpinion

Patchwork History

Andreas Staier was born in 1955 in Göttingen, Germany. He was the harpsichordist for Musica Antiqua Köln for three years and has performed as a Hammerklavier and harpsichord soloist with all the major early music ensembles. In this article, he responds to the controversial VAN interview with Mahan Esfahani from April 6, 2017. By now […]