Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Menno van Delft - Clavichord recital & master class

JS Bach Fantasie in C minor, BWV906; WF Bach Fugues Nos 2 & 4 in D (Falck 3); Ernst Wilhelm Wolf Sonata in B flat; WF Bach Fantasie in D minor (Falck 18); Mozart Ten Variations in G on the Arietta 'Unser Dummer Pöbel meint'.

Royal Academy of Music, 26 June 2009

"I am pleased the clavichord is so popular an instrument" said the Dutch clavichordist Menno van Delft , on entering the Royal Academy of Music's Concert Hall to give a notable lunchtime performance, surprised and delighted to find it so well attended that extra chairs were needed and still there were late-comers standing !

Van Delft introduced the items, explaining how, after JSB, composers moved away from rigorous fugal counterpoint towards more expressive sonata styles, exemplified in WF Bach's fugues and E W Wolf's sonatas, which had been re-introduced into the repertoire by Paul Simmonds, whose own British Clavichord Society classes I had attended. He ended with Mozart's extended set of variations demonstrating a wide range of expressivity and virtuosity.

Introducing his encore, van Delft made a tortuous link to the of the day's topical event, Michael Jackson's death just before his imminent sold-out London comeback. Menno van Delft's son had filled their house with Jackson posters for a "project" and our clavichordist found himself musing on the contrast between Jackson's mega-millions sales as against his own more modest earnings from clavichord CDs - available for purchase after the concert...!

His double-CD of Sonatas and Ariosas with Variations by J G Müthel is one of the most spectacular and desirable of all clavichord recordings, made in Edinburgh 2002 on one of the finest extant original instruments, the Haas in Edinburgh's Russell Collection - "the compositions of Müthel - - so full of novelty, taste, grace and contrivance, that I should not hesitate to rank them among the greatest productions of the present age" (Charles Burney).

Notwithstanding the pleasures of live performances in suitable venues, modern digital techniques allow you to hear all the tonal richness as if you were sitting at the keyboard; delicious! Muthel only performed in winter "when deep snow covered the streets, so as not to be disturbed by the chatter of carriages passing by"! [Teknon early masters TK 12-252].

Master classes are always unique and usually rewarding for privileged visitors overhearing the lessons. Menno van Delft was at pains to dispel the notion of the clavichord as a delicate and rarified istrument, seeking a more robust approach from his experienced students, who included one of our contributors, Elena Vorotko, who had herself been reviewed at another masterclass on modern piano.

Van Delft made easy rapport with each young musician, from whom he sought vivid communication, encouraging louder playing, especially in the bass, to energise the music making. To help them loosen-up and share his enthusiasm he played some of the pieces in duet with the pupils, not omitting speculative suggestions of great imagination and subtlety. Some of the participants were making private recordings of their lessons, to maximise the benefits by leisurely re-consideration of the advice received.

Taken together, this was a great day for the clavichord in London.

RAM has been central in pioneering the The Masterclass Media Foundation collection of DVDs, and of recent classes attended there, Roy Howat's last month and Menno van Delft's today would have been well-worth filming to share more widely.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Menno van Delft at RCM

Durrington Room, April 4 2012

Nearly three years after my first encountering this special master, Menno van Delft came to London's Royal College to give a searching clavichord class open to the public.

The venue was the Durrington Room, high on the fourth floor (the lift only by special arrangement !) in which there were a splendid harpsichord and four beautiful modern clavichords, two of which were used for teaching five specialist early keyboard students, each of whom had prepared selected pieces by Bachs CPE & JS.

van Delft worked in a relaxing manner with each student to overcome a certain diffidence they shared and helped them to bring out the dynamic range intrinsic to this quietest of instruments, so as to find fuller expression and individuality in each of their selections.

In the afternoon he gave an illustrated lecture based upon his researches into the 'lighter' book 2 of the "48", emphasising their greater variety than Part One, making it more suitable for recitals, and going into minutiae of his own classification.

He concluded that this "second book" is better taken as a whole, and he explained and demonstrated his research on the specially prepared harpsichord, illustrated with rather abstruse tables about not-quite-equal temperament [R] ...

A good day at the College.

Peter Grahame Woolf