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Anyone who has played a clavichord has experienced that subtle timbre and searched for it on recordings in vain. A good sound engineer knows that the best recordings have nothing to do with "reality". The only useful way to record this instrument is the way THE PLAYER hears it, by very close mic'ing. The Secret Bach is a worthwhile CD, but it is sad that, like most "period instrument" projects, in the misguided pursuit of "authenticity" it fails to take full advantage of this most expressive and personal of keyboard instruments, leaving most people to [continue to] wonder why Bach incomprehensibly preferred it to the piano. Well, folks, it's because this is not what a clavichord sounds or feels like. This review is not an abstract rant. I speak from experience, I own a large unfretted clavichord such as Bach's Silbermanns, I play it, I have tried different ways to record it. The wonderful timbre one hears while seated at the instrument has no relation to what microphones feebly pick up in the room. The clavichord was never used in concert, nor was it designed to be. Please try listening to same snippets of Keith Jarret's Book of Ways, which is in my opinion the most effective recording of clavichord on the market, in which its complex timbre stands out, somewhere between a guitar, a lute, a harpsichord, and you too will wonder why it is so seldom heard. That said, this can be an enjoyable CD if the murky sound does not bother you (which you can determine by listening to samples). The music is of course worth hearing in any context, and with that caveat, the CD is worth getting.
The music, of course is sublime, with some quite subtle but interesting differences from the versions we may be used to. Hogwood is a fantastic musician and plays it all wonderfully. However - and this is almost certainly a personal thing - I find the sound of the clavichord somehow rather unsatisfying. It is a small, quiet domestic instrument and it just seems to me to be straining to be heard all the time - fine for practice and personal use but not really for shared performance. This means that for me this isn't a wholly successful disc. It is interesting throughout and charming in places but as a satisfying musical experience it falls a little short.
You may well not share my reservations about the clavichord so please don't let me put you off. This is a disc of superb music, excellently performed. It just didn't quite fit my personal taste.
Sorry Mr Hogwood . . . not your fault. Quite disappointing.
As a previous reviewer pointed out, the best recording of this instrument in Keith Jarrett's "Book of Ways".