Judith Conrad, Clavichord concert

Judy after the concert

Judith Conrad, founder
of Clavichordists for World Peace, played music from the seven
books of keyboard music published by Pierre Attaignant in
1531. She played two clavichords, a quadruple fretted on by
Owen Daly and a triple fretted one by Andreas Hermert.

These Attaignant books were the first affordable (relatively — a book would have
cost several times what a keg of wine did) keyboard music
printed. The seven books each focus on a different aspect of
what a keyboard player might have been expected to do. In Ms
Conrad’s opinion, the book with the dance tunes and the book of
mass accompaniments are relatively uninteresting, but she played
quite a bit from the books of keyboard transcriptions of
polyphonic chansons.

One unusual feature of these transcriptions is that all lines,
including the bass line, are ornamented, whereas many written-out
improvisations ornament only the main tune.

The first thing that struck me about the playing was how much
better the instruments sounded when she played them than when I
had plunked a few notes to get a sound level check on my
recording device. The maker of one of the instruments told me
he had never heard it sound as good as that.

But then, as you should do at a concert, I stopped thinking
about the sound and started thinking about the music. French
chansons are some of my favorite music and these were
beautifully realized.

I should mention one unfortunate piece of scheduling — there
were a total of about four clavichord concerts all week, so you
would expect the players of them to make some effort to not
schedule them against each other. This can be difficult, as of
course everybody is having to do their scheduling at the same
time, but if everyone uses the Fringe Concerts listings, which
are one of the major benefits of BEMF for both performers and audiences, it should be
possible. The Boston Clavichord Society scheduled a concert on
pedal clavichord at the same time as this one without listing
it. One doesn’t know whether they checked the listings and did
it anyway, or just ignored the listings altogether. In any
case, since they didn’t list it it wouldn’t have been possible
for another performer to avoid scheduling against it.

(Disclosure: Judith Conrad is my sister; Owen Daly is a friend.)

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