Comparisons to the piano seem wrong-headed, says Erin Helyard, the Artistic Director of Pinchgut Opera. A virtuoso on the harpsichord (and fortepiano), he believes it’s the instrument on which Bach sounds best.
Johann Jacob Froberger led an interesting life, not least when his ship was attacked by pirates
on a voyage some time in the early 1650s! Arriving penniless in London, so the story goes, he accepted work as an organ blower – a job he then lost because he was consumed with ‘melancholia’.
Presumably the combination of pirates, poverty and English weather led him to compose the Plaincte…pour passer la mélancholie – the starting point for Andreas Staier’s engrossing journey into the melancholic utterances of 17th-century keyboard music. Using a beautifully restored harpsichord, Staier guides the listener through a well-paced program that illustrates the
fantastic and colourful fruits of the melancholic temperament.
Bookended with works by the hapless Froberger, the recital also includes music from D’Anglebert, Louis Couperin, Fischer, Clérambault and Muffat. Forms such as the tombeau (a musical gravestone), the passacaglia or the chaconne allow the composer, player and listener to work through their melancholy in
musical tension and release. Staier coaxes a wonderful range of tone from his instrument.
Only Fischer’s wild Toccata and Passacaglia threaten to push it beyond its musical limits. Closing the disc is an exquisite account of Froberger’s Lamento on the death of Ferdinand IV, the perfect antidote