Concert review

Paul Simmonds (Pedal Clavichord) BCS Recital at Art Worker's Guild, London, 9 October 1999

This might have been the first recital in UK on a pedal clavichord, the standard practising instrument for organists in Bach's time (churches would have been cold in winter and you needed several assistants to pump the bellows!).

Paul Simmonds is an organist and a virtuoso harpsichordist and clavichordist, one of the few early keyboard players who give regular public concerts on this quietest of all instruments. For this demonstration recital he played a superb Richter (1986) copy of a 1771 German clavichord, with a pedal board made recently in Germany, and there was a full house and appreciative audience for this unusual experience under the auspices of the British Clavichord Society. His programme included pieces by Pachelbel, Walter and Kittel, with a chorale partita by Bach Sei gegrusset and, to finish, his ever popular Toccata in D minor BWV 565 which, Simmonds explained, is now believed to have been composed by Bach, but for the violin, not the organ! He told us that playing it on the pedal clavichord had made him rethink his approach to its performance on the organ.

It takes a little time to adjust to the low dynamic level, but you quickly realise that the instrument can play loud or soft within that scale. The pedal board was strung with 8 ft and 16 ft courses, but it has to be admitted that it did not sustain bass notes very well.

There is a recommendable CD of Bach played on a two manual pedal clavichord (Erik van Bruggen, MRS 9310012)

Paul Simmonds has two superb CDs:

17th & 18th C. German music for the clavichord by Buxtehude, Kuhnau, Muthel, W F Bach, Turk and Hassler (Ars Musici AM 1145-2)
Keyboard Sonatas by E. W. Wolf (AM 1206-2)
see review

Information about the British Clavichord Society and these CDs is available from or from Paul Simmonds at

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