“Superb Clavichord Recital by Carol Lei Breckenridge:
Fantasia, Rondos, and Variations”
By Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
Pease Auditorium featured Carol Lei Breckenridge on a five-octave Clavichord on May 30th 2015 at 4 PM in Eastern Michigan’s Alexander Building. Breckenridge spoke at length about 18th Century Music including those she played by C.P.E. Bach, J. Haydn ad W.A. Mozart. Breckenridge gave a memorable performance in front of a large room-sized organ that takes up most of Pease Auditorium.
Breckenridge said of Bach’s composition, “ it is a sudden contrast piece with a dynamic effect of expression, new style was exploring contrast.” From Bach, Breckenridge played 4 pieces including Fantasia in F Major, Ronda in D Minor, Ronda in A Major, and Rondo in B Flat Major.
Following Bach, was a delightful piece by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), Andante with variations in F Minor (1793). The Haydn composition was described by Breckenridge as “binary and with a long coda attached.” Breckenridge said she plays the Haydn piece on Forte Piano but when played on “Clavichord brings out the soulfulness of the piece.” The Haydn composition was full of “librato” which is characteristic of the Clavichord. Breckenridge said you can hold the keys further down to raise the pitch and oscillate the keys to get a librato.
The Saturday evening recital’s finale was a composition by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), Ten Variations on a Theme by G.C. Gluck (1784). Breckenridge described Gluck: “Gluck was an Opera Composer (of these melodies) who lived in Vienna around the same time as Mozart.”
The Clavichord, according to Breckenridge, is especially prized in Northwestern Germany for its “Expressive qualities and the quiet individual feeling the player gets from it drawing you in.” A poem was recited by Breckenridge’s husband in German and English from a book titled, “De Clavichord IV,” that described the Clavichord in detail: (paraphrased below)
“Assuager softly consoling Clavichord, calm my heart, deprived of my tranquility, I have not yet been made happy, I lament it to you, sing until dawn appears, until I feel no more pain”
Breckenridge played with the latest technology of a “tablet” for sheet music and an electronic digital pedal device that turned the sheet music’s pages.
She said to pretend you’re in a living room, to the audience, who formed a half moon shape around her. Breckenridge played quietly and emotionally on one of the oldest keyboard designs from the 18th Century that started as a small box. Breckenridge utilized advanced keyboarding skills often playing dramatically with two hands and traversing the keyboard.
“The Clavichord keys hit against brass,” said Breckenridge. Many early keyboardists in the 18th Century were trained on the Clavichord. Mozart and Haydn owned Clavichords for performing and private practice. The Clavichord was described by Breckenridge as a “place to go and a sorrowful private instrument to express feeling.”
Breckenridge will play at the Boston Early Music Festival Fringe concert on Tuesday, June 9th 2015 at 3:00 PM at the Goethe-Institut, Boston. “The instrument Breckenridge played for this program was a five-octave unfretted Clavichord built by Paul Irvin, after a 1765 Clavichord by Friederici.” “Carol lei Breckenridge, from Ann Arbor, Michigan specializes in eighteenth-century music played on Clavichord and Forte Piano.” Website: www.carolleibreckenridge.com