Concert November 21st 2005, Bluffton University
Harpsichord recital by Bradley Lehman
November 21, 2005 – 7:30 p.m.
Yoder Recital Hall, Bluffton University
Bluffton, Ohio, USA
Johann Sebastian Bach's tuning from 1722, discovered by Bradley Lehman, 2004.
Details are in Early Music (Feb/May 2005) and www.larips.com
Bradley Lehman's harpsichord and organ repertoire spans most of the solo keyboard literature from 1500 to 1775, plus Renaissance and Baroque ensemble music and some modern works. His interests include historical styles, unequal temperaments, a "gestural" manner of performance, composition, transcriptions, and thoroughbass improvisation. Six of his hymns are published in Hymnal: A Worship Book. In addition to his concert performances in North America, Germany, and Costa Rica, he has served several congregations as organist and music leader.
Lehman is a graduate of Goshen College and the University of Michigan, with degrees in harpsichord performance, the other early keyboards, historical musicology, church music, and mathematics. His keyboard teachers have included Leonard Kilmer, James Goldsworthy, Marvin Blickenstaff, Kathryn Sherer, Philip Clemens, Edward Parmentier, James Kibbie, and Penelope Crawford. His doctorate is in harpsichord, 1994. In 2004 he discovered what he believes to be J. S. Bach's own temperament for harpsichords and organs, encoded graphically on the title page of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Lehman's article about this finding is published in the February and May 2005 issues of Early Music (Oxford University Press), with further clarifications and elaborations at the web site <www.larips.com>.
His CD "In Thee is Gladness," of trumpet and organ music played with Martin Hodel, was released in January 2005. His harpsichord and organ recordings, both featuring Goshen College's instruments, are released in November 2005. "A Joy Forever" is a 3-CD set demonstrating the expressive tonal palette and the tuning of Goshen's organ, the Taylor & Boody Opus 41. "Playing From Bach's Fancy" presents harpsichord solo music by J. S. Bach and his oldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, plus 20 minutes of bonus material played on this organ.
I believe that Bach's elegant diagram at the top of his Well-Tempered Clavier title page defines a specific set of sounds for every musical scale and for all harmonies. Every major scale and minor scale sounds different from every other. This allows music to project a subtly different mood or character in each melodic and harmonic context, with a pleasing range of expression as it goes along. It builds drama into the music.
The resulting tuning sounds almost like the equal temperament we have been accustomed to, but it has much more personality and color, a "three-dimensionality" to the sound. A harpsichord and organ tuner who follows Bach's recipe exactly, making the intervals very slightly compromised on purpose (as his drawing indicates), ends up with a keyboard tuned beautifully for music in all keys. This carefully balanced result was apparently Bach's preferred system, and it solves all the practical problems in his music and the music of his sons. Indeed, it turns out to be an excellent tuning solution to play all music, both before and after Bach's.
Goshen College's organ, the Taylor & Boody Opus 41 dedicated in May 2005, is the first organ in the world (since the 18th century) to be built with this system. This has been followed closely by a new organ in Helsinki, Finland, by the Austrian organ-builder Kögler, dedicated in September. Meanwhile, several existing smaller organs have also been converted to use this.
My article presenting this method is published in the February and May 2005 issues of Early Music (Oxford University Press), with follow-up articles in The Diapason (May 2005) and Clavichord International (November 2005). Further details are also in the booklet essays for our two forthcoming CD releases, in November. Apparently this research has sparked the creative imagination as well: a short piece of fiction by Jeffrey Eugenides is in the October 10th 2005 issue of The New Yorker magazine, citing this discovery and reproducing the recipe.
Many professional keyboard specialists have been using this temperament regularly in concert work, beginning as early as a May 2004 broadcast on Swiss radio. It is also becoming popular as a piano-tuning method. This was the orchestral continuo temperament for the autumn 2004 tour by The English Concert; and for the summer 2005 season at the Glyndebourne Festival (England), in productions of operas by Handel and Rossini. The BBC featured the discovery for a half-hour program segment in August, with an interview and musical examples. As of mid-October, at least three harpsichordists have recorded Bach albums using this temperament, including the complete Goldberg Variations and Well-Tempered Clavier (book 1). I know of at least five performances of Handel's Messiah scheduled to use it during this Christmas season…for the simple reason that it is easy and beautiful to use, making the musicians' jobs unproblematic and naturally dynamic. [Roster of other usage and features]