The Journal of the Dolmetsch Foundation
Summer 2005, Vol. 61
Fitt for the Manicorde
A 17th-century English collection of keyboard music: 58 pieces for harpsichord, clavichord and organ ed. CHRISTOPHER HOGWOOD Edition HH07O.SOL, Bicester, 2003 (pbk, £25) ISMN 708024 958
This is a modem edition of a manuscript of 58 pieces for harpsichord, clavichord and organ that has been in private hands since it was first noted in the 1950s. It was owned by Thurston Dart, who published two of pieces from the manuscript, before Christopher Hogwood bought it. It is therefore exciting to have the opportunity to explore the complete collection for ourselves, and to benefit both from a clear text and from Hogwood’s thorough editorial research.
The horizontal publication is clothed in a workaday orange card cover, usefully ringbound to open flat on the musicstand. The overall title is taken from the altemande, fittfor the Manicorde (presumed to refer to the clavichord) of which there are two side by side, and both in C minor, placed between a suite in F and one in A minor. Although the clavichord was described by James Talbot in about 1695, and Purcell was known to tune one in the royal household, this is the only reference to the instrument in 17th-century English keyboard repertoire. Christopher Hogwood considers it likely that ‘manicorde’ refers to the clavichord, more particularly since there is a dynamic indication of eccho in one of the courants, although a dexterous player could feasibly move manuals on the harpsichord, were they available.
Unsurprisingly, the collection demonstrates the overriding influence of French keyboard music on 17’h-century English taste; it contains dance movements, many with variations that add to their interest, and suites by Lully, La Barre, John Roberts and Thomas Farmer. Some original fingering is of particular interest to the student of this period. Although authorship is unknown, and there are occasional poor choices of fingering, it displays, for example, a preference for changing fingers when playing similar adjacent notes and the occasional fingering that promotes a specific articulation. The virginalist’s use of the 3 d finger on a strong beat is not always adhered to, but a right hand 5th finger often starts a downward scale on the beat, with a 2"d or 4 h if it starts on a weak part of the beat.
Hogwood provides an ornamentation table with advice on interpretation, as well as tempo indications and ideas for the execution of dotted rhythms. As with so much 17’1'-century keyboard music, it is not technically off-putting to the amateur, although it takes some secure technique and sense of style to bring these pleasant pieces to a readiness for polished performance.
Not all the pieces are small-scale, however, and although somewhat lengthened by notated repetition, a set of variations on that ‘Top of the Pops’ bass, La Folia, is welcome to add to the others in our collection for keyboard by both 17’h- and IC-century composers. Two organ voluntaries, praising God on musical instruments, as suggested in Psalm 150, make a fitting flourish of rejoicing to close this delightful collection of domestic music.
We are grateful to the editor of The Consort for permission to reproduce this review.