Wim Winters | Johann Pachelbel Hexachordum Apollinis, 1699

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Johann Pachelbel Hexachordum Apollinis, 1699

by Wim Winters

Enjoy the impressive richness of Pachelbel's art of keyboard style, combined with the unique expressive and intimate sounds of the clavichord, played by one of the leading clavichord players of today
Genre: Classical: Keyboard Music
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Hexachordum Apollinis: Aria Tertia
8:14 $1.99
2. Hexachordum Apollinis: Aria Prima
8:43 $1.99
3. Hexachordum Apollinis: Aria Quarta
8:27 $1.99
4. Hexachordum Apollinis: Aria Secunda
10:34 $1.99
5. Hexachordum Apollinis: Aria Quinta
7:57 $1.99
6. Hexachordum Apollinis: Aria Sexta (Sebaldina)
9:12 $1.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Peering at the portrait of Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) today, we see the face of an intelligently smiling man, staring at us through the brushstrokes of its painter. Most remember him as the South German organist/composer of the now (in)famous Canon in D. Beyond this, Pachelbel developed a career and fame in his 53 years of life that stretched far beyond the region in which he lived and worked.

Pachelbel was born in Nuremberg and explored Southern Germany in his youth, growing up in a rich musical culture that owed its idiomatic roots to the likes of Italian composers such as Frescobaldi and Gabrieli. Around 1673, he moved to Vienna, the political and musical capital of the Habsburg empire. There he met and worked with famous composers such as Kerll, Muffat, and Poglietti while also studying the music of his predecessor, Froberger. Benefiting from a broad network of musicians in his youth, Pachelbel was positioned to have his own impact on history. In 1677, he moved northward to Eisenach and quickly befriended the Bach family. Already a prominent musical dynasty at that time, this is the very Bach family that, eight years later, would produce one of the greatest composers of all time! The Bach relationship remained strong even after Pachelbel left Eisenach for Erfurt in 1678, where he would stay for twelve years. Pachelbel became godfather to Johann Juditha Bach (Sebastian's sister) and taught Johann Christoph Bach (Sebastian's elder brother). When young Sebastian became an orphan at the age of ten, it was the same Johann Christoph that would take him in his house and initially plan for his studies with Pachelbel. But Sebastian, enticed by the larger and more famous organs of Northern Germany, decided otherwise and headed north where he would meet, among others, the famous organists Böhm and Reincken. Later, during the famous stay with Buxtehude in 1704, it’s hard to imagine Pachelbel's Hexachordum (of which Buxtehude was one of the dedicatees!) not being put on the music-stand and consequently studied closely by J.S. Bach.

Refocusing on Pachelbel, the master returned, after a long life of traveling, Pachelbel finally returned to his hometown, Nuremberg, to succeed his childhood teacher, Wecker, as organist of the Sebalduskirche. There, in 1699, Pachelbel published what is generally considered his Magnum Opus for the keyboard, the Hexachordum Apollinis (“The six strings of Apollo”). The collection was dedicated to Dietrich Buxtehude and Ferdinand Tobias Richter, dear colleagues of Pachelbel, with hopes that Pachelbel’s son Wilhelm Hieronymus (1686-1764) could eventually study with them and receive inspiration from their richly flowing fountain of art.

Pachelbel published his Hexachordum in a logical format: the tonalities of first five Arias cover the first five “strings” of the hexachord: d-e-F-g-a. The Sixth Aria, the famous Aria Sebaldina, returns to the key of F, but this time in f-minor. As it feels strange to listen to a piece in D Minor, followed by one in E Minor, etc., I planned from the beginning to present the variations to you in a way that makes the succession of keys feel more natural.

The Clavichord The clavichord had an impressive historical position in German speaking countries spanning from the mid-17th century until the end of the 18th century. This is especially true for the so-called unfretted clavichord, like the one used for this recording. Unlike a fretted clavichord where several keys share similar strings, an unfretted clavichord has a pair of strings for each key. This allows for a greater range of adjacent notes to be played and opens the instrument's range of repertoire to works possessing a wider number of tonalities.

Composers like J.S.Bach, along with his children and students, as well as Haydn and Mozart and their contemporaries, used the instrument for its unique flexibility and directness of sonic expression. Considering Johann Speth of Augsburg (near Nuremberg) mentioned the earliest known unfretted clavichord in 1692, it might be possible that Pachelbel also used this newfangled invention for his expressive purposes. It is very likely that in the German speaking areas the clavichord was not only the prime instrument to study or compose upon, but also the vehicle to bring to life the most intimate and emotional ideas in music. For those who could afford to buy an excellent clavichord and could manage to play the notoriously sensitive instrument, it seemed to have been the ultimate solo instrument for a period of well over a century. As C.P.E.Bach writes in 1753, it is at the clavichord that a keyboardist may be most exactly evaluated, a standard reflected throughout the 18th-century German world.

