Samuel Scheidt plays keyboard through the 30 Years War

A post about the concert on Wednesday, June 10th at 2:00 PM,
Paulist Center Library,
by Judith Conrad. Music by Samuel Scheidt (1587 – 1654), played
on a clavichord by Andreas Hermert, after Georg Woytzig 1688, with
split sharps, triple-fretted, quarter comma meantone tuning.

It occurred to me on my way to this concert that although I
often seem like a relative expert on the clavichord even in rooms
full of very knowledgeable early music people, I’m not sure I’ve
ever heard anyone but my sister play a clavichord concert.

This is partly because very few people give clavichord concerts. Even
in its heyday, it wasn’t really a concert instrument. A lot of
organists and other keyboard players had them in their home, so
they could practice without waking the baby or disturbing their
neighbors, or needing to freeze in the cold church and organize a
bellows pumper for the organ. And they did use it for their
domestic music making. But there really weren’t concerts in our
sense, and the closest things to them used louder keyboard instruments.

But it does have other advantages over some of the louder
instruments. When you’re playing complex arrangements, you can
bring out the tune by playing it louder. Judith has been doing
this for several decades, and she gets better and better at it.

Most of the music on this concert is from a book published in
1624 called Tablatura Nova. Scheidt had studied with
Sweelinck, and would probably have been a teacher that people
flocked to from all over Northern Europe, except that the Thirty
Year’s War broke out in 1618, and made travel dangerous. So he
did a certain amount of teaching composition by correspondence,
and published this book with examples of everything a
keyboard player of the time would be expected to do.

This concert included:

  • a chant setting
  • a folk song setting
  • a
    piece of complicted polyphony on a phrase from a Palestrina
  • a Magnificat on Tone 9
  • a setting of a Lutheran chorale
  • a set of variations on a folk song
  • a fugue

All this was introduced informally, and followed by
refreshments and an invitation to the audience to play the

Judith does this kind of concert every Boston Early Music
Festival, and occasionally in between, most often in Fall River,
Massachusetts, where she lives and is the organist/choir
director of the First Congregational Church. So if you missed
this one, you can probably have another chance. I recommend you
take it.

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