Walter Bitner

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The Italian Concerto


In 1735, when Sebastian was 50 years old, he published his second volume of keyboard works, Clavier-Übung II (“Keyboard Practice II”). It contains two pieces for double-manual harpsichord: Concerto nach Italienischen Gusto (Concerto in the Italian taste, now known at the Italian Concerto, BWV 971), and Ouvertüre nach Französischer Art (Overture in the French Style, or simply the French Overture, BWV 831).

That Sebastian chose to pair these two works in the same publication paid homage to the old tradition (by his time) for composers to seek a harmonious way (or perhaps take sides) between the perceived opposition of French and Italian musical styles – an argument that had been carried on in European musical circles for centuries. This discussion is a part of Sebastian’s œuvre too, and was influenced by the work of his contemporary François Couperin (1668-1733) and his “les Goûts réunis” or “reunited tastes”, which was published in 1724. Although Sebastian and Couperin never met, they corresponded with each other. The subjects of their letters has long been a tantalizing mystery to Bach scholars, as the letters were subsequently used as lids for jam pots and thus destroyed. Since Couperin had died two years before Clavier-Übung II was published, it is possible that in his own way, Sebastian also intended the volume as an homage to Couperin himself – or as a rebuttal or commentary on the various merits of each style .


How Anna Joined The Symphony

This is the story of how Anna joined the Nashville Symphony.

Nashville Symphony Principal Keyboard player Robert Marler takes Anna for a test drive on the stage of Laura Turner Hall

Nashville Symphony Principal Keyboard Robert Marler takes Anna for a test drive on the stage of Laura Turner Hall

It’s a bit of a convoluted tale – like many stories, some unexpected things happened, one thing led to another, and once you start trying to find all the threads in the fabric you realize that the real beginnings probably go back a lot further than you originally thought.

Anna is a ten year old double-manual Franco-Flemish harpsichord.


Keith Jarrett Turns 70

21757_10153253036611182_720963245581439156_nKeith turns seventy today.  For those reading this who are not familiar with him, Keith Jarrett is an American treasure, and one of the most important musicians alive today.  He is among the most accomplished improvising musicians in history and we are fortunate that we live in the age of recording technology: we have a voluminous record of his career spanning nearly five decades that catalogs his development as an artist, as well as many of his experiments and side-projects.  In addition to his stature now as senior jazz statesman, Keith is also an accomplished performer of classical music, with many recordings of Bach and Mozart, etc. as well as music of 20th century composers (including himself) to his credit.

I realize that beginning a post with superlatives is contentious, but considering Keith and his life as a musician, it seems fitting to me – he has been nothing if not controversial.  Through his entire career Keith has very much followed his own path, refusing to compromise on his ideals even to his own detriment.  Looking back on his career as he enters his eighth decade, I am not familiar with any other pianist who has accomplished such profound music-making as both jazz and classical artist.  I am aware of no other musician of any genre or instrument who has filled concert halls consistently for decades with audiences who come to hear completely improvised solo concerts, led several acclaimed jazz ensembles including the longest lived (more than 30 years) and most respected piano trio still performing today, and devoted a substantial amount of time (more than a decade) and energy to recording and performing classical music, as a soloist and concerto performer, and as a composer.  There is nobody else who has done this, nor done it so well, nor for so long.