Seen within this historical context, it is strange that this instrument so rarely is present in today’s musical practice. It might tell something more about today’s concert practice, a result of large 19th-century concert halls, than about the often intimate private musical sessions in which, before the advent of the concert hall, musician’s shared their “learned” music. The reason that an instrument of such nuanced expression did not make a notable showing in the Early Music revival during the 20th century is described eloquently by Christopher Hogwood in 1993: “The clavichord has always had more detractors than supporters, a lack of cultural context, lack of first class instruments... has deterred many voters from accepting the clavichord as the equal of other, more public, keyboard instruments. The revival of the Early Music has been concert oriented, and the natural selection that has imposed—the survival of the loudest—does not mesh happily with the clavichord’s relative lack of decibels.”

My clavichord is built in 2009 by the Belgian builder Joris Potvlieghe, made according to building principles applied in Saxony around 1745-1770. This type of clavichord, with a compass of 5 octaves (FF-f3), is similar to what composers like J.S.Bach must have had, though the necessary compass for Bach’s larger works like the Partitas is somewhat smaller (GG-d3). From a certain point in history (Haydn–Mozart–Beethoven up to his Waldstein sonata), a keyboard range of 5 octaves was, as a general rule, not exceeded. So, this instrument goes very well stylistically with music from Bach to young Beethoven. For the recording, I tune it in Werkmeister’s “Wohl-temperierte Harmonia” temperament from his 1707 treatise the Musikalische Paradoxal-Discourse, at ca. A=406 Hz. Today, the clavichord is often thought of as a very soft-sounding instrument. However, 18th century sources often say that good clavichords sound relatively loud, even offering tips on how to make their sound softer lest they disturb somebody’s peace. While the clavichord is not as loud as most other keyboard instruments, a “good” one will give the player a large range of dynamics and a sound that carries very well. My instrument has served me well in concerts up to 250 people. This recording captures the full dynamics of my Potvlieghe clavichord, with the two microphones, in Blumlein configuration, positioned above the soundboard at a distance that captures every detail possible without losing good room resonance.

The recording This disc was recorded in November-January 2017/2018. The room in which it stand, rebuilt from the old barn that my wife Anja grew up in, has exceptional acoustics for recordings like these. The high ceilings, furniture, irregular walls, and extensive use of solid wood create a unique sound environment for the two hyper-sensitive Neumann TML170r microphones. The sound of the clavichord is captured as naturally as possible, with a smooth touch of wood delivered by the room.

For the recordings, we embrace the philosophy of less is more. The two Neumann’s feed a dual mono Presonus ADL600 tube amplifier. That signal goes directly into the tape recorder. That's it. I have to give special thanks to Robert Margouleff for the suggestion and adjustment of the sensitive Blumlein configuration. His help in over more than 30 sessions of fine tuning the exact microphone position has lead to the sound results proudly presented here. Robert, Grammy award winning sound engineer and one of the most legendary sound engineers on this planet, is most known for the productions he made at the beginning of Stevie Wonder's career.

Why analog? All the recordings we make are captured by one of the greatest recording devices ever made: A Studer A80r reel-to-reel recorder. The machine was built in 1981 by the famous Swiss company and brought back to factory specifications per our request in 2016 by Andreas Kuhn of Studer Analog Audio Switzerland. The original readings of 1981 were taken as a guidance and original Studer measurement equipment was used to align the machine. All capacitors were replaced, the machine received two brand new Studer heads and is ready to serve us for the coming decades. Why an analog recording in a digital era? Yes, on paper, digital surpasses any analog medium: dynamic range, distortion, signal/noise ratio. Still, there seems to be something truly special with analog. When compared to a high end A/D convertor, the tape sounds so much more open and relaxed... in a way that surprised even the most skeptical listener we blind-tested. Does it color the sound? Probably. For the better I’d say. But remember that also even a one centimeter change in mic position will change the sound as well! Does a tape produce more noise? Probably. Although, this Studer with modern tape is almost dead silent. But most surprisingly, digital conversion leaves a good part of that initial analog “feel”. Of course, you will experience the relaxed feel better when listening to a tape or a vinyl disc, but even a CD will give you something back that engineers might have taken away from us for too long of a time. Analog...is like driving a Rolls Royce with no limitations. And there’s nothing more relaxing than recording in Analog. Just press two buttons and you’re good to go.

Play + Rec, and the rest is up to you.

Wim Winters (1972) studied for eight years at the Sweelinck Conservatory of Amsterdam, with Jacques van Oortmerssen (organ) and Willem Brons (piano). After having devoted much of his time to the organ and the 19th century piano, since 2008 he has regularly performed works by the Bach family, Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven on clavichord. In 2019, he will begin recording all of Beethoven’s piano works on a newly built copy of a six-octave Fritz fortepiano also from the Potvlieghe workshop.
Text: Wim Winters/Andy Quaen



